In Part II of this series, we inspect the “bubble”:
Listen. The Warriors got very hot in the playoffs last year. How hot? They went and won 6 out of 10 games to start the first two rounds. That on top of a 47-win regular season. Whooo-eeee.
America fell in love. ESPN erupted with joy and enthusiasm. I’ll admit, it sure was fun. When Golden State gets hot on its jump shot, there are few better spectacles in sports. But really, they’re now named as conference contenders?
The praise is overblown. This is absolutely not a team has anything near contender-level talent, discipline, or medical stability. And I do not think adding Andre Iguodala gets them to where the buzz currently puts them. Over the course of the season, they’ll win a little more than they lose.
Bonus Prediction: Mimicking the Clippers’ summertime play for Doc Rivers, the Golden State Warriors trade two future draft picks plus cash considerations for the right to sign the Phoenix Suns’ training staff.
Like the Rockets, this team is hard to decipher as of yet. They have talent at several positions, yes. But what’s their direction? Massive organizational upheaval does not bode well for an NBA team, and there’s a large shadow of doubt on Denver’s ability to repeat last season’s franchise-record success.
Losing Iguodala, a rare player who can be both centerpiece and glue-guy in the same game, will increase the Nuggets’ discord. They’ll remain a dangerous team on a nightly basis, but ultimately will not threaten for much more than 45 wins.
Bonus Prediction: Dwight Howard's trade request is to go to the Denver Nuggets. “The real sign from God was in front of me the whole time I was in Aspen – I should have stayed in the Rockies. I don’t know how I missed that.”
9. New Orleans Pelicans
We'll all enjoy many obligatory “how about that name?” discussions this season. Imagine, for the 500th time: "Guys, have you heard that the Hornets will now be called the Pelicans? How about that name, the Pelicans? Do you think people will be able to get used to it?" "I know, it's amazing to me every time I think about it."
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s recognize that this team has a theoretically strong guard rotation, along with an expected prodigy at power forward/center in Anthony Davis. The Pelicans will shock a few better teams, they’ll lose to a few lesser teams, and they’ll will ultimately finish the season with some recognizable development and overall satisfaction. No playoffs, but NOLA fans will have something fun and positive to talk about this year and forward.
Bonus Prediction: Anthony Davis remains a year or two away from superstardom, but he drops a few 25 point, 15 rebound, 7 block efforts along the way this season.
10. Portland Trailblazers
Portland will be a very decent team, no doubt. But nothing more. Here’s what I expect from Damian Lillard: that he will never get significantly better during his NBA career than he was in his rookie season. Here’s what I expect from LaMarcus Aldridge: exactly what he is now at age 27 (turning 28 in a week).
The Blazers will win games because they have above-average talent at two positions (PG and PF/C), and good backup strength (thinking particularly of Batum, Mathews, and Lopez, in that order). They’ll be a solid team, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for anything more than 38-42 wins.
Bonus Prediction: The Blazers beat the lottery odds and wind up with the #1 pick in next year’s draft. They finally get it right.