It’s safe to say that from the middle of July to the first week of September is one of the most boring times in professional sports. We are still three weeks away from the NFL season kicking off, and a little more than two and a half months away from the 2013-2014 NBA season tipping off. Since I don’t care for writing about football, I thought I would give a super early NBA preview of the Western Conference starting with team I expect to finish in the bottom of the conference. Today I will go from No. 15 to No. 13, counting down three teams every day until I finish both conferences.
Of course, I predict that all these predictions will hold true, barring any unforeseen injuries to major players on contending teams. (That was a slight attempt at humor)
15. Phoenix Suns – I might be all over the place with this team, but only because this team is all over the place. The Suns might have one of the worst rosters in the league. It’s littered with bad, troubled, un-impactful, and inexperienced players. Throw in a new coach (Jeff Hornacek), whom I respected as a player when he played for the Utah Jazz, and they have even more problems. First off, Michael Beasley, arguably their best scorer, might not even be on the team because of his most recent run-in with the law. It’s been said before that Beasley has “all the talent in the world”, but I think his time has just about run out in the NBA. I’d be surprised if he was still on this team when camp opens. They signed point guard Goran Dragic to a wealthy contract last offseason, even after drafting Kendall Marshall, a point guard from North Carolina. Then, to complicate matters, they picked up Eric Bledsoe, another point guard, in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. A lot of NBA people say that Bledsoe can be a starter in the league, but I’m going to hold off on that for a while. While he posted solid numbers with the Clippers while coming off the bench (8.5/3/3.1| 44.5/39.7/79.1), he was playing on a better team, taking better shots and playing with much better players. From some articles I have read, people in the Suns organization believe 2013 draft pick Archie Goodwin will be a difference-maker. I might even agree, if he can develop an outside shot (26.6% from three at Kentucky last season).
Additions: Alex Len (draft), Archie Goodwin (draft), Eric Bledsoe (trade), Caron Butler (trade), Miles Plumlee (trade), Gerald Green (trade)
What to look for: I haven’t talked about the Polish Hammer (Marcin Gortat) yet, but here we go. Look for the Suns to shop the big man once January rolls around.
Prediction: 23-59. The ceiling for this team in terms of wins is 25, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them lose 60 games this season.
14. Utah Jazz – The reason I didn’t put the Jazz below the Suns was because the Jazz have some pieces one could build a team around. With Al Jefferson in Charlotte and Paul Millsap in Atlanta, it’s up to Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors to control the paint. Both players are better defenders than Jefferson, but both lack the offensive skill Jefferson possesses. Randy Foye and Mo Williams are gone as well. A team that struggled to score last season (98 ppg; 13th in the NBA), has lost 57.0% of its scoring output. How do they replace it? Well, to be honest, they haven’t. They didn’t sign any free agents, but they did trade for two players who, let’s face it, aren’t very good anymore: Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. They drafted an under-sized point guard in Trey Burke and an experimental big man in Rudy Gobert. I’m not a fan of Burke. I think he is too small and not explosive enough to be a game-changing point guard in a league full of game-changing point guards. Having a super athletic, talented point guard in the NBA is like having a great quarterback in the NFL, a rare commodity. Salt Lake City is a great basketball city with knowledgeable and gracious fans, but I think everyone is in for a rude awakening this season. This team lacks a leader, scoring punch, and, quite honestly, marketability. It’s safe to say that the Utah Jazz is all in for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
Additions: Trey Burke (draft), Rudy Gobert (draft), Andris Biedrins (trade), Richard Jefferson (trade)
Subtractions: Al Jefferson (free agency), Paul Millsap (free agency), Mo Williams (free agency), Randy Foye (trade)
What to look for: Derrick Favors having a break-out year. He should be the main man in the post, along with Kanter, and if it means anything, he could get some DPOY votes despite his team being awful.
Prediction: 25-57. Trust me, this team’s ceiling is 25 wins and it’s only two wins better than Phoenix.
13. Sacramento Kings – I don’t like to be rude, but is there a more selfish team in the NBA than the Kings? Also, what is that one saying a coach might use, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM'”? Well that doesn’t apply to the Kings. This team is full of players who love to shoot, no matter what kind of shot. This is the ultimate open-gym team. Run up and down the floor, jacking up the first open shot, guys who play for highlights instead of building cohesiveness. Adding Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum to the mix of DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, and Isaiah Thomas won’t help the team. McLemore is a player who only knows how to get out of a slump by shooting more and more. Forget rebounding, setting up teammates or playing defense, he wants to score. That’s not how it works in the NBA. Sure, with Tyreke Evans playing with Pelicans in New Orléans, (I mean “for”), he’ll get to start at the two-guard, but does that mean he should start? Cousins is playing for a potential max contract this next offseason, so can he show NBA owners and general managers that he has grown up? Where does McCallum fit into this equation? Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas are both ahead of him on the depth chart, so is he a two-guard? I don’t get where Sacramento is going. Their roster is littered with players who have failed to do anything in their career. And I think I’m failing to do anything here.
Additions: Carl Landry (free agency), Ben McLemore (draft), Ray McCallum (draft), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (trade)
Subtractions: Tyreke Evans (trade)
What to look for: It would be a miracle, but DeMarcus Cousins becoming a leader. He has the physical tools, but now he needs to pull his team up to that same level.
Prediction: 28-54. I don’t see this team improving much from last season. I think trading Evans will hurt the Kings more this season than it will next season.