I love basketball.
Continuing my NBA countdown, today I will be giving you my number 24,23, and 22 teams. We are getting to teams that are just on the outside of a playoff push. These teams are either too young, or have veterans that are too old. They may have been in the playoffs recently, but haven't been in awhile. They are still in the lottery, but in the later half of the lottery. Hell, the Heat picked in the late lottery last season. These teams are one or two players away from becoming competitive.
My number 24 team is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Yes, they had the worst record in the NBA last season, but they were fun to watch at times. They have young players throughout their entire roster. First, they traded Kevin Love last season to the Cavs in exchange for Anthony Bennett, who they just bought out, and Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins was excellent as a rookie. He showed his lock down defensive ability last season, and he found a jump shot midway through the season and he can jump out of the gym. He's probably my favorite young player to watch. Zach Lavine is a mystery to me. He has incredible hops, but can he shoot the ball? Can he play strong defense? Is he ready to take the next step? I don't know, but he's in year three, so he's either going to take a step forward, or slide back. Ricky Rubio cannot shoot the ball, doesn't want to either, but he's a wizard passing the ball. He plays out of control sometimes, and he seems to be on the trading block every year. Nikola Pecovic is not living up to his big contract. I think he's the only player on the Timberwolves that misses Kevin Love. He's been a disappointment. I think their first pick, and overall number one in the 2015 draft, Karl Anthony-Towns can slide into Pecovic's place. It's going to take time for him to develop because he's so young, but he has the look of a perennial All Star. The bench is okay, but nothing to write home about. Shabazz Muhammed has surprised me with how well he's adjusted to the pro game. He looked like a head case in college and part of his rookie year, but something must have clicked for him, and he looks like a decent bench player in the NBA. Unfortunately, for himself and the Timberwolves, they start him out of necessity. They also have Gorgui Dieng and Kevin Garnett come off the bench. Dieng was expected to make a leap last year, but it never really came together for him. He seemed nervous being the focal point of the second unit. I love Kevin Garnett, and him being back with the Timberwolves is strictly nostalgic, but he should've retired three years ago. He's going to be an excellent coach. Other than that, it's slim picking for the Timberwolves. This team is way too young to fight for any playoff spot, but give them three more years, they could be a powerhouse.
How the Timberwolves will win it all.
The Timberwolves will win the title if Wiggins becomes the elite player he will be in three years this season, Lavine becomes more than just a dunker, Pecovic regains his form from two seasons ago, and plays ten times better than that and Karl Anthony-Towns is an immediate All Star. That's not happening. The Timberwolves will be improved, but they will only get somewhere in the 20 win column. They'll be fun to watch, but give them time, about three years, they'll be legitimate playoff contenders.
My number 23 team is the Phoenix Suns. This is another team that seems to be falling apart at the seams, a la the Denver Nuggets. They were legit playoff contenders the last year and a half, but quit midway through last season. They had way too many point guards and traded Goran Dragic and Isiah Thomas for little to nothing. They did get Brandon Knight out of these trades, but I feel like they overpaid him this offseason. Who knows if he'll live up to that contract. They did sign Tyson Chandler, but that was in hopes of luring LaMarcus Aldridge, and that obviously didn't happen. Chandler is good, but who will throw him the alley oops he needs? Not Eric Bledsoe or Archie Goodwin. Bledsoe needs the ball in his hands at all times to be effective. He's really good, but not franchise player good. Archie Goodwin is young and inexperienced. He's a one and done kid, from Kentucky, so who knows what his future in the NBA holds. They did draft Devin Booker, another one and done from Kentucky, who looks to be a lock down perimeter shooter, but what else can he do? And he's not going to take shooting guard minutes away from Brandon Knight. Alex Len hasn't panned out like they hoped. He was the big man of the future, but he's been a disappointment so far. He can't guard any fives, and gets beat up by most when they're guarding him. They completely botched the Marcus Morris trade to the Pistons, pissing off his twin, Markieff in the process. I don't believe his talk of being happy now, after claiming he'd never suit up for the Suns again this summer. Other than these guys, the bench is another group of question marks. I don't understand what management is trying to do with this team. Are they going to try and make the playoffs, or are they going to tank? Who knows, but management hasn't made many good decisions the last half of this year.
How the Suns will win it all.
The Suns will win the title if Bledsoe gets the whole team involved, Knight becomes the star that they hope he will be, Tyson Chandler gets a time machine and goes back to his form during his first go around with the Mavericks, Alex Len suddenly becomes good at basketball and Booker hits 70% of his threes. They also need to trade Marcus Morris to achieve any success. The Suns are a 32 or 33 win team at best. Management needs to get their act together before this team is highly competitive again.
My number 22 team is the Sacramento Kings. Talk about a problem at the top. First of all, the coach, George Karl, doesn't like the star player, and one of the best centers in all of the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins. Their owner is out of his mind, going so far as to suggest playing 4 on 5 defense so they'll always be running fast breaks because it worked for his child's little league basketball team. And players can't wait to get out of there. They did sign Rajon Rondo, but he's not elite anymore, and he's a tough teammate. He's an extremely smart player and expects everyone on the court to be as smart as him. That's not happening, a lot of his new teammates are really athletic, and that's how they play the game, they use their athleticism. They drafted Wille Cauley-Stein number seven overall. That's way too high for a guy that only plays defense. He has no offensive ability. Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay are fine players, but not thriving within this offense. They also have Darren Collison, but what are they doing with two starting point guards. You can't play them at the same time, that won't work. They also signed Seth Curry, Steph's little brother, but he may have just been a summer league star. Who knows. The rest of the roster is not good, but not terrible. All this being said, they do have Boogie Cousins. He's a legitimate MVP candidate, and if he get his head on straight, who knows what this team's ceiling is. Unfortunately, I don't think that's happening with this team, especially after all the offseason drama. The Kings are going to win in the mid thirties once again.
How the Kings will win it all.
The Kings will win the title if Cousins becomes the newer, younger , better version of Shaq. It's possible people. They also need McLemore to continue to get better and for Rudy Gay to become a veteran leader. Cauley-Stein would have to become a double digit scorer, not happening, he's so bad at offense and Rajon Rondo somehow, some way returns to his Celtic days. That's a tall, tall order. Cousins is so good, but this team isn't ready to make the leap, especially in the West. It's just too tough. But, things can get better in Sacramento, Boogie Cousins just has to be the dominant force that he's capable of being.
There you have it, teams 24, 23 and 22. Come back tomorrow for 21, 20, 19. We are starting to get to the better teams in the NBA.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He doubled up his dependents today and all wish him the best. I said he could take a break, but NBA rankings keep him sane. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.