Dirk Nowitzki's summer vacation was all about travelling the world and engaging in meaningful introspection. Hopefully these experiences have provided him with the insight and perspective necessary to deal with this season's inevitable playoff disappointment. Oh, and somebody should tell Josh Howard that blindsiding Brad Miller doesn't make you tough.Enver Nuggets:
That isn't a typo. There's no "D" in Denver. Until that changes -- and trust me, it won't
-- this team won't "contend" for anything more than 45-50 wins and a first-round playoff exit.Golden State Warriors:
Last year's Cinderella Team is going to be this year's floundering disappointment. Seriously, don't expect the Warriors to revive the magic of last year's late-season surge and improbable playoff run.Houston Rockets:
The Rockets really beefed up their team in the offseason, and they now feature a second
unit of Mike James, Steve Francis, Luther Head, Bonzi Wells, and Dikembe Mutombo. As benches go, that one's not half bad; it's only about 2/5 bad. But until Yao Ming stays healthy for a full season and Tracy McGrady figures out how to close out a first-round playoff series, I'll hold off on preordering my Houston Rockets championship t-shirts.
And yes, I know they have a new coach and a new offensive philosophy. But Rick Adelman couldn't win a title while coaching some wildly talented teams in Portland and Sacramento. I can't say I have much confidence that's going to change now.Los Angeles Clippers:
No Elton Brand means no reason to follow the Clippers this season.Los Angeles Lakers:
Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. God, I'm sick of Kobe. Will he or won't he be traded? The drama never ends. But this team isn't going to be a contender with or without Kobe. Yes, yes...it's a good time to hate the Lakers.Memphis Grizzlies:
Ah, Memphis, the latest stop in the "Darko Milicic might finally fulfill his potential" tour. The Magic Eight Ball says "not likely." A lot of people expect Pau Gasol to have a big year since he's finally healthy and the team signed his best friend, Juan Carlos Navarro. But last time I checked, the team's starting point guard is still Damon Stoudemire, their starting center is still Stromile Swift, and Brian Cardinal still has three years and more than $18 million left on his contract. And I'm supposed to be excited about this team?Minnesota Timberwolves:
What a mess. Look, I'm not going to criticize the Kevin Garnett trade because it was waaaay
past time to let KG go, and in return the 'Wolves got some promising young players, a couple first-round draft picks, and future salary relief. That's the best return-on-investment we've seen in any recent superstar trade (just ask the Lakers and 76ers). But dealing Ricky Davis and Mark Blount for Antoine Walker's mummified remains?! There are four years and almost $40 million left on his contract! Did Pat Riley slip Kevin McHale some roofies during their negotiations? Man, oh man...
Here's one sidenote to the McHale-as-GM Era. Garnett's defenders like to point out that the "only" time McHale gave KG some quality teammates -- specifically Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell -- the team won 58 games and made it to the Western Conference Finals. Somehow, this has become Exhibit A in the Case of Kevin McHale Sucks As A GM. But here’s the thing: Cassell and Spreewell were around the next season, too, and the team won only 44 games and failed to make the playoffs. That was because Sam and Spree were upset the team didn't immediately offer them lucrative contract extensions, and so they basically sandbagged the whole season. How exactly was that McHale's fault? And why doesn't anybody remember it?New Orleans Hornets:
Okay, real quick, name three Hornets who aren't named "Chris Paul." Yeah, didn't think so. Look, this team has some talented young players and a few moderately decent veterans. They'll win a few games they should've lost, lose several games they should've won, and end up right back in lottery after everything's said and done. End of story.Phoenix Suns:
The Suns really should have gone all-out to get Kevin Garnett in the offseason, even if it meant giving up Amare Stoudemire. They probably won't fully realize this until right after they lose Game 1 of the 2008 Western Conference Finals to the Spurs.Portland Trailblazers:
The Blazers lost their aging center before the season even started. Before, in fact, he had even played his first ever NBA game. We all wish Greg Oden a speedy recovery. I actually read one NBA season preview that said, "In Oden's absence, the Blazers will need a big contribution from Joel Przybilla." I promise you that the writer was completely
serious, too. Anyway, if that's what the Blazers need, then you can officially relegate this season to being one long
training camp for next season.Sacramento Kings:
Losing Mike Bibby for the first six-to-eight weeks of the regular season will really hurt the Kings' chances of winning 35-40 games and not making the playoffs. Now they'll probably win only 30-35 games and not make the playoffs. On the upside, I figure we're only about a month(ish) away from Ron Artest's next outburst / trade demand / psychotic episode.San Antonio Spurs:
Tim Duncan is the best player in the NBA, and has been for most of the last decade. There. I said it. Prepare for boring championship numero cinco of the Duncan Era. But look at the bright side, rest of the NBA. Maybe a meteor will hit Duncan's house.
Seriously, though, look at Duncan's team. Tony Parker is an excellent scorer but isn't proficient at running an offense (although, in that system, he really doesn't have to be). Manu Ginobili is really good at a lot of things and great at nothing (except for flopping, of course). Brent Barry, Bruce Bown, Michael Finley, and Robert Horry are all in their mid to late 30s. Their starting center is Fabricio Oberto. That backup point guard is Jacque Vaughn. You know why these guys all look as good as they do? Because Tim Duncan makes everybody better. Kobe should watch Duncan and take notes.
Seattle Supersonics: The city of Seattle is a pretty depressing place. It rains almost every day, the sun only shines five or six days per year, and it's cold most of the year. But damn it, at least the city has its Starbucks and the Supersonics! Oh, wait; they might not have the Sonics much longer. Hopefully Kevin Durant can thrill and entertain the fans during what may well be the team's farewell tour.
Utah Jazz: Rumor has it that Jerry Sloan has acquiesced to team owner Larry Miller's edict and is now complimenting Andre Kirilenko at least as often as he criticizes him. Sloan has also agreed to hand out unicorn stickers for every properly executed pick and roll and will bake cookies for any player who gets a DNP-CD.
Labels: NBA season preview, Western Conference