Dustin and Cameron run through all 30 NBA teams, and break them down, from No. 1 to No. 30.
Cameron and I both have been eagerly awaiting the start of the NBA. It’s not to say that we don’t like the NFL, MLB or NHL, but for both of us, the NBA is just something more. There’s so many possibilities and storylines to follow, we get treated to a playoff run like Chicago had last season and a resurgence from Tim Duncan in his 16th year as Tony Parker put his name into the MVP discussion by force.
Now this season, we’re given even more exciting things to anticipate: Will Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant all successfully return from injury, how will the Thunder cope without Westbrook for the first month or so, will Dwight Howard lead Houston to Western Conference dominance, can anyone stop the Heat three-peat (ThreeHeat?) and what will probably be the most talked about story of the year: the impending free agency in 2014 that will feature some of the biggest names in the sport.
To help focus our excitement, we ranked all 30 teams in the NBA from best to worst and then snake-drafted to decide who was going to cover who, so, if the numbers seem out of order or you don’t see your favorite team; check Cameron’s article to complete the league. Now, let’s get this started.
2. Indiana Pacers – 2012 record: 49-32
PG George Hill
SG Paul George
SF Danny Granger
PF David West
C Roy Hibbert
Bench: Chris Copeland, Solomon Hill, Orlando Johnson, Ian Mahimmi, Luis Scola, Donald Sloan, Lance Stephenson and C.J. Watson
What We Like: They put the entire league on notice when they took the Miami Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and the world got to watch Paul George show why he is going to be a superstar in the league possibly as early as this season. Larry Bird and the Pacers management have locked in Hibbert, Hill and George to long-term deals, keeping the core in tact for the foreseeable future which shows a vested interest in becoming an elite team on both sides of the ball; an essential if you’re looking to dethrone Miami.
What We Don’t Like: See that list of bench players? Do you know anyone on that list besides Luis Scola? Their lack of depth could end up being their downfall if coach Frank Vogel has to play his startes 40+ minutes a game from 82 regular season games and a playoff run. The question also remains; what are they going to do with Danny Granger? When he’s on the court, he’s a good wing defender with a knack for creating his own shot but he’s not really elite at the SF position and has been completely derailed the last two seasons with injuries. He’s already been declared out for about three weeks to start the season with what the team is describing as a “calf injury.” The Pacers proved last year they could contend without him so flipping him for a legitimate sixth man may not be too far out of the question.
3. Chicago Bulls – 2012 record: 45-37
PG Derrick Rose
SG Jimmy Butler
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah Bench: Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Erik Murphy, Nazr Mohammed, Tony Snell, Marquis Teague and Malcolm Thomas
What We Like: Derrick Rose is back after a full season rehabbing from injury and if the preseason has been any indication, he’s returning in the same form he was in when he was MVP of the league. Without Rose, the Bulls still managed to have a winning record, make the playoffs and go on an improbable run displaying the kind of heart and resilience that only a cohesive team could have. Jimmy Butler emerged as a young star in the making, playing tons of minutes and never showing the effects, he’s simply a kid that wants to play and make the most out of every chance he’s given. If the team can keep that chemistry up and Rose comes back in the same way he has in the preseason, then the Bulls immediately vault back into the conversation as favorites to contend for the championship. W
hat We Don’t Like: They’re still overpaying for Carlos Boozer’s marginal talents and it’s likely they try to trade him all season as his defense is marginal at best and offensively he’s more sporadic than a team with title aspirations can stand. There’s also the concern of Rose doing too much in his return and that it disrupts the overall chemistry of the team. If the team gets content watching D Rose close out games and score 30+ points then they may be doomed by underachieving. Health is also a major concern for the team, Boozer, Deng and Noah all dealt with injuries last year and should one of them miss any substantial time, it’ll be a significant hit to the team.
4. San Antonio Spurs – 2012 record: 58-24
PG Tony Parker
SG Danny Green
SF Kawhi Leonard
PF Tim Duncan
C Tiago Splitter
Bench: Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair, Nando de Colo, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobli, Stephen Jackson, Cory Joseph, Patty Mills and Gary Neal
What We Like: The Spurs were about a minute away from upsetting the Heat and winning the NBA title but a miraculous shot by Ray Allen proved otherwise and the Heat went on to clinch the title in Game 7. On the brightside though, the Spurs retained the entire team that came so close in the Finals. Through most of the Finals, Danny Green emerged as a possible MVP candidate and he’ll only continue to develop and get better and better and the stellar youth on the team including DeJaun Blair, Kawhi Leonard and Gary Neal along with Green represent a fantastic young core that veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli can benefit greatly from as the team is consistently a threat to make the NBA Finals. With Russell Westbrook hurt in OKC for the first part of the season, the Spurs are in a great position to try and build a comfortable lead in the West and try to clinch homecourt advantage for the playoffs. With coach Gregg Popovich knowing how and when to rest his players throughout the season to minimize wear and tear, the Spurs should find themselves back in the title hunt once again.
What We Don’t Like: Every year the biggest knock on the Spurs is the age of some of their veteran players, Tim Duncan is going into his 17th season and Manu Ginobli has been plagued by injuries the last few years, greatly limiting his contributions. Also threatening the Spurs chances in the West are the Houston Rockets, LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors, all of which made large off-season moves to legitimize their chances as well as the Thunder who can never really be counted out as long as they have Kevin Durant and once Westbrook comes back. They really are small, repetitive complaints and each season the Spurs seem to take pleasure in proving all the naysayers wrong, will they do it one more time this year or is this the season that they begin to finally slow down?
5. Oklahoma City Thunder – 2012 record: 60-22
PG Russell Westbrook
SG Thabo Sefolosha
SF Kevin Durant
PF Serge Ibaka
C Kendrick Perkins
Bench: Steven Adams, Nick Collison, Derek Fisher, Ryan Gomes, Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson and Hasheem Thabeet
What We Like: Already the consensus second best player in the league, Kevin Durant evolved his game even more, becoming a better defender, facilitator and even more aggressive on the glass. They finished first in the West with the second best record in the NBA and were likely headed for a Finals rematch against the Heat if not for Westbrook’s knee injury. When Westbrook gets back, the team will undoubtedly be way better off should he be relatively the same player he was before the injury, which always makes the Thunder a threat for a deep playoff run.
What We Don’t Like: Without Westbrook however, it’ll fall on Durant to provide nearly all of the heavy lifting with Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher the only two active point guards on the roster. Jackson is young and talented, but not the level of playmaker that Westbrook is and in his advanced age, Fisher is essentially a vessel to pass Durant the ball and take open corner threes whenever he gets a good look. Since trading James Harden before the start of last season, the Thunder have no sixth man to sustain offense while Durant and Westbrook rest. Kevin Martin was acquired in the Harden trade but left the team in the off season leaving them with Jeremy Lamb and a draft pick as all they have left. As if that wasn’t a bitter enough pill to swallow, they’re $12 million over the salary cap with a team that only has two legitimate offensive options. It’ll be hard for them to make many moves in free agency next season as well which could lead to uneasiness among the team should Durant or Westbrook start feeling a little restless.
8. Houston Rockets – 2012 record: 45-37
PG Jeremy Lin
SG James Harden
SF Chandler Parsons
PF Dwight Howard
C Omer Asik
Bench: Patrick Beverly, Ronnie Brewer, Aaron Brooks, Omri Casspi, Isaiah Canaan, Robert Covington, Francisco Garcia, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and Greg Smith
What We Like: This starting lineup looks like something you’d create in NBA 2K, not an actual league team. Dwight Howard at PF and Omer Asik at C gives the Rockets size in the paint that no team can match should they be able to co-exist together on the court. Lin and Harden in the backcourt is one of the craftiest and smartest in the league and Beverly coming off the bench might as well be considered a second starting point guard because of his ability. They loved the three ball last year but should be able to play even more pick and roll with Harden and Howard/Asik. Harden will also likely be handling the ball as much or more than Lin as Lin is better getting an open shot off-the-ball. Their youth and their skill is reviled only by the Clippers and the Warriors which could give the Rockets a chance to overtake the Thunder and Spurs should either have a slow start to the season.
What We Don’t Like: If Dwight Howard and Omer Asik don’t get along then you’re likely looking at Asik demanding a trade at some point in the season and the Rockets losing one of their biggest assets; the pure size they have. Dwight looks to be healthy after all the injuries last season slowed him down and helped play a part in his fleeing of the Lakers and if the injuries persist or the Rockets for some reason or another underachieve, then Dwight-Watch 2013 will officially commence as the team is faced with title or bust goals for the season after their huge acquisition in the off-season.
10. Golden State Warriors – 2012 record: 47-35
PG Stephen Curry
SG Klay Thompson
SF Andre Iguodala
PF David Lee
C Andrew Bogut
Bench: Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore, Toney Douglas, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Ognjen Kuzmic, Nemanja Nedovic and Jermaine O’Neal
What We Like: The addition of Andre Iguodala to compliment arguably the best shooting backcourt in the NBA (Steph Curry and Klay Thompson or as they’re called by fans; the “Super Splash Bros”) is a move that had basketball fans salivating at the possibilities. Adding Iggy gives them a defensive presence late in games that they were lacking in the playoffs last year. Andre also gives them even more firepower on offense though it’s likely they’ll use him more as a facilitator and a passer to generate even more open shots for Curry and Thompson. Moving second year player Harrison Barnes to the sixth-man spot vacated by Jarrett Jack will help the Warriors have a scoring presence even when the starters are on the bench. Add in the fact that they recently signed Bogut to a three-year extension, and the Warriors have a young core of talent that is second to none in terms of scoring in a hurry.
What We Don’t Like: This may sound crazy but in the off-season Curry announced that he’d left Nike and signed a deal with Under Armour as their newest spokesperson. Yes, it’s crazy to think that a different shoe could make a big difference but given Curry’s already lengthy history of ankle injuries and issues (Nike even worked with him last year to design a shoe for him that accommodated a brace as well as offered even more ankle support) it may make fans a bit nervous. If Curry gets hurt, then the loss of Jack as his backup will become severely noticable as neither Douglas or Nedovic can run the team like Jack did in relief of Curry, even if it was just for a few minutes while he rested. Lee and Bogut have also had their fair share of issues, with Bogut only playing in 32 games last year. This team has all the talent and potential you could possibly want but if their stars can’t shake the injury bug and preserve themselves for a trip to the post-season, then the Warriors could be in for disappointment with high expectations all around them.
11. New York Knicks – 2012 record: 54-28
PG Raymond Felton
SG Iman Shumpert
SF Carmelo Anthony
PF Andrea Bargnani
C Tyson Chandler
Bench: Cole Aldrich, Tim Hardaway Jr, Kenyon Martin, Toure’ Murry, Metta World Peace, Pablo Prigioni, Chris Smith, J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire
What We Like: Carmelo is in a contract year with his impending free agency and for even more motivation, is now being challenged by Brooklyn for New York basketball supremacy. Iman Shumpert is continuing to build his offense to match his good defense and the addition of Bargnani should help limit the minutes and pressure on Stoudemire. The fact that they signed Metta World Peace shows an interest in improving their defense and even at his advanced age he can be counted on to at least bother shooters and can still get hot from downtown from time to time. A solid bench with Hardaway Jr, Martin, Prigiono and the reigning Sixth-Man of the Year J.R. Smith will help make sure the Knicks stay in the conversation among teams in the East.
What We Don’t Like: They’ll be without J.R. for the first few weeks of the season and let’s face it, Amar’e is a ticking time bomb in terms of injury potential. The Knicks tend to live and die by the three ball and in the playoffs last year, it killed them in the most slow and painful way imaginable. They didn’t really add anyone to help Anthony, Chandler and Shumpert attack the paint and will likely be close to the top again in threes attempted this season. More important though, Carmelo’s free agency will hang over the entire city. If the Knicks fall behind in the standings and are outplayed by the Nets, then the speculation regarding Anthony and if he’ll resign will be relentless. It’s no secret Anthony is seeking a gigantic contract, one that only the Knicks may be able to offer, but if they lack the ability to put the pieces around him, then Knicks fans are in for a LeBron and Dwight level waiting game that no fan should endure.
The Up and Coming
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – 2012 record:
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Kevin Martin
SF Corey Brewer
PF Kevin Love
C Nikola Pekovic
Bench: J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, Gorgui Dieng, Chris Johnson, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved, Ronny Turiaf and Derrick Williams
What We Like: Maybe the biggest risk we took when developing our rankings is with the T’Wolves. The have the kind of talent that could make them a team like last year’s Warriors; not quite ready to contend but making sure the whole league knows they’re coming. Kevin Love is entering the season healthy after two years plagued by injury and let’s not forget, Love was sneakily in the MVP conversation early in the season in 2011. Before being injured and missing the rest of the season, Love averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds a game. Also helping the Timberwolves rebuild is Ricky Rubio. Rubio’s not one to light it up scoring wise but his court vision and IQ is the stuff of legend even though he’s only entering his third season. If he can up his scoring/shooting percentage just a little bit, Kevin Martin can use his sixth man talents in the starting lineup and the team gets good contributions from Barea, Muhammad and Williams, then the Timberwolves could find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time in a long time.
What We Don’t Like: If the bench does’t contribute and Martin has more off nights than good ones, then it’s likely that Love and Rubio will be all that the Wolves have. K Love is getting kinda tired of dwelling in mediocrity as the Timberwolves have been pretty bad since he came into the league. They were looking great in Rubio’s rookie season until a Rubio knee injury derailed all the hope they had. Love is signed to an extension but it’s hard to imagine he won’t start asking for a trade if the team under performs again to start the season. Should the Wolves decide to trade Love, then they’ve torpedoed any chance of the playoffs for the foreseeable future depending on who they get in return.
16. New Orleans Pelicans – 2012 record: 27-55
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Eric Gordon
SF Al-Farouq Aminu
PF Anthony Davis
C Greg Stiemsma
Bench: Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Darius Miller, Anthony Morrow, Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers, Lance Thomas and Jeff Withey
What We Like: The team’s new look isn’t just the name-change from Hornets to Pelicans; the influx of talent this team has built in one off-season is incredible. They traded the rights to Nerlens Noel to the 76ers for their All-Star PG Jrue Holiday and Noel may not even play a game this season, they have a healthy Eric Gordon able to focus on what he does best; scoring at will and they added Tyreke Evans who seems to have found his niche coming off the bench as a floor stretching sixth man. Combined with Davis and Stiemsma in the paint, the Pelicans have everything a franchise trying desperately to change their image and build a fan base could possibly want.
What We Don’t Like: This team on paper is great, in-game they may be one collective faberge egg of catastrophic injury waiting to happen. Evans and Gordon have a long history of nagging injuries and Davis’ rookie campaign was shut down early out of concern from various injuries. There’s also the concern that this team could be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen with Holiday, Gordon, Anderson, Davis and Evans all likely wanting to get plenty of touches and shots a game, getting the team chemistry right may be a chore. Also a wildcard is the play of Rivers who, suffice to say well underplayed his high draft spot. I put up 45 points with Rivers in a game of 2K14, unfortunately though, Doc Rivers will probably come back and play PG again before Rivers ever has a scoring outburst like that.
17. Portland Trail Blazers – 2012 record: 33-49
PG Damian Lillard
SG Wesley Matthews
SF Nicolas Batum
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
C Robin Lopez
Bench: Will Barton, Victor Claver, Allen Crabbe, Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard, Thomas Robinson, Earl Watson, Dorell Wright and Mo Williams
What We Like: Damian Lillard was far and away the Rookie of the Year last year and he’ll only be better with a full year under his built to go along with his natural skill. C J.J. Hickson left the team in the off-season making LaMarcus Aldridge the focal point which may help increase his productivity and with shooters like Matthews and Batum, the Blazers can easily shoot themselves into at least the eight spot in the West.
What We Don’t Like: Matthews has been having issues with an irregular heartbeat and if he’s unable to go, they’re going to be extremely thin at the SG. Mo Williams was brought in over the summer so he’d likely pair with Lillard in the backcourt should Matthews miss a lot of time but just how much of a contribution he’d be good for is unknown. Should Aldridge struggle carrying more of the load in the post/paint without J.J. then it may be on Lillard to take this team as far as he can on his own, but in a tough Western Conference, just how far that is is unknown.
18. Los Angeles Lakers – 2012 record: 45-37
PG Steve Nash
SG Kobe Bryant
SF Nick Young
PF Shawne Williams
C Pau Gasol
Bench: Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman, Elias Harris, Jodie Meeks and Robert Sacre
What We Like: Cap space, cap space, cap space. There’s not a whole lot for Lakers fans (myself included) to be excited about headed into the season. It’s unknown how Kobe will be when he returns from injury or if the team will trade Pau Gasol at some point to make even more room for 2014 free agency. With the talent on this team, it is possible to sneak in at an eight spot in the West but with so many other teams getting younger and hungrier, it’s going to be a task. When the team does hit free agency though, they’ll only have Nash on the books which opens a world of possibilities of offers they can throw at max-deal players but who they can bring in to reload the roster is up in the air, even Kobe, who’s future is just as murky.
What We Don’t Like: This team gives new meaning to the phrase hodgepodge. They’re going to have to rely on a lot of big minutes from Steve Nash with Kobe’s absence as they’ll need Blake and Farmar at times to fill in for Meeks at the two spot. Then there’s the thought that when Kobe gets back, it may be a lost season already and fans will get treated to the Nick Young vs. Kobe Bryant awful shot contest as both just hoist shot after shot to put up as many points as possible. If Pau goes, then this is a Lakers team focused solely on rebuilding and not even Kobe is safe, which is weird to type but as the new management team has shown, they don’t really do things conventionally.
The Cellar Dwellers
21. Milwaukee Bucks – 2012 record: 38-44
PG Luke Ridnour
SG O.J. Mayo
SF Caron Butler
PF Ersan Ilyasova
C Larry Sanders
Bench: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Carlos Delfino, John Henson, Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Gary Neal, Zaza Pachulia, Miroslav Raduljica and Nate Wolters
What We Like: Well, um, they have two starting quality point guards in Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour. They traded Brandon Jennings to get Knight but hey, Knight’s a talented young PG. They replace Monta Ellis with O.J. Mayo and added Caron Butler through free agency. It’s hard to imagine this team getting back to the playoffs even as an eight seed given the teams in the East that’re going to be much improved and fighting them for the spot. Ersan is one of the top non-marquee name PF in the league though, he plays big and always battles for rebounds. Mayo, Butler and Knight/Ridnour will have to do the majority of the scoring and will likely be taking tons of shots a game.
What We Don’t Like: O.J. Mayo takes shots just as bad as Ellis did which will frustrate fans and coaches to no end. Really, Knight and Mayo will be the only legitimate pieces on the team, Ridnour may be serviceable but it’ll only be a matter of time before Knight is the clear starter. Add to that that they won’t even be able to do their patented “Make the playoffs as a sub .500 eight seed and get blown out by the Heat in the first round” routine and the pickings are slim in the land of the Cheese heads.
23. Washington Wizards – 2012 record: 29-53
PG John Wall
SG Bradley Beal
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Nene Hilario
C Marcin Gortat
Bench: Trevor Booker, Al Harrington, Eric Maynor, Otto Porter Jr, Glen Rice Jr, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton, Garrett Temple, Jan Vesely and Martell Webster
What We Like: When John Wall came back from injury and was able to join his backcourt counterpart Bradley Beal, the Wizards ended up looking pretty impressive despite being too far back to make any playoff push. With Wall and Beal healthy and ready for a full season together along with Ariza, Nene and rookie Otto Porter Jr, the Wizards were in a prime position to become a playoff team in the East. Then, a few days back they were able to wheel and deal Emeka Okefor and his expiring deal to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat and his expiring contract. The move adds in tons of support for the Wizards as Gortat is an improvement over Okefor and a cheaper one at that.
What We Don’t Like: Porter is already injured and will miss the first few weeks of the season with a broken thumb. While John Wall is primed to make a leap and become a better leader and player, unfortunately, the leap he’ll likely make is the one Kyrie Irving made in his rookie season. Wall has steadily improved each season but at a rate a bit slower than the league has come to expect from young point guards. If Porter struggles than the Wiz will be pretty thin at SF and Nene has had numerous injury plagued seasons that have stunted his development throughout his career. The backcourt of the Wiz has undeniable potential but it’s the rest of the team that may sink their chances this season.
27. Utah Jazz – 2012 record: 43-39
PG John Lucas III
SG Gordon Hayward
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Derrick Favors
C Enes Kanter
Bench: Andris Biedrins, Trey Burke, Alex Burks, Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert, Scott Machado, Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams
What We Like: Well, the Jazz gave out waffle irons in a home game last year, that’s pretty cool of them. They signed Favors to a 4-year extension and have an exciting young SG in Hayward.
What We Don’t Like: Almost everything else. Lucas was good for Chicago backing up D Rose but his potential starting may be a bit too overhyped. They massively overpaid for Favors who has been a serviceable PF thus far in his career. They narrowly missed the playoffs last year but that was with a better team. The development of Trey Burke and Hayward is about the only bright spot Jazz fans will have to look forward to for the next few seasons unfortunately.
30. Philadelphia 76ers – 2012 record: 34-48
PG Michael Carter-Williams
SG James Anderson
SF Evan Turner
PF Thaddeus Young
C Spencer Hawes
Bench: Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown, Gani Lawal, Darius Morris, Arnett Moultrie, Nerlens Noel, Daniel Orton, Jason Richardson, Rodney Williams and Tony Wroten
What We Like: At least they don’t have Andrew Bynum anymore. They’re also being extremely upfront about their obvious plans to tank the season in favor of next year so you needn’t waste time/money/effort worrying about this year.
What We Don’t Like: Last year, they helped the Lakers get Dwight Howard and took Andrew Bynum from them, who didn’t play all year. They lost Andre Iguodala in the process and looked a bit lost except for PG Jrue Holiday, who was named an All-Star. This year, they traded Holiday to the Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel and earlier this month, they said they’d probably rest Noel for the entire season while he rehabs from ACL surgery. That’s two years in a row that they’ve traded to get a big man that they’re going to get absolutely nothing out of. How do you do that? How does management let that happen? They even have Kwame Brown, as if they’re Al Davis and the Raiders but instead of excellence, they’re committed to under-achieving and oft-injured draft busts which could be a bad omen for Noel when he does come back. Evan Turner and Thad Young are about all this team has left and Turner hasn’t developed like anyone thought he would but still, both will probably be traded within the first two months of the season. Buckle up for the suck 76ers fans.
This concludes Part Two of our NBA 30 preview, for Part One, Click Here.