Down and dirty NBA team predictions, from A-to-Z (part one)

 Here you go. Short and sweet breakdowns of every teams’ prospects this season. 

Atlanta is out from under the hideous Joe Johnson contract and headed in the right direction. Josh Smith is slowly but surely evolving into a potentially dominant player, Jeff Teague is maturing and Al Horford can be deadly if he stays healthy. Picking up Louis Williams and Devin Harris will allow this team to run more than they have in the past, and even without Johnson, don’t be surprised if they win about as much as they have in recent years. Of course, with their newfound cap space, this whole team could look completely different twelve months from now. The Hawks will be good this year, but the real story will be written next off-season.

Bottom line: 44-48 wins, same as it’s been for awhile now. Better times should be ahead from them, though.

Boston has at least one last dance left in them. One hand, they are deeper and more talented than last years’ squad that came within one good Quarter of the NBA Finals. Then again, they only had to beat two mediocre teams (thanks to the Derrick Rose injury) to get to the Eastern Finals and as deep and young as this roster has suddenly become in most spots, the fact of the matter is they are one injury to the Big Three away from being also-rans. If Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce don’t have 100 games in them this year, it’s hard to imagine the Celtics beating any of the elite teams.

Still, these guys won’t beat themselves and if they die, they’ll do it with their boots on.

Bottom Line: 50-57 wins: Keeping in mind that Doc Rivers places post-season health above win totals.

Brooklyn in the house. There’s a ton of hype here, and all kinds of talent, even if most of it is on the offensive side of the ball. As starting fives go, Deron Williams-Joe-Johnson-Gearlad Wallace-Kris Humphries-Brook Lopez looks awesome on paper, but I have my doubts about whether the chemistry will pan out with this group. Just on talent alone this team should win alot, but how well they do is gonna depend on which D. Will we get. If he comes out with a point to prove, this team could cause some real problems. If he doesn’t, the problems will be Brooklyn’s.

Bottom Line: 50-55 wins: I really think they’re good for at least 50 as long as health is good. There’s just a world of talent on this team and a coach who won’t suffer fools. How well they defend is gonna make a big difference.

Charlotte is a bedraggled, flea-bitten bunch. Best you can do is hope Michael Gilchrist can grow into a superstar through hard work and that they stay bad long enough to get a few more like him in upcoming drafts.

Seriously, that’s all there is to this lot.

Bottom line: 15-20 wins: If they are lucky, yo.

Chicago is living on a prayer. The hope is that Derrick Rose is gonna show up in February with his cape on and drop them right back where they were before  his ripped his knee up. I’m not seeing that. They’ll win more than they lose because Tom Thibodeux is an elite coach (yep) and they plays their asses off nightly, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect much out of D. Rose this year.

Ask yourself this much. Would you rather rush your franchise player back and risk further damage to his knee, or would you take your time and let him heal and focus on 2014 and beyond?

Easy call for me.

Bottom line: 45-48 wins, out in the first round. Gonna have to live to fight another day.

Cleveland is coming on strong. Well, Kyrie Irving is, anyway. This year we’ll see if he’s the real deal. How good the other recent draft picks are will determine how good the team can actually be. Tristan Thompson showed a little as a rookie and the Dion Waiters pick has been second-guessed to death. this looks like a borderline playoff team if nothing goes terribly wrong, but that’s probably the ceiling for this year.

All in all, not bad for a team that lost the best player in the world and 63 fucking games just two years ago.

Bottom line: 40-44 wins. Anything more would be a genuine surprise.

Dallas is hungover. At a crossroads, even. Dirk is hurt. This might be the beginning of the end of greatest European player the NBA has ever seen. Injured or not, this team wasn’t gonna be good enough to make noise anyhow. the guys they brought into to replace the ones they lost are good enough, but they lost out on all the big fish, namely Deron Williams.

Mark Cuban has been a big spender over the years, but he appears to be sufficiently afraid of the new luxury tax. This is starting to feel like like the end of an era in Dallas.

Bottom line: 38-42 wins, no playoffs. Sounds weird to say, but everything has an ending, and this might be it for the Dirk era.

Denver is in the catbird seat. They’ve got more useful players than any other team in the league, great leadership in the front office and on the bench, all the momentum and good feeling from a strong finish to the season and tons of promise for the future. This team looks like it could handle multiple injuries and still snag a playoff spot and more importantly than that, they’ve gathered enough string to be able to swing a deal for the next wayward superstars that pops up. Yeah they may not be quite good enough to contend for real, but this franchise is in about as stable as any going, especially considering it’s small market status.

This is the case study for how to trade a superstar and still come out smelling like roses. The deal that Masai Ujiri pulled off in the Carmelo Anthony will go down as one of the all-time plunderings in basketball history.

Bottom Line: 50-55 wins: No shit. Could be more if they steal someone’s franchise player in february. After all, if you are some team looking to unload your cornerstone guy for a rebuilding package, isn’t this the first team you call?

Detroit is crossing their collective fingers that they hit the jackpot with Andre Drummond, who went from looking like a drunk puppy in the Summer League to looking like a fucking monster in the pre-season, showing shot blocking skills, freakish athleticism and a shockingly soft touch around the basket. Just like that, the Pistons entire outlook might have changed. As young cores go, Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Drummond is starting to look kinda scary, and Rodney Stuckey and is still only 26. I’m also a big fan of Lawrence Frank as a coach and a teacher, which can only help with this kind of young talent on board.

Not sure how much all of this means for this year, but this could be the start of a new heyday in the D.

Bottom line: I’m guessing 35-40 wins this year, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they emerge as a real surprise team in the east.

Golden State is who we thought they were. They’ll score, they’ll play fast, they won’t be able to stop a nosebleed, and their nincompoop of a coach will cost them at least 5 wins per season. have a good look at this roster. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut is your starting 5. That’s 5 guys who like to shoot and exactly one who can actually grasp the concept of playing defense at the NBA level. How is this supposed to work in the real world?

Oh, and that’s assuming Curry’s ankles don’t melt again or Bogut can actually stay on the court for more than a month at a time. This team looked like they were a move or two away from playoff status, now they look like 30 wins and a fired coach.

Bottom line: 32-36 wins. It pains me to see what’s happening here. Get Mark Jackson out of there and see what you can do about making this roster look less like a fantasy team and more like an actual basketball squad.

Houston is born again. Time and time again we’ve watch GM Daryl Morey try and fail to secure a franchise type player, only now he finally got his man. James Harden is 23 and has made substantial improvements in his first three pro seasons. Now, he’ll look to put up Brandon Roy the numbers as the focal point of a team that is going to be as young as any in the league.

This year will merely serve as prelude to a new era in Houston. Expect the rockets to take their lumps while they find out just how good Jeremy Lin really is and how many of their first and second year kids can actually play at this level. By next summer, they’ll have a mountain of cap space and a chance to put another marquee player next to Harden.

Bottom line: probably somewhere in the 25 to 30 win range unless Royce White and Terrance Jones turn out to be superheroes. Still, this is just chapter one for the new look rockets.

Indiana is…well, I’m not really sure. They made a big leap last year but I’m not sure if they can make another one the way the roster is set up. They locked up Roy Hibbert longterm but some of the depth is gone and now this team looks to be another injury away (Danny Granger is out with knee problems) from mediocrity. If Paul George has the breakout year alot of people seem to think he’s due for they might suddenly be dangerous. Otherwise, it looks like they’ll end up in the bottom half of the playoff bracket heading into next summer, where alot of their future fate will be decided.

I’d like to think that last years’ second round playoff appearance isn’t going to be their peak, but I fear it just might.

Bottom line: I dunno, I’ve just got this bad feeling that injuries will reduce them to a 40 win team. We’ll see.

The Clippers are on the clock. Getting Blake Griffin to sign an extension was a big deal but it was only half the battle. Now, they’ve got to convince Chris Paul to do the same with half of the league licking their chops at the thought of signing him at years’ end. The Clippers front office is shrouded in mystery and their roster changes appear to be a “boom or bust” situation. Picking up Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes and Willie Green means they are dripping with talent at every position. It also means they could be knee-deep in the kind of tomfoolery and apathy that Crawford and Odom brought to Portland and Dallas last year.Have you seen Odom lately? Dude ain’t skinny. Sure, Chris Paul seems to be too strong a leader to allow his team to be shipwrecked, but I’ve seen crazier shit happen.

If this team can share the minutes, the ball and the spotlight, they should be ferocious. If they can’t this all could go terribly wrong.

Bottom line: I like their chances. There’s too much leadership and too much depth, and the fact that they let chris Paul in on their off-season personnel decisions might go a long way toward convincing him to stay put. I’ve got them at around 52 wins, with a chance to make some real noise in the postseason.

The Lakers are in for quite the ride. Kobe’s knee, Dwight’s ego, Nash’s mileage, Pau’s decline. All of those and more questions will be answered this year. Whatever happens, don’t let the first month persuade you too far in one direction or another. This new roster is nothing if not a work in progress, so I’m gonna hold off on any real judgement until April at the very least.

On paper, no team should be able to touch them if their ship is in order. Of course, Mike Brown is the coach, so none of that is a given.

Hell, this is gonna be interesting.

Bottom line: It’s title or bust. With a gun to my head I’d say it’s their title to lose. I’ve been wrong before, though. I’m content to sit back and watch how this all plays out. It’s gonna be quite the soap opera, win or lose.

 

back with part 2 in a bit…

 

JH

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