Dan Feldman’s 2010-11 season preview

Five Pistons predictions

1. Rodney Stuckey will have the best season of his career.

This might not exactly be going out on a limb. Stuckey has had his best season ever year of his career. Yet, somehow, his improvement has been small enough that he hasn’t turned the corner toward stardom.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Stuckey makes another small, short-of-star step again this year. It would surprise me more if he doesn’t improve at all. Of course, he could also reach the next level.

Regardless of the magnitude, I think Stuckey gets better this year. And I think, even though it won’t have much to do with it, too much of the credit will go toward Stuckey playing in the system for consecutive years for the first time.

2. Jason Maxiell will play more than Greg Monroe.

Monroe desperately needs to add lower-body strength to be a capable defender, rebounder and screener. I’m optimistic about his future, because I think doing that won’t take away from the things he already does well.

But it will be a year until Monroe gets strong enough. Maxiell can do all those things right now.

Joe Dumars has said he wants this team to win now. Maxiell can help the Pistons do that better than Monroe, and I don’t expect that to change at any point this season.

3. Neither Tayshaun Prince nor Richard Hamilton will be traded.

I think this prediction benefits from the ownership situation. Until the team is sold, I really doubt either is traded. So that narrows the opening when a trade could occur.

Everyone criticizes Dumars for being loyal to Prince and Hamilton, and I think he is. But there’s a flip side. Other general managers are loyal to their players, too. For the most part, GMs have acquired the players on their teams. They’ve done that for a reason. That’s why there aren’t more trades in the NBA. Everybody likes their own players.

If you randomly gave every GM another team’s roster, there would be tons of trades. GMs like their guys. For Dumars, that’s Prince and Hamilton.

4. Charlie Villanueva will have a better season than Austin Daye.

I like Daye’s long-term prospects. But he’s not a power forward. He’s just too small to hold up there.

With his improved strength and conditioning, Villanueva can play power forward without problem.

If Daye was playing small forward, who will have a better season would be a close race. With both at power forward, it’s no contest.

5. The Pistons will finish 35-47 and ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Being healthy will be a plus, but not quite enough to make the playoffs. The Pistons need more size. They need more defense. And they need more inside scoring.

They’re a flawed team, but a flawed team or two will make the playoffs in the East. It won’t surprise me if that’s the Pistons, but in a crowded field of also-rans vying for the final two playoff spots, the odds are against them.

Awards watch

Most Valuable Player – LeBron James, Heat

Nobody wants to give him the award, but he’s too good to deny. LeBron knows his reputation has taken a hit, and winning the MVP will help fix that. His good friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh also know LeBron needs to restore his reputation, and I think they’ll help LeBron post MVP-worthy numbers.

Rookie of the Year – John Wall, Wizards

Like everyone else, I also considered the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. But the last five Rookie of the Year winners have been guards, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Guards adapt to the NBA better than bigs.

Defensive Player of the Year – Dwight Howard, Magic

I think you’re going to see an offensive improvement from Howard this year, and that will only make his defense better. I’m not only saying his offensive numbers will improve. I’m saying he’ll actually play better.

Howard scoring more in the post means fewer 3-point attempts for his teammates, which means fewer long rebounds, which means fewer transition opportunity for opponents. Howard anchoring a set defense means trouble for opponents.

Coach of the Year – Jerry Sloan, Jazz

Finally.

Sloan is probably the best coach to never win Coach of the Year, but he has an ideal roster to win the award. He has players who aren’t universally heralded, but fit his system. That means the Jazz will be viewed as overachievers, and the coach gets the credit.

Most Improved Player – Nicolas Batum, Trail Blazers

I can’t say for certain I was going to pick Batum before he had 19 points and 11 rebounds in last night’s season opener. But among the few candidates I was considering before I saw the results of that game, Batum was my front runner.

Batum is surrounded by good teammates who complement him, which is obviously great for him. He can defend and shoot. That’s a great combination in this league.

Projected standings

Eastern Conference

  1. Heat 64-18*
  2. Magic 59-23*
  3. Celtics 54-28*
  4. Bucks 50-32*
  5. Bulls 48-34*
  6. Hawks 48-34*
  7. Knicks 40-42*
  8. Bobcats 36-46*
  9. Pistons 35-47
  10. Wizards 34-48
  11. Pacers 30-52
  12. Nets 27-55
  13. 76ers 24-58
  14. Cavaliers 17-65
  15. Raptors 16-66

Western Conference

  1. Lakers 59-23*
  2. Spurs 55-27*
  3. Mavericks 53-29*
  4. Jazz 51-31*
  5. Thunder 50-32*
  6. Rockets 48-34*
  7. Trail Blazers 46-36*
  8. Nuggets 46-36*
  9. Hornets 43-39
  10. Suns 42-40
  11. Clippers 35-47
  12. Grizzlies 32-50
  13. Warriors 32-50
  14. Timberwolves 29-53
  15. Kings 27-55

*playoffs

Projected playoff results

First Round

Heat over Bobcats; Magic over Knicks; Celtics over Hawks; Bulls over Bucks

Lakers over Nuggets; Spurs over Trail Blazers; Mavericks over Rockets; Thunder over Jazz

Second Round

Heat over Bulls; Magic over Celtics

Lakers over Thunder; Spurs over Mavericks

Conference Finals

Heat over Magic

Lakers over Spurs

Finals
Heat over Lakers

Tags: Rodney Stuckey

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