1. OKC Thunder: I know this is a Lakers blog, and we are both homer honks, but the Thunder(s) have a little more leeway than the Lakers. They have their formula already in place, so they won’t need time to gel. They have the young legs to withstand the grind of the 82 game season, and they have less injury concerns than the Lakers at the moment. If the Lakers could guarantee a healthy Dwight and Kobe and Nash for the entire season? I’d probably lean towards the Purple and Gold, but since I am concerned about that, I have to give slight edge to Thunder (thanks to some needling from
secret Thunder fan Aaron). Thinking it comes down to OKC with 62 wins and the Lakers 61.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: HOWEVAH, I think the Lakers’ ceiling is higher than OKC. When healthy, they have no glaring holes. Even the bench isn’t a huge concern, because Coach
Grimace Mike Brown will not be running the “preseason rotation” of five subs in at the same time (at least I hope he won’t). The Lakers should have three key goals this regular season: 1) finish with best regular season record to combat OKC and MIA in playoffs, 2) develop comfort level with the new hybrid Princeton offense and, most importantly, 3) enter playoffs with a healthy roster. If they can knock those three out, they put themselves in prime position to go after Banner 17.
3. San Antonio Spurs: When will they die? They’re so old! Ginobili has less hair than my father for Christ’s sake. The past two seasons everyone has been ready to pour dirt on their old corpses and they just won’t let it happen. After game 2 versus OKC they looked like a lock for the NBA Championship (I was already preparing to begrudgingly cheer for them over Miami and Boston) before self-destructing. Still, this season they will do the “Spurs thing” again where they plug in guys like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green and Boris “Blob City” Diaw and Coach Pop makes them look like all-stars. And then they’ll win 55 games because that is what they always do and we will all go about our business like nothing happened. Also of note: the first thing that Google suggests when typing “Boris Diaw” is “Boris Diaw Fat”.
4. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clips did a nice job of adding pieces this offseason…the only issue is, they might have added too much. How are they going to split the minutes up and keep everyone happy? The answer is, they won’t. I know Aaron is a big Coach Del Negro fan (I think it has something to do with Vinny’s hair and Italian pride), but I’m not sure he will be able to juggle this group. I mean, they had Butler, added Grant Hill (who deserves minutes) and then added headcase Matt Barnes (who thinks he deserves minutes). Still, the talent is there if they can find a 9-man rotation and CP3 will help maintain some semblance of order. The Clips will be competitive like last season because of Paul’s genius and Griffin’s obvious talent, but they’re not making it past the second round.
5. Denver Nuggets: This team is built for the regular season. They’re deep enough and young enough to get through the 4 games in 5 nights stretches. They play at a break-neck pace that is difficult for opponents to prepare for during the regular season and they play in the altitude 41 times. HOWEVAH, i think this team is best suited for the regular season rather than the playoffs because they have a bunch of groomsmen and no groom. Chandler, Lawson, Gallo, Iggy…all good players, but they don’t have the heavy-hitter needed to win big in the NBA.
6. Memphis Grizzlies: We know what we are getting from this Grizz team. They’re a 50 win team that has the talent to win a playoff series. When healthy, Z-Bo is one of the best low post players in the league and creates a bruising frontline with the Evil Gasol Hermano. Also, Randolph is an excellent painter.
7. Utah Jazz: Tried to think of every possible reason to leave this boring-ass team out of the playoffs, but kept getting sucked back in. They will lean on their frontcourt depth even more this season with the development of Enes “Don’t Call Me Fat” Kanter and Derrick Favors. Ty Corbin may sweat a lot, but it must be from coaching his ass off. The Jazz will start off slow but kick it up in the second half after trading Alec Burks for Jimmer Fredette, who will realize his potential as the Mormon Basketball Messiah (Move over, Scott Pollard).
8. Dallas Mavericks: The roster is really funky, but Carlisle is a great coach (even though he doesn’t know shit about drugs) and will find a way to make it work while Dirk is out for the first month. The main reason for this is the same reason we think the Bulls will make it to the playoffs: the Mavs are a good defensive team, and they added a quality low post defender in Elton Brand. Collison and Mayo should make for an interesting backcourt, especially if Collison is allowed to play as he did with the Hornets while CP3 was out. I expect bounce back seasons from both of them as they will be relied upon more than they have ever been in their careers.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberpups have come a long way from the days of misery and drafting three PGs among three top 20 first round picks. If it weren’t for the injuries of Love and Rubio, I think Minnesota would find itself in the playoffs. That aside, with the emergence of Pekovic and additions of Kirilenko and Roy, I trust Rick Adelman to keep this team in the hunt throughout the year. They’ll barely be edged out of the playoffs, but they’ll be fun to watch along the way (especially when Love and Rubio return).
10. Golden State Warriors: This is a HUGE leap of faith, but if Curry and Bogut can stay healthy (not looking good so far), this team will be extremely entertaining. With young guns such as Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes along with productive vet David Lee, the Warriors will be competitive all year. If Mr. Hands-Down-Pants-Down can continue to instill defense in these guys, they’ll challenge for the playoffs.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: I like the Lillard-Aldridge combo along with wings Wes Mantooth err Matthews and Batum, but these Blazers aren’t what they used to be. Remember when their future looked like this? Roy-Aldridge-Oden-Batum. Blazers fans can’t be happy with the unfortunate turn of events, but they’ll still remain fairly competitive especially at home.
12. New Orleans Hornets: That was fast. One year after trading away the face of the franchise, CP3, the Hornets have reloaded fast. I’m not the biggest fan of the Ryan Anderson-Anthony Davis front court, but they are intriguing (especially fantasy-wise). I don’t see the sure-fire superstar everyone else sees in Anthony Davis, but I’m not a so-called expert even if I still like him. Hopefully Gordon can finally stay on the court, making this a fun bunch to watch. (Note: gosh the West is so much better than the East)
13. Sacramento Kings: With as many lottery picks as they’ve had, they’re bound to eventually put it together…right? Yet they rarely seem to get things right. They were poised to bring a new arena to replace the sh*thole they currently play in, but instead they’ll play in the same place but now will call it the Sleep Train Arena. You can’t make this stuff up. That aside, if Tyreke can turn things around and if DeMarcus Cousins continues to improve, the Kings have enough talent to keep things interesting most nights.
14. Phoenix Suns: They delayed the inevitable by holding onto Nash two more years than they should’ve, so here comes the fall. They still have talent, though. Midseason fantasy pickup of the year Goran Dragic returns to form a decent starting unit with Beasley, Scola, Gortat. It’s hard to put a team with those guys THIS low, but the teams above just seem better.
15. Houston Rockets: The Rockets have more SFs than Chins in a Chinese phonebook. I’m excited to see if Lin can bring Linsanity to Houston, but beyond that this team is a group of yawns. Still much better than several of the East basement teams, though.