And finally, the also-rans in the 2013-14 Western Conference – a select club to which we will soon no longer belong! Hallelujah!
11. L.A. Lakers
This will be fun. The Lakers won’t be tanking, but sometimes it’ll be hard to know for sure.
Steve Nash should never have left Phoenix’s training staff (who I will describe only as “shady”) and whatever regimens they’re prescribing down in the desert for aging athletes. Kobe’s own aging self is coming off a very worrisome injury. Pau Gasol might be the bright light on this team… and when he last had to carry a team, in his prime, his Grizzlies never did go far, did they?
I will take pure pleasure in this Lakers season. What can I say, I still blame Kobe for breaking Ricky Rubio’s knee (the video footage be damned). When the Lakers finish in the top 3 of next year’s draft lottery, reload with their massive cap space in free agency, and dominate yet again, I’ll enjoy thinking back to their 2013-14 debacle.
Bonus Prediction: The Lakers will be quite mediocre, but will still get a few dozen national TV games and infinite press coverage. Bold prediction, right?
12. Utah Jazz
I don’t think the Utah Jazz will intentionally tank during the upcoming season. They’ve simply decided to play the young guys and see who sticks. A few guys on that roster have cornerstone potential (think “Blueprint”). This year you hope at least one of them – maybe Derrick Favors or Enes Kanter – will transform potential into production, dominating a few games while playing consistently well. If so, the Jazz will win a few more games than you might expect.
Bonus Prediction: Neither Favors nor Kanter reach that point this year, or any. Instead, they both pan out as Luol Deng-level players.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Poor Dirk Nowitzki. He took a pay cut so the team could pay for championship-level help. But they failed. Now Dirk is stuck between his own creeping age on one side and a mediocre supporting cast on the other. Those other guys might literally have to support him when his legs collapse in revolt and despair halfway through the season.
Bonus Prediction: Dirk hires a German lab to clone himself, and makes the clone play Mavs games for him while he pursues other interests.
14. Sacramento Kings
To expect anything out of the Kings this upcoming season is to invite disappointment into your home, offer it a big glass of lemonade, and ask it to stay for a while. Sacramento’s franchise has been in flux (i.e., eff-ed by its owners) for several years. They have little in the way of foundational talent. Sacramento’s fans will be happy just to still have a team this year, and I truly hope that’s enough for them.
15. Phoenix Suns
Maybe we can just not talk about the Suns for right now? I think they’d probably appreciate that. Most of their games will be unwatchable, and some of them downright frightening. Yikes.
Instead, let’s imagine for a moment that the Suns, and not the Wolves, had landed Corey Brewer this week. That would have been really weird, right? What would the reaction have been around here? Double yikes.
Bonus Prediction: The Phoenix Suns gorilla draws more cheers from the home crowd in 2013-14 than the Phoenix Suns players.