Scott Carefoot

scott carefoot

Scott Carefoot contributes to The Basketball Jones and edits RaptorBlog, which he launched in 2002. He's been a solider in the Score army since 2008 and is convinced that he enjoys coming to work every day more than almost anyone, ever. The majority of the movies in his personal Top 10 list were made by either Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers.

Recent Posts

How do you describe the feeling of being totally shocked and yet not shocked at all? That was my immediate reaction to USA Today’s breaking news that the Lakers have fired head coach Mike Brown today after he led the team to a miserable 1-4 start to this season.

Did most of us see this coming? Sure, we did. Did anyone besides the most reactionary, over-entitled Lakers fan really believe team management would pull the plug on him just five discombobulated games into this latest grand experiment in superstar stacking? I should hope not. Because this is more than a little ridiculous.

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My immediate response and description of Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti’s trade of James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round draft picks and a second round pick is that it was ninja-like — they killed Harden’s OKC career quietly and sneakily, and nobody really saw it coming.

Oh, sure, people were talking about a potential Harden trade for about a year, but surely nobody expected this to happen right now. After Harden reportedly turned down a four-year offer in the range of $53-54 million from Presti — an offer that was clearly of the “take it or leave it” variety — Presti must have called Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who apparently had an offer on the table and has been lusting after a max-level player ever since his Yao-McGrady duo failed to bear fruit.

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Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

3. Denver Nuggets
Hey, it’s everybody’s second-favorite team, the Denver Nuggets! Like many of you, I really, really like this team. They’re extremely fun to watch, they’ve got a bunch of diverse scoring, rebounding and defensive talent, and they’re incredibly deep. In fact, they’re so deep that I was inspired to write a song about them…

Sung to the tune of “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees:

I see Iggy playing lockdown D
I feel Danilo shooting many threes
And the moment that Kosta Koufos posts up
I know the Nugz are gonna win again
Dre Miller is fat but his oops are sweet
As long as Timofey doesn’t make me heave
Yet you’re asking me to show

How deep are the Nugz?
(How deep are the Nugz? How deep are the Nugz?)
Y’all really need to learn
Cause we’re living in a world of fools
Breaking them down
In spite of Kenneth Faried
We should love JaVale McGee

I believe in Ty
He knows the door to my very soul
He leads a fast break right into my heart
‘Til Wilson Chandler’s shot falls
And you may not think Corey Brewer rules
But he’s great for steals in your fantasy pool
And this year the Nugz will show
How deep are the Nugz?

2. Oklahoma City Thunder
We all know this team is good, and if they finish any lower than second-best in the West, that would be a major shock. The question is: How much better will they be compared to last season? Their four best players (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka) are all under 25 so you would think they haven’t hit their peak yet. But it’s incredibly rare for a player to get to the level Durant and Westbrook have reached and then raise his game another notch beyond that. It seems to me that the odds are that they’re probably pretty close to their peak already, but I won’t mind in the least if they prove me wrong.

In terms of personnel upgrades, the Thunder will welcome back Eric Maynor as their backup point guard after he missed all but nine games with an ACL tear last season. He’s a good playmaker, defender and outside shooter — but most importantly, he’s not Derek Fisher. I lost a little bit of respect for Thunder GM Sam Presti when he thought adding Fisher as a “veteran presence” was a good idea. Maybe as a coach, but the guy couldn’t play, and Maynor’s a huge improvement in that bench role.

1. Miami Heat
They’re the defending champions, and with the additional shooting prowess provided by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, they definitely have a stronger roster compared to last season. They also no longer have to prove anything to the haters, so they can just ball like they own this sport.

Anything can happen, but you’re trippin’ if you don’t consider the Miami Heat the prohibitive favorite to finish with the best regular season record. Some of you might try to create a imaginary narrative where LeBron goes “soft” or whatever, but that’s like looking for flaws in Kate Upton’s appearance. You need to stop trying so hard and simply accept greatness when it’s presented to you.

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16 | 15-13 | 12-10 | 9-7 | 6-4

Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

6. San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio: Where the past (Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili), the present (Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter) and the future (Kawhi Leonard) combine to keep the Spurs relevant in the championship discussion for the 15th straight season. I learned long ago to never count this team out as long as Gregg Popovich is still their coach.

In case you forgot, the Spurs were ridiculously dominant during the 2011-12 regular season — they outscored their opponents by 7.7 points per 100 possessions. Tim Duncan used to anchor the stingiest team defense in the NBA for about a decade, but now they’re all about the run-and-gun. Last season, they had the league’s best offense and three-point percentage, and they were seventh in pace. They have a seemingly unlimited number of deadly long bombers — Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal and Ginobili each shot at least 125 trey attempts and made at least 41.3 percent of them. This team likes to make it rain on them pros.

5. Los Angeles Lakers
I despise this team. They’re eminently more unlikable than the 2010-11 Miami Heat were. Kobe Bryant’s a sociopath, Dwight Howard is a two-faced, narcissistic liar, Metta World Peace is a borderline psychopath, and Steve Nash turned down more money and broke the hearts of millions of Canadians by spurning my Raptors. I have no beef with Pau Gasol, though. He’s cool.

Before the preseason, I was prepared to put this team at the very top of this list, but there appears to be some issues. Kobe and Nash will probably both have to sit out some games this season, and the Lakers’ bench frankly looks like hot garbage. That doesn’t change the fact that they should be considered the favorite to represent the Western Conference in the 2013 NBA finals. Also, Nash looks ridiculous in a Lakers uniform and his haircut looks stupid and he’s stupid and he should feel bad.

4. Boston Celtics
Hey, how about all this Rajon Rondo MVP buzz! Wanna know what I think about it? I think it’s ridiculous. The only way Rondo wins MVP this season is if the Celtics finish with the best record in the NBA. Can you say that has a realistic chance of happening with a straight face?

The Celtics are still very, very strong. They’re a virtual lock to be the best defensive squad in the league, they’re highly motivated (as usual) and they’ve got some nice depth with the return of Jeff Green and the additions of Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa. Plus, you know that no team hates the Heat and Lakers as much as these guys do. Every Celtics-Lakers and Celtics-Heat game is going to be absolutely epic.

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16 | 15-13 | 12-10 | 9-7

Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

9. Los Angeles Clippers
Scoring will not be a problem for this team as long as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are both in the lineup. What limits the Clippers from really competing with the big boys in the West is their subpar frontcourt defense and the fact that Griffin actually regressed as a shooter last season. If he can develop a competent mid-range game, get his free throw shooting up to 70 percent (compared to 52.1 percent last season) and start using his athleticism on the defensive end, Griffin can join Paul as a true franchise player.

The Clippers’ bench would have looked pretty kick-ass five years ago, but it remains to be seen what Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom still have in the tank. Odom’s the real wild card here because he probably still has the natural ability to be a fantastic sixth man if he works his body into game shape and he has truly regained his focus for the game. Pardon my armchair psychology, but I believe Odom suffers from clinical depression and he needs to get his mind right before his body will follow. Writing as someone who has dealt with depression both myself and with loved ones, there is really no other logical explanation for what happened with him last season.

8. Brooklyn Nets
Right off the bat, I predict that Deron Williams is going to have a MONSTER 2012-13 season. I think he’s going to be on some “Forgot About Dre” shit where he’ll remind everyone that he should be in consideration as the best point guard in the NBA. I also think the Nets have a ridiculously nice starting lineup and they’re probably going to have one of the strongest home court advantages in the league.

Now for the bad parts. I don’t want to say their bench is weak, but it’s definitely weird. In particular, I have no idea what to expect from Andray Blatche and Josh Childress. They’re both young enough to bounce back to the level of performance from their glory days, but it’s ominous to count on those two on a team with aspirations beyond the second round of the playoffs. And then there’s Brook Lopez, who deserves his own paragraph because my opinion about him and the type of player he is really defines my worldview about what I respect in a basketball team.

You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to know that the ability to score 20 points per game in the NBA is a rare skill and players who can do that will always get paid. But is a center who can score at that rate really more valuable than a comparable scorer at any other position? Having endured six infuriating seasons of the Andrea Bargnani Experience as a Raptors fan, I’ve developed a religious belief that rebounding and defense are far more critical skills for a center in comparison to scoring ability. Brook Lopez is a below-average rebounder and defender, and if that doesn’t change, I think the Nets have almost no chance of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals this season. Regardless, it’s pretty cool for the Nets to be this relevant again.

7. Atlanta Hawks
I actually like this team a lot more than I did when Joe Johnson was on it. Al Horford and Josh Smith are a fantastic frontcourt, they’ve got decent depth and a bunch of great shooters like Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver and Lou Williams. Plus, Smith is in a contract year so if he doesn’t make the All-Star team this season, he probably never will.

The Hawks were 22nd in Pace Factor (possessions per 48 minutes) last season, but if they want to maximize the success of their current, athletic, itchy-trigger-finger roster, they should aim to get that stat into the top 10. Coach Larry Drew has promised a much faster pace for this team, but doesn’t it seem like most coaches say that before every season? When’s the last time an NBA coach said, “Play at a faster pace? Nah, man. We’re gonna slow it way down. I’m calling it ‘the molasses offense’. We’re gonna have our point guard roll it up the court every possession like Chris Paul on Xanax.”

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16 | 15-13 | 12-10

Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

12. Chicago Bulls
It seems as though there are a lot of NBA fans out there with short memories. These people want to cast the 2012-13 Chicago Bulls out of the playoffs because they probably won’t have Derrick Rose in their lineup for at least half the season. These same people must have forgotten that the Bulls went 18-9 without Rose last season.

With or without Rose, the Bulls remain a deep team with one of the best coaches in the game. Their bench is weaker this year — the loss of backup center and defensive stalwart Omer Asik to free agency will definitely hurt — but they still have plenty of firepower to keep them around .500 until Rose returns to blow our minds once again. Unfortunately, they’re very unlikely to finish with the top record in the Eastern Conference again this season, and Carlos Boozer will tell you that’s all that matters. (He’s totally getting traded, yo.)

11. Utah Jazz
You might think that having too much frontcourt talent is a nice problem to have, but it really is a major problem in Salt Lake City. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes “Ladies Man” Kanter should all be starting in this league. Unless the Jazz are going to roll out a very unorthodox “four bigs” starting lineup, they have a tough personnel decision to make this season.

Then again, Jefferson and Millsap are both on expiring contracts so I suppose they could just wait it out and let Favors and Kanter marinate in bench sauce for one more season. If it was up to me (“Thankfully it isn’t,” says every Jazz fan), I’d shop Jefferson and try to land a starting-quality wing player in return so that Marvin Williams can return to his ideal role as a sixth man. A starting frontcourt of Favors and Millsap with Kanter coming off the bench improves the defense of their starting unit and ensures that Kanter gets enough playing time to impress the other team’s cheerleaders.

Fantasy pro tip: Don’t sleep on Gordon Hayward in the late rounds of your fantasy draft. He caught fire at the end of last season and should be good for at least 15 and 5 per game with decent shooting percentages.

10. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have done an admirable job of piecing together a highly competitive team in the absence of a Grade A Superstar. Unfortunately, that lack of superstar talent puts a ceiling on their, um… ceiling. So it’s like a double ceiling, if you will.

This year’s Indiana squad arguably has more depth than the 2011-12 edition, but I still see them barely missing out on homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. While it wasn’t the most high-profile signing of the off-season, they smartly inked Gerald Green to a team-friendly three-year, $10.5 million contract. Green emerged last season as more than just the best dunker in the NBA — he’s also learned to play basketball at a pretty good level.

Green’s very reasonable contract helps lessen the sting of having to match the Trail Blazers’ max offer for Roy Hibbert. He almost certainly isn’t worth a max deal, but what were the Pacers going to do — just let a top 10 center go? It will be very interesting to see how Hibbert’s health holds up. It’s well-established that he takes very good care of his massive frame, but the track record for players his size is notorious. Remember when we all thought that Dwight Howard was invincible?

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16 | 15-13

Join me as I count down my predictions of the regular season finishes for the 2012-13 NBA season, at a rate of three teams per day. Tell me why I’m wrong in the comments.

15. New Orleans Hornets
No, I didn’t forget about the Hornets. Yes, I’m predicting that they’ll go from last place in the Western Conference last season to the eighth seed this season. No, I don’t think Anthony Davis is going to carry them to the playoffs single-handedly. Yes, I’m aware that Al-Farouq Aminu might be the worst starting small forward in the league. Any more questions?

The reason I’m so bullish on the 2012-13 Hornets is that the three best players on this roster (Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson) played a combined nine games for last year’s squad — and I believe that two of them merit consideration among the top 25 players in the league. Obviously, I’m predicting that Davis will be a dominant defensive force right out of the gate for the Hornets, and his frontcourt pairing with Robin Lopez — who is a much better defender than his brother — should help elevate the Hornets’ team defense into the top 10 this season. But where the Hornets really needed help last season was on offense, as indicated by their 28th-ranked Offensive Rating.

That’s where Gordon and Anderson come in. Anderson’s three-point shooting prowess is well-known by fantasy hoopsters like myself who scooped him up with a mid-round pick last year — he led the NBA in three-pointers made while sinking over 39 percent of those shots. As for Gordon, it remains to be seen whether his recovery from knee surgery and his conditioning will enable him to be ready to play when the regular season commences, but his value to the team was shown last season by the fact that the Hornets had a 6-3 record in his nine games.

14. Philadelphia 76ers
If there’s a city that could embrace a gifted athlete who happens to be an unmitigated asshole, it’s The City of Brotherly Love. When he’s not nursing an injury, cheap-shotting an opponent half his size or parking his Bimmer in a handicapped spot, Andrew Bynum is a top-two center who could potentially average 24 and 12 as the main option on an NBA team.

As with Eric Gordon, the health of Bynum’s knees and his conditioning are question marks going into this season. What shouldn’t be in question is his status as a legitimate franchise player. The loss of Andre Iguodala will hurt the Sixers on the defensive end, where they’re unlikely to match their third-ranked Defensive Rating from last season. Offensively, they should receive a huge boost from Bynum’s offensive rebounding and his ability to score a lot of points at a high level of efficiency. If he can be on the court for most of Philly’s games this season, handle the spotlight of being the team’s main star, and stop being such a flake all the time, Bynum could be a dominant force in the Eastern Conference.

Elsewhere on the roster, Jrue Holiday appears poised for a breakout year, Evan Turner’s solid all-around game is gradually improving, Thaddeus Young is a dark horse for sixth man of the year candidate, Jason Richardson is still a valuable long range weapon and Nick Young is, well… he’s Nick Young. (I’m not a fan.) Ultimately, this team will go as far as Bynum carries it.

13. Memphis Grizzlies
As I write this Grizzlies preview, I’m trying not to feel like a gigantic failure due to the fact that the team’s new majority owner, Robert Pera, is younger than I am. Pera reached an agreement with local investors in August that should keep the team in Memphis for at least another 15 years, which is nice. On the court, the Grizzlies boast both talent and depth in their frontcourt, especially if Darrell Arthur makes a successful return from a stress fracture in his leg by November. Zach Randolph isn’t a guaranteed 20 and 10 anymore, but he and Marc Gasol still make up one of the most potent frontcourt duos in the league.

The Grizzlies succeed primarily on their aggressive, swarming style of defense that frustrates ballhandlers and leads to a bunch of turnovers. Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Rudy Gay each averaged at least 1.5 steals per game last season as the Grizzlies joined the Heat as the only teams with three such players. Their weakness could be their outside shooting, since they finished 26th in three-point percentage last season and they lost their second-best three-point shooter when O.J. Mayo signed with the Mavericks. Still, they remain a competitive team that seems to be able to kick it up a notch in the playoffs.

Previously in the countdown: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19 | 18-16