I love the NBA.
So, for the next two weeks, I'm going to do an NBA season preview. There's 30 teams in the NBA and I will select three teams a day and point out why they won't win the title, and why they just might. I will rank these teams from worst to best, in my personal opinion. Not to worry, I will keep up with some other blogs, like Greatest American Bands and Irrational Hatred for Sports Teams, but this NBA preview will be my prime focus for the next two weeks. I'm also going to be a dad for the second time in two days, so these blogs may seem a little bit shorter, but they'll be packed with pertinent information. Everything will be as informative as before, but the NBA will take up the majority of my time, as well as the new baby, and will be the focus of my blogs. So, on with teams 30, 29, 28.
First, number 30. They've been the worst team in the NBA for the past three years, you may have read my previous blog about how they're the worst run franchise in all of professional sports, the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers roster reads like the exact difference of a who's who. They do have some players that could be decent, but this is a team of "potential". I put that in quotes because, when they get a player that looks like a decent NBA player with potential, a la KJ McDaniels or Michael Carter Williams, they trade him for "assets". That means draft picks. They've had top three picks the last couple of years and taken players like Nerlens Noel, he looks like he can be decent, but only on the defensive side of the ball, he plays zero offense unless it's a put back dunk. Two years ago they took Joel Embiid, and he has yet to play a single NBA game due to two different foot surgeries. This past season they drafted Jahlil Okafor and while he's a beast on offense, he doesn't play defense, so far as to not even hustle back because he's out of shape. Other potential starters include Tony Wroten, Nik Stauskas and Isaiah Canaan. Wroten is okay, but he's a bowling ball that looks out of control 90% of the time. Stauskas cannot play defense on the NBA level, and he hasn't shown his ability to drive to the basket like he did in college, he's relegated himself to being a corner three shooter. And Canaan is a great fantasy pickup only because he shoots almost 25 times a game. He puts up useless points for a team that's going nowhere. The rest of the roster is filled with has beens and never was players. This team is going to be bad once again. They'll be lucky to win 20 games.
How the 76ers will win it all.
I did say I'd give a reason that each team could win the title, so here goes for the 76ers. They will win the title if Daryl Dawkins and Moses Malone rise up from their graves and Charles Barkley goes back in time to his twenties, and they'd still be hard pressed to make the playoffs, let alone win the title. The 76ers are an embarrassment to the NBA and basketball in general. They stink.
My number 29 team is the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a team that thinks it's still the early 2000's. They don't shoot the three because their coach says it won't win games, they play no defense because they want to be a fast break team, but they don't have the horses to run fast breaks, and they're still led by Kobe Bryant. Sure, he's one of the greatest scorers of all time, but he doesn't pass the ball, he plays no defense, and instead of helping this young roster, what a veteran of his caliber should do, he berates them and calls them soft. His contract has crippled this team too. Not only that, but his attitude as well. They tried and tried to lure big time free agents, most notably LaMarcus Aldridge, but they all balked at the Lakers offer because they didn't like the "direction" of the team. They also questioned their leadership. If that's not attacking Bryant, I don't know what is. You may say, but they signed Lou Williams and traded for Roy Hibbert and Brandon Bass. So what is my response to that. First of all, there's only one basketball being used during game play and they have three guys that want to shoot 30 times each in Kobe Bryant, Nick Young and Lou Williams. Roy Hibbert hasn't been good in three years. The Lakers got him five years too late. And Brandon Bass, he couldn't crack the Celtics starting five. They have a really good, young player in Jordan Clarkson, but until Bryant either retires or goes to another team, he won't be able to develop his game, Bryant won't allow that. Julius Randle can become a very good player, but he won't get enough touches in the post, and he's coming off a horrific leg injury. D'Angelo Russell may end up being a good point guard, but he only played one year of college basketball and he disappeared at times. He didn't look too great in the summer league games either. But, he's young and will grow after Bryant leaves. The rest of the roster is either young, or veterans with little NBA playing time or experience. Until Kobe Bryant leaves, the Lakers will be, at best, a 25 win team.
How the Lakers will win it all
The only way this team has a shot at the Finals or even the playoffs is if everyone on every team in the West gets hurt and they have to bring in players from the developmental league. The Lakers are only slightly better than the 76ers and I never thought that two of the NBA's most distinguished franchises would be this bad this early in the 21st century. Like I said, Kobe is crippling this team with his contract, his need to shoot the ball and his unwillingness to help out the younger players. They will be bad until Kobe leaves.
My number 28 team is the Portland Trail Blazers. This team may have had the worst offseason of any team in recent NBA history. First, the night before the draft, they traded Nic Batum to the Hornets for two young, inexperienced players. Then, Wes Matthews and Brook Lopez signed with different teams, Matthews to the Mavericks and Lopez to the Knicks. They did some good in retaining Damien Lillard with a max contract, but their efforts to retain LaMarcus Aldridge were not good. No one expected him to resign with Portland, and of course, he didn't. I'll talk about his new team at some point next week. The Trail Blazers lost four of their five starters from a playoff team. That's brutal. They did retain Lillard, like I said, and he's a really good offensive player. He's unguardable at times and can put up close to 50 points any night. His weakness lies on defense. His weakness is, he doesn't care to play defense. He shows no effort and they didn't need him to with guys like Lopez and Aldridge clogging the lane. Now though, he's the franchise, and they need him to do All Star work on both offense and defense. A lot will be asked of Lillard, and while he may live up to expectations, who else do they have? Guys like Meyers Leonard, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh don't make up the greatest front court in basketball. Meyers Leonard is an okay offensive player, but for a 7 footer, he's a pretty crummy defender and rebounder. Plumlee is sub par at offense and defense. The fact that this guy made a USA basketball team is laughable. And is he supposed to be Brook Lopez's replacement? I'd take Lopez any day over Plumlee, any day. Vonleh may be good, but he's a young, unproven player. One year of college basketball and one year spent mostly injured or on the bench in Charlotte does not make for a good start to your professional basketball career. Time will tell with Vonleh. The new back court consists of Lillard and younger, unproven players. Guys like CJ McCollum and Phil Pressey and Gerald Henderson will try to help Lillard out, but it won't work. Phil Pressey had little to nothing to do with the Celtics run to the playoffs last year, and he just doesn't seem like an NBA player to me. Gerald Henderson is a great dunker, a decent shooter and an average three point shooter, but he doesn't play defense. Damien Lillard is the better version of Henderson. I don't understand the signing of Henderson since he's a worse version of Lillard, but I'm not a GM. CJ McCollum has the tools to be a good NBA player, but he needs more time to develop and he won't help this team that much right now. In three years a back court of Lillard and McCollum could be great, but will the Trail Blazers have the patience? I don't think so. They did sign Al Farouq-Aminu, in what might be quietly one of the better offseason signings, but he seems to only thrive when he's a role player. We will see how well he plays as a starter.
How the Trailblazers will win it all.
As I said before, every other player is too young or past their prime. It was a very, very rough offseason for Portland. The only way they win the Finals is if Damien Lillard averages close to 60 points a game, McCollum becomes an elite point guard in one season, and the front court of Aminu/Leonard/Plumlee/Vonleh all become All Stars. Does that sound totally possible? It doesn't? No duh. Portland should go into full rebuild mode and try to get this team ready to be good again in about three years. They did the right thing in locking up Lillard, but they didn't put up much of a fight for Aldridge and lost three other starters and didn't get much to replace them. Portland seems like a 25 to 30 win team at best.
So, those are the first three NBA teams. Come back tomorrow for numbers 27, 26 and 25.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He is looking forward to watching some west coast basketball this season while he is up with a crying baby. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.