Hey, so belated congrats to the Dallas Mavericks on championing one of the best league sports’ seasons in recent memory. I’ll never forget those late evening Clippers/Warriors games I watched on NBATV after rationalizing i needed to crack a 2nd bottle of wine. Who couldn’t resist seeing whether the Clips could guard the perimeter against Curry and Ellis? This guy.
The hatred for LeBron was on display throughout the season, and the playoffs didn’t disappoint (though I could’ve used his disappearance 1 series earlier). The storyline played out perfectly for the league. The Heat played in the last game, but would need to turn the page to 2011-12 in order to fulfill expectations. Amazing young talent such as Rose, Griffin, and a third of the OKC roster ushered in a new Golden Age for the NBA. Don’t forget guys like Eric Gordon, John Wall & Tyreke Evans – just to name a few. Going deeper, there’s even more intrigue. Jonas Jerebko, did you think I forgot about you? Highly unlikely.
So building on this momentum, it was of course the perfect time for a lockout. And so on and so on. David Stern carries the water for the owners, and agreement is reached: owners’ get billions, structurally, nothing much is different. Also, when is Derrick Fischer going to retire? Jesus.
Anyway, “Congrats” NBA. Your labor strife was certainly irritating.
However, one thing is certain – after watching a few weeks of what now passes for college basketball, I can’t wait for XMas day. And neither should you. Here are some things to think about when you cash out that 401K and head to the window:
Gratuitous Balls: Pre-Season NBA Rankings
30. Toronto Raptors: There’s just something about this te- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….
29. Cleveland Caveliers: Kyrie Irving should be pretty solid. Owner Dan Gilbert should be pretty annoying.
28. Washington Wizards: John Wall projects as a DRose-type: a perennial all-star and dynamic PG for many years. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by weirdos and question marks. Maybe they can generate some interest via their seemingly annual uniform change.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves: I’m not sure if anyone from a 17 win team has ever received as much positive attention as Kevin Love. Kids, the thing to take away from this is that great rebounding and outlet passing do not guarantee victories. Ricky Rubio is signed for 2011-12, but it’s still surprising they didn’t draft another PG at #2. Drafting point guards is what they do. At the very least, there’s a glimmer of hope and entertainment present in the T’Wolves’ young talent.
26. Charlotte Bobcats: Contraction bait. MJ was hard-lining (gotta earn!), but this team could disappear and no one would know the difference. The people of North Carolina want & deserve their despotic college basketball monarchs, so we might as well let them focus their attention on those sanctimonious jags.
25. Detroit Pistons: No one is interested in the Pistons – even draft pick Kyle Singler, who decided to spend the next year being Spain’s Palest Man. I’ll be interested to watch Brandon Knight, but this team is saddled with more bad money than Bear Stearns (Finance joke!). On top of that, the bad money is spent on some terribly infuriating chuckers. As of this writing, they just extended Tayshaun Prince for 4 years. Wha? Free Jerebko! Lawrence Frank is a good coach and doesn’t deserve this punishment.
24. Phoenix Suns: I wonder if Steve Nash will be mid-season trade bait. Good coach, but I don’t buy the old guys on this team. I don’t buy the young guys on the team, either. I don’t buy the owner of the team. Quite frankly, you can have the whole fucking state.
23. Denver Nuggets: Interesting team. They have 3 key players in China, and the thankless Chinese didn’t even send 1 billionth back in return. Bastards. I’m not quite sure how this will play out. Probably not very good on the defensive end. I like Arron Afflalo (random comment), but I don’t expect them to continue the post-Melo surge they managed last year.
22. Milwaukee Bucks: Poor Scott Skiles. He will likely get every ounce from this team, but their ceiling is still Eastern Conference 8-seed – which is kind of like getting a pop-up ad that says, “You’re today’s IPad winner!” Stephen Jackson + a healthy Bogut should make them a little more versatile on offense. But still, pop-up ad…
21. Golden State Warriors: My adopted Western Conference children. They became less loved when they gave $7 million to Kwame Brown. I diagnose this move as “Post-Traumatic-Post Syndrome.” I have to think Mark Jackson will do his best to improve the team defensively. However, you can’t consistently win games 120-115 in today’s NBA. Curry or Ellis might not end the year on the team. Sorry, kids. Life is hard. Then you miss the playoffs every year. Then you die.
20. Utah Jazz: It was sad to see Deron Williams + Jerry Sloan leave this (no sarcasm) storied franchise. Both underrated. I like the drafting of Alec Burks (thought he would’ve been a good selection for the Bucks), and an anagram for Enes Kanter is “Ran Keen Set,” something Ty Corbin’s team rarely did last season.
19. Houston Rockets: Under the radar, but over their heads. I’m still piecing together their attempt to get Pau Gasol. I know they need ‘bigs,’ but what’s the end game? They are the epitome of NBA purgatory – not good enough to compete for titles, not bad enough to get high picks. They’re kind of like a 1-hour drama on the USA Network.
Over the last 2 years, I really wanted the Bulls to snag Kevin Martin – the perfect Heartless Chucker. Alas…
18. New Orleans Hornets: Are you an Uzbek oil magnate who wants to own an NBA team that just lost its 2 best players? The Hornets are right here for you. However, I don’t buy the catastrophic fall that many expect. The hundreds of Hornets’ fans should enjoy watching Eric Gordon blossom under a real NBA coach. Unfortunately, the Hornets went from Point Guard-Heavy a year ago (Paul + Darren Collison) to Yellow Jacket Lite (Jarret Jack) this year.
17. Sacramento Kings: I’m a huge Tyreke Evans fan, yet they have an odd but interesting backcourt with Marcus Thornton. Enter The Jimmer, who is sure to put the Latter Days in the seats. I like Jimmer as a point producer off the bench, but would like him much more paired with a true PG (as would Evans). Instead, he might be playing a lot of point, so we’ll see how that plays out. I will be staying awake for Kings’ hoops as I try to write a buddy cop screenplay based on the relationship between Jimmer & DeMarcus Cousins.
16. New Jersey Nets: No team’s ranking is more in flux than the Brooklyn Nets. If they can somehow turn Brook Lopez, scrubs + picks into Dwight Howard, they’ll probably be hosting a 1st round playoff series. Until then, good luck to Deron Williams. Also, (still FA) Kris Humphries was in the gossip news this year. Hopefully he will be distracted enough to refrain from destroying Carlos Boozer every time he plays the Bulls.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: Doug Collins wielded some magic last year. Jrue Holiday progressed exponentially. Thaddeus Young was more than relevant. I believe I even saw Elton Brand get off the ground late in the season. Could’ve been my eyes. Wild Card: How will the shorter but compressed season affect the inevitable Collins’ flame-out? Wild Card #2: Has Evan Turner learned how to hit a spot-up jump shot (even in warmups)?
14. Portland Trailblazers: The saddest story of the off-season was Brandon Roy’s retirement due to a degenerative knee condition. There was a small window when he was one of the best closers in the NBA. Roy + Oden’s injuries have killed what was a real promising core. I liked the Gerald Wallace trade last year – a versatile forward who is underrated because of his terrible hair. Or at least that’s how I see it. He won’t be enough for Portland to go deep into the playoffs.
It will rain a lot.
13. Orlando Magic: If I’m the Magic, I trade Dwight Howard. Otherwise, their ceiling is 2nd Round. The addition of Big Baby just doesn’t do it for me. If Dwight won’t sign an extension, you just have to get rid of him. However, you can do better than the Nets’ package. There will never be a reason to drunk dial Brook Lopez.
12. Indiana Pacers: Looking back, I thought the Pacers were just a team of chuckers and spazzes. However, they upgraded with David West, a guy who can put up 18+8 in his sleep, while simultaneously treating his sleep apnea and helping Tyler Hansbrough with his vertigo and reading. Full disclosure: I have a (possibly irrational) love of Paul George. Bright future.
11. Atlanta Hawks: The League’s most boring Exciting Team. Should be good enough to be competitive, bad enough not to matter.
10. San Antonio Spurs: Their season may ride on the development of Tiago Splitter. No one wants to hear that. However, the ageless wonders still have the best coach in the league, so where they go in the post-season is anyone’s guess.
9. Los Angeles Clippers: Classic Donald Sterling overbuy giving up Eric Gordon when they might’ve been able to wait it out . Still, with the addition of Chris Paul, this team would be formidable if VDN wasn’t the coach. Think about this: in 4 years of pretending to be an NBA Head Coach, Del Negro has coached Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin + now Chris Paul. Somewhere in Milwaukee Scott Skiles is seething with envy and f-bombs. This placement is contingent on them changing coaches at some point this season. (I’m serious)
8. Boston Celtics: I think they’re about done (they had a nice run). Brandon Bass is an upgrade of Big Baby, but the loss of Jeff Green hurts more than it should because of how thin they are at certain places of the floor. However, Doc Rivers is a well-regarded coach for a reason. Still, another calendar year past will take its toll on Boston’s core. Get ready for another season of the Rajon Rondo overhype machine, with pundits constantly putting him in the company of Rose, Paul + Deron. First learn how to hit a fucking free throw.
7. Memphis Grizzlies: No team had a more unexpected and impressive playoff run. And that was without talented chucker Rudy Gay. Someone gave Zach Randolph something to take care of his ADHD. I don’t want to know how Tony Allen was treated. This is a scary team. They will also be scary on the court. If they stay disciplined and balanced offensively (Gay can be a Black Hole – not an anti-homo comment), they can recreate last year’s run.
6. New York Knicks: I was a big fan of the trade for Melo. They gave up a lot, but in return received one of the NBA’s top-3 offensive players. That’s the only way to win in the NBA. I think this will pay off this year as they are a more complete team. The addition of Chandler should help overshadow some of Amar’e's defensive deficiencies (dude gets 2 apostrophes). However, Knicks fans should be aware that “consistency” has never been Chandler’s M.O. Another question mark is at PG. If they get Baron Davis and he’s “Good-Baron,” they will be a really tough out in the playoffs. However, they still has a coach who would rather teach Puppetry than defense.
5. Los Angeles Lakers: I’m not sure what this roster will look like when the playoffs start. Nor am I sure what they accomplished moving Lamar Odom to the Mavs. However, I’ll give Mitch Kupchak the benefit of the doubt for now. If they get Howard, they probably bump up to #1 or 2. I believe the stories of Kobe’s demise have been widely exaggerated. Most pundits seem to think the compressed season will take its toll on veterans who have logged heavy minutes over the years. I think the fact that there are 16 fewer games will help the veterans who have coaches who know how to manage minutes (Pop). Which of course brings us to the “Mike Brown Factor.” yikes.
4. Dallas Mavericks: Addition of Lamar Odom helps. Subtraction of Tyson Chandler really hurts. The Mavs playoff run was a really nice story, as the franchise was finally able to find a roster that could compete defensively. However, with the loss of Chandler and another year on Dirk + Terry, I just don’t see them getting through what promises to be a brutally tough Western Conference playoff. Marc Cuban’s tight t-shirts won’t help either.
3. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls had the best record in the league last year and could do it again, but here’s the problem – the Heat are a terrible matchup for the Bulls. If Boozer doesn’t get easy buckets in the post, there’s no where else to go. The addition of Rip Hamilton should help. However, a little perspective. Bulls fans hated on Keith Bogans the entire last season. FYI, Bogans 2010-11 3pt% = 38% / Rip’s a career 35% from behind the arc. All things considered, Rip is an upgrade because he’ll work his defender and they’ll have to account for him, thus giving Rose more room to work. However, I still think the Bulls are still a shot-creator away from beating the Heat. (Seeing what Jamal Crawford got from Portland $10mil/2yrs hurt. He would’ve been the way to go.)
I think we’ll at least get to see another Heat/Bulls series – though only 5 games last year, truly one of the fantastic defensive matchups I’ve seen. It was reminiscent of recent Lakers/Celtics series and Pistons/Bulls at the turn of the ’90s. FAns of great team defense will likely get another treat next Spring.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: There’s just so much to like about this team with the exception of the state of Oklahoma. Sometimes Russell Westbrook tries to play like DRose on the offensive end, but here’s the deal: The MVP often needs to force the action because of the players around him. Westbrook – who is just as athletic as Rose, should usually refrain from similar style. Though it has to be frustrating for a guy with his talent, he needs to realize he’s surrounded by perhaps the most talented offensive player in the league and some other versatile offensive contributors, such as James Harden. However, with a full season of Perkins/Ibaka this is the breakthrough year. It should be happening in Seattle.
1. Miami Heat: The Heat are the best team. They were probably the best team last year. They’ll probably be the best team next year. Does that mean they’ll win a title? Not necessarily. However, they are a more rounded team than last year. The addition of Shane Battier gives them the ability to shut down the perimeter if they have the will. (I’m surprised they didn’t throw a parade.) A healthy Udonis Haslem will help them underneath, though they’re still pretty thin. With Battier, this team is constructed to drive the Bulls nuts.
Nobody likes you, Miami. However, we’ll have to wait until May or June to see if they have another crunch time collapse left in the tank. God willing. Until then, they’re still the favorites. Enjoy.
3. Chris Paul
9. D. Williams
Jerebko E. Gordon
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
COACH OF THE YEAR
SLAM DUNK CHAMPION