Thanks to clean livin' and shrewd supplementation, many health sharpies believe 50 may be the new 40.But that doesn't translate to quality of life in the NBA. In David Stern's neighborhood, reaching 50 in the win column has nothing to do with teams still treading water at 40. Win 50 games, and you have a very reasonable chance to avoid playing ping-pong in Secaucus.
2008-09 NBA previews
- Charley Rosen division previews:
East: Southeast | Atlantic | Central
West: Northwest | Pacific | Southwest
- Kahn: My top 50 NBA players
- Rosen: Where each coach stands
- Kahn: Blazers pull a jail break
- Kahn: Nuggets have problems at top
- Rosen: Answering your NBA questions
- Kahn: Hornets can't rest on laurels
- Kahn: T-Mac needs to hold the whine
- Rosen: 30 teams, 30 questions
- Kahn: Top 10 PGs | SGs | SFs | PFs | Cs
Bleacher Report previews
- Southwest Division | Spurs
- Northwest Division | Trail Blazers
- Pacific Division | Lakers
- Central Division | Bulls
- Southeast Division | Hawks
- Atlantic Division | Celtics
Marques Johnson video previews
- East: Central | Atlantic | Southeast
- West: Southwest | Northwest | Pacific
It should be noted that if the Boston Celtics win 50 it may seem like 40 to their fans, but they're really getting picky in New England.
Anyway, the importance of 50 is especially true in the Western Conference, which supplied eight of 11 teams that won at least 50 times last season. In this stab at figuring out what might occur in the 2008-2009 interpretation of the NBA, we're attempting to identify which of those 11 might slide under the magic 50 mark and which of the remaining squads could rise up and reach that level.
Never forget that any preseason supposition may be compromised by forces beyond our manipulations, such as a trade of Lamar Odom or failure of hiring a spotter for a 7-foot rookie who attempts to rise from his sofa too quickly.
Falling down candidates
Western Conference Denver Nuggets (50-32 last season): Ah, yes, the Denver Nuggets. These rascals qualify as the clubhouse leader in the dubious quest for achieving less than the previous season.
One reason for this moonwalk optimism is the franchise's heroic success in slicing payroll. The key maneuver occurred when the Nuggets swapped center Marcus Camby to the L.A. Clippers for a cookie and a juice box.
In Camby, who had become a regular on the league's All-Defensive Team, the Nuggets had at least one player capable of guarding someone with more lateral movement than a mannequin. In Camby, the Nuggets also had a player who seemed relatively serene when he didn't have the ball in his hands. That was important, because almost everyone else of Nugget consequence couldn't wait to squeeze off a round or two.
So now, with the Allen Iverson-Carmelo Anthony experiment reaching critical mass, Coach George Karl must convince his team to listen when he speaks and overcome an already-brutal conference that offers some seriously upgraded teams.
Good luck, George. Dallas Mavericks (51-31): The demise of the Mavs has been eagerly anticipated by hoop observers (not to mention Mark Cuban detractors) around the nation.
With Dirk Nowitzki still young enough to continue performing at a high level, it won't be easy for Dallas to fall below the 50 line. But the potential for doom is there because the alleged key player in a Mavericks' restoration is a clever decision-maker named Josh Howard.
With Howard as the tipping point, how could they lose, right? We won't bother counting the ways.
Camby needs to maintain his career focus on boards and blocks while center Chris Kaman, who flourished while Brand was away, operates down low on offense.
The keys may be second-year three man Al Thornton and rookie shooting guard Eric Gordon; if those kids excel, Dunleavy may be less inclined to put newcomer Ricky Davis on the floor.
Eastern Conference Philadelphia 76ers (40-42): The addition of Brand makes the bouncy Sixers a favorite to climb high back East. Unfortunately, the team still lacks a definitive leader because Elton has yet to demonstrate that ability and I've doubted Andre Miller since he quit on the Clippers before he even put on their uniform.
But those two will post numbers while a host of talented and athletic kids continues to develop. Atlanta Hawks (37-45): Josh Smith will resume his maturation into stat monster, with Joe Johnson starring in the role of sweet-shooting sidekick. Al Horford can be a beast in the paint, but could use more assistance down there.
The loss of Josh Childress cuts into the bench, but the biggest question could be Mike Bibby's willingness to sublimate his numbers for the good of the team. Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37): This one could look pretty strong, especially if rookie insiders J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson develop quickly enough to reduce the minutes of Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao.
Wallace, of course, is a liability on offense; so is Varejao, but he has yet to figure that out.
The addition of point guard Mo Williams finally gives LeBron James a teammate capable of using the dribble to break down a defense (something Daniel Gibson can't do), but he seems a bit less than the second fiddle LBJ may need for the Cavs to reach the Finals again. Toronto Raptors (41-41): A nine-game improvement seems like a lot to ask from the addition of Jermaine O'Neal, especially when Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono are the top guns lining up on the wings.