I love basketball.
Continuing my NBA countdown, today you'll be getting my number 21, 20 and 19 teams. We are just on the outside of the playoffs. These teams are okay, have been good recently but are in a downswing or they are rising, but there just not a playoff team yet. I like these teams, but they're a year or two away, or past their prime. On with the countdown.
My number 21 team is the Orlando Magic. I really like what they are doing in Orlando right now. They are building a strong, youthful team that's full of potential. They drafted my favorite player from last years draft, Elfrid Payton. First of all, he has the best hairdo in the league, but aside from that, he's a really good, really young point guard. He's going to be a star in this league and he will continue to get better and better. Victor Oladipo is a fantastic defender and he's one of the most athletic players I've seen in a long time. He may have been the best overall player in his draft class from three years ago. Nikola Vucevic looks like a really strong player. He made a huge leap last season and he should continue to get better each season. Aaron Gordon is extremely athletic, but he needs to stay healthy if he wants to become a consistent starter in the NBA. They resigned Tobias Harris last season after many, many teams tried to get him. I think he's one of the most underrated players in basketball. He's an all around great player. He's more than just a scorer now. They drafted foreign prospect Mario Herzonja, and while I don't know how good of a player he is, he's extremely confident in himself and his abilities. That's half the battle. The problem with the Magic is their bench. It's pretty thin, filled with unproven players. Guys like Shabazz Napier and CJ Watson and Evan Fournier have shown me very little in their early careers. Everyone else on the bench is average at best. They have a decent, but very young roster. They remind me a lot of the Timberwolves. They'll struggle to win 30 games this year, but if they stay together, this team will be really good in three years.
How the Magic will win it all.
The Magic will win the title if every single player takes a huge step forward and become All NBA caliber players. That won't happen this season, but Oladipo and Payton are destined to be stars. Give them three years.
My number 20 team is the Indiana Pacers. Yes, the same team that was in the east finals two years ago. They really struggled without Paul George for almost all of last season. Their roster is pretty thin as well, with a lot of cast offs from other NBA teams. George Hill is s good point guard, but he's not an All Star and he's only getting older. Paul George is back and he's a top 20 NBA player. The only problem, they'll regret playing him at the four this season, and that won't work for him on defense. Fours are too big and strong for him to guard. They'll beat him up. He'll get his on offense, but defense will punish him. They signed Monta Ellis, but I feel like his best days are behind him. He doesn't really care to play defense. Usually a rookie wouldn't be an upgrade, but Myles Turner, right now, is a better player than Roy Hibbert. That sentiment would have been crazy two years ago, but Hibbert is pretty rough to watch now a days. I think Turner can be a competent center in about three or four years. He does run awkwardly, but he has decent post skills and can rebound and be a rim protector. Their bench, with the exceptions of Jordan Hill and Rodney Stuckey, is either rookies or second and third year players, aka, my buzzword, unproven. I do like Stuckey and Hill though. Stuckey is instant offense and Hill is a good player that got out of LA(he was a Laker) so he can blossom. The Pacers are destined to take a step back. I see 34 or 35 wins this season and they will win ugly.
How the Pacers will win it all.
The Pacers will win the title if George is somehow, some way, able to handle fours on defense, George Hill plays the best basketball of his life, Myles Turner becomes all NBA defense and averages double figures, Monta Ellis contributes on both ends and Stuckey and Hill become starter quality players. I like their roster, but all that stuff isn't happening. Sorry Pacer fans. How they handle this season and offseason will say a lot about the direction the Pacers are going in.
My number 19 team is the Charlotte Hornets. With the injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist you may think 19 is too high, but that injury, in my opinion, doesn't change too much about this team. MKG will be hard to replace though, that's for sure. He was definitely coming into his own and his injury will be a tough pill to swallow for the Hornets. The rest of the roster is decent, but not great. They also drafted Frank Kaminsky way too early. He has bust written all over him. Another poor GM decision by Michael Jordan. Kemba Walker is an All Star in waiting. I love the intensity and passion he plays with. He's a really good basketball player. Walker is almost good enough to make the MKG injury a moot point. Almost. Al Jefferson is a good big man that's finally getting the credit he deserves. He plays the game with a mix of old and new school moves. He's an awesome basketball player. He should be a perennial All Star. They traded for Nic Batum before the draft, but I don't know how he fits. He's a good shooter, but there's no Damien Lillard to help take the pressure off. Kemba Walker is good, like I said before, but he's not on Lillard's level yet. They also traded for Jeremy Lamb, who couldn't get off the bench in Oklahoma City and signed Jeremy Lin. I think it's fair and reasonable to stop the hype on Jeremy Lin. He hasn't been very good since he left the Knicks, and he was only good for about 25 games with the Knicks. I like Jeremy Lin the person, I love the pranks he plays on people, but I don't like Jeremy Lin the basketball player. He's not that good. PJ Hairston has a lot of promise, but he can't seem to stay out of trouble. His problems will doom his career. The rest of the roster is not very good. You're grasping for straws if your ninth player off the bench is Tyler Hansborough and your tenth player is rookie Aaron Harrison. Hansborough was a college star, but his game doesn't translate to the NBA and he's an extremely dirty player. Harrison regressed in his sophomore year of college and I don't see him getting much better in the pros. The Hornets may flirt with a .500 record, but are more likely to win 35 games.
How the Hornets will win it all.
The Hornets will win the title if MKG has a miraculous recovery, Walker scores 40 points a game, Jeremy Lin finds the form he had during "Linsanity" and plays like that all season and Nic Batum becomes an All Star. Al Jefferson will be great because he's a great player, but he's in a similar situation as Boogie Cousins. At least Jefferson has a teammate almost as good as him in Kemba Walker.
So, there you have it, teams 21, 20 and 19. Come back tomorrow for teams 18, 17 and 16. We get our first playoff team tomorrow.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man podcast. He enjoys writing about basketball, but is looking forward to writing about good basketball. Follow Ty on twitter @tykulik.