Before I continue my NBA countdown I want to take a second to talk about two college football coaches. First, get the help you need Steve Sarkisian. You clearly have a problem and you need the rehab that you're reportedly going to get. Your AD, Pat Haden, is doing you a disservice, but get your life together before coming back to coaching. You can't be drunk and be around young college athletes, that's wrong. Secondly, have a great retirement Steven Spurrier. Your teams haven't been great lately, the Gamecocks are 2-4 right now, but you're one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, terrible NFL coach, but great college coach. You turned Florida into a powerhouse and South Carolina wasn't relevant until you took over that job. Enjoy retirement.
Now, back to my NBA countdown. Did I mention that I love basketball.
Today we have teams 12, 11 and 10. All three are East teams and that means that almost all of the Eastern Conference playoff spots will be filled. To give you a comparison, we've got, after today's blog, 7 playoff teams, and 6 are from the East. Clearly, the West is way better right now. On with the countdown.
At number 12, I have the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the same Hawks team that played in the East Finals last year. They're going to take some steps back. They have a good roster, but last year was a total fluke. They played out of their minds and won 60 games, but they fell flat when it mattered most. I think the same sort of thing will happen this year, but it will come before the playoffs. I've got them going from the first seed in the East down to number four, which would pit them against the Wizards in round one, and that would be a great playoff matchup. They also lost their best defender in DeMarre Carroll. I know that I called him a one season wonder, but he is a great defender, the scoring output was surprising to me. The roster is good, but not good enough to push past the second round. The backcourt is led by Jeff Teague. He's a solid point guard. He can get to the rim, shoot a little bit and finds the open three point shooter more times than naught. Kyle Korver joins him in the backcourt, but, while he's one of the best three point shooters in the game, that's all he does. He doesn't play defense, reference to the playoffs last year when LeBron James exploded through the lane went up for a dunk and Korver literally ran away from the play, can't drive and isn't that good of a passer. They traded for Tim Hardaway Jr and while I think getting out of New York will benefit him, what does he do besides shoot for a low percentage and gripe at officials. I loved Hardaway Jr while he was at Michigan, but he wasn't the best player any of his three years there and he won't be the best player on any NBA team, except the 76ers. Dennis Schroder is a good player, but he's being under utilized in Atlanta. He doesn't get enough playing time, and in the right situation, he could be an All Star. Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha round out the backcourt. Bazemore is a fine player, but nothing special and Sefolosha has a huge criminal case, he was wrongly targeted and hurt by the NYPD because they're a bunch of racist assholes, and that will effect his play this year. He's a lock down defender, but provides nothing on offense. The Hawks frontcourt is their strength, led by guys like Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Horford, when healthy, is one of the best fours in all of basketball. He's got great low post skills, plays excellent interior defense and can step back and hit long jumpers. Paul Millsap is finally getting the credit he deserves, getting his first All Star appearance last year, and is a great player in the NBA. He's the better version of Horford, and Horford is pretty good. The Hawks got Tiago Splitter in free agency, but he reminds me a lot of Aaron Baynes, with the exception being that the Hawks coach was a Popovich understudy. The Hawks run the same system as the Spurs, but Splitter will struggle since there's no Tim Duncan to take the load off him. Mike Scott comes off the bench, but he's pretty blah. The Hawks are going to take a step back this season and while they'll win somewhere in the range of 45 to 48 games, they won't achieve the success of last season.
How the Hawks will win it all.
The Hawks will win the title if Al Horford and Paul Millsap can stay healthy all season and average 40 plus points and 25 plus rebounds combined, that could happen, Jeff Teague becomes an elite point guard, in the same class as Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, Kyle Korver hits threes at a record level and the bench gives them big time production. This team was a conference finals away from playing for the title last year, but they are destined to take a step back.
Coming in at number 11, we have one of my new favorite teams to watch, the Milwaukee Bucks. First of all, while he may be a crummy person in his personal life, Jason Kidd is an excellent coach, much to my surprise. His team totally buys into defense and spacing on offense. The Bucks get Jabari Parker back after tearing his ACL during his rookie year. He looks to be a good scorer in the NBA, and under Kidd's tutelage, he will become a good defender. Joining Parker in the back court you have guys like Michael Carter-Williams and OJ Mayo. Carter-Williams isn't much of a shooter, but he's explosive going to the rim, plays good defense and usually finds the open man. OJ Mayo came into the NBA with huge expectations, struggled to score, play defense and stay in shape his first couple of seasons, but has found a good place for him in Milwaukee. He thrives coming off the bench, providing the Bucks with instant offense. In the frontcourt, they got one of the better offseason signings in Greg Monroe. Most people, including me, thought he was going to either New York or Los Angeles, but he surprised everyone and signed with the Bucks. He's an excellent rim protector and rebounder, and if he can get some skills in the post, he will be unstoppable. Khris Middleton is an emerging star. He hit some clutch shots last season and is becoming a legitimate 20 point a game type player. Next to Andrew Wiggins, the Bucks have my second favorite young player to watch in Giannis Antetokounmpo. His nickname is the "Greek Freak", so that's what I'll call him. Anyway, he is long and rangy, explosive to the rim, can shoot the midrange jumper and is pesky on defense. He is an All Star and All NBA player in waiting. He's awesome. John Henson and Miles Plumlee come off the bench in the frontcourt, and while I like Henson's game, he's a decent defender and a decent shooter, Plumlee provides nothing for this team. Other guys off the bench are Jerryd Bayless, a castoff from Memphis, Greivas Vasquez, who hasn't been that good since college, Chris Copeland, who's a fine three point shooter, but that's it and Tyler Ennis, a kid who should've stayed in college. The Bucks are getting better and better, but are still two or three years away from competing with the Cavs and Bulls in the East. They will win 48 or 49 games and be third or fourth in the East.
How the Bucks will win it all.
The Bucks will win the title if Greg Monroe becomes an MVP caliber type of player, Parker stays healthy and puts up huge numbers, Antetokounmpo puts everything together and is an All Star and the bench provides huge sparks every night. The Bucks are good, just not elite yet.
Finally, let's get into the top ten. Coming in at number 10, I have the Miami Heat. You've got to give it up to Pat Riley, the guy loses LeBron James, has one bad year, gets the best young player in the draft in Justise Winslow, gets Dwayne Wade to come back, and Chris Bosh is healthy. Also, he resigned Goran Dragic after trading for him last year. This team, if they can stay healthy, has the horses to compete with the Cavs and Bulls, and may actually be better than both. First, the back court is loaded. Dwayne Wade may be old and only plays half a season, but when he's healthy, he's one of the 15 best players in the league. He's also won three titles, so he knows how to perform in the clutch. Goran Dragic is an excellent point guard, and getting out of Phoenix was the best thing to happen to him. He's an All Star caliber player, and with the teammates he has in Miami, he will flourish. Like I said before, I like Justise Winslow a lot. The fact that he dropped to Miami at number 10 in the draft is appalling to me. He was the best player on the national title champion Duke Blue Devils that had guys like Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. He is going to be great in the NBA. With the return of Chris Bosh and the emergence of Hassan Whiteside, the Heat's front court is ferocious. Bosh is one of the best shooting big men and while he may be a bit soft, he gets clutch rebounds and plays okay defense. Whiteside has the potential to get a double double every night. And I'm not talking points and rebounds, I mean blocks and rebounds. He loves playing defense and that's what the Heat need him to do. Loul Deng, A'Mare Stoudamire and Udonis Haslem, while pretty old and not as good as they once were, are capable back ups and provide the Heat what they need off the bench. Mario Chalmers and Chris Anderson are still there, but these guys are trade chips. The Heat are good and can be elite this year. If they stay healthy, I see a 50 win team, and competing all season long with the Bulls and the Cavs for the top spot in the East.
How the Heat can win it all.
The Heat will win the title, and they're the first team that I feel has a legitimate shot, if these guys can all stay healthy and produce like they've produced their whole careers. Getting Bosh back healthy is huge. He's the leader of this team, and gives them the leadership they need. I really, really like this Heat team, but they are no higher than tenth overall unless they can stay healthy and that's a big if.
So there you have numbers 12, 11 and 10. Come back tomorrow for numbers 9, 8 and 7. Things are starting to get real.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He made a bid to buy the Milwaukee Bucks, his offer of being awesome was turned down. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.