This is always the hardest thing to predict and write about. With these type of teams, they could go either way. They could win 25 games or 50. It depends on who shows up, what kind of moves they make, and what injuries they sustain.
I’m taking two teams in each conference.
I wrote a big column in July about the Nets. It being one of my first columns, it wasn’t great, but I feel like I made some good points in it. The Jason Kidd trade had just happened, and a report of their revenue loss had been filed. It was a mess.
The Nets lost Paul Pierce to Wizards as he chases one more ring. It was a big blow, considering they have Kevin Garnett. Garnett’s days are limited, and having wasted multiple years in Minnesota, I bet he wants to make up for it. However, the Nets aren’t in the greatest situation.
When your paying Deron Williams and Joe Johnson $20 million a year, your cap can’t be pretty. Instead of paying old, ran down guys that money, get some young, more athletic players on your squad, Youth is key in the league. The older guys are going to wear down. It’s likely that Garnett only plays 60 games this year, just from rest and possible injuries.
The Nets though, play in the Eastern Conference, which is huge in their favor. The Nets grabbed the 6th seed last year, and in the column posted above, I put them 7th. Indiana is unlikely to make the Playoffs this year, but Cleveland is a team that will jump in.
The Hawks won 38 games last year. They made the Playoffs. 38!!!! In the West, my Suns won 48 games, and didn’t even make it!
Anyways, this Hawks team would’ve been a lot better if it wasn’t for the Al Horford injury. Horford, in December, tore his pectoral muscle, and had surgery soon after. It kept him out for the season, as the Hawks sat in 3rd place in the East. Atlanta collapsed, however, and barely made it, grabbing the 8th seed.
This year, it’s a very similar fate. The East got better, but not by much this Summer.
The Hawks are loaded with guards. That is no question. With Jeff Teague, one of the more underrated in the league, Lou Williams, and Shelvin Mack, they have plenty to choose from. The rim protection is very good, featuring Paul Millsap and Horford. Even this early, Horford’s name has surfaced in trade talks, but I don’t feel it’s necessary for him to be shipped out.
It’s not like the Hawks are going to tank. They have solid talent. They could easily make the Playoffs. The key is to stay healthy. With Horford being injury prone, the reserves have to be ready. Guys like Elton Brand and Pero Antic, who are very capable of it.
Again, they should make the Playoffs. A older Nets team (above) could collapse mid-late season, which would open up Atlanta’s spot.
This is debatable. The Grizzlies have a very nice balance of talent. Stacked with back-court talent, the real concern with Memphis is the front-court.
Marc Gasol is great. We all know that. There is no way you can debate it. However, he’s injury prone, like Al Horford. The depth behind Gasol isn’t great. Kosta Koufos is the only other listed Center on the team. Now, you could play Zach Randolph at Center, but that’s extreme small ball, and poses many problems when it comes to rebounding.
Randolph is honestly more of a 3 than a 4. He’s a little short. That’s all. Really, he’s Charles Barkley. Even though Barkley was even shorter, and played 4, their game is very similar.
What I’m getting at is, where are the big men? There are guys who can rebound, but no one on defense to protect the rim! It’s not going to be pretty if someone gets hurt.
Anyways, the Grizzlies do have a chance to make a statement this year. Finishing 7th last year, they barely snuck in, due to a late season battle between Dallas and Phoenix. In this ridiculously tough conference, it would be hard to do better, but then again, the Thunder can give other teams some chances here.
Overall, Memphis is probably going to end up where they were last year. The West is so tough, and it’s sure to deliver some late season spot battles.
I’ll say this. Memphis is more likely to get in than Denver. But the Nuggets have some really interesting pieces on their team. Adding Aaron Affalo during the offseason is huge. It stacks the back-court, paring him with Ty Lawson.
The Nuggets tried to get Kevin Love this Summer, offering a compelling deal, but the Wolves turned it down, obviously. I praised the offer, saying it was one I would consider.
Alright, I’m getting ahead of myself. It didn’t happen.
Holy toledo though, I love this team.
Anyways, the Nuggets have a stacked back-court. Featuring Affalo and Lawson, their going to be dicey. A ton of speed fills this team. They have so much depth at guard also, which is only going to help them.
Even when Affalo and/or Lawson are out, they still have a great offense. Kenneth Faried is one of the more underrated players in the league, and can rebound like no on else. He also finishes, and won’t give up on a play.
This team is super interesting. The problem is, they play in Western Conference, which is so, so tough. If this team was playing in the East, they would easily be a playoff team. Denver has a shot to do something this year. If they play up to their full potential, they can make a impact in the standings.