Boston will be the team that fights Miami for East Supremacy.
Fact: The whole loyalty BS needs to stop. I like DuPont and all, but if Dow offered me 3x my salary to do the same job, I'm like NSync and "Bye Bye Bye". Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo didn't like each other and Ray wanted to leave...fine. I think Boston's team is younger in their rotation which is better for them. I think KG and Paul will play hard until their time is done (and their time is close to done). I love Jared Sullinger for this team because he's a more mature and skilled Big Baby and Fab Melo will entertain. I think Jeff Green is going to play well too. Jason Terry gives them more moxie so I like this team to CHALLENGE Miami. Not sure about beating them.
Brooklyn will enter the title conversation.
Fiction: Look. I don't mind this team not getting Dwight. But I think the "title" talk will never happen with this team. Forget about the fact that Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will make about 43 million alone, but they are older and Johnson is slower. I think Brooklyn needed a splash and this was a good one. Kris "Kardashian" Humphries is a hustler, but not a $12 million dollar player. Brook Lopez is a strange case. He's an oft-injured, poor-rebounding center, but he's skilled and can score. Not sure he's max, but fine. I think this team will win a lot games, get people excited, then lose in the playoffs.
New Yawk is fo real son!
Fiction: Call it "the curse of Jeremy Lin". Year three of the Ama're Stoudemire experiment is already a failure with his injury, they replaced Lin with a fossilized Jason Kidd and a porky Raymond Felton. J.R. Smith is still on this team. Tyson Chandler is most useful if he plays next to a creator and he can focus on defense and rebounding. Then there's Carmelo Anthony. At this point, he is who he is. He's a top-flight scorer who rebounds pretty well. He's not a true creator forward. He doesn't play defense consistently. He can play the small or power forward positions and that's it. He's a hard player to shape your team around. So NYC, by extension, will be a hard team to rally around!
Philly fans will be happy with their new-look Sixers.
Fiction: Giving up Andre Iguodala was a bet on Evan Turner. And Evan was nicknamed "the Villain" by Mark Titus (fun book that drags at the end). He's the classic "exceptionally talented, exceptionally frustrating" wing guy that when you hand the keys to him, your coach gets fired fairly quickly. I'm not a Bynum fan. He's goofy on the court (I don't care as much about his goofiness off the court). Jrue Holiday is a nice player. Dorell Wright is a nice player. Spencer HAwes is a white player. Not sure the relevance of the last statement. I think Philly will slip a little, but stay competitive because Bynum will be suspect.
Toronto is ready for a resurgence.
Fact-ish: They are a...uhh...weird team. They have a lot of pieces. The guy that Cleveland passed on (Valan...oh nevermind) is playing this year. They have like 10 PFs and none of them are worth starter's minutes. Andrea Bargnani is...I just don't know. The vision was Dirk 2.0, but instead he's a better Jake Tsakalidis. Kyle Lowry is solid so they will be better. I'm not sure it's enough for a playoff spot, but they are better. They have some interesting rookies too that can make it tough to decide what to throw away and what to keep.
Fact-ish: I think they are talented enough to win games. But not talented enough to win against good team without Derrick. The one thing people are not mentioning is that when you lose a superstar, it's an opportunity for other players to step up. Chicago could be good long term because Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer will have to lead this team. I see Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler getting a bigger role for this team. They work their butts off and their head coach loves that. Nate Robinson will be a fantastic disaster, meaning Marquis Teague will have to play...a lot. I still like Chicago for the playoffs (may change my mind before I finish it).
Cleveland has its new star in Uncle Drew
Fact: I wasn't sure. I questioned the draft. I even lambasted it. That's why I'm here and not running an NBA franchise. Mea Culpa Kyrie Irving. Mea Culpa. He can play! He's really good. They still need to clean house a little bit. They are still in that "not quite good enough to do anything, but not bad enough to bottom out" state. I lambasted this year's draft too. So I'll apologize in advance Dion Waiters Who I Have Not Seen Anything From Yet. At this point, I want them to keep "evaluating" players and determining what to keep. And guys...don't throw away your future flexibility yet!
Detroit is ready to make The Leap.
Fiction: I think Greg Munroe is great. I actually like the Drummond pick as he can complement Greg. I am high on Brandon Wright as a PG too. Jerebko is a nice player. That's the list of guys I'd go to war with on this team. I know why Tayshaun is on this team, but he needs to move on. Rodney Stuckey keeps getting chances, and he keeps teasing but not finishing you off...like a stripper or something. They made their garbage-for-garbage trade with Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette, which would have been fine...except he plays the same position as Prince. So I don't like the construct of the team, but I do like the coach!
The Pacers will build on Last year's performance.
Fiction: Another team I'm not sure the parts make sense. They caught teams by surprise last year. This year, they have the target. Roy Hibbert slothed his way to an All-Star nod and David West is now a wily veteran. George Hill is fine, but not spectacular at PG. They draft another white PF because...why not! I actually like Miles Plumlee, but not for this team. Danny Granger and Paul George...who is the better player? That is the question that will shape this team. Paul SHOULD be the better player, but will he be? I think they are capped right now.
Milwaukee will blow it up more.
Fact: It was blown up a little with the "blockbuster" trade of Andrew Bogut and parts for Monte Ellis and parts. Monte is the ultimate enigma. He's uber-talented, exceptionally skilled as a scorer at a time when they AI-type scorers went by the wayside. I wrote before, I think Brandon Jennings can be had and I think he needs a change of scenery. He's a fine player with the right make-up, but looks to be like Mike Conley Jr. There are a lot of weird parts on this team that don't add up to "winner" but I need more Luc Richard Mbah a Moute!!!
Atlanta is a Ewing Theory Candidate.
Fact: Highly regarded superstar brought in to save the franchise? Check. Said player doesn't accomplish anything of significant value? Check. Said player leaves franchise? Check. Nuff said. I guess I should mention Jeff Teague is about to break out big this year, Josh Smith is in a contract year, Al Horford is healthy, Anthony Morrow can shoot the chitauri off their raiders (I watched Avengers for the 10th time yesterday), and they have a deep quality bench. I really like this team as constructed. And they can still trade Josh for stuff and be competitive.
Fact: Another bad year for this team. Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Kemba Walker are keepers (Walker might leave this list). Everyone else is expendable. I think they should continue to dump and collect until they luck their way into a team. By the way, people keep claiming Jordan has connections and should be able to make moves. Jordan was the biggest asshole on Earth on the court, nasty to his teammates off it, and murdered so many teams' chances of winning titles, I guarantee you he has no friends in the NBA. He's better off as an absentee owner. He's still the greatest player ever...but he even cut folks down during his Hall of Fame induction speech!
Orlando should continue the deconstruction.
Fact: I made fun of the Dwight trade, but the reality is we can't judge this trade for 3 more years. That's the grace period of bottoming out. They will be judged by how they manage the teams and expectations. At this point, trade J.J. Redick, Jameer Nelson (unlikely) and Hedo Turkoglu (really unlikely). I'm not sure who you develop, but Aaron Afflalo is now your centerpiece, for better or worse (nice guy, solid player, not a #1 guy). Jacque Vaughn has his work cut out for him!
Washington is ready to step up.
Fiction: Hmmm...John Wall...is he going to make it? He's got all the tools, but now he's hurt. It's time to put up or shut up for him. He's either an elite-level PG, or a solid PG. I don't know which he is. Brad Beal is a keeper. I like Nene for this team. I don't like Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. They are role players on a team that needs another star. They are depending a lot on a rookie and a PG yet to prove himself. They have ok players off the pine but nothing to write home about. It's just a weird team overall.
Miami is the best of the East.
Fact: I was never mad at Lebron for leaving Cleveland. I wrote this numerous times. It's saddening for me that I am watching this guy become The Man and it's in Miami and not Cleveland. The truth is he never was going to be able to do that in Cleveland because of all of the pussies in the front office giving him The Kingdom when he needed discipline. Now, he alone can carry the team into the Finals. But he's got Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, and the relaxation that comes with a ring. Lebron is about to rip some stuff up and that's going to be fun to watch.