Continuing on my basketball predictions for the season, from worst to best:
15. New Orleans or Oklahoma City or soon-to-be Las Vegas Hornets: Sorry, guys, but you have 5 players born in 1985. That means you're young. The twin Chris's (Paul and Anderson) could be pretty good, but this team has a lot of growing up to do. I think of the Hornets as a farm team for the rest of the NBA.
14. Portland TrailBlazers: Yes, you have some talent. Just let this team simmer in the crock-pot for another year, THEN enjoy. There's just too much youth on this team, especially in the backcourt. DMiles, Randolph, Pryzbilla will keep this team almost competitive, but none of those guys can really take over a game (yet).
13. Memphis Grizzlies: Man, the West is tough to break down - I think this is the year that Memphis ends its near-rebuilding experience. They added Damon Stoudamire, who usually makes a team worse. Other than Bobby Jackson, I don't think there's a single player on this roster that I like.
12. Golden State Warriors: Another team I wanted to rank higher, but I cannot. Baron Davis will get hurt, though I like the backcourt potential of him and Jason Richardson. I also am a big fan of Adonal Foyle and Troy Murphy. Maybe if their draft pick, Ike Diogu, gets rolling, this team could end up higher.
11. Utah Jazz: I'd love to put you guys higher, but it's not you, it's me. Good draft choice of Deron Williams, and Kirilenko is still a monster on both ends of the court. Unfortunately, you lack swingmen who are either scorers or defensive stoppers (though Giricek is underrated, and I guess Harpring is okay). Boozer and Okur give you some presence underneath, but not enough. Oh, and give up on Ostertag already, I'm sick of looking at him.
10. Seattle Supersonics: You guys lost two coaches (McMillan and Casey), but I can't put any team with Ray Allen on it any lower than this. Not only that, but Ridnour has to be one of my favorite PGs to watch in this league (think Jwill, but with less boneheaded shots). Collison will also only get better, and Fortson gives them some strength inside.
9. Sacramento Kings: Maybe I'm crazy, but I really don't think they can make the playoffs. Brad Miller and Bibby are still quality players, but have Shareef Adur-Rahim or Bonzi Wells been the "missing pieces of the puzzle" ANYWHERE they've played? These guys should've kept Matt Barnes, as well.
8. L.A. Lakers: They're only on this list because they brought back the Zen master. In addition to Kobe, they also are starting Smush Parker, who I always thought could be a good PG if given a chance. Odom needs to step up this year, and I've also been a big fan of Chris Mihm. That high schooler they drafted won't be ready to go until next year, though.
7. L.A. Clippers: Yes, DEEZ clippers. They finally make the playoffs, having a player who is willing to take big shots (and actually make them) during crunchtime (Cassell). Elton Brand will continue to go un-noticed, yet put up all-star numbers, and Maggette brings athleticism by the boatload. Kaman is weird-looking, but underrated, and younger guys like Ewing and Livingston can learn a thing or two from Sam, in addition to being relieved of late-game situations.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves: KG is still the best player on the planet, no matter what anyone tells you. Jaric is the best defensive PG we've had in years (which isn't saying much), and he looks scared to shoot the basketball, meaning we'll call him a "playmaker". The addition Jaric allows us to be a bit more creative with our defensive assignments as well. McCants needs to find his rythym within the offense rather than just forcing it - that won't happen for a month or two (some D would be nice too, Rashad). Anthony Carter is our second-best PG (sorry, Troy), and not only plays mean D, but has been looking good on the other end of the court as well. Wally should not be allowed to dribble the ball, only shoot. Griffin is still improving, and hopefully will be eaten by his teammates if he keeps shooting those flat-azz 3 pointers. Hassell will continue to be our ace perimeter stopper.
5. Denver Nuggets: Even after losing Nene for the season, the Nuggets are still a force to be reckoned with. Camby is good for 10 points and 10 boards a night, K-Mart is still the intimidator, Melo still thinks he's an all-star, and they go 3 deep at the PG spot. George Karl managed to have this team firing on all cylinders at the end of last season, I expect similar things this season.
4. Dallas Mavericks: This team is stuck. They have tons of good players, but no toughness. Josh Howard rules, Dirk still is soft on D, and while the young players like Harris and Daniels are going to get better, the other guys still havent' learned to play D yet. Charles Barkley said it best the other day, "This team is just not built for the playoffs"
3. Phoenix Suns: Yes, they still have it. At first, I thought that getting rid of Q and Joe Johnson was the worst idea ever, but after I thought about it, all those guys really did was shoot wide open 3's (thanks, Steve Nash!). So why not bring it guys who can do the same, but also play better D? Enter Raja Bell, James Jones. Toughness a question? Enter Kurt Thomas, Boris Diaw. This team won't finish third in the standings without Amare, but once he's back, this team is going to be tough to stop.
2. Houston Rockets: Nice move adding StroSwift. So-so move adding Rafer Alston (stick with Sura at the point). Make-or-break year for Yao, who needs to find some aggression. Even if he doesn't, T-Mac can will them trough the playoffs. I like Houston's strategy of having players named Bowen and Barry, just like a certain 2005 championship team.
1. San Antonio Spurs: It's unavoidable. Duncan, Manu, Parker. Add some vets (Horry, Finley, Van Exel). Need I say more?
So how are the finals shaping up this year, you may ask? Pacers over Spurs in 7. No, I'm serious.