Hello there! For the second consecutive year, I am putting entirely too much effort into previewing the NBA season. Last year, I tried to cram everything into two parts — three, actually, if you include the preview for just the Bulls — but that was impractical and not particularly well organized. This year, we here at Bulls 101 are having a not-very-creatively-named Preview Week. We'll be posting a segment of my ridiculously long preview every morning, starting on Monday with the Bulls-centric portion and then going division by division from there. So far, we've covered the Northwestern division and the Southeastern Division. We'll also continue covering the preseason in between, so don't worry about that.
I'm borrowing a premise that Bill Simmons has used in the past in that I'm attaching each team's preview to a quote that I think conveys something interesting about them. However, to the best of my knowledge, Simmons has never used song lyrics in this format, and he DEFINITELY has never used Gavin DeGraw lyrics. So I guess I'm breaking new ground here. If you don't know who Gavin DeGraw is, he's my favorite musical artist ever, and hopefully you won't hate him at the end of this. His Wikipedia page is here, in case you want more background. Enjoy.
(For reference, all lyric attributions will be of the form "Song title, Album title." Also, teams are ordered by predicted finish in the division.)
Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year: 41-25, Third in Western Conference. Lost to Oklahoma City Thunder in second round of NBA Playoffs, 4-1.
I call it stealing, you call it borrow.
There's just something about the Lakers. They always seem to come out on top. I excoriated them for trading Lamar Odom for nothing, and yet they ended up getting Steve Nash entirely because of that trade. That, in and of itself, would have been a great offseason.
Then Dwight Howard happened.
When you get Ramon Sessions for basically nothing, that's one thing. When you get Dwight Howard for basically nothing, that's just wrong.
Yes, they had to give up Andrew Bynum. But Bynum was moody, inconsistent and injury prone, and is simply not nearly as good as Dwight Howard. The only other players shipped out were Christian Eyenga, who isn't good, and Josh McRoberts, who both isn't good and fell out of favor with Mike Brown last year.
Lakers fans may well also point out that Howard has refused to sign an extension with the Lakers and has not indicated that he will actually return. However, the reason he didn't sign the extension is that he can get quite a bit more money by becoming a free agent, and he is forbidden from coming out and saying that he will re-sign by the NBA. So, while it is technically possible that this will be his only year in LA, it's extremely unlikely.
While the basketball junkie in me exults in the possibilities of Nash, Dwight, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant playing together, the Bulls fan in me wants to punch things repeatedly and hopes this fails miserably, if only because it's the Lakers. Seriously, why does everything work out for them?
If you're questioning this team's success, I would like to remind you that simply having Dwight Howard wearing your uniform all but guarantees a top defense, and the same goes for Steve Nash and offense. Yes, Mike Brown is still the coach and the bench is…meh at best and Kobe is getting older, but those top four are fearsome. Nash/Howard pick and rolls are probably as close as it gets to guaranteed points, and if and when Nash plays off the ball, you have the best shooter of all time spotting up on the weakside while you still have to deal with Dwight and/or Kobe and/or Pau. That's not even fair.
The only thing I'm worried about is this supposed 'hybrid Princeton offense' that the Lakers are supposedly running. I know Kobe has a huge ego, but Nash should be running the show 99 percent of the time he's on the floor. And we all know that Kobe's going to monopolize the ball in crunch time and relegate Nash to the corner, whereupon he refuses to pass him the ball. It's going to be highly amusing.
And yet, the Lakers will still probably win 60+. Sigh.
Final Prediction: 63-19, first in West.
Last Year: 40-26, 5th in Western Conference. Lost to San Antonio Spurs in second round of NBA Playoffs, 4-0.
A flashlight isn't quite sunlight. But any light at all seems bright when you're looking in the dark. A wet dream isn't the real thing. It isn't really anything, but at least it makes a spark, yes it does. It all is relative, relative. Everything is relative, yes it is.
Relative, Gavin DeGraw
It's funny. At the start of last season, all anyone could talk about was the Clippers after they traded for Chris Paul. Now, they've been shoved back into the background as the Lakers have reclaimed the headlines.
I chose the above lyric because while last year wasn't a complete success, and this year doesn't seem like it will be massively better, when you compare it to the previous several years of Clipper basketball, this looks downright heavenly.
Chris Paul is one of the best players in the game. Blake Griffin is only 23 and in the conversation for best power forward in the league. Just those two pretty much guarantees a playoff appearance.
Here's the thing. It seemed like the Clippers had a good offseason. They get Chauncey Billups back, they jettisoned Mo Williams and got Lamar Odom in return, they signed Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford. They still have Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan and Griffin and Paul. So what's the problem?
Answer: All of those players who are not Griffin or Paul are either old, not very good or both. While a Paul/Billups/Butler/Griffin/Jordan starting lineup with Crawford, Eric Bledsoe, Hill and Odom off the bench sounds good in theory, I am very skeptical that it will truly jell the way it needs to. Especially with Vinny Del Negro in charge.
The Clippers are such a paradox to me. I can see them winning 55 games and making the conference finals and I can see them crashing and burning and winning 30 games. I have no idea which one will actually happen, so I'll hedge for now.
Final Prediction: 49-33, 6th in West.
Last Year: 23-43, thirteenth in Western Conference.
Belief makes things real. Makes things feel, feel all right. Belief makes things true. Things like you, you and I.
I feel bad for Warriors fans. They finally have a team in place that could really make some noise and their best players keep getting injured. Seriously, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut is an excellent starting five…asssuming Curry and Bogut could stay healthy for more than two seconds at a time.
Side note that's not really relevant but I'm including because I want to complain: I hate playing the Warriors in NBA 2K12. Can't stand it. Bogut and Lee kill me inside and Curry, Thompson and company never seem to miss from outside. It's frustrating.
Anyway, I have chosen to believe this year. I think Curry and Bogut actually manage to get onto the floor and do amazing things. Klay Thompson is already one of the best shooters in the league — Curry is somehow even better — and Lee and Bogut make a powerful inside duo. All Barnes really has to do is not screw up too much and he'll be fine.
The Warriors are also a pretty deep team, even though I doubt that's enough to overcome the loss of Bogut and Curry. They snagged Jarret Jack this offseason as a competent backup and signed his teammate last year, Carl Landry to back up Lee. Draymond Green is one of my favorite people ever and he's going to make a lot of teams sorry they passed on him. I've heard good things about rookie center Festus Ezeli, and Brandon Rush is a solid defender/three point shooter. Honestly, this team resembles the 2010-11 Bulls a lot, even if their health concerns are much more prominent. They've got depth, a stud point guard, size inside and a question mark at one wing spot. I'm really looking forward to watching them this year.
Final Prediction: 48-34, 7th in West.
Last Year: 22-44, Fourteenth in Western Conference.
Oh won't you stay? I need you, need you here. When you're with me, all others disappear. I'll follow close, so close I'll almost touch. I need your love, but it never hurt this much.
As bad as I feel for Warriors fans, I feel 300 times worse for Kings fans. The fact that the Maloofs are doing everything they can to leave Sacramento for no real reason is disgusting and disheartening. The people of Sacramento deserve better.
They also deserve better from the on-court product. The Kings aren't terrible, I suppose, but they're not good. I like Isaiah Thomas, I like DeMarcus Cousins and I like Thomas Robinson. I also like James Johnson and Chuck Hayes. But that's really it. Tyreke Evans appears to have been a fluke as a rookie. Marcus Thornton isn't bad, but I'm not sure he's good either. John Salmons is terrible. Aaron Brooks is bad. Jimmer Fredette is bad. Travis Outlaw is really bad. So…yeah.
Now, if Tyreke regains form at all, Cousins, Thomas, Robinson, Johnson and Thornton all play up to their abilities, and they can avoid playing their terrible guys too much — spoiler: they can't — they could challenge for the playoffs. But that seems rather unlikely.
But at least their fans will be amazing.
Final Prediction: 32-50, 12th in West.
Last Year: 33-33, Tenth in Western Conference.
I beg: Indian Summer, I need some return. So hard to get warm where it's so easy to get burned.
Indian Summer, Free
It's going to be a long, long year in the desert.
Steve Nash is gone. Grant Hill is gone. Shannon Brown is still here. Wes Johnson is here. Michael Beasley is here. Bleh.
Actually that just made me sad. Let's just get through this.
The fact is that the Suns are not very good. Their point guards and starting bigs are pretty decent, but those wings are going to kill them, offensively and defensivey. It's going to be awful. I wouldn't f**k the Suns with Mike D'Antoni's d**k. BOOOOOOOM!!
There we go, that's better. I do apologize for any potentially offensive content in that last paragraph.
Seriously, I think the Suns might be the worst team in the NBA. It's that bad, folks.
Final Prediction: 21-61, fifteenth in West.
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