Baseline Season Preview In the first edition of 5-On-5 we take 5 beat writers and ask them the same 5 questions about the teams they cover including what they expect from their team. 1.Opening Day isn’t too far away, any training camp battles going on right now? JFace907, FearTheSword.com: Tristan Thompson v Anthony Bennett is the big one right now. If both really impress then we may end up seeing both start with Earl Clark being the first guy off the bench. I’m also curious to see if CJ Miles can fight through the youth brought in to be that off the bench 3 point trigger man. Blaza, KnicksNow.com: Knicks camp is underway and the veteran club begins the 2K14 season a year older with several changes to the roster in typical NY fashion. NYK shook up the frontcourt dealing SF Steve Wetvak, SF Quentin Richarson, and C Marcus Camby for Toronto’s Italian PF Andrea Bargnani. Bargnani is an offensive wizard capable on the high and low blocks, but his defense leaves much to be desired. Fortunately for him, he is battling Amare Stoudemire for the starting PF who is equally inept in the defensive department. This competition throughout camp will really have large impact on what offensive system the Knicks decide to start the year. Dru50, Dwightmare on Polk Street: There is a potential battle at starting PG between Linsanity and Patrick Beverly. Lin is a bit overrated with his poor outside shooting, but he is a decent defender and a good pick and roll guy. Beverly really showed up against OKC when going up against Westbrook and if he repeats, Lin may be the PG of the 2nd unit. I also don’t know what the plan will be at the 4 in the starting lineup. I think Terrence Jones is the man there now, but Omer Asik is likely to be in the trade market to see if an upgrade can be made at the 4. sonn, GoldenStateOfMind.com: The only spot in the starting 5 that is up in the air is SF. Preseason games will go a long way in determining who grabs that spot between Andre Iguodala and last year’s #1 pick Harrison Barnes. Iggy has long been a beast but Barnes was a big part of the playoff run last season. Iguodala has the inside track right now because of his defense and his ability to get to the hoop brings something to the table that Klay Thompson and Steph Curry lack. Whoever loses the battle will se big minutes off the bench. JrRawlins, HoopHeadsNorth.com: There is only one training camp battle in Toronto as far as starters are concerned. At PG Kyle Lowry is the guy, DeMar DeRozan is the shooting guard, Rudy Gay is the small forward, Jonas Valanicus is the center and future franchise player. At power forward Tyler Hansborough and Amir Johnson will battle for minutes. 2. What offseason addition has your city buzzing the most? JFace: Well when you make Bill Simmons literally drop his jaw on live TV, I’d have to say it’s the #1 draft pick himself Anthony Bennett. I think the fans want to see what this kid can do. I know I do. In a VERY close second is Andrew Bynum. If he’s healthy, I could easily see him becoming a top 3 center again. That’s a BIG if though. Blaza: As mentioned earlier, Bargnani joined the frontcourt and he is joined by a defensive foil by the name of Metta World Peace. MVP is a Queensbridge native on the tail end of his career, but is excited to play in hi Native New York. Look for him to set the defensive tone with the number 2 squad off the bench. Dru: Ummmm, could be the moody, indecisive, back-injury recovering, former best C in the league...maybe. Yeah, I think that the Dwightmare picking Houston is a big addition to the roster. If he performs as he has in the past, I fully expect him to dominate and be one of the top guys in the Western Conference. Harden/Howard pick and rolls should be a lot of fun. Sonn: Iggy was obviously the big offseason signing for Golden State and everyone knows what he brings to the table. A nice under the radar signing was Marreese Speights who has loads of talent. With Mo its just a question of whether he can put it all together with the Warriors. With the injury history of Bogut and fellow backup Jermaine O’Neal, Speights may be called to play big minutes this season. Jr: The Raptors added a lot of depth. At point guard DJ Augustin is a pure shooter coming off the bench. Power Forward Tyler Hansborough will bring some grit and toughness to the Raptors frontline and PF Steve “Wetvak” Novak, will be the stretch 4 that Andrea Bargnan was supposed to be. 3.Who is the X-Factor for your team? Who needs to consistently produce on the team that we may not immediately think of? JFace: Jarrett Jack. He needs to be exactly what the Cavs brought in. A reliable vet to teach the young’ns the ropes and be there whenever Kyrie needs a blow. A solid contribution from him would be a line of 10-12 points per game with 4 assists per game. Blaza: When everyone thinks of the Knicks, they think of Carmelo Anthony. And fair play to that group, as Melo is one of the most versatile scorers in this league. The coaching staff knows what Carmelo will give them every night, in every arena, against any defender. Our success is going to come from the 3-headed trio of Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, and Tyson Chandler. These 3 are the leaders that truly make the team gel on both ends of the court. Felton is a staff favorite for his ability to run the team, and control the tempo in all situations. Shumpert is a defensive whiz, with a mean and aggressive, slashing offensive game. Shumpert defends with a fire in his eyes and attacks each lane like its his last. Chandler is a Captain and Defensive Anchor. Tyson makes the calls defensively and is a pesky roll man with Felton at the top of the bubble. Dru: I think for the Rockets the play of Chandler Parsons is going to go a long way to saying how the team does. Howard and Harden should consistenly produce, but you need 3 scorers to compete, and if Parson can play 3rd fiddle to those two and get us 15 points a night we should be in really good shape. He may even play some small ball 4 if Asik can bring a good wing in return in a trade. Sonn: I’ll say the X-factor for the team is former #1 overall pick Andrew Bogut. The Warriors can score in bunches with Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Lee, but it’ll be up to Bogut to do the dirty things like set strong screen to free up shooters and be an intimidator on the defensive end. If he can get back to his Milwaukee days, then Golden State will be in great shape. Jr: The Raptors X-Factor is clearly Terrence Ross. His scoring off the bench will be invaluable. The player who might fly under the radar but should present matchup problems is Austin Daye. At 6’1” with his range, he should be able to produce for the Raptors at the small forward position. 4. Who’s seat in your town is the hottest? Who could soon find themselves given a one way ticket to a new team? JFace: Alonzo Gee. Fan favorite all the way back to the loveable losers who broke the record for longest losing streak in NBA in the Cavs first season without LBJ. The team really improved at the wing with the signing of Clark, return of CJ Miles, drafting of Bennett and arguably the most NBA ready of the Cavs draft class in Russian import Sergey Karasev. Sergey was a highly touted Euro prospect who is supposedly a knock down shooter with an Ginobli-like aggression when taking it to the hoop. Almost a little too reckless, however. But when you put all of these guys into the mix, Gee is gonna have to fight real hard for his minutes on this team. Blaza: Rumors around camp are that the Knicks are itching to shake up the roster as currently constituted. Bargns is an incredibly gifted player offensively, but with so many threats on O, does he title the balance of the team too much? Keep an eye out for either Bargns or Amare being moved early to bring in a more balanced big. Dru: As mentioned earlier, it’s likely big Omer. I really like Asik, but if he can be traded for a starting quality 4 or 3, you gotta do it. Until then, he should make a great combo with Dwight ensuring solid rim protection and rebounding all the time. There are rumors of a possible twin tower lineup as well. Sonn: If Iguodala ends up losing the starting battle to Barnes, he may be dangled with Bogut to see if an upgrade can be made at the 5. It may be done anyways to allow the core of Barnes, Thompson and Curry to grow together. Jr: Kyle Lowry is immediately on the hot seat. He simply doesn’t fit the style of point guard the current Raptors management is looking for. 5. What are your REALSTIC expectations for your team? Include a final record a possible playoff scenarios. JFace: This seems redundant, but this team needs to stay healthy to succeed. There is a legitimate superstar on this team in Kyrie Irving, but he HAS to stay on the court. This is also the deepest team the Cavs have had in a long time, but this is a superstar league and the Cavs only have one of those. If he goes down, so does the team. I have a hunch that Kyrie stays healthy, leads this team to about a 46-48 win season and 6 or 7 seed in the playoffs and pulling off a first round upset. The Central is stacked this year, so this will be no cakewalk. Blaza: In the Big Apple, the fans are demanding and a banners in the rafters are all that matter. As a basketball megahub with a very competitive payroll, the Knicks will be expected to make an appearance in the ECF at minimum. The East has gotten very competitive recently which should make an ECF appearance quite the task. Looking forward to seeing what we’ve got on the court this year. Dru: Without taking into account any potential chemistry issues or having a big that demands the ball this year, I’m thinking 50 wins is feasible. The talent is there and the 1-2 punch Harden and Dwight is as good as any in the league. Out West though the run and gun in the Pacific Division (ryalaman and sonn may force BDSDIGITAL to go Hernandez on one or both of them), 50 wins may not even guarantee a top 4 seed. Sonn: With the Lakers in disarray and Phoenix a hot pile of garbage I expect Golden State to battle the Clippers for the division and ultimately win it. I’ll echo Dru and predict 50-55. For the playoffs I expect at least a second round appearance. Jr: Final record: 60-22, a 3rd seed in the East, loss in Conference Finals in 7 to the Knicks. Reason…They are the deeper team right now… That’s a wrap for this edition of 5-On-5. Join us when we meet again and see what our Beat Writer Network thinks of the league as a whole.