With tonight's NBA Draft Lottery, the NBA off-season begins, and with it my lengthy new-baby-and-non-hoops-work-induced blogging hiatus.
But before I can start wading into the various issues of this off-season, a couple of housecleaning posts are in order. First, a reckoning with my October predictions for this now-completed season:
1) The Grizzlies will be one of the most improved teams in the NBA — and still miss the playoffs. The Grizzlies offense will make a big leap from terrible to average. The defense will maintain its mediocrity. The result? Respectabilty! Predicted record: 36-46.
Good start. The Grizzlies, in winning 16 more games, were the league's second most improved team (behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, who made a dramatic 27-game improvement), but did indeed miss the playoffs. The team's offensive efficiency jumped from 28th to 17th. The defense fell off slightly, from 20th to 23rd. As for the record, I undershot by four games.
2) The attendance bump will be real but modest. The Grizzlies' average announced home attendance will get a four-figure boost but remain in the bottom quarter of the league. Game atmosphere will improve, however, with considerably fewer empty seats.
Pretty close. The team's average home (announced) attendance increased from 12,745 to 13,485 — not quite four figures. This moved the team from 29th to 28th among 30 NBA teams. As for the real attendance, not sure about that yet.
3) The Grizzlies will have an all-rookie-team member — and it won't be Hasheem Thabeet. The #2 pick will struggle with foul trouble and a lack of NBA strength. The number 28 pick, DeMarre Carroll, however, will be among the league's 10 best rookies, playing close to 30 minutes a game at both forward spots, filling up the stat sheet, and winning over fans and inspiring teammates with constant hustle plays.
I didn't like the Carroll pick when it was made, but was won over — too much so, clearly — by his play in the Summer League and in the preseason. My irrational exuberance lead to my missing the mark badly on this prediction.
4) Zach Randolph will stay out of trouble. Randolph's rap sheet with the Portland Trailblazers is infamous, but his off-court issues have declined in both frequency and severity the past couple of seasons. That trend will continue, and fans will be more concerned about his listless defense than what he does after games.
I was right about Randolph not having off-court problems and generally right about his continuing defensive problems (though he was slightly better than normal at that end, and fans didn't much care anyway), but certainly underrated the impact he would have on the team.
5) The Allen Iverson experiment will be a partial success. Iverson will struggle to get in game shape and stay healthy, missing 20-plus games, and will also mope about his bench role before ultimately accepting it. On the court, he'll be exciting and effective, well worth his contract if but a shadow of his former dominance.
I was pretty on-point about the kind of player Iverson would be, but didn't anticipate him being that player in a 76ers uniform for most of the season.