(part 1 can be found here)
Cleveland Is one big roll of the dice. Alot of people seem tempted to annoint them a rising Eastern power, and just as many (including yours truly) think they look a whole lot like the T’Wolves of the last few years. Alot of potential that might not ever be realized. The Andrew Bynum signing is already the mother of all crapshoots, but what exactly is certain about this roster? There is alot of talent and more than a few new faces, but so many injuries question marks, youth and the uncertainty of how Kyrie Irving and company will warm up to the newly re-hired Mike Brown.
Another thing. Although Irving has played brilliantly enough to earn all of the “next big thing buzz” being thrown his way, he’s also shown a tendency to get injured. Two years in, he’s already missed over 25% of his games. If he can’t stay healthy, much like Kevin Love, the Cavs will have a hard time becoming the team alot of people expect them to.
LA Clippers are a big fucking deal now. Get used to it. Having a few winning seasons is one thing, but putting together a deep, talented roster and basically turning your franchise over to someone like Doc Rivers is a whole other level of competence. It’s like the difference between being rich and wealthy. As long as Rivers is there (and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, of course) this is a team that will remain in the thick of things. Doc’s strength is in his dealings with the players, and who better to get more out of the sometimes too bossy Paul and the sometimes too nice Griffin? On paper, the Clippers addressed their shooting needs in acquiring JJ Redick and Jared Dudley. The last piece of the championship puzzle here is to improve at Center, but Doc thinks he can mold D’ Andre Jordan into the kind of defensive juggernaut they’ll need.
Would you bet against him?
So far, all the right things are being said about Chris Paul (“we haven’ done anything yet”) and Blake Griffin (“Lob City is over. Time to get serious”.) and everyone seems to be really happy to see Doc. Bottom line is, for the next few years, this team should be right in the thick of things.
LA Lakers will be better than they were last year. Not that it matters. Yes, that’s what I said. Write it down, take a picture, I don’t give a fuck.
Once all of the dust settles on last years calamity and the Lakers get on with life after the Dwightmare, a few things will become apparent. For one, the Offense that coach Mike D’ Antoni likes to run will look pretty fucking good now that he’ll actually get to run it. You see, he wasn’t allowed to run it last years because Dwight didn’t like, so the Laker front office asked Mike to tailor his offense to Dwight’s liking. The result was such a disaster that by March, Kobe Bryant was playing point guard and Steve Nash was standing in the corner shooting threes. basically, the whole team was a mess, and contrary to popular wisdom, it was almost all Dwight’s fault. Don’t believe me? Watch them this year. Watch what it looks like when Steve Nash gets to be Steve Nash, when Pau Gasol gets his first taste of Laker life without Andrew Bynum or Dwight around to take up his touches. Watch what Kobe looks like in a gunslinging offense that stresses pushing the pace and putting pressure on the defense for 48 minutes. Watch how the rather pedestrian Laker supporting cast thrives because they were all hand-picked to play in this system.
Go ahead, just watch. Now, with that said, this team isn’t a contender or anything close to that. No, they’ll win between 45-50 games and maybe put up a decent fight in the first round of the playoffs, but don’t go expecting any more than that. This year is just a placeholder for next Summer’s free agent party, where the Lakers hope to make a big splash. For now, all the joy will be in being rid of Dwight, and in watching Mike D’ Antoni’s team play the way he likes them to.
As good as they may still be, last year may very well have been their peak.
Miami is still the King until further notice. Lucky as they were to beat San Antonio last June, beat them they did. As is always the case though, defending the Title is significantly harder than it is to win it the first time. Nothing that happens to this team will matter much until April, that is to say the health of Dwyane Wade and the rest will be the ultimate determining factor when it comes to their three-peat chances. Yeah, the signings of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley were nice, high-reward/low-risk pickups, but at the end of the day this team is going no further than the big three can carry them. Until then, I’d say the less we talk about the Heat, the better.
New Orleans picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.
Of all the times to put together a good team, the Pelicans did it when the Western conference was at it’s absolute most brutally deep and competitive. Right now, San Antonio, Oklahoma, The Clippers, Memphis, Denver and Golden St. are mortal locks to make the playoffs, meaning the Lakers, Dallas, Portland, Minnesota and the ‘Cans will all be fighting over that last spot. Yikes. Look, I love what they’ve done with the roster. The young nucleus of Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson looks pretty damn good and even more importantly, they are all 25 or younger so they’ll have time to grow together. If this team was in the Eastern conference they’d be competing for the 4th or 5th seed. Out here, they’ll be lucky to sniff the playoffs.
Minnesota is still passing out bananas for tailpipes.
Don’t go falling for it. The clock is ticking on Minnesota’s “team of the future” status after injuries and poor chemistry resulted in a 57-91 record the last two seasons, with more than enough complaining and finger pointing to go around. Now, with the David Kahn era mercifully ending, the onus is on Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to prove they are winners, not just flashy players putting up gaudy stats. Roster-wise, there is still plenty of talent here, but health is the ultimate x factor with this bunch. If Rubio, Love and Nikola Pekovic can’t stay in one piece, this team goes nowhere. If they can, the hope still exists they can win some ballgames, even though they’ve yet to actually do it.
We’ll see, I guess.