By Zach Rettig and Liam Bodlak
(Author’s note: Been away a while, haven’t we? Liam and I are currently discussing matters, but I can assure you that we won’t pull a three-month disappearing act again. On with the show…)
Not all basketball teams are made equal. One only needs to look at the 76ers roster for proof of this. You may not have as much reason to care about certain teams over others *COUGHClevelandCOUGH*.
And so, we here at The Frozen Envelope are here to provide you with one reason to care about each team in the Association, from Atlanta to Washington. Starting in the Eastern Conference…
The Washington Wizards
The Wizards are coming into this season red-hot off a surprise playoff run last year. They’ve got youth and talent on their side, with young guns like John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way on the perimeter. Other talents, including big men Nene and Marcin Gortat, and veteran leadership provided by Paul Pierce should make for an exciting team that looks to contend for years to come*!
*Or until Wall’s rookie contract expires.
Plus, how can you not care about a team that features a guy who does this?
Long live the Polish Hammer!
The Orlando Magic
OK, I’m biased, I admit that. I was born about a block from their old stadium, but I digress. Just look at this team, and think about what the future holds for them. You have excellent stretch-4 Channing Frye (who just signed a four year deal), last year’s leading scorer Nikola Vucevic (also the recipient of a big contract), intriguing rookie talents like defensive standout Elfrid Payton and former Arizona star Aaron Gordon providing young legs off the bench, and most important of all, electrifying sophomore Victor Oladipo! He was totally robbed in last year’s Rookie of the Year race, but again, I’m biased. The Magic might not be there yet, but with their lineup looking the way it does, it’s only a matter of time before they make the Playoffs once again!
…or at least I keep telling myself that.
The Miami Heat
OK sure, LeBron and Ray Allen split town. And sure, Dwyane Wade hasn’t played a full season since like 2012. And sure, Chris Bosh still looks like the bizarre cross between an ostrich and a velociraptor. Not to mention the 2 million or so Instagram followers they lost in the wake of The Decision 2: The Quickening.
To which Miami responds, so what? They’ve still got Bosh and Wade, they’ve added Luol Deng and facilitator-extraordinaire Josh McRoberts (one of the heroes of the surprise Hornets/Bobcats team last year), and they’ve still got Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra running the show. Sure, they might not be automatic title contenders anymore, but Miami is far from out of the hunt.
The Atlanta Hawks
Well, they’re under new management. After their owner was resigned after unveiling a racially-charged e-mail he made about Luol Deng, a new group, led by former Warriors great Chris Mullin, has stepped up to purchase the Hawks. Whether they can help a league-worst attendance rating remains to be seen, but there’s enough talent on this roster to think they’ve got a playoff appearance in them.
Besides, this team took Indiana to seven last year. Admittedly, the Pacers were self-destructing in an unprecedented fashion, but still.
The Charlotte Hornets
The new name! The confidence off of their playoff series with Miami! Big Al! And most of all…
The Hornets, for the first time in a long time, are a trendy pick to make the post-season. With the swagger of Stephenson to support them, and the skills of Big Al, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker to pull them through on the court, it’s no surprise that the Hornets are among the favorites in a wide open Eastern Conference.
The Philadelphia 76ers
HA! The Sixers are doing nothing. They’re literally gameplanning to be shitty this season. Their roster is filled with scrubs, their best player is a would be college senior who the team awkwardly failed at trading away this summer, their shiny new draft pick probably won’t play until like April, and their top newcomer is someone who was identified as a potential bust BEFORE he tore his ACL! So, Philly fans, do something else this year. Watch the Eagles. Take up a hobby. Marathon a TV show. Make conversation with homeless drifters. Anything other than watching the 76ers. Seriously, they’re under construction this year. We’ll be back next year, Philly.
The Milwaukee Bucks
Oh man. OH MAN. This is gonna be fun. So fun. Where do we start?
So, the team is coached by a crazy person. His name is Jason Kidd, and his history includes DUIs, domestic abuse, an irrational hatred for Lawrence Frank, beef with Shaq over Kidd’s son’s giant head, and a power struggle with the Nets front office that some guy on RealGM reported before the story broke. Out of all the people in the basketball universe, Jason Kidd should absolutely not be given authority over a group of young men. But here we are.
Also, we have Giannis Antentesomething. The Greek Freak. If you have not seen this man play, you are in for a treat. He’s like a bigger, more awkward Kevin Durant. He once missed the team bus and hitchhiked to the Bradley Center. He’s a happy, lovable, bundle of basketball potential. You want to see this kid play.
Zach notes: JUST LOOK AT THOSE HANDS!
Then, Larry Sanders. A cross between Dikembe Mutombo and a crazy person. Highlights of his career have been earning a big contract from Milwaukee, breaking his hand in a bar fight, getting bitched out by Gary Neal of all people, and advocating for Marijuana legalization. Larry Sanders is a very good defender, but he is not a very good stay-out-of-trouble-er. He fits in perfectly.
Then Brandon Knight. Brandon f***in Knight…
Let me tell you about Brandon Knight for a second. I hate this guy. Have I met him? No, but I don’t need to have met the guy to hate him. The year was 2011. Ohio State was due a title victory, as the number one overall seed. We had Deibler, and David Lighty, and Deshaun Thomas, and Sullinger, and Buford, and Evan Ravanel. THIS WAS OUR TITLE! And Brandon friggin’ Knight beats us in the Elite Eight at the buzzer. Ugh. Now, to my enjoyment, he’s become the NBA’s resident jobber. Like the Shawn Stasiak of pro basketball. He got dunked on by Deandre Jordan. He got crossed by Kyrie Irving at the Rising Stars game. Russell Westbrook hit him directly in the testicles in the middle of a game. Not a fight, mind you. Russ had the ball, bounced it off B-Knight’s b-nuts, and took the ball to the hole. Now, as competitive as he was, MJ never hit a guy in the nuts as a part of the designed play. Did he want to? Yeah, probably, but he never went through with it. Point:Westbrook. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, screw Brandon Knight.
And then we have Jabari. The Stormin Mormon. The Golden Boy. This kid is perfect. He’s a soft spoken Mormon who went to Duke. He’s rarely without a smile. On the NBA’s Aggression Scale, he’s on the opposite end of Zach Randolph and Reggie Harding.
side note:if anyone gets the Reggie Harding reference, than you have my respect for life. “IT AIN’T ME, MAN!”
Anyways, this show is Freaks and Geeks. Let me explain.
Jabari is Lindsay Weir. The good kid. Doesn’t want any trouble, just wants success. Lindsay was a straight A student, Jabari was a High School All American. They’re both growing up, and meeting new, somewhat undesirable people.
Brandon Knight is the Geeks. And Millie. They like our protagonist, and want to see them succeed, and stay on the right path. They’re probably good influences on our hero, but they suck so the hero isn’t gonna listen. Except for Millie, who was possibly the best character on the whole show. Brandon Knight isn’t like Millie, because he’ll never be the best anything of anything. What a dork.
Now, the Freaks are a decent chunk of the Bucks roster. Take note:
Nick-Giannis. Both of them are happy go lucky, despite their kind of bleak surroundings. Nick’s dad hates him, Giannis was an afterthought in the draft. Nick wound up becoming a disco loving weirdo who was in love with some random girl, and I don’t know how that translates to Giannis. I wonder if they have Disco in Greece.
Daniel-OJ Mayo. It’s too late, really. Remember when OJ was the next MJ, with the SLAM cover, the swagger, the hope for the future? Yeah, that was fun. Too bad he’s pretty much washed up at 26 now. Daniel repeated a grade, is older than anyone else at the high school, and is basically just a charismatic loser with no future prospects. It’s probably good for Jabari/Lindsay to take heed of these failures, because they could easily become them.
Ken-John Henson. Meh. Kind of overshadowed, to be honest. Henson was on those Barnes/Zeller/Marshall/Henson teams at North Carolina, got drafted late lottery, and is now another cog in the Bucks machine. Ken pretty much hangs around the Freaks and makes witty jokes. The only two memorable things he did:
1. Sang “Jesus is Just Alright with Me” with Millie in the party in episode 2, won a lot of money playing quarters with nonalcoholic beer.
2. His one storyline, which featured him falling in love, discovering the girl was transgendered, telling all of his friends for some reason, getting dumped, and then being taken back by the girl.
They’re not the main guys, but whatever. It’s all good. They’re background characters in a journey of self discovery.
Kim Kelly-Larry Sanders. Messed up, but in an entertaining way. Kim Kelly was crazy, Larry Sanders is crazy, but they’re a key piece in the rotation. Larry is the Bucks starting center, Kim is Daniel’s girlfriend and a centerpiece of a lot of storylines. Crazy, yet valuable.
The Pothead Guidance Counselor-Jason Kidd. Not a freak, but still. Weird. Has a checkered past. Speaks softly. Is balding. Should not be allowed as an authority figure, but for whatever reason, is.
Yep, this is gonna be fun.
The Boston Celtics
League Pass owners, have your clickers at the ready for this squad. Not only do you get to hear Homer par excellence Tommy Heinsohn work his magic, but you have probably one of the NBA’s most intriguing teams that doesn’t have a shot at the playoffs. Consider:
The team adds rookie James Young, AKA: the man who made Bill Simmons mark out on national TV when he was chosen (this before he remembered whoops, he was on national TV).
The Celts also add Marcus Smart, a dark horse Rookie of the Year Candidate and possible headcase hailing from Oklahoma State. (Full disclosure, Smart was the final pick of my Fantasy team, which happens to be in the F.A.N. League with Liam. So yeah, kinda hoping for a big year from this kid.)
Brad Stevens, the wunderkind from Butler University who seems to honestly believe that he can lead the Celtics back to the promised land within a few years. I appreciate the enthusiasm, and I wish him the best of luck in this mission.
And of course…
Rajon Rondo! The year’s top free agent and the one with the most potential to give me bad flashbacks to Dwight pulling a Shaq on the Magic a few years ago. Rondo was recently named in a players poll as the biggest whiner in the league. I feel like that’s important to mention.
So with all that in mind, even if the Celtics don’t break 40 wins, they’re at least worth a little attention this year.
The Brooklyn Nets
The continuing adventures of Mutant Russian Billionaire Mark Cuban (TM Bill Simmons) come to us from a second round playoff run last year that ended in a 4-1 loss to Miami. This coming after never losing to the Heat in the regular season, but I digress.
Look, the Nets are old. Like, really old. Their starting five boasts Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirlienko, the latter of which almost made me think “wait, he’s not playing in Russia?” In addition, if memory serves me right, this is the last year of the deal they signed to acquire Deron Williams from the Jazz. If he goes in free agency, their top offensive weapon is Joe Johnson. Yikes.
But look at it this way: the Nets, with their fantastic home court and their crazy Russian owner and the promise that Mason Plumlee brings at center, should at least be able to fight for a low seed this year. But as time wears on, it’s increasingly unlikely that’ll be the case unless they start spinning straw into gold Draft-wise.
The New York Knicks
Really? Do I have to write something about these clowns?
I mean yes, Carmelo Anthony is still a high-priced ball hog who claimed without a shred of irony that he’s the most underrated superstar in the league (You don’t get to say that when you’ve only been out of the first round of the playoffs once). I could get something out of that in theory.
They still employ J.R. Smith, who probably tops the league in “Least shits given” and “Most likely to try and mortally wound a teammate”. He’s crazy.
Then there’s Amar’e Stoudemire, who apparently spent his off-season running a basketball camp in Israel and bathing in red wine.
And then we come to the piece-de-resistance, James Dolan. James F***ing Dolan, as I’m sure my father would love to call him. What else is there to say about a man who runs a mediocre blues outfit called “JD and the Straight Shot”, and wrote a song about the Trayvon Martin shooting? How this man has opened for the Eagles on multiple occasions is entirely beyond me.
So it’d be almost impossible for me to say something about New York that you’d probably find entertaining or interesting, but honestly, recounting all that information probably tells you more about the New York Knickerbockers than I ever could. Only thing I know for sure? This is gonna be a train wreck. I pray for Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, I really do.
The Toronto Raptors
The favorite team of Drizzy Drake! Unless it’s Kentucky now that college basketball season’s started. I dunno. Toronto’s got a lot of pieces and a lot of potential to go along with it. Just look at a few notable names: Jonas Valančiūnas (full disclosure again, he’s my starting Center for some reason. Pray for me.), Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan…this team’s got talent for days!
And the only question is, how far can it take them? They got stunned by Brooklyn in the opening round of the playoffs last year, and they’ve made no real moves in the offseason, despite not really losing anybody. They have a foundation, to be sure. But with the East as open as it is (especially near the lower seeds, where it’s a free-for-all), they could wind up anywhere this season and I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
The Detroit Pistons
Stan Van Gundy is at the helm for Detroit this year, which…will probably do them good, actually. SVG was the coach of those early D-Wade teams, where, in his last year, he led them to the #1 seed in the East, before Pat Riley bumped him out. Then, he coached the Howard-era Magic to perennial Eastern Conference contendership (reaching the Finals once), before getting forced out by Howard, who later left anyways. So, Stan Van Gundy does two things well. Coach winning teams, and get forced out of his job by people who are more important than he is. So, Pistons fans, enjoy the success, but be ready to have Ol’ Stan get fired for pissing off Andre Drummond. It’ll happen. Watch.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
There’s a lot to look over here. The Cavs went from Eastern Conference bottom dwellers to the potential best team in the league. Some thoughts:
The Cavs don’t deserve this. Like, they really don’t deserve this. Around 2013, they started to realize they could get LeBron back. So, what did they do? Hire the coach LeBron had when he left in the first place, blow the 2013 draft by taking Anthony Bennett #1 overall when they could have easily just traded down and gotten him, sink big money into a known headcase who hasn’t played in a year (and then act shocked when he bombs and you have to trade him), and miss the playoffs in the weakest conference in pro sports. All this, and they still got LeBron back. Ineptitude pays off sometimes, kids.
With this, D-Rose’s return, Jabari going to the Bucks, and Van Gundy going to the Pistons, the Central is definitely the best division in the East for this year. Too bad about Paul George, really.
How slighted does Miami have to feel that, in his letter, LeBron compared them to college? Wouldn’t you feel kind of mad that the best player in the game regarded his years with you as a short pit stop providing a learning experience? Like, you won two rings and he expanded upon his GOAT credentials, and he wrote it off as just a brief excursion? Miami/Cleveland could make for a nice rivalry.
Odds David Blatt bombs as Head Coach? 20:1. I have faith, sort of.
Poor Shabazz Napier. Remember when Drake made fun of the Heat at the ESPYs (recently after the LeBron to Cleveland move), and the camera cut to Shabazz looking like a kid getting laughed at by the whole class and trying not to cry or show weakness? Poor kid. Well, for an NBA player.
So yeah, either the Cavs go ’10 Heat and gel for a title run, or they go ’12 Lakers and implode. I’m going with the former. LeBron/Kyrie/Love are all hard working guys, and none have any real injury history (fingers crossed). That being said, there’s a lot of time for drama. For now, we wait.
The Indiana Pacers
Indiana clearly has a curse put on them. They’re freaking haunted, man. There’s no other way to explain this. So, to review.
-The team started good. George was an MVP candidate, the roster was balanced, great stuff. But then…
-Granger was dumped for Turner. Andrew Bynum was signed.
-Team starts slipping, blame thrown everywhere as to what’s going wrong.
-Team desperately gets their stuff together, stumble into the playoffs as the #1 seed.
-Nearly get upset by the Atlanta freaking Hawks.
-Taken to six games by the Washington Wizards.
-Run into the Miami Heat, win a few. Hey, maybe they’re not so bad?
-Lance Stephenson starts trying to play mind games with LeBron and the Heat.
-Pisses a lot of people off, including his boss.
-LeBron responds to Steph by wrecking the Pacers.
-Oh, and Roy Hibbert played like garbage this whole playoffs.
-Go into the offseason, plan on what to do to remedy the mess.
-Paul George snaps his leg in half.
-Team looks to spend ’14-’15 in tank mode.
This is haunted. We need answers. Like, did Paul George buy land on an Indian burial ground? Did Roy Hibbert walk under like twenty ladders? Did Vogel incur the wrath of Lil B? (more on him to come) We need answers, because a higher power is no doubt at work here.
…but for now the Pacers suck and you shouldn’t really expect too much.
The Chicago Bulls
Really? You leaving Chicago to me, Liam? If you insist.
If you look at Chicago from a purely-objective standpoint, they’re probably the “Not Cleveland” pick to win the Eastern Conference this year. Derrick Rose is back (again), and looks to be fit as a fiddle despite having both of his knees surgically-repaired before turning 30. Since his initial injury, he has played exactly ten games in the Association, but seems to be back to his MVP prime.
Also looking to contribute is reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. Now ignoring the fact that Nene basically clubbed Noah over the head with the DPOY trophy in last year’s playoffs, Noah is coming off what’s probably a career year for him, emerging as Chicago’s quarterback with Rose rehabbing his bad knees. Noah is now, in effect, the team’s emotional leader, and has been tabbed by Sports Illustrated to repeat as Defensive Player of the Year, which would make him the first player to do so since Dwight Howard. To say nothing of flashy free-agent pickup Pau Gasol.
And we can’t forget about the bench. 3-point specialist Kyle Korver, last year’s 6th Man of the Year runner-up Taj Gibson, and seemingly-automatic Doug McDermott, the team’s big rookie add-on. With the team looking this good, they should be able to overcome the loss of offensive star Luol Deng and return to the promise they showed in 2011. I wouldn’t call them the odds-on favorite, but these Bulls are looking strong.
And to the Western Conference we go…
The Los Angeles Lakers
If I could give you any advice regarding this team, it’d be “Watch the Clippers instead.” Isn’t it amazing that saying those words would get you laughed out of the building as recently as four years ago? But this is how far Show Time has fallen. In just four years (you notice I’m saying that a lot? Hold on to that feeling.), the Lakers have gone from back-to-back NBA Champions to Pacific Division bottom-dweller just fighting for relevance in their own city and relying on a man who calls himself “Swaggy P” to pop ratings. But that isn’t all; according to a muck-raking ESPN Magazine feature, it can all be traced back to one man.
With the assurance of several agents who asked for anonymity, ESPN proceeded to connect every single issue the Lakers have had over that four year period to the machinations of one Kobe Bean Bryant. After reading the whole thing, I’m stunned they didn’t try to blame him for screwing up Steve Nash’s back. (Brief tangent: the fact that the likes of Eric Snow got to play in a Finals and Steve Nash never did makes me terribly sad.) A brief laundry list of things Kobe has apparently done:
Drove Dwight Howard out of LA.
Got Pau Gasol so fed up that he got out of Dodge this off-season.
Indirectly led to the firing of Mike Brown.
Pissed off Shaq so much he left for Miami.
Raped a girl in a Colorado hotel room
(Whoops. Forgot we’re never supposed to bring that up again.)
And that’s just the beginning. Look, Kobe is one of the all time greats. That’s undeniable. But if you put a becoming-ancient Bryant on a team with the likes of Nick Young and Jeremy Lin, you probably don’t deserve better than fourth in the Pacific. Maybe one day the Lakers will get back to prominence, but everything seems to be suggesting that that time isn’t gonna come until Kobe bows out for good.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I was gonna write about the curse of the Based God, but then I realized that if Lil B could successfully hex Kevin Durant, he could easily do it to the likes of me and Zach. So, I’ll say this. The Curse of the Based God is real, and it is not to be trifled with. Lil B is some sort of supernatural being, and has the ability to ruin one’s life with his Based powers. So, Thank You, Based God. Please show mercy upon us.
But yeah, the Thunder look good. Save for the loss of KD, Westbrook/Ibaka/an improved Steven Adams is a solid enough core to get to the playoffs, but probably not solid enough to do anything of value. The Thunder’s season rests upon Durant being able to come back successfully. So yeah, Lil B pretty much holds the Western Conference playoffs in his hands. Let’s see Adam Silver do that! #lilbforcommish
(Note from Zach: With Westbrook breaking his hand [he's expected out 6 to 8 weeks], things are suddenly looking a lot more dire for OKC.)
The Memphis Grizzlies
Uglyball, baby! Zach Randolph is back. Marc Gasol is back. Conley’s back. These guys have such a gritty style, NBA fans were legitimately worried about the ratings of the finals were the Grizzlies to be prominently featured. There’s no glitz or glamour here. The closest thing this squad has to a highlight real player is old-ass Vince Carter, and he hasn’t been a prime dunker since like 1979. There’s simply defense, rebounding, and the occasional scoring. Would you want to watch the Grizzlies play over, say, the Golden State Warriors? Nope. But they don’t care about you and your TV viewing habits. Memphis is a blue collar team for a blue collar city. And that’s the way it’s gon’ be.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
Wiggins! K-Mart! Lavine! Bennett! Rubio! Pek! Mo Williams (for some reason)! Thad Young! The Timberwolves are the most fun future lottery team in the league, save for maybe Milwaukee and the shambling corpse of Philadelphia. Could they be your 2018 NBA contenders? Maybe*. But for now, we have to wait. These kids will grow, eventually. And it’ll be fun to watch.
*or maybe Rubio gets hurt again, Lavine never grows an NBA ready body, Pek gets big money from some team in the East, Bennett continues to be a bust, and Wiggins bolts for the Lakers as soon as his contract is up. Because Minnesota sports never really gets happy endings. Sorry.
The Houston Rockets
Wow. The narrative on this really made a 180. First it was Dork Elvis’s wet dream. They got Harden for a song and dance, Howard bolted LA to be a part of the dream in H-Town, McHale was a great coach, Chandler Parsons was a draft steal, and everything was sunshine and rainbows for the Rock Show.
But then this Summer happened…
Damian Lillard hit a huge shot to eliminate H-Town from the playoffs. The team attempted to sign Chris Bosh, but botched the whole thing. Parsons took the money and ran to Dallas. Harden’s defense became a popular target for whatever snarky douche runs the Sportsnation Facebook page. McHale’s seat became VERY hot. Dwight Howard and James Harden were revealed to be the NBA equivalent of The Plastics from Mean Girls. Patrick Beverly married Robin Givens.
…and that’s how the Houston Rockets spent their Summer vacation! So, after Daryl Morey spent like 5 years stockpiling picks and making moves for his dream team, it could all crash down in the span of a year. And if it fails, it’ll join the list of many failed Rockets pipe dreams.
Hakeem/Clyde Drexler/old-ass Charles Barkley
T-Mac/Ron Artest/Yao/Yao’s knees
and, if things get as bad as people say they could, Harden/Dwight. Not a fun decade for Houston fans. Hey, at least you have the Astr-oh. OH. Never mind.
Golden State Warriors
Hey, let’s give a rookie coach control over a playoff team who’s already mad the old coach left. Let’s brag on the fact that he’s a member of a coaching tree where no member has done anything noteworthy. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
(Why you gotta hate, Liam? Why you gotta hate?)
The Los Angeles Clippers
In between their new web show on adult_swim (BGCP3TV in HD, for the curious), and all that nastiness with Donald Sterling over the Summer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the new premier LA team hadn’t done a whole lot this off season. And with their biggest addition being new team owner Steve Ballmer, you wouldn’t be wrong. But that’s where things get interesting. The Clips bring back just about every core player and get a full season out of sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who finally seems to be finding his fit in LA after mediocre stays in Orlando and Milwaukee, and was lethal in limited minutes on last year’s squad.
Plus, when you have arguably the best power forward/point guard combination in the league, you can’t be in very bad shape at all, now can you? The Clippers are being name-checked as a potential Finals candidate by a variety of pundits. And there’s hardly a better time for them to take control of the West than now.
The San Antonio Spurs
You hear it every year, these days. “The Spurs are too old to contend. They play boring. They don’t stand a chance against younger, faster teams in the West.” And yet those people ignore that for years, San Antonio has been the class of the West, missing the Conference Finals just once in the past four years. They ignore that Gregg Popovich continues to effectively use bench stars in place of his older centerpiece players, stashing them for the Playoffs, when they’ll need those minutes. They ignore that Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili have won more playoff games than any trio save for the early Showtime Lakers.
In truth, Popovich likely wouldn’t have it any other way. He plays low-key basketball that emphasizes defense, ball movement and teamwork. They won the Championship last year and were a Ray Allen three in Game 6 and a few free throws in Game 7 from repeating. And yet every year, people count out San Antonio. It’s an interesting fact that, in the Duncan-Popvich era, the Spurs have never gone back to back as NBA Champions. If they have anything to say about it, this year, year 19, is the year they finally do it.
The New Orleans Pelicans
These Pelicans are good. Good enough to make the playoffs in the West? Woah, slow down there, speedy. For now, let’s just take a minute to appreciate Anthony Davis. He’s 21 years old, and undoubtedly the top big in the league right now. The not-Hornets are pretty much Davis’ team now. They go as far as he goes. Has it worked before? Yep. Those Hakeem Olajuwon led Rockets who won the titles Jordan didn’t were pretty much Hakeem and role players, before they landed Clyde Drexler for the second run. There’s a basis for a team built around a superstar big and not much else. But keep in mind that those Rockets were only a 6 seed. It’s not like they dominated the league through the post moves and defense of The Dream. They were a decent team who Hakeem dragged through the playoffs, with some members making key plays down the stretch. Is it possible to win like this? Yes. Is it easy? No. Will it happen? You never know.
Portland Trail Blazers
Team leaders this year include LaMarcus Aldridge, Nick Batum, Damian Lillard, and Damian Lillard’s Twitter.
But yeah, the Blazers are on the up, continuing from last year. They’ve gotten exponentially better ever since the Gerald Wallace trade happened. They landed Lillard, Lamarcus Aldridge doesn’t want to leave anymore, angry, bitter Sonics protesters are no longer the best NBA team in the Northwest, and Nick Batum has stopped punching opposing players in the dick.
That play was absolutely nuts.
So, all is good in Blazerland. In a tough Western conference made up of the perennial top dogs (San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City) and results of huge acquisitions (Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans, Houston), Portland found a way to build a team around a point guard from Weber State, a French small forward who is famous for hitting people in the dick-
Because this is really too good to post only once.
-and a power forward who wanted out of town until about a year ago. And that’s pretty special.
Um…yeah. The Jazz are a thing. Kind of. Let’s be real. Nobody’s cared about the Jazz since D-Will left to go ruin the Nets. They have Trey Burke and Derrick Favors. Alright. They drafted Dante Exum. That’s cool, but it’s still not earth shattering. The Utah Jazz have a problem, and that problem is that nobody cares. You are playing in a league that punishes mediocrity! The worst teams are in better shape than the decent teams, because they have a real plan that they are attempting to follow! What’s the Jazz’s plan? Be okay and draft okay players until you luck upon something good? That’s an awful strategy. The Jazz need to shake it up. Make a risky trade for a star. Hire Tim Tebow. Fire Tim Tebow! Just something that’ll make you matter on the NBA landscape. That’s the Jazz’s problem. They don’t matter.
Besides, this guy looks like he’d have a lethal jump shot.
The Dallas Mavericks
The Wacky Adventures of Mark Cuban and Friends pick up from the Mavs somehow pushing San Antonio to seven in the opening round of the Playoffs last year. And in what must be an effort to (a) shore up a bad defense or (b) bring some good mojo back to the team by importing former Center Tyson Chandler, they’ve stirred up ghosts of 2011’s Championship squad.
Now I myself have never been one to attempt to find logic in Mark Cuban’s decisions. This is a man who let Steve Nash go and spend the money on something called an Erick Dampier, so bringing back Tyson Chandler after stinking up the joint in New York isn’t gonna make me start looking. But you know what? As long as you have Dirk Nowitzki, he of the ugly shots and almost-inhuman accuracy, you’re never entirely out of it. And of course, big free agent pickup Chandler Parsons could be the successor to the big German’s “Face of the Franchise” crown. So yeah, things are looking better than expected for Dallas.
If Nowitzki injures himself and Parsons doesn’t pan out? Then yeah, we’re gonna have issues.
The Phoenix Suns
Time for the most random, irrelevant factoid of this whole damn article. The Suns are the only team in the NBA to employ two pairs of brothers; Marcus and Markeiff Morris, and Goran and Zoran Dragic. I mean, if nothing else, that’s pretty cool, isn’t it?
But I digress, and miss the point of this team. The Suns were last year’s darlings. Under first year coach Jeff Hornacek, the Suns exceeded all expectations, finishing ninth in the conference and missing the postseason by a nose (and reinforcing the “Man, the East really sucks!” argument). Goran emerged as the team’s scoring machine, and seems to maybe, just maybe, be Slovenian Steve Nash. The Morris Twins provided stout defense and outside shooting for an undersized team (SI joked that they could win the title if a 6’5 height cap was instituted), and Mason Plumlee captured the hearts of the few people who watch the Suns. With the addition of former Sacramento King Isaiah Thomas to shore up the team at shooting guard, a breakthrough for this squad may be closer than we think.
The Sacramento Kings
OR AS THE ROCK’S GOOD FRIEND SHAQUILLE O’NEAL CALLED THEM, THE SACRAMENTO QUEENS.
The Kings have some fun ownership. Vivek is an…interesting guy. He knew next to nothing about basketball before coaching his daughter’s team. He immediately fell in love with the sport, and now owns the Kings. His actions have included putting Shaq on the Kings payroll, authorizing the use of bitcoin at games, campaigning for Demarcus Cousins to be voted an All Star (The video is just great. Highlight is probably Boogie turning to the camera, smiling awkwardly, and going “namaste, India” in exactly the way you’d expect an American black guy with little knowledge of Indian culture to do. Demarcus is the best.), and proposing that his team play 4 on 5 defense, with a man cherrypicking. Clearly Vivek is either a genius or a crazy person. Or maybe both.
The Denver Nuggets
Javelle, Javelle, Javelle. Javelle McGee is a top 5 entertaining player in the NBA right now. He’s a 7 foot bundle of athleticism and awkwardness. Javelle does…dumb things. Like, he’s tried to dunk from the free throw line at least twice, crushing a guy under his weight one of those times. He’s tried to lead a Magic Johnson-esque fast break a few times, with tragic results. He failed to post up Isaiah Thomas, who stands 5’9. He threw a self alley oop and saluted to the crowd with his team down like 20 points in the fourth quarter. Javelle is just a big, athletic kid who makes a lot of mistakes. He might mess up a lot, but he plays the game with a passion and a love for it. And in the end? He’s doing it right.
Well, that about wraps things up. There are 30 teams, and all of them are interesting in one way or another. This year, don’t just pay attention to guys like LeBron, or KD, or Chris Paul. They’re the league’s best. They’ll be everywhere. Pay attention to guys like Jabari Parker, or Javelle McGee, or Lance Stephenson. Everyone in the cast of characters that gives NBA basketball its excitement. From the first few games, to the final horn in the deciding game of the finals. From November to June. This years season is power packed with stars, rivalries, storylines, and rookies galore. All that’s left to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy some basketball.
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