We’re more than one-third through the NBA season. We know a lot more now than we did in October, but predicting what will happen the next two-thirds, and into the playoffs, is still a crapshoot. So what’s the point of reading my opinions on the subject? Why am I saying this?? Anyway, because it’s all a crapshoot, here are my predictions based on reasons as good as any other.
Already Disqualified: Because you can’t tank and also go to the playoffs
Sacramento Kings – So another team trades Rudy Gay (Toronto) and gets better. Something tells me that when your cornerstones are DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, you’re not going to contend. One always has a look on his face that indicates that he just inhaled the worst fart in league history, and the other might as well have the nickname “Addition By Subtraction.” Yep, not good. The sad part is this team isn’t even tanking on purpose — just like the five or so previous years.
Philadelphia 76ers – Now that they’re back to their tanking plans, there’s not much else to say. Besides, Philly fans scare me, and I don’t dare make fun.
Orlando Magic – The Magic have won the lottery three times, landing Shaq, C-Webb, and Dwight “It was me — I laid the worst fart in league history!” Howard. I’m going to be pissed when they win the lottery again.
Milwaukee Bucks – Welp, I guess our beloved Sports Guy was dead wrong about these guys.
Utah Jazz – Here’s what you need to know. If Jabari Parker lands in Utah (highly likely), the homerism in Utah that has existed in previous years (remember the D-Will/CP3 debates?) will pail in comparison. Look, I’m a Jazz fan; I know. Can you imagine what would happen if we got Parker, and then landed fellow Mormon Jimmer Fredette by trade or free agency? We would become the most aggravating fan base in the history of the league. I CAN’T WAIT!
Already Disqualified: Because crappy teams don’t win the championship
Cleveland Cavaliers – Oh look, another team that has landed three #1 picks in recent years, yet still sucks. Go away, Cleveland. And leave us Kyrie. Thank you.
Brooklyn Nets – I was holding out hope on this team until Lopez went down. Without him, they’re just not good enough. Anyway, we began the season wondering if this old-timers all-star team was going to resemble the ’08 Celtics, the ’99 Rockets, or the ’03 Lakers. It turns out they’ll be lucky to reach ’99 Rockets heights. On the bright side, Jason Kidd isn’t the worst coach in the history of the world. That would be Lane Kiffin.
New York Knickerbockers – They, like the Nets, will still probably make the playoffs. But who cares? They’re not as good a team as they were last year, and last year they never had a realistic chance. So …
Los Angeles Lakers – I just don’t see Kobe getting his prized sixth ring now. Not unless the Lakers decide to make the Nets’ spending spree look frugal, and even then I’m skeptical. The obvious counter to this is that they’re going to land one of the top picks in the upcoming draft. My counter to that is: Right, like the luckiest franchise in sports history is just going to land a top pick in one of the deepest drafts in league history. Oh, crap.
Already Disqualified: Because either Indiana or Miami is winning the East
Charlotte Bobcats – I guess they’re better now? Why can’t I get myself to care enough about this team to write more than this?
Boston Celtics – As a Jazz fan, let me just say that there isn’t a single one Jazz player we have right now that I wouldn’t trade straight up for Brad Stevens. Oh, how I lust after Brad Stevens. (Sorry, I made a goal to write something in that last sentence that would weird everyone out.)
Chicago Bulls – Speaking of coaches that I want to coach the Jazz, I hear Thibs is on thin ice in Chicago. Am I the only one who thinks he would be a perfect fit for Utah?
Toronto Raptors – They banned Gay. In 2013, that is a bold move to make.
Detroit Pistons – This team feels a trade or two away from being possible contenders …in their division.
Washington Wizards – I don’t know what to make of this team because I don’t know what to make of John Wall. If somebody told me in ten years he’ll be a proven champion, I wouldn’t think they’re crazy, and if somebody told me in ten years he’ll have yet to make the playoffs, I wouldn’t think they’re crazy. And if you told me he’ll be somewhere in the middle, I’d think you’re crazy for still reading this paragraph.
Atlanta Hawks – I like the Hawks! I think I’ll like them for years to come, but I’m not expecting to love the Hawks anytime soon. They seem destined for a decade of the middle-of-the-road teams. You know, like every other Hawks decade.
Already Disqualified: Because they’re still cutting their teeth
New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis is going to be a relevant playoff player someday. And so will Pierre, their terrifying mascot from the underworld.
Phoenix Suns – Yet another coach Jazz fans would love to have: Jeff Hornacek. You know, the guy who was sitting under our nose for years? But then again, when you’re in full tank-mode, you can’t afford to hire Hornacek just yet. Phoenix is learning this the hard way right now.
Already Disqualified: Because they have serious holes right now
Denver Nuggets – Their defense is awful. And any team featuring Nate Robinson for 29 minutes a game can’t be taken seriously. Right?
Minnesota Wolves – Oh, Ricky Rubio. You have tools wannabes like me would die for, except somehow we’re better shooters than you. I mean, seriously? I blame his Asian wrist tattoo. What does it translate to, I wonder? “Brick”? “Pass first, shoot never”? “Mango truck paper”?
Memphis Grizzlies – Without Marc Gasol, the Grizz just aren’t the same team. They’ve gone from boring in a good way to boring a bad way.
Dallas Mavericks – They lack D (Tyson Chandler, anyone?), and nobody on their roster seems good enough to be the second best player on a contender. On the bright side, they whiffed on free agent Deron Williams. So, they got that going for them.
Already Disqualified: Because even though they’ve been awesome, they still need time/experience
Portland Trail Blazers – If you’re a Portland fan, you really couldn’t be happier with where this team is headed (Lillard!). They seem destined to go toe-to-toe with a real heavyweight this Spring, but ultimately fall short. But getting that playoff experience will be invaluable in future years, when you will surely be qualified to contend for the title (Lillard!). Remember, nobody in the NBA makes the leap from non-playoff team to NBA champs in one year (Lillard?). This isn’t the NFL.
Not Quite Disqualifed: Because even though it’s possible, I’m dubious
Golden State Warriors – Before Iguadala, I would have said that they’re not real contenders. Now, I don’t dare say that. Even if this team is one injury away from having no chance, they’re also one shooting streak away from surprising anyone in the playoffs.
Houston Rockets – By the way, since I was born (1983), only three teams have won the title with an MVP who they didn’t draft: The Lakers (Shaq), The Pistons (Chauncey) and The Heat (LeBron). Not saying the Rockets can’t win the title with Harden or Howard as their best player, I’m just saying it’s less likely (at least this year). Harden and Co. need a little maturing still (and Howard needs a lifetime of maturing!).
Qualified: Because they have the star and the coach
Los Angeles Clippers – Chris Paul is definitely good enough to be the best player on a championship team. Doc Rivers has done it before. And Blake Griffin appears to be making the “next step.” I am skeptical, however, when J.J. Redick means this much to a “contender” …
Qualified: Because they’re the San Antonio Freaking Spurs
San Antonio Spurs – Well, they are.
Qualified: Because on paper they’re ready
Indiana Pacers – On paper, what’s not to love? They’re a wonderful blend of defense, offense, toughness, and coaching. And mark my words, Luis Scola will make a serious impact come the playoffs. The only real problem this Pacers team faces is the same problem the similar Pacers of ’98 faced: A transcendent basketball player on another Eastern Conference team (Jordan then, James now).
Qualified: Because they’re the favorites
Oklahoma Thunder – I realize I may want to drop OKC a bit after Westbrook went down again, but I still believe if he is healthy come playoff-time, the Thunder will come out of the West. I was certain two years ago that we’re headed for a decade of Durant-James Finals à la Bird-Magic Finals of the ’80s, so I’m sticking with it. Durant has “the look” this year, and I’m not referring to the “Demarcus Cousins fart” look.
Miami Heat – The scary thing about LeBron James is how good he plays when he doesn’t seem to care. This was the problem the first couple times he got to the Finals — he cared too much. Now that he’s proven himself, and can just play care-free basketball, he’s in many ways a terrifying blend between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. I know we’re all sick of these types of comparisons, but it’s the most accurate way of explaining why I think The Heat are still the favorites. Sorry. If that comparison truly offends you, though, try this one: Bo Jackson on Tecmo Super Bowl. Side note: How amped is everyone for a possible Kevin Durant vs. Greg Oden matchup in the Finals?