Atlanta – Their D wasn’t quite up to snuff in the pre-season. Jamal Crawford needs to find his way. And I’m not sure this team has the drive to take it to the next level.
Boston – ‘Sheed’s crazy to think they could win 72+ games. No way Doc would be dumb enough to run his starters that hard. He’s realized it’s a marathon & not a sprint, so I expect Doc to rest his old guys as much as possible. Still not convinced that KG will be his old self rather than his elderly self. With that and lingering tension between Rondo & management/Doc, I can’t see them making it past Cavs or Magic.
Cavs – Will the Delonte West issues cause problems? During the pre-season this team never truly seemed to mesh, but it was just pre-season. Will Shaq be able to defer? Will LeBron make sure to not defer too much to Shaq?
Charlotte – Chandler & Diaw missed most of the pre-season, and injured SG Raja Bell was replaced by shorter PG D.J. Augustin, making this team smaller than Mighty Mouse after he stopped taking steroids. As expected, they were awful on offense (this is the place that should have signed Iverson). The D wasn’t great, but once Chandler rounds into shape that won’t be an issue.
Chicago – Rose wasn’t healthy enough to play a single pre-season game. Tyrus Thomas missed several games with injury, and with the emergence of the Bulls’ rookie forwards, suddenly there was talk of Thomas coming off the bench. Which did not make him happy at all. Deng has been given every chance to shine again, but it looks like the light may be out for good. However, Noah’s been on fire, and with the East being weak after the top 3, this team should easily remain a playoff candidate.
Clippers – Baron’s been great. Camby’s already gone down and now Blake reinjured his knee and might miss the opener. Of course, once that was announced, suddenly Camby said that then he’s probably fine & could play…? Blake’s looked great, so hopefully this season we’ll be able to prove that there’s no Clippers’ Curse. Whatever, they could both miss the beginning of the season and we’d still have Kaman, DeAndre & Rhino as an intimidating big men threesome. Rasual Butler’s arrival has helped push Al Thornton to the next level. I still believe the whole season hinges on Le Baron. If he stays healthy, motivated, and is given some free range, this team makes the playoffs.
Dallas – With Josh Howard still injured (& let’s be honest, usually injured) there’s still a big question mark at the SG spot. Hell, even if he is healthy he still might not be able to cover the speedy guards. That’d mean an undersized guard combo of Kidd, Terry & JJ Barea. Plus Marion was injured for much of the pre-season so he hasn’t had as much time to acclimate himself with the team. That said, Dirk’s new long head o’ hair could keep opposing teams off guard.
Denver – My main concern is that with JR Smith being suspended for the first seven games of the season, George Karl will get too used to starting Aaron Affalo. AA’s much better with defensive rotations and not being a knucklehead, but if this team wants to keep pace with the ever-improving West, they’ve gotta let Smith run wild. I don’t have faith Karl will do that. Still, with Billups here for a whole training camp and Melo healthy, they should be just as good.
Detroit – Ben Wallace has seemed reborn. No way he can keep it up for a whole season, let alone 30+ minutes a night, but it’s always fun watching Night Of The Living Dead Playing Basketball. Their best PG has been Will Bynum, but with the Pistons having committed their future to Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon & Rip Hamilton, it seems Bynum’ll be the odd man out. The D has been awful, the offense decent, but that’s to be expected with this crew. Villanueva didn’t even play that many games, so with his return the O should get even better. …and the D even worse.
Golden State – Stephen Jackson now claims to be fully onboard. Monta Ellis now says he & Stephen Curry can work together (& Mad Scientist Coach Don Nelson plans to start them). To make up for the lack of height from the guards, Nelson’s stated he’ll start Maggette at PF. Whaaat? Yup, phenom Anthony Randolph is starting the season in Nelson’s dog house. If SJax remains a good soldier, then he, Monta & Biedrins should be the only constant starters. Otherwise expect a rotating door featuring Mags, Curry, Randolph, Anthony Morrow, & Azabuike, with possible cameos by Ronny Turiaf against particularly tall teams. Sorta sad when the person you’re most concerned about acting up is now the coach.
Houston – Ariza’s starting to come along after looking lost the first few games. Even without Yao to shore up the defense, this team has been solid on that side. They struggle on offense on occasion, and this team is gonna need to come out and scrap for every inch every night if they hope to even see .500.
Indiana – Granger continues to improve. With the very likely possibility that Mike Dunleavy Jr died three years ago and the team having covered it up, Brandon Rush should be allowed to shine. If that happens, plus Troy Murphy repeats last season’s performance, and Roy Hibbert can stay out of foul trouble long enough to stay on the court, this team could make it to the playoffs. And if Dunleavy Jr gets risen from the dead, watch out. No, no, not ‘cuz he’ll turn you into the undead too.
Lakers – Artest is being a good soldier, truly not seeming to mind be the 4th or 5th option on offense. He actually has been a great passer in the pre-season & I wouldn’t be surprised if he averages 5+ assists. No Pau so far, no problem. This team is so darn deep that honestly Kobe could miss the entire season & they’d still have one of the best records in the league.
Memphis – With Darrell Arthur out with like a torn pec or something, the signing of Zach Randolph is looking darn good. Touches haven’t been an issue yet, but then again The Answer’s yet to play (& apparently he hasn’t really seen the offense ‘cuz he’s “happened” to have appointments with his physical trainer whenever there’s practice). Many pundits are now nervous not only of whether Iverson can mesh with the team, but also whether he can be healthy. C’mon, the dude’s an old-school warrior who would play with an arrow sticking through his shoulder. No, the only concern is about how they all play together. Particularly I’m concerned that he may hurt PG Mike Conley’s confidence ‘cuz Conley only really came on last year after Kyle Lowry was traded, making Conley the undisputed PG.
Miami – The latest Beasley scandal? Photos of him sleeping near beer cans at a Heat boat party. C’mon, give the kid a break. Do you think there’s a single reporter who filed this story who didn’t drink when they were 20? It’s not like this was right before a game, practice or some inappropriate time — it was a party where everyone else was drinking too. Yeah, yeah, I know I haven’t talked about the basketball side of things, but that side ain’t too pretty. Miami’s waiting for next summer when Wade convinces either Bosh or Am’a’r’e to join him in South Beach.