The beginning of the season is a time for fans of all teams to have hope, to think that maybe this will be the year things come together, that this draft pick or that trade or a shiny new free agent will be what catapults their team to new heights. And with all that hope in the air, what better time than now to destroy it?
It’s in that spirit of cruelly crushing the dreams of nearly every NBA fan that the SportsGrid team brings you Pretty Much Screwed, a look into why 29 out of 30 NBA teams are destined to let down their loyal fans… and because we’re not total doomsayers, a reason for you all to be hopeful, too. After all, it’s pretty much screwed, not entirely screwed.
Below, we list every team in the league – with a link to our full preview for each – in projected order of conference finish. Couple notes about this: one, yes, we know this is going up a bit late but we were underwater and/or without power for large portions of last week, so bear with us you insatiable beasts.
Also: the projected order of finish in this preview post may differ with the projected finish contained in the preview. The reason: the SportsGrid staffers who wrote these previews in some cases differed from the ones who put this preview post together, and there’s always some disagreement among the ranks about how a particular team will fare. So peruse our previews, and whether you think we’re clairvoyant geniuses or (more likely) violently disagree with us, let us know. Here goes nothing:
1. Miami Heat
“The Thunder’s newfound experience and hunger for revenge should be pretty terrifying, and the Heat being completely unable to match up with the Lakers is equally as terrifying. But Miami is still the best team, and we’re picking them until they prove otherwise.” Read the full preview here.
2. Indiana Pacers
“If Indiana can finally go away from their Granger-centric offense and take advantage of their huge advantage on the block, they may be good enough to get by the smaller Heat and recently-Darkoed Celtics.” Read the full preview here.
3. Boston Celtics
“They can’t beat the Heat… and ultimately, that’s what their season will come down to. They aren’t screwed against 13 teams in their conference, middling teams who haven’t done enough to unseat the Celtics when it comes to crunch time. And then there’s the 14th team, the defending champs.” Read the full preview here.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
“The Sixers finished the 2011-12 season surprisingly strong. What’s the best way to capitalize on this momentum? If you’re Philadelphia, you completely reshape the foundation of your team.” Read the full preview here.
5. New York Knicks
“On paper, the Knicks are a talented, hungry team made up of veterans. In reality, it’s the shotgun marriage of many men with one stated goal (“Championship”) and many personal motivations.” Read the full preview here.
6. Brooklyn Nets
“This team will score, and score often. The backcourt of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, while expensive, will be one of the best in the league and a matchup nightmare for any team starting a small set of guards. But they’re still the Nets.” Read the full preview here.
7. Chicago Bulls
“Let’s say he powers through his rehab over the next 16 weeks and makes tremendous progress. Let’s say he falls into the Wes Welker/Adrian Peterson class of athletes who return from knee reconstructions way earlier than a human being should. Let’s say he can play on March 2nd, when they host the Nets. He won’t be Derrick Rose.” Read the full preview here.
8. Atlanta Hawks
“There’s been a culture change in Atlanta. There’s been a substantial personnel change in Atlanta. There’s been a massive front office change in Atlanta. But there hasn’t really been any change in talent.” Read the full preview here.
9. Milwaukee Bucks
“Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are speedy, nimble scorers who can work wonders on the pick n’ roll and occasionally take over a game. But two good – hell, for argument’s sake let’s call them damn good – players do not a good team make.” Read the full preview here.
10. Toronto Raptors
“There’s a bright side for the Raptors this year, at least: They’re better than last year. Unfortunately, with the exception of Chicago, almost every team in playoff contention in the East is also better this year than they were last year.” Read the full preview here.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers
“Last season was better than the season before it, and this season should be better than last. But it’s going to be a gradual climb, especially when you have as few proven pieces as this Cavs team does.” Read the full preview here.
12. Detroit Pistons
“Like a Jabba the Hutt minion tossed into the maw of a sarlacc, the Pistons are taking forever to digest. The young guys are looking on, waiting for the excruciatingly slow demise of the team’s old guard, and until then there isn’t much hope for a team trying to muster some wins on Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey alone.” Read the full preview here.
13. Washington Wizards
“The Wizards finally have a head on their shoulders and John Wall is actually surrounded with decent enough talent, but don’t expect anything more than a modest five-to-10-win improvement and for this team to miss the playoffs.” Read the full preview here.
14. Orlando Magic
“Orlando fans can really just thank former GM Otis Smith for all of this, the guy who squandered a superstar by surrounding him with shoddy and rotting parts and then grumbled when he became disgruntled.” Read the full preview here.
15. Charlotte Bobcats
“The 2012-13 Bobcats are pretty much screwed because the stench of death surrounding their franchise will take years to get rid of.
This is year one of the
stench removal rebuilding process.” Read the full preview here.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
“The Lakers might not win a title. Winning a title is really hard. But even if they don’t, it was worth a shot to put a team like this together.” Read the full preview here.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
“Any half-baked defensive solution to the Lakers’ big men involving Kendrick Perkins will be catering to two simultaneous yet diverging styles of play. It will be neither strong enough defensively to stop both Howard and Gasol at the same time, nor fast enough offensively to outrun the Lakers down the floor.” Read the full preview here.
3. San Antonio Spurs
“I’m tempted to write that as long as Popovich is stalking the sidelines, the Spurs will be in contention come spring time. But with Duncan and Ginobili in the twilights of their careers, change is coming for the proud franchise from Texas.” Read the full preview here.
4. Denver Nuggets
“Without that clear go-to guy, the Nuggets find themselves in a very strange position; they’re good enough as is to win over 50 games this year and probably good enough to get to the second round of the playoffs depending on a first round matchup. But beyond that? Not likely.” Read the full preview here.
5. Los Angeles Clippers
“The birth of ‘Lob City’ represents a renaissance in Clipperland, where years of losing and a failed foray into legitimacy in 2006 bring cautious optimism to a team with a surprisingly nice mix of youth talent and veteran leadership. So what’s the problem? We’ve been here before.” Read the full preview here.
6. Memphis Grizzlies
“The Grizzlies are just another in a line of teams that are mostly young, but full of second and third options and without the flexibility to add the first option they need to put them over the top.” Read the full preview here.
7. Dallas Mavericks
“The pre-millenial Mavericks might as well not have been a team in the NBA, and these Mavs certainly won’t be that bad. But Dirk Nowitzki is old and hurtin’ and his supporting cast is too mediocre to pick up the slack.” Read the full preview here.
8. Houston Rockets
“It’s like Daryl Morey looks at a successful NBA team, takes a giant dump on a print out of its roster and then signs mid-level role players to surround the ghost of Yao Ming.” (Note: this preview was written before the James Harden trade.) Read the full preview here.
9. Golden State Warriors
“The Warriors are pretty much screwed because there is no way they stay collectively healthy for an entire season. Say it with me folks: The Warriors are cruisin’ for a bruisin’.” Read the full preview here.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
“Functioning knees allow the world’s most freakishly gifted run-jump athletes to run and jump as freakishly as they do, and the 2012-13 Minnesota Timberwolves don’t have enough of them. Also, David Kahn is involved.” Read the full preview here.
11. Utah Jazz
“At some point the Utah brass has to step in and demand that they miss the playoffs. Because what this ultimately comes down to is that the Utah Jazz chose zero playoff wins and no first round pick over zero playoff wins and a first round pick.” Read the full preview here.
12. Portland Trail Blazers
“It’s frustrating when NBA teams secure role players before a role can be fashioned. You need superstars and a pecking order for their to be true roles, but the Trail Blazers are currently LaMarcus Aldridge and everyone else.” Read the full preview here.
13. New Orleans Hornets
“The new pieces are exciting, but not because of what they’ll do right away. If everyone sticks around/stays healthy/pans out reasonably well, the Hornets will be a serious contender in a few years. For now – hey, they were better than the Lakers this preseason.” Read the full preview here.
14. Phoenix Suns
“The 2012-2013 Suns are both in the oft-discussed “rebuilding mode,” and in the West. They’ll have a much more difficult time knocking out the Jazz or Mavericks than they would knocking out whichever team sneaks into the East.” Read the full preview here.
15. Sacramento Kings
“They’re too young and they can’t shoot. Last year they were the youngest team in the league. Without adding or subtracting much this season, they’ll still be one of the NBA’s youngest, and that usually means more inconsistencies.” Read the full preview here.
MVP: LeBron James, Heat
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Lakers
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Conference finals predictions
East Finals: Heat over Celtics
West Finals: Lakers over Spurs
And your SportsGrid NBA Finals prediction…
Heat over Lakers in six. Because as our illustrator Sean Panzera demonstrates, the current NBA is still LeBron and everyone else, even with some other stars hot on his trail: