Rank Team W L
1. Miami 67 15
PG: Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole
SG: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, James Jones
SF: LeBron James, Mike Miller, Terrel Harris
PF: Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis
C: Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman, Josh Harrellson
LeBron is far and away the best player in the league, and probably on both ends of the court. Ray Allen could very well finish this year hitting better than half his three-pointers, and should allow Wade to have an easier load as he ages into his 30s. Bosh as a center will work wonderfully against teams who don’t have a real center, but won’t work against the handful of teams who do. Big picture, they certainly would be best to hope OKC comes out of the West. San Antonio, the Lakers, and Memphis can make them trot out Joel Anthony. As for the East, even with Bynum, Lopez, and Hibbert, it is still hard to believe any of those teams can be a true challenge in a seven game series this year. Boston is the one team with a chance, but even then it is a longshot.
2. Boston 55 27
PG: Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry
SG: Courtney Lee, Leandro Barbosa, Avery Bradley
SF: Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Kris Joseph
PF: Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox
C: Kevin Garnett, Darko Milicic, Jason Collins, Fab Melo
Nothing would be better than an Eastern Conference Finals with Miami-Boston. It would be the best smallball playoff series in a long time. On paper, Boston got better. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Leandro Barbosa is a better combination than Ray Allen, Keyon Dooling, and Marquis Daniels. Jeff Green is bigger and more versatile than Mickael Pietrus. Darko with all his career long disappointments is still a better player than Greg Stiemsma. If Jared Sullinger can keep his field goal percentage around 50 percent, and doesn’t foul every time down the court, he should be a quality second unit big man.
3. Indiana 53 29
PG: George Hill, D.J. Augustin, Ben Hansbrough
SG: Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson
SF: Gerald Green, Sam Young, Danny Granger (inj.)
PF: David West, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph
C: Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee
Warning! The Indiana Pacers have both Hansbrough brothers. Neither might be in the rotation, but there should be little doubt that there will be at least one lazy Tuesday night game in March where people get way too excited when they end up on the court and help grind out a win Indiana has no business winning. It won’t help Tyler Hansbrough be anything more than a 33 percent shooter in the postseason, but it is something. As for the rotation, it is imposing. Hibbert, West, Granger, and George are as long and big as any team from 2-5 in the league. Since Vogel took over, they have bought into playing defense. George Hill is poised for a big year now that he has assumed the starting job. The team did well in adding D.J. Augustin, Sam Young, and Gerald Green. Augustin and Sam Young were buy low signings. Young was a good player in Memphis, but was shipped off to Philadelphia to save money and never fit in there. Augustin was a better point guard than Kemba Walker, but they chose Walker because bad teams like to spin their wheels like that. Green appears to have grown up after serving an exile in Samara, Russia and Foshan, China. His story speaks to why David Stern does not want 18-year olds in his league, but also Green’s resilience. The problem for Indiana is that there is no reason to believe anything has changes since last spring when the Heat outstarred them.
4. Philadelphia 50 32
PG: Jrue Holiday, Maalik Wayns, Royal Ivey
SG: Jason Richardson, Nick Young
SF: Evan Turner, Dorell Wright, Damien Wilkins
PF: Thaddeus Young, Kwame Brown, Arnett Moultrie (inj.)
C: Lavoy Allen, Spencer Hawes, Andrew Bynum (inj.)
One has to give Philadelphia credit for not falling in love with the team that they had. Before Derrick Rose went down, the Sixers were headed for a four or five game route. The injury changed the narrative of their season, and they ended up playing in Game 7 of the second round. To their credit, the front office did not pass up on the possibility of raising their ceiling by gambling on the health and upcoming free agency of Andrew Bynum. It could go poorly and leave the team in a rebuilding state next summer, but if Bynum is healthy and re-signs they could be contending in the East for the next five years.
5. Brooklyn 48 34
PG: Deron Williams, C.J. Watson, Tyshawn Taylor
SG: Joe Johnson, Marshon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Jerry Stackhouse
SF: Gerald Wallace, Josh Childress, Tornike Shengalia
PF: Kris Humphries, Mirza Teletovic, Reggie Evans
C: Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche
Joe Johnson takes a lot of heat for his contract, but it really makes no sense as to why a league that panders to DeAndre Jordan, JaVale McGee, and Jeremy Lin would take issue with Joe Johnson. There are not five better shooting guards in the league. Now, he is paired with an interested Deron Williams (who should return to being a top five point guard), a legitimate low post scorer in Brook Lopez, and a ball of energy in Gerald Wallace. The only concern is a lack of depth behind Brook Lopez. Andray Blatche is not to be trusted. He is unquestionably talented, but the only consistent thing about Blatche throughout his career is that he is not to be trusted. If Lopez goes down and the Nets frontcourt becomes Humphries, Teletovic, Blatche, and Evans, the season could get ugly. Otherwise, they are a $90 million team that might get to the second round, but will probably get outclassed defensively by Boston or Miami.
6. New York 47 35
New York Knicks
PG: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni
SG: Ronnie Brewer, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert (inj.)
SF: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland, James White
PF: Kurt Thomas, Steve Novak, Amare Stoudemire (inj.)
C: Tyson Chandler, Rasheed Wallace (inj.), Marcus Camby (inj.)
The favorites to win the 2004 NBA title are beginning the 2012-13 season with a ton of injuries. Luckily, the most important player is on the court and in shape. When Carmelo Anthony is at his best, he is a top ten player in the league (and not the knock knock joke list ESPN created). He takes his teams to the playoffs, and has gotten one to the WCF. Even if he shares a starting lineup with Chandler, Kurt Thomas, Ronnie Brewer, and Raymond Felton, he can still make the Knicks a good offensive team. Mike Woodson has basically surrounded Melo and Amare with a Larry Brown team. The point guards will protect the ball. The big men will defend and rebound. Ronnie Brewer will battle the other team’s best wing scorer. The regular season problem for New York is whether they will want to go all-out to get the best possible seed. They are an old team that might not want to grind out every last win. It does not mean that they are a level below Boston, Indiana, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia, but it might mean they lose a few more games.
7. Chicago 44 38
PG: Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague, Derrick Rose (inj.)
SG: Richard Hamilton, Marco Belinelli
SF: Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler
PF: Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Vladimir Radmanovic
C: Joakim Noah, Nazr Mohammed
The Bulls are in a fragile state. If their starting five can stay healthy, they should be able to stay close enough to make a late push. There are still enough bad teams around for a team like Chicago to simply outwork and outclass bums. The problem is that they are betting on the health of give guys with histories that would lead one to believe that will not happen, and they have not made themselves deep enough to withstand it. Kirk Hinrich already is banged up. Marquis Teague should not be in the NBA this year. He was bad last year, bad in the Summer League, and bad in the preseason. If he gets on the court, they are in trouble. If Richard Hamilton goes down, then they will need to go scour the waiver wire for more scoring help on the wing. Marco Belinelli and Vladimir Radmanovic spent the preseason learning that there is this thing called “defense” and the introduction has not gone well. Nazr Mohammed seems rejuvenated now that he is able to get post touches with the Bulls second unit, but the fact that he has been a bright spot of their second unit offense speaks to the play of everyone else.
8. Milwaukee 38 44
PG: Brandon Jennings, Beno Udrih
SG: Monta Ellis, Doron Lamb, Marquis Daniels
SF: Tobias Harris, Mike Dunleavy, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (inj.)
PF: Ersan Ilyasova, Drew Gooden, Ekpe Udoh, John Henson
C: Samuel Dalembert, Larry Sanders, Joel Przybilla
A team should not have Samuel Dalembert, Larry Sanders, Joel Przybilla, Ekpe Udoh, and John Henson. It is a painful collection of one-way players, and some of them are just shot blockers and not even good defenders (looking in the direction of Sanders). What makes them interesting, however, is that they might have enough perimeter scoring with Jennings, Ellis, Lamb, Dunleavy, and Udrih where they might be able to get away having more than one of them on the floor at a given time. Personally, I love the Doron Lamb pick. Carlos Delfino was a valuable scorer for them. Now that Lamb is healthy, he should slide right into that role. Monta Ellis has always come off as someone who would be perfectly comfortable taking every shot, and it is possible that when he is on the floor with Tobias Harris, Ekpe Udoh, and Larry Sanders he might just do so. When the Bucks do want to play a big man who can be a part of the offense, they have a couple good ones in Ilyasova and Gooden. The spaciness and inconsistency of Drew Gooden is part of the deal, but the reason he has been around for a decade is that he can have moments of greatness. Ilyasova had an incredible and completely improbable second half of the season. I am willing to go out on the limb and say he does not repeat his post ASB performance of 16 PPG and 9 rebounds while shooting 55 percent from the field and 51 percent from three, but there is no reason to believe he cannot still be a valuable stretch 4 who is an incredibly sneaky offensive rebounder.
9. Detroit 35 47
PG: Brandon Knight, Will Bynum
SG: Rodney Stuckey, Corey Maggette, Kim English, Austin Daye
SF: Tayshaun Prince, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton
PF: Jason Maxiell, Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva
C: Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Viacheslav Kravtsov
Please, please, please, let people start talking about Andre Drummond’s lack of a motor. He still is a train wreck at the free throw line, and needs to learn how to play NBA defense (as every rookie does), but his success and failure will have nothing to do with this imaginary “motor” problem. Beyond Drummond, it seems lost on many that after Detroit got off to a 4-20 start they finished the season 21-21. Laurence Frank had to teach on the go with a young team, and by the end of the year they were a competitive team at home. In order to win on the road, they need to get to take their development to the next level. They probably will not get there until Andre Drummond gets comfortable in the league, but the bar for the 8-seed in the East might just hang low enough where the Pistons play some meaningful games down the stretch in April.
10. Washington 34 47
PG: A.J. Price, Jannero Pargo, John Wall (inj.)
SG: Bradley Beal, Jordan Crawford, Cartier Martin
SF: Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton
PF: Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely, Nene (inj.)
C: Emeka Okafor, Earl Barron, Kevin Seraphin (inj.)
Washington got rid of its idiots, and has been rewarded with bad health. Sometimes life is not fair. The basketball gods shouldn't make a team that makes the right call on JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche trot out Earl Barron. It is not right, but Washington only has three games in the first ten days. It won't be that massive a barrage of losses if Wall, Nene, and Seraphin stay on schedule. Once Wall, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin get healthy, it will be time for John Wall to show whether he is truly worthy of his draft slot. Emeka Okafor, Nene, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, A.J. Price, and Jannero Pargo have played on winning teams. Bradley Beal and Jan Vesely were high lottery picks. Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker were first round picks. The culture of failure that has surrounded him is no more, and if he is good this should be the year where it comes out.
11. Toronto 28 54
PG: Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon, John Lucas III
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Alan Anderson
SF: Landry Fields, Linas Kleiza, Dominic McGuire
PF: Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis, Quincy Acy
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
All the people who think expiring contracts are valuable need to take a look at Jose Calderon. There are teams that like Jose Calderon, but not a single one has been willing to give up anything get him or that expiring deal. Honestly, it might be best Toronto keep the contract because they have already giving bloated deals to Barngani, Amir Johnson, Landry Fields, and Linas Kleiza. It might be best to shed some money to offset the next round of bloated contracts they will inevitably hand Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Beyond the bad money, they are collecting big men who live off dump offs (Valanciunas, Davis, Johnson, and Acy) offensively when they do not turn it over, and foul quickly and often defensively. With Lowry, DeRozan, Fields, and Valanciunas in the starting lineup, what is going to keep any team with a clue from sagging off everyone but Bargnani and daring this team to shoot from the perimeter? It will keep Lowry and DeRozan from getting into the paint, and that will turn them into really mediocre players. This looks like another lost season, and they will have to luck into a top three pick to even have a first rounder next summer.
12. Atlanta 26 56
PG: Jeff Teague, Lou Williams
SG: Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, John Jenkins
SF: Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson
PF: Josh Smith, Anthony Tolliver, Mike Scott, Ivan Johnson
C: Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro
I must be missing something, but how is it that Atlanta isn’t widely regarded as being fast-tracked for tanksville? This is a team that lost its two best wings, replaced them with expiring contracts, three “points” who are not good distributors, a few new face shooters who need distributors to get them the ball, an almost certainly downgraded bench from last year (Pargo, Hinrich, McGrady, Willie Green, and Johnson to Lou Williams and the tanking Net remnants) and starts the season with a schedule that could very well have Danny Ferry shopping Josh Smith after he has Thanksgiving dinner. By the way, given how Smith would fit with San Antonio, Houston, and Chicago and the packages those teams could piece together, I think it is just a matter of time.
13. Cleveland 22 62
PG: Kyrie Irving, Donald Sloan, Jeremy Pargo
SG: Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Daniel Gibson
SF: Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton
PF: Tristan Thompson, Samardo Samuels, Jon Leuer, Luke Harangody
C: Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller
This could get bad. Tristan Thompson was 128-368 on non-dunks last year. Alonzo Gee is a nice player for a D-League alum, but he is not starting small forward. C.J. Miles was benched in Utah on a team that had pitiful perimeter play. Dion Waiters was drafted 4th overall and I have a hard time seeing how he is in any way better than Doron Lamb who was drafted 42nd. Kyrie Irving is great, but can they please get him some help? There are worse big men in the league than Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller, but they are not special.
13. Orlando 21 61
PG: Jameer Nelson, E'Twaun Moore, Ishmael Smith
SG: Arron Afflalo, J.J. Redick
SF: Hedo Turkoglu, DeQuan Jones, Maurice Harkless (inj.)
PF: Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson, Al Harrington (inj.)
C: Nikola Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon, Kyle O'Quinn
The path Orlando took in dealing Dwight Howard was not a bad one. The team has a nice base of young, skilled big men with Glen Davis, Andrew Nicholson, Nik Vucevic, Gustavo Ayon, and Kyle O’Quinn. At very least, the team is unlikely to be wasting high picks on big bodies under the reasoning of ‘they do not have any’ in upcoming years. Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson are true pros who should keep help guide the young big men through what will be a rough year. Redick is in a contract year, so he is not likely to stray mentally either. Hedo lost interest when he was in Toronto, so he is a concern. They will have a good lottery pick, and if they can come away with a big time scoring wing prospect, they might be able to target the Summer of 2014 as their move date for making a run up in the East.
15. Charlotte 14 68
PG: Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions
SG: Gerald Henderson, Ben Gordon, Matt Carroll, Cory Higgins
SF: Mike Kidd-Gilchrist, Reggie Williams, Jeffery Taylor
PF: B.J. Mullens, Tyrus Thomas
C: Brendan Haywood, Bismack Biyombo, DeSagana Diop
With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select Vassilis Kavvadas of Panionios in Greece. Hey, just remember it is theoretically possible for a team to do worse than draft Kemba Walker, Mike Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bismack Biyombo with three straight lottery picks. Nothing will help the worst offense in the league more than a #2 pick who cannot shoot.
Rank Team W L
1. San Antonio 63 19
PG: Tony Parker, Patrick Mills, Cory Joseph
SG: Danny Green, Gary Neal, Nando De Colo, Manu Ginobili (inj.)
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Jackson
PF: Boris Diaw, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner
C: Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter
Until the Spurs fail to win the most regular season games while treating the regular season like a warmup act, people should expect it to continue. What they do is amazing. The only thing I can think is more amazing is the fact that Gary Neal is only ten months away from Houston or Toronto offering him $25 million. They are going to win in the regular season because they are the smartest organization in the league, and the people they bring in fall into line with how the Spurs operate. If they want to win in the playoffs, however, I think they are one big man away. Certainly with the Lakers upping the ante with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, it would be better if the Spurs were not going back and forth with Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, and Matt Bonner off the bench. I believe that the Spurs will be in line when the Josh Smith bidding begins, and with Danny Ferry coming from the Spurs it would not surprise me in the least if he is more intrigued with the young Spur assets than with what others may come along.
2. Oklahoma City 59 23
PG: Russell Westbrook, Eric Maynor, Reggie Jackson
SG: Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeremy Lamb
SF: Kevin Durant, DeAndre Liggins
PF: Serge Ibaka, Perry Jones III
C: Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Hasheem Thabeet
It is quite the luxury to have Kevin Durant. The Thunder have wildly overpaid their frontcourt (widely known to be their biggest weakness), dealt away James Harden to do it, and because they still have Kevin Durant it probably does not matter. Unless they are facing Miami, they still have a really good chance of outscoring their bad defense. The improving frontcourts in Los Angeles, Memphis, Dallas, and Utah could pose some problems and San Antonio is still dangerous, yet if Kevin Durant is shooting 52 percent from the field and 37 percent from three in the playoffs it is still hard to go against them.
3. L.A. Lakers 56 26
PG: Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Darius Morris
SG: Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks, Darius Johnson-Odom
SF: Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks
PF: Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison, Earl Clark
C: Dwight Howard, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre
The Lakers will not be a Dream Team. Steve Nash needs to be on a minute limit, Kobe Bryant should be on a minute limit, and it would be smart of them to be careful with Dwight Howard coming back from back surgery. If the goal is to win the title, they are going to need to be willing to sacrifice a few regular season games in the process. The regular season cannot be that important for this team. They have to think about the big picture. They will be able to outstar enough teams so as to easily get a Top 4 seed, but they need their five stars to be healthy and in sync come May for anything to matter.
4. Memphis 52 30
PG: Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten
SG: Tony Allen, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby
SF: Rudy Gay, Quincy Pondexter
PF: Zach Randolph, Marreese Speights, Darrell Arthur (inj.)
C: Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi
The Grizzlies went 41-25 without a healthy Zach Randolph after a year where they were able to go on a run after Rudy Gay went down. How good can they be when they have everybody? Randolph is back and healthy. Marc Gasol has gotten better every year he has been in the league. The late improvement in Mike Conley’s three point shooting appears be here to stay (12-17 in the preseason). Marreese Speights is a solid third big off the bench. Unless the backups to Conley and Tony Allen are complete train wrecks (kind of like what they had with Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby last year), there is no reason to believe that Memphis will be anything but a contender in the West.
5. Dallas 51 31
PG: Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois, Jared Cunningham
SG: O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones, Dominique Jones
SF: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter
PF: Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, Dirk Nowitzki (inj.)
C: Brandan Wright, Eddy Curry, Bernard James, Chris Kaman (inj.)
At some point, Dallas became the black sheep of the West despite the fact that they have a great amount of depth and have upgraded their roster. I do not buy it. Dirk is still the best power forward in the game. Darren Collison is a clear upgrade from what Jason Kidd was able to provide. Elton Brand is not the athlete he was when he entered the league, but he is still an effective player on both ends. Chris Kaman is a flaky health risk, but not only is he a talented 7-footer with experience playing with both Brand and Dirk it is also his first chance to play for a winning organization. Shawn Marion is still an incredibly gifted defender who is at his best when paired with a team that shares the ball and gets him easy looks. Jae Crowder, Dahntay Jones, and Bernard James are total grinders. If Crowder wasn’t giving up so much in size as a forward, he would have been a first rounder. Even at his size, he is an asset in a second unit. Vince Carter has transitioned his game to one of craftiness and smarts rather well. Brandan Wright found a niche last year when Rick Carlisle could find match ups where his slight build would not be exposed. Once this team gets past the first two games (which could get ugly), they have a schedule that can allow them to get healthy even while Dirk sits out. When he gets back, they go from rolling bums to being able to compete with the big boys.
6. Denver 50 32
PG: Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Julyan Stone
SG: Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Evan Fournier
SF: Danilo Gallinari, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller
PF: Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Anthony Randolph
C: Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov
A team can give JaVale McGee a boatload of money, but he is still JaVale McGee. Two good games out of seven in the playoffs is not a sign of his improvement as much as it is simply reflective of what he has always done. He is a bad defensive player who will block a few shots, and a low IQ athlete on the offensive end. Andre Iguodala has been a highly praised defensive player who before last year did little to help Philadelphia stop opponents. In going to Denver, he is basically going to the pre-Doug Collins Sixers. Also, while he is dynamic in the open court, he has always been overrated offensively. With the Nuggets, he is probably an offensive downgrade from Arron Afflalo who has a track record of being a better shooter. What works in Denver’s favor is that they can run, and run in a city where they will have an advantage by being comfortable with the altitude. They also have a pair of point guards who distribute the ball extremely well and get their teammates easy baskets, which will be more important this year without Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo to make shots.
7. L.A. Clippers 49 33
PG: Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups (inj.)
SG: Willie Green, Jamal Crawford, Travis Leslie
SF: Caron Butler, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill (inj.)
PF: Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom (inj.), Trey Thompkins (inj.)
C: DeAndre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Hollins
It should be funny that Chris Paul begged out of New Orleans to basically be recast with a flashier but not substantively better team in Los Angeles. The Clipper frontcourt is as overrated as a team can be. DeAndre Jordan is going into his fifth year and still is not good. He got paid to play defense, and the team is terrible on that end. Blake Griffin is the greatest highlight reel in the league until the month of May when the fact that he cannot shoot gets noticed. One does not know to what level Chauncey Billups will be at when he returns after missing 12 months. Jamal Crawford is coming off the worst season of his career. Willie Green is starting at the 2. Grant Hill already has aches and pains. Lamar Odom might just be a name at this point, which is a shame that someone that good has fallen so far so quickly. This is still a team being coached by Vinny Del Negro. Look, Chris Paul will have them in the playoffs, but he got New Orleans there too.
8. Utah 48 34
PG: Maurice Williams, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson
SG: Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Kevin Murphy
SF: Marvin Williams, DeMarre Carroll
PF: Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans
C: Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors
Last year, Utah took a page from the Memphis model and rode their front court to the playoffs. Now with the additions of Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, and Randy Foye, they should have a functional backcourt to go with a very big, skilled, and deep frontcourt. They had the 8th best home record in the league last year, and there is no reason to believe they should not again be a dominant home team. Plus, with Enes Kanter has a year under his belt after two years of idleness, Derrick Favors having come on late in last season, and the upgrade in perimeter players, the team should be better on the road than the team that dropped road games to New Orleans (twice), Sacramento, Golden State, and Minnesota .
9. Golden State 40 42
PG: Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack, Charles Jenkins
SG: Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush, Kent Bazemore
SF: Harrison Barnes, Richard Jefferson, Draymond Green
PF: David Lee, Carl Landry, Jeremy Tyler
C: Festus Ezeli, Andrew Bogut (inj.), Andris Biedrins (inj.)
What the Bulls are to the East is what Golden State is to the West with the misfortune of the West being far less forgiving. It would be foolish to predict that Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut will be consistently healthy this year. While it could happen, it just does not seem likely. Being handed Jarrett Jack was a nice pickup. With Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes on the wings, it is best to have the insurance of a backup who knows how to distribute. Carl Landry has played out of position at the center spot before. He cannot handle the true centers of the West, and the reality is that even if Bogut returns early in November there is no way to know at what point in the schedule he might head out again. If Bogut is available, Landry’s minutes at the 5 would be more matchup based to save the team from Andris Biedrins, Festus Ezeli, or Jeremy Tyler, which would be great for them.
10. Houston 37 45
PG: Jeremy Lin ,Toney Douglas, Scott Machado
SG: James Harden, Carlos Delfino, Daequan Cook
SF: Chandler Parsons, Royce White
PF: Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Marcus Morris
C: Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Cole Aldrich, Greg Smith
Can everyone agree that it is time for this front office to be shown the door? They have $115 million tied up in James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. The Yankees wouldn't trade A-Rod for those contracts. James Harden is a talented scorer who was in the perfect situation to maximize his abilities and limit his exposure. Now he has gotten paid, but is in a spot where he is probably going draw the top defensive player as well as the focus of the defensive planning. He will almost certainly be shooting closer to 39 percent than 49 percent this year. Jeremy Lin was a fringe player who had a run to give himself a career, but they paid $25 million six months after waiving him. Omer Asik cannot catch a chest pass, make a jump shot, and is not going to Houston with the Bulls defensive system. Also, now he has to guard 1st unit Western Conference centers. He did miserably in his three regular season starts as well as his starts against Philadelphia. They also have paid out $12 million for this year alone to get rid of Luis Scola, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, Lazar Hayward, Jon Brockman, Shaun Livingston, Derek Fisher, and E'Twaun Moore. I think Harrellson might have had some guaranteed money as well. Beyond the horrible money (and they did throw in draft picks to get Harden as well), they basically are right back to being in that 8-11 seed range in the West and still are going to be playing way a few power forwards (seemingly impossible given that they have already paid three power forwards to leave) out of position to compensate for overdrafting the position because they claimed to be “asset building.” Sure, they just let $12 million walk out the door, but they made sure to keep their stockpile of power forwards. Don't get me wrong, I like their power forwards, but there is no need for all of them even after giving away three others. Some are going to be playing them out of position at the 3 and 5, it won't serve them or the team well. As young and inexperienced as they are, it is hard to believe they will travel well, but they do have the talent to give teams fits at home. All those games where teams head to Houston in the middle of a road trip are going to be rough because of the Rockets abundance of young fresh legs.
10. Portland 37 45
PG: Damian Lillard, Nolan Smith, Ronnie Price (inj.)
SG: Wesley Matthews, Will Barton, Elliot Williams (inj.)
SF: Nicolas Batum, Luke Babbitt, Sasha Pavlovic
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, Jared Jeffries, Victor Claver
C: J.J. Hickson, Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard
It is possible for Portland not to be awful, but there does not appear to be very many wins early in that schedule. It is hard to know how a mostly young team might respond to a 6-13 or 7-12 start. Do they begin to aggressively try to develop Meyers Leonard, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, and Will Barton with the understanding that such a move will likely get them a top ten pick? If they decide to ride their starters heavily and keep the rotation short and tight, they can certainly win their share of games. Even in a horribly dysfunctional season with an out of shape Raymond Felton and a terrible Jamal Crawford that resulted in Nate McMillan getting fired, they were still 26-29 in games where LaMarcus Aldridge played. In a more stable season, it is not absurd for Portland get around and above .500. The big question is whether they going to want to try for a longshot run at the 8th seed, or settle into a year of rebuilding and hope a top ten pick and cap room have them ready for 2013-14.
12. Minnesota 36 46
PG: Jose Juan Barea, Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio (inj.)
SG: Brandon Roy, Alexey Shved, Malcolm Lee
SF: Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger
PF: Dante Cunningham, Derrick Williams, Kevin Love (inj.)
C: Nikola Pekovic, Greg Stiemsma, Louis Amundson
No matter how much people want to believe Brandon Roy is back and healthy, there is a terrible history of comebacks for players who have unretired after severe knee issues. The last season Roy played, he was a 40 percent shooter and 33 percent from 3. He also could not defend, but with this being Minnesota that apparently does not matter. Minnesota is not getting the 2009 Brandon Roy. They also are not getting the Andrei Kirilenko who was an All-Star and three-time member of the All-Defensive team. They are getting an Andrei Kirilenko who has missed one quarter of his games over his last three NBA seasons. These were the big additions for a bad team, and a bad team who will be Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio for a month.
13. Phoenix 32 50
PG: Goran Dragic, Kendall Marshall, Sebastian Telfair, Diante Garrett
SG: Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown
SF: Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, P.J. Tucker
PF: Luis Scola, Markieff Morris, Luke Zeller, Channing Frye (inj.)
C: Marcin Gortat, Jermaine O'Neal
It is possible that Phoenix is not terrible, and it is probable that they will be a pesky team that beats the bad and middle tier teams of the league at home. Marcin Gortat is the definition of average for a starting NBA center in 2012 and Jared Dudley is the definition of average for a starting NBA wing in 2012. Luis Scola is a versatile and talented power forward. Wes Johnson could very well take full advantage of a chance to be something other than a standstill three point shooter (a role that no one ever thought he was going to be drafted to play). The difference in whether they win 30 games or 40 is Michael Beasley. If he has grown up and is more than an idiotic chucker who hears of this odd thing called defense, he could be really help the team. With the role the Suns have slated for him, it is assured that he will win at least 3 or 4 games for them. He is going to have his share of monster nights, but the unknown is how many games will he lose by doing all the Michael Beasley things that he did in Miami and Minnesota.
14. Sacramento 21 61
PG: Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks
SG: Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, Tyler Honeycutt
SF: Tyreke Evans, James Johnson, John Salmons, Travis Outlaw
PF: Thomas Robinson, Chuck Hayes
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson
If not for the historic nature of the Bobcats ineptitude, Sacramento’s state of failure would have gotten more attention. They were just as bad as the Bobcats defensively and beyond just being bad on the first chance was also 29th in defensive rebounding percentage. Offensively, they were a bad passing team near the bottom of the league in assists, which was a big reason why their shooters (Thornton, Fredette, Garcia, and Salmons) were worse than expected. Former face of rebuilding, Tyreke Evans, is the same exact player he was when he entered the league, and that stagnation has led to a declining role. The new face of rebuilding, DeMarcus Cousins, is still the maddeningly inconsistent talent he was when he entered the league. Their response was to draft a try hard but unskilled power forward in Thomas Robinson and sign a shoot first point guard in Aaron Brooks. Well, I guess the DeMarcus Cousins apologists can steal their talking points from the Kevin Love apologists when the numbers don’t lead to wins.
15. New Orleans 17 65
PG: Greivis Vasquez, Brian Roberts
SG: Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Roger Mason Jr., Xavier Henry
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, Lance Thomas, Darius Miller
PF: Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Hakim Warrick
C: Robin Lopez, Jason Smith
By giving away Emeka Okafor, Jarrett Jack, and Trevor Ariza, New Orleans has basically given away this season. They are too young, too thin, and too bad to win games. The plan of throwing a bunch of young players out on the floor together to get crushed often does not work. The converse of competing while developing young players has not hurt the likes of Rajon Rondo, Andrew Bynum, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stucky, Joe Johnson, or any draft pick that has come into the league with the Spurs for the past 15 years. Regardless, the Hornets have chosen their path, and will certainly be in line for another top 10 pick in 2013. The only big picture concern is over whether Eric Gordon loses interest, because they matched a big money contract when Gordon went public with his desire to leave. After doing nothing but lose with the Clippers, how long with Gordon last racking up Ls with another rebuilding team?
Atlanta at 26-56? Wow. Yeah they cashed out Joe Johnson, but they are also getting Horford back. Smith and Horford are probably both going to be allstars this year and should at least be a borderline playoff team at worst.
I don't think Danny Ferry took broke up a team that was in the 2nd round of the playoffs with Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams for three of the past four years to have this team try and grind out a possible 8-spot in the East. Even if I am wrong about the upside of this team, you have to give me that much. If just being competitive and making the playoffs was their goal, they would not have made the moves they did. If this is a team that tried to gather picks and cap space last summer, what sense would there be in keeping Josh Smith this year and not turn him into more young players, maybe another pick, and then more lottery combinations in the hoppers.
I enjoy reading your posts and it seems you put a fair amount of work into this thread, that being said I agree with most of what you had to say. The only places in which my opinion differs, in that i feel a few teams are slightly misplaced, are Atlanta being a little too low, Memphis and Houston being a little too high, and I would also disagree with your opinion on the Kings. After watching the Kings in preseason and following their offseason progress I think many people will be surprised this season by their play. That being said I think mostly this thread is right on with only minor changes that I would make. I would expand further on the teams I mentioned but typing on a small tablet is not fun.
I dont know if Boston can go 55-27, but great read!
I like these picks. I think it's bold putting Dallas at five though considering Dirk is about to miss 6-8 weeks and will probably need some time shaking off rust. And Chris Kaman is liable to get hurt and miss a few weeks at any time during the season.
I think this is the best one of these season outlooks that I've read though.
@Utah, Charlotte at home, Portland at home, Toronto at home, @New York, @ Charlotte, Minnesota at home, Washington at home, @Indiana, @ Cleveland.
With the deep roster Dallas has, I am thinking that their healthy bodies can handle that schedule so as not to be digging out themselves out of a hole when Dirk comes back. They already knocked off one of the tough games in that stretch.
I agree with most of what you wrote ,not sure about the wolves ,think they will finish around 7-10 place in west ,but I am not sure about Love& Rubio condition