Saturday, December 31, 2011

College Football Bowl Preview- All New Years Eve Bowls

Record- Plays- 10-4 (2-1 on Big Plays)
Leans- 7-2

Saturday 12/31- 12:00 PM EST- Texas Bowl- Texas A+M (6-6) (-10) vs. Northwestern (6-6) O/U 70- Tex A+M has suffered through a disastrous season, mainly because of their inability to hold onto halftime leads. In 4 of their 6 losses, they lead by at least 9 at halftime only to succumb to their opponents late in games. These 4 collapses most likely lead to the firing of coach Mike Sherman, which was an unhappy surprise to his former players. In addition, interim coach and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter is leaving to take the head coaching job at Fresno St. Everything that has happened this season indicates that the Aggies will not show well against a Northwestern team known for hanging with heavy favorites in bowl games (3-0 ATS last 3 bowl games- all as dogs). The gap between these two teams isn't as large as perception indicates. Looking at TAMU's wins, they only beat 2 bowl teams (Baylor and Iowa St.). Northwestern only defeated 1, but that was on the road against a solid Nebraska squad.

Prediction- Texas A+M takes yet another halftime lead, but Northwestern's tenacity and QB Dan Persa's ability to score quickly when needed will give the Wildcats enough to win straight up. Score- Northwestern 34-31.

Gambling Perspective- Big Play (2 units) on Northwestern +10. This line has tremendous value and take it tonight because smart players will drive this line down. Lean to the Under at 70 as this total seems too high for a Northwestern squad that improved on defense dramatically in the back half of the year.

2:00 PM EST- Sun Bowl- Ga Tech (8-4) (-2) vs. Utah (7-5) O/U 50- Looking strictly at 2nd half of the season win/loss, Utah appears to be streaking while Ga Tech is falling apart; however, analyzing their schedules, Utah's schedule eased dramatically in the 2nd half, while Tech's strengthened. The Yellow Jackets lost 4 of 6 after starting the season 6-0. Their losses came against 4 high quality opponents (at UVA, at Mia, vs VaTech, vs UGA) and they even managed to hand a solid Clemson squad their first loss of the season. Like most recent seasons, Tech's offense is elite, ranking 12th in the nation in YPP, while their defense is a pedestrian 69th. They thrive on being able to establish the run (2nd in nation in Yards per Rush at 5.7) and milk the clock, something they couldn't do in their last two losses to VaTech and Georgia. Unfortunately for Ga Tech, they're facing an opponent ranked 8th in the nation in Yards per Rush Defense, allowing a stingy 3.0 per carry. This could be an illusion as 4 teams that Utah played (Colo, Ore St., Ariz, and Wash St.) rank in the bottom 20 in the nation in rush yards per game. This will be the best unit they've faced this year.

Utah streaked towards the end of the year mainly because of a favorable schedule, facing no bowl teams in their 4-1 run to end the year. In their final game, they lost at home to a pathetic Colorado team with a chance to win the Pac-12 South. The Utes played only two teams with a winning record, blasting BYU and losing to USC early in the season. Their defense ranks highly (21st in YPP allowed), but their offense struggled all year to establish consistency, ranking 99th in YPP.

- Although Utah's defense appears to be solid against the run, I think much of their statistical success is based on the weak rush attacks of their competition. Georgia Tech should be able to establish the run and control the clock against a clearly average Utah team. Score- GaTech 27-20.

Gambling Perspective- Strong Lean to GaTech -2. I can't make this a play in the off chance that Utah's rush defense is as good as their stats appear, but my instinct is they are a paper tiger. Not a bad play if you decide to take the Jackets here. Play under at 50. Utah can't move the ball well offensively and if GaTech establishes their rushing attack, they will look to run the clock and win a low scoring battle.

3:30 PM EST- Liberty Bowl- Vanderbilt (6-6) (-1.5) vs Cincy (9-3) O/U 49- Vanderbilt might currently be the most underrated team in the nation. Since making the change at QB to Jordan Rodgers in week 7, Vandy's offense has gone from scoring 21.7 ppg and gaining 262 ypg, to scoring 32.2 ppg and racking up 424 ypg. This improvement was not reflected in the win/loss (3-3 in 6 games), but is extremely relevant in evaluating this game. Their 3 losses with Rodgers under center came by 3 to Ark, 5 at Fla and OT at Tenn, all respectable defeats. In Cincy's early season trip to Tenn with a healthy Zach Collaros at QB, the Vols pummeled Cincy by 22. Collaros is expected to split time in the bowl game with Munchie Legaux, his inadaquate replacement during his injury.

Prediction- Not much analysis needed here as Vandy should easily handle an inferior team from an inferior conference. Beyond the improvement with Jordan Rodgers at QB, Vandy should also be motivated for a victory under 1st year head coach Tony Franklin. Score- Vandy 34-20.

Gambling Perspective- Big Play (twice your regular bet) on Vandy -1.5. This line is a joke with or without a healthy Collaros. Vandy should cover this easily. Also play the Over at 49 as this game should see plenty of scoring with Vandy's improved offense and the (kind of) return of Collaros for Cincy.

3:30 PM EST- Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl- Illinois (6-6) (-2) vs. UCLA (6-7) O/U 47-
Both of these enter the postseason having fired their head coaches. The situation might be worse, however, on the Illinois side, having also lost OC Paul Petrino to Arkansas. They also enter this bowl game as the coldest team in the country, having lost 6 consecutive games, averaging just 11 ppg in those contests. UCLA, on the other hand, established somewhat of an identity as a rushing football team late in the season and was able beat Cal and Ariz St to earn a trip to the Pac-12 title game. Their offense ranks surprisingly high at 34th in the nation in YPP, while their defense failed to stop opponents, yielding 6.0 ypp, good for 91st in the nation. Illinois has the opposite issue: while their offense ranks 104th in the nation, their defense stands firmly at #9 in YPP allowed against strong competition.

Prediction- This should be a low scoring battle (although I expect many trick plays from both sides), but I expect better focus from the UCLA side. Their late season improvement and slightly more stable staff give them the edge in this battle of teams in turmoil. Score- UCLA 20-14

Gambling Perspective- Play UCLA +2. They have team playing better right now, and the will be more focused entering the game. Strong Lean to the Under as Illinois should have issues establishing their offense, having lost both their head coach and coordinator.

7:30 PM EST- Chick-Fil-A Bowl- Auburn (7-5) (-3) vs. Virginia (8-4) O/U 49
- This is definitely a game pitting two teams heading in opposite directions. Virginia turned their season around by winning 6 of their last 8, including wins over GaTech, Miami, and Fla St. They enter this game highly motivated, since this will be their first bowl appearance under head coach Mike London. Auburn's season, conversely, peaked week 5 with a win against South Carolina. Since then, they've lost in blowout fashion to Ark, LSU, UGA, and Ala, while earning one legitimate win at home against a Florida team without their starting QB. To compound their issues, the Tigers have lost both their OC and DC since the regular season finale.

Prediction- Auburn will struggle to score points against a respectable UVA defense, and the Cavs will make enough plays offensively to earn the victory. Score- UVA 24-19.

Gambling Perspective- Play UVA +3. Auburn has no business being a favorite in this game. UVA will handle their offense and come away with a straight up victory. Strong Lean on the under at 49 because of Auburn's inability to establish consistency on offense and UVA's proclivity towards winning close, low scoring games.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

College Football Bowl Preview- Insight Bowl- Oklahoma vs. Iowa

by John Huffstetler

10:00 PM EST- Oklahoma (9-3) (-14) vs. Iowa (7-5) O/U 58
- This write-up will be short and sweet. Throw out every stat from the regular season, they're meaningless here. This game will be decided on one factor: Iowa is excited to be here and Oklahoma is not. Before the regular season finale against Oklahoma St., Oklahoma had BCS bowl and Big 12 title aspirations. After getting thrashed by the Cowboys, the Sooners must now face a 7-5 team as two td favorites. To add to their issues, Oklahoma has once again this year battled several key injuries, most notably star receiver Ryan Broyles. Iowa, on the other hand, comes into this game highly motivated to win having endured a difficult regular season. In previous bowl season, Kirk Ferentz has willed strong performances out of his Hawkeye squad as substantial underdogs.

Prediction- Iowa hangs tight with the Sooners using a solid rushing attack, but Oklahoma wakes up in the 4th quarter for a tight victory. Score Oklahoma 28 Iowa 25.

Gambling Perspective
- Plays- 10-3 (2-0 on big plays)
Leans- 7-2

Play Iowa +14 and make it a big play (double your standard bet)
. Bowl games are all about motivation and playing the less talented Iowa team here is the savvy play. No lean on the over/under.

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College Football Bowl Preview- Pinstripe Bowl- Rutgers vs. Iowa St.

Friday 12/31- 3:20 PM EST- Rutgers (8-4) (-1) vs. Iowa St. (6-6) O/U 44.5- In a weak Big East conference, Rutgers had a relatively impressive season. Three of their four losses can be considered "good" losses, with two 2-point defeats on the road against bowl teams (UNC and L-Ville) and one late 4th quarter loss to West Virginia. At times, Rutgers defense was dominant, holding Cincy to 3 points, Pitt to 10, SFla to 17, and L-Ville to 16. They rank 32nd nationally, allowing 5.0 YPP, which is critical to their success considering their struggles offensively (109th in YPP). Iowa St.'s season was largely defined by two overtime wins against Iowa and Oklahoma St. Take out those two games, their season appears disastrous. They lost convincingly by double digits to 5 of their 6 opponents, managing to lose by only a TD to Kansas St. in the finale. They have struggled both offensively and defensively to establish consistency, ranking 89th and 73rd respectively in YPP. There is a strong home-field advantage in this game for Rutgers, as well, since the game will be played in Yankee Stadium.

Prediction- Rutgers defensive until will be the best on the field. Iowa St. has the potential to move the ball on the ground against this Scarlet Knights, but I don't think that will happen. Rutgers will play a conservative, grind it out game in front of the virtual home crowd and emerge victorious. Score- 23-17 Rutgers.

Gambling Perspective- Plays- 9-3 (2-0 on Big Plays)
Leans- 6-1

Play Rutgers -1. Iowa St. gained credibility from the betting market by winning a fluky overtime game against a highly ranked opponent. Rutgers proved all year to be the more solid squad, and the crowd advantage only adds to the playability of this game. Lean under 44.5. This is only a lean because of the poor nature of Iowa St.'s defense and the potential for Iowa St. to establish a ground game against Rutgers. The best unit on the field is the Rutgers defense, however, so an under play is somewhat acceptable.

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College Football Bowl Preview- Armed Forces Bowl- BYU vs. Tulsa

by John Huffstetler

Friday Dec 31st- 12:00 PM EST- Tulsa (8-4) (-1) vs. BYU (9-3) O/U 56
- On paper, this match-up looks like a pair of "hot" teams entering a bowl game on long winning streaks (BYU 8-1 in last 9, Tulsa 7-1 in last 8), but a look at the level of competition makes these streaks much less impressive. BYU played a laughable schedule in their first season as an independent team, playing only 4 bowl teams. In those games, they lost to Texas and TCU in respectable close games, beat Utah St. at home by only 3, and were blasted by rival Utah by 44. In fairness, BYU did show dramatic improvement during the season, precipitated by the switch at quarterback to the versatile Riley Nelson. Since he became the starter at QB, BYU is 6-2 ATS and have averaged 37.9 ppg, albeit against below average competition. Similarly, Tulsa's streak was based mainly on an ease in level of competition. After playing a murderous September (away games against Okla, Okla St, and Boise St.), the Golden Hurricane settled in to a routine conference schedule and racked up wins in bunches. After September, they played only 3 bowl teams, pummeling Marshall and SMU, and getting embarrassed by a solid Houston squad.

Prediction- Neither team impresses me all that much. This game should remain close throughout. The extra time to prepare for the bowl game should benefit BYU by allowing Riley Nelson more practice time at QB to gel with the offense. I will give a slight nod to BYU because of that factor. 35-33 BYU.

Gambling Perspective- Plays- 9-3 (2-0 on Big Plays)
Leans- 6-1

No lean on the spread. Any bet on who would win this game is purely a guess. There is no angle to play, besides the improvement of BYU's offense under Nelson. Strong Lean over the total of 56. 9 of Tulsa's 12 games have reached this posted total and BYU's offensive improvement should provide enough firepower to push this over 56. I hesitate to make this a play because Tulsa struggled to put together solid offensive performances against Okla, Boise St, and Houston, averaging only 17 points in these match-ups, and BYU does have a solid enough defense to slow them down.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

College Football Bowl Preview- Alamo Bowl- Baylor vs. Washington

Thursday 9:00 pm EST- Baylor (9-3) (-9.5) vs. Washington (7-5) O/U 78.5- Baylor is the hottest team in country entering this bowl season. They have won 5 straight, including 3 wins against bowl teams, and their offense scored more than 30 points in every game this season. They also enter this game highly motivated, having lost in embarrassing fashion in their home state last year in the Texas Bowl against Illinois. They play this game once again in their home state against a Washington team that failed to step up in class all season. In their 4 toughest games this year (at Nebraska, at Stanford, vs Oregon, and at USC), they went 0-4 losing by an average of 24.3 points. Conversely, Baylor played 8 bowl teams this year going 5-3, including wins over Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Misszou.

Prediction- Baylor dominates this game using their explosive offense, while getting just enough stops from their defense. Both teams rank in the bottom 25 in the nation in defensive YPP, so this will be a high scoring affair. Baylor will come out with a great performance in their home state this time around. 56-35 Baylor wins.

Gambling Perspective- Plays- 8-3 (1-0 on big plays)
Leans- 6-1

Play Baylor -9.5 and double your standard bet. RG III and the Bears have a virtually unstoppable offense. I expect Baylor to win the turnover battle and make the key plays needed to push this game into double digits. No lean on the total. These two teams could hit 100, but the total is too high to consider.

College Football Bowl Preview- Champs Sports Bowl- Notre Dame vs. Florida St.

by John Huffstetler

Thursday- 5:30 PM EST- Champs Sports Bowl- Florida St. (8-4) (-3.5) vs. Notre Dame (8-4) O/U 46.5- A disappointing season for both of these squads who entered the 2011 campaign with BCS aspirations. Florida St.'s season ended with 3 early season losses to Okla, Clem and Wake Forest, the first two of which came without starting QB EJ Manuel. Although consistency on offense became an issue all season, the defense was less than spectacular in their losses to WF and Clem, allowing 35 points in each contest. Outside of those two games, the defense performed magnificently all year, allowing just 11.2 points per game in their other 10 contests. For the season, the defense ranked 5th nationally allowing just 4.1 yards per play (YPP). While the defense struggled in early losses, the offense struggled in the last two games, scoring just 14 points each in games against Virginia and Florida (7 pts came from a defensive score) and gaining just 95 yards in the finale against Florida.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame's season was over after just two games, losing a sloppy game to South Florida, and then collapsing in a 2nd week loss to Michigan. Outside of a week 3 drubbing of Michigan St, the rest of their season was uneventful, losing to their two quality foes easily; however, they did beat 4 low-end bowl teams in that stretch (Air Force, Wake Forest, Purdue, and Pitt). The offense can put up points in bunches (59 vs Air Force, 56 vs Navy, 45 vs Maryland and 38 vs Purdue) and ranks 26th in YPP, but struggled to find consistency posting 20 points or less 5 times this year. Their defense was their more consistent unit down the stretch holding their last 5 opponents to 16.2 ppg.

Prediction- Both teams will struggle to find their rhythm offensively as both teams are playing terrific defense late in the season. I expect Florida St. with their stronger defensive unit and better athletes to outlast the Irish in a defensive battle. Score-20-16 Florida St.

Gambling Perspective- Plays- 7-3 (1-0 on big plays)
Leans- 6-1

No lean on the spread
. Florida St is playable at less than 3, but this could easily be a field goal game. If I see a Fla St. -2.5 before kick, I will consider it. Play the Under at 46.5. These offenses will struggle and points will be at a premium in this field position battle.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

College Football Bettors Preview- Military Bowl and Holiday Bowl

by John Huffstetler

Plays- 5-2
Leans- 5-1

Wednesday 4:30 PM EST- Military Bowl- Toledo (8-4) (-3) vs. Air Force (7-5) O/U 70.5- Two efficient top 30 offenses square off in Washington DC tomorrow with a strong chance for fireworks. Like every MAC team (outside of Temple), Toledo struggles to stop opposing offenses, ranking 86th in the country in Opponents Yards Per Play (YPP). Their offense is nothing short of dominant, ranking 13th in YPP and 8th in points scored. Like fellow MAC member, Western Michigan, they are the definition of an "over" team. Meanwhile, Air Force is equally strong offensively ranking 2nd in the nation in rush yards per game and 27th in YPP. Their defense is nothing spectacular either allowing 5.6 YPP, good for 76th in the nation.

Analyzing both teams success this season, Toledo's resume impresses more. Although they played in a weaker conference, the Rockets dominated conference play with only one loss by 3 to Northern Illinois. They also played a formidable out of conference schedule, losing close games to Ohio St and Syracuse (even though they won against Cuse- Remember the missed extra point call) and getting handled by Boise St. Air Force played in the tougher conference, but failed to win a single game this year against above .500 competition (including a road beating by Notre Dame and home losses to Wyoming, TCU, and SD St.). The conference as a whole has been unimpressive this season outside of Boise St. (1-3 overall ATS), and is already 0-1 head-to-head against the MAC.

Play- Play Toledo -3 and the Over at 70.5. The Over will be my first 2 unit play of the bowl season (double your standard bet). This game should be high scoring and I expect Toledo to get the better end of this shootout.

8:00 EST- Holiday Bowl- Texas (7-5) (-3.5) vs. California (7-5) O/U 47.5- Two teams that struggled to find offensive continuity this season square off in the Holiday Bowl this season. Texas, while establishing a strong rushing attack, never found continuity at the QB position, switching between Case McCoy and David Ash. As a result, they never consistently established strong offensive outputs all year against high-caliber competition (averaging just 23.9 ppg against bowl teams). Despite playing 9 bowl teams this year, they managed to rank an impressive 12th defensively in opponents yards per play, good for 1st in a loaded Big 12.

Cal similarly struggled to establish offensive success against their bowl-bound opponents, averaging just 24.3 ppg. Their defense statistically does not match up with Texas', however, as Cal ranked just 56th in defensive YPP against weaker competition. They also struggled mightily away from home with their two road wins coming against a weak Colorado team in OT and a backsliding Ariz St team in the regular season finale.

Play- Slight lean Texas -3.5. I'm hoping the line will drop to 3 and become playable again, but laying the hook with a team that struggles offensively doesn't interest me. Lean under the total of 47.5. I think this is an acceptable play, but I'm worried that the offense could be so bad that it actually allows the defense to score a few points and provides the opposing offenses with short fields.

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BELK Bowl Bettors Preview- NC St. vs Louiville

by John Huffstetler

Plays- 5-1
Leans 4-1

Tuesday 8:00 PM EST- NC St. (7-5) (-2) vs. Louisville (7-5) O/U 44- This game matches two teams who started their respective seasons slowly. NC St. started 2-3 with their only wins coming against Non-FBS foes, while Louisville started the season 2-4 with two pathetic home losses to Florida International and Marshall. Both teams, however, managed to salvage their seasons with strong efforts in the 2nd half in conference play. Louisville tied for the conference lead with a 5-2 record, including an impressive road victory against the Big East BCS automatic qualifier, West Virginia. Impressive coaching from Charlie Strong and a mid-season switch to true frosh Teddy Bridgewater at QB precipitated the late season surge. Meanwhile, NC St. strengthened late because of improved health and performance on the defensive side of the ball, with Terrell Manning and JR Sweezy returning after missing early season games. Entering the 11th game of the season, the Wolfpack lacked a signature win, but then they managed to upset eventual ACC champion, Clemson, in blow out fashion (37-13).

Play- Both teams are clearly better than earlier in the season, but the early season losses to Fla Intl and Marshall and the overall weakness of the Big East make Louisville impossible to play. I don't entirely trust NC St. either. Louisville has an outstanding run defense and should be able to make NC St. one-dimensional. Slight Lean to NC St. because of the weakness of the Big East. Play the Under at 44. Although L-Ville managed to put points on the board late in the season against WVA, SFlorida, and UConn, NC St's defense is a step up in class from these squads. As mentioned before, LVille's outstanding run defense should limit NC St. offensively and force Mike Glennon to win the game with his arm, which might not happen.

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CFB Little Caesers Bowl Bettors Preview- Western Michigan and Purdue

Plays- 5-1
Leans- 4-1

4:30 EST Tuesday- Purdue (6-6) (-3) vs. Western Michigan (7-5) O/U 60- Tomorrow, Purdue will play their first bowl game since 2007 and also the first of the Danny Hope era. They will be highly motivated for this contest against an offensively strong Bronco squad. This WMich team, who averaged 6.2 YPP (good for 18th in the nation) will return starting QB Alex Carder to the field after he missed the regular season finale against Akron with a shoulder injury. Their offensive efficiency partially masks their defensive failings. As most MAC teams, WMich's defense is sub-par, allowing 6.2 YPP (ranked 101st in the nation). Purdue, meanwhile, struggles to move the ball offensively, gaining just 4.8 YPP. 10 of their 12 games this year finished under the posted total of 60 for this game.

Play- While Purdue will come out highly motivated for this contest, nothing impresses me about their regular season results or stats. Western Mich plays solid defense, but struggles to make key defensive stops or step up in class against major conference foes. No lean on the spread. The over/under will be interesting as Western Michigan is a prototypical "over" team, while Purdue remains an "under" squad. If the score goes either very low or high at half, I will look to make a halftime play. No lean on the O/U either.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fat Albert

Interesting stat I heard today: The Patriots are 6-0 since they got rid of Haynesworth.  The Buccaneers are 0-6 since their acquisition of Haynesworth.

Independence Bowl Bettors Preview- North Carolina vs. Missouri

Plays- 4-1
Leans- 3-1

5:30 EST Monday- Missouri (7-5) (-5.5) vs. UNC (7-5) O/U 52.5- Few teams in the country battled more injury issues than the Missouri Tigers this year. Entering this bowl game, they are the healthiest they've been since before the season. They also enter this game streaking, having won 5 of their last 7 games. Meanwhile, UNC enters this bowl game having lost 4 of 6, including an embarrassing 13-0 shut out at rival NC St. Comparing these teams schedules, Missouri played the 15th toughest schedule in the country, while UNC played the 57th. Missouri's 5 losses were all of high quality (OT at Ariz St, by 10 at #19 Okla, by 7 at #10 Kan St, by 21 vs #3 Okla St, and by 3 at #16 Baylor), while UNC also lost all 5 of their games to .500 or above competition. From a YPP (Yards Per Play) perspective, both teams have an advantage offensively against each others defense.

Play- The difference in this game might be coaching. With UNC interim coach Everett Withers headed to Ohio St, its hard to believe his coaching level will rival Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel's. Since we have a motivated, healthy, and streaking Tigers squad, Play Missouri -5.5. They should be able to move the ball offensively with ease, while making just enough stops to cover the number. Slight lean also to the over with this number seeming a bit low for these two offensively efficient squads. The inconsistency of UNC and the shakiness of Missouri's kicker will keep this at a lean.

NBA Offseason Biggest Winners and Losers


1) Los Angeles Clippers- Obviously, when you add one of the top 3 players in the league, your offseason was successful. Chris Paul immediately vaults the Clippers into title contenders. His ability to distribute the basketball and score efficiently while limiting turnovers elevates everyone else on the floor. In addition, they added several other interesting veteran pieces to surround CP3. With Caron Butler, the Clips add some necessary help at the wing with Eric Gordon departing in the Paul trade. Although the Mavs title run came without Butler, prior to his injury, he was averaging 15 ppg and a career high 43% from 3 pt range. The Chauncey Billups signing is more of a luxury then a necessity as the Clips already have Mo Williams, but adding a veteran of his quality known for his ability to make big shots in crunch time can’t hurt. Their most underrated offseason signing was Reggie Evans, an aggressive, elite rebounder with the ability to defend any center in the NBA. Overall, the Clippers offseason was superb.

2) New York Knicks- Both the Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks offseason success hinged on the movement of one player: Tyson Chandler. His presence immediately upgrades the Knicks previously pathetic defense. There is no questioning that Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire are two of the most prolific scorers in the league; however, ignored about these two all-stars is their pathetic defense (111 points per 100 possessions while on the floor together). If Chandler can simply get them as a unit to play adequately (not bottom 10 in the league), they have a strong chance to win the Atlantic Division. The rest of their offseason was a wash, losing Billups and some other pieces while gaining Mike Bibby and Baron Davis. Baron Davis might become a meaningful pick up if he can regain his 2009 form as a much-needed back up to Toney Douglas at the point.

3) Miami Heat- Much like the Knicks, the Miami offseason success derives from the acquisition of a defensive stalwart, Shane Battier. He can defend three positions at an elite level and add some much-needed 3-pt shooting acumen to this Heat roster, giving an already elite defensive stop unit more capability to shut down opponents. Simply getting healthier this offseason improves the Heat as well. Although Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller managed to return for the playoffs last year, they were limited and performed below their potential level of play. Getting Haslem (and soon Miller) healthy gives this team extra depth and more pieces to compliment their elite stars.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves- Quietly, the T-Wolves enjoyed a terrific offseason. Not only did they add future stud, Derrick Williams, through the draft, they also (finally) have Ricky Rubio joining the squad from Spain. Rubio brings a flair for distributing the basketball and a much needed pass-first mentality to a team riddled in recent years with selfish individual players (see Sebastian Telfair). They also managed to add to veteran pieces with postseason success in Jose Juan Barea and Brad Miller to round out the roster. Barea, in particular, will provide a terrific spark off the bench in the same role he played with the Mavs.


1) Dallas Mavericks- The defending champs did not help their chances to repeat this offseason, losing several key pieces to free agency. As mentioned earlier, the loss of Tyson Chandler is huge. He solidified their center position for the first time in over a decade and his departure leaves a gaping hole in the middle to be filled by Brendan Haywood (?). The loss of Caron Butler looms large as well despite their ability to win the title with him on the sideline. His departure paved the way for Vince Carter to sign with the Mavs. By adding Carter, the Mavs get a much less efficient and consistent scorer and a below-average defensive player. The Barea loss is significant, but getting a healthy Roddy Beaubois in the mix will soften the blow. The one redeeming quality of this offseason was getting Lamar Odom gift-wrapped by the Lakers after their vetoed Paul trade failed. His ability to back up both forward positions will add a new dimension to the Mavs roster. Overall, though, this team became significantly worse at two positions (SG and C) and continues to try and survive with an aging nucleus of over-the-hill former stars.

2) Detroit Pistons- The Pistons had no choice but to jettison their long-time star in Richard Hamilton, but his absence still makes the current team worse. His ability to move without the basketball and play scrappy defense against both guard spots makes him a valuable player. They also lost Chris Wilcox, who played well last year, providing defense and rebounding to a Pistons team that lacked post talent. Joe Dumars also continues to make the wrong decisions in free agent signings. After the disgraceful signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva a few off-seasons ago, he decided this year to resign Rodney Stuckey to a lucrative contract. Stuckey has shown zero capability to run an offense from the PG position and his career 42% fg pct and lack of range make him inadequate to play shooting guard. His resigning is just another in a long line of horrible decisions by this franchise, which is years away from a future playoff appearance.

3) Portland Trailblazers- This franchise has made some terrific acquisitions over the past few years, but they continually lose players to injuries. The most disappointing news this NBA offseason by far was the retirement of Brandon Roy. This Blazers franchise and fan base will sorely miss his unlimited potential and leadership ability. To add to the bad news, Greg Oden suffered yet another setback in his injury recovery and might not play this year. While the Blazers did add sharpshooter Jamal Crawford to the mix, the offseason remains a failure because of circumstances out of their control. While the product on the court remains playoff caliber with several strong defensive players on the roster, Roy made them a title contender. Now, they will certainly be watching the finals from home.