(Yes, this is the 999th post – expect the 1000th post, featuring our collective number one hottie (can you guess who it is?) in the afternoon.)
Ladies and gentlemen – especially ladies… – I present the final part of our Massive NBA Preview In Pictures: two divisions per week, ten teams every Friday until the season starts at the end of this month. What teams will be good, what teams will do badly, and what hotties you should keep an eye out for: this preview answers all your questions. The divisions are chosen mostly by which teams I have enough pictures for by Friday. This week: the Atlantic division, featuring the Boston Celtics, the Raptors, and some bad large-market teams; and the Northwest division, featuring the Blazers, Nuggets, Jazz, and the eviscerated remnants of Seattle’s collective basketball-fan psyche. On to the hot basketball players!
2007-2008 record: 66-16
I can not find it in my heart to hate on the Celtics. I mean, I’m a hater in general, and I hate front-runners, but I just can’t. They deserved that championship, all of them. Damnit. Anyway, they don’t look to decline all that much this year. They will, of course – “experienced” usually means “old”, after all, and besides, they collectively have less to prove now. But if KG stops playing so hard, I think he’ll collapse. I mean, literally. Imagine the biggest caffeine crash in history. And the Celtics aren’t just about the heralded skills and heart of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce – they’ve also got a talented young core and some recent good luck, and I think they’ll do pretty well for themselves in future.
2007-2008 record: 40-42
Okay, so, the Atlantic division was a little top-heavy last year. That’s to be expected, what with four of the teams being semi-terrible and all (despite three of the teams making it to the playoffs…ah, Eastern Conference). And besides, the year before that, it was, uh…nothing-heavy, so at least it’s an improvement, right? However, I don’t expect the situation to be the same this year, or at least not to the same extent. The Sixers, Raptors and Nets all threaten to be good sometime soon. Whether that’s this season or the next few after that is the real question. I think the Sixers have great potential this season to at least be middle-of-the-pack in the East – with their ever-expanding set of good young players, with Andre Iguodala carrying the team on his skinny but defined shoulders, with All-Star signee Elton Brand, and with some passable role players, I’d only be surprised if they missed the playoffs. I expect very good things from this team in the next few seasons.
2007-2008 win-loss record: 41-41
The Raptors have been passable and ready-to-make-the-leap for a couple of seasons now. They’ve been putting the team on their young star, and building a brotherhood, and all that fun inspiring sneaker-commercial stuff, without much to show for it beyond an amusing Coach of the Year award for Sam Mitchell. However, lest I pour out too much hate, it’s important to note that I do think they’ll be much better this year. They’ve got the kind of young players – Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon – that get better as they age, not yet worse. Jamario Moon may shock the world, or not. Andrea Bargnani may still work out, who knows? And, in a quietly big off-season move, they acquired former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal. I’m not ready to crown them the ECF champs, or anything, but I think they’ll definitely post a .500 record or better this season, and more than likely make the playoffs.
New Jersey Nets:
2008-2008 record: 34-48
The Nets are quietly stock-piling talent. Now, all of their bets may not pay off – between Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Brook Lopez, somebody’s going to be a bust – but they may surprise a lot of people in the coming season. Granted, they’d have to be pretty terrible to top (bottom?) their win total from last season. And, granted, they’ll have a severe scoring problem, and they’re not built to win now at all. But I think a healed Devin Harris, with young bigs, a couple of veterans, and (the ever-disinterested) Vince Carter to throw the ball to, could do fairly well – and that alone would far exceed expectations.
New York Knicks
2007-2008 record: 23-59
They fired Isiah Thomas! They got Mike D’Antoni! To be honest, the Knicks suck. They’ve sucked for a while. They’re going to suck some more. I do not forsee this state of affair improving any time soon. Sorry.
2007-2008 record: 54-28
The Jazz are always under-the-radar good. Since they haven’t done anything in particular to change their team – they’re still starting Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mehmet Okur – I don’t think that’ll change. They do have a couple of talented youngsters, but nothing dramatic. Unless they seriously lay it on and do something crazy (this is basketball, after all, where anything is possible), I think they’ll do no better and no worse than they have in recent seasons – a trip to the playoffs and into the second or conference championship round, but no further than that.
2007-2008 record: 41-41
The Blazers kind of scare me, in a good way. Their roster from last season was exciting in terms of potential – great young point guard Brandon Roy, young big men like LaMarcus Aldridge and Channing Frye - and not only has that roster matured and grown more solid as a team, it’s been augmented by Greg Oden. This team has the potential to rampage through the West in a season or two. This season, though I don’t expect anything Earth-shattering, I do expect them to be strong playoffs contenders, and maybe more.
2007-2008 record: 50-32
Okay, okay. So, uh. I love watching the Nuggets. They score a lot, they’ve got cute players, they’ve got Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony – what’s not to love? Oh, um, how about that they NEVER PLAY DEFENSE? And it’s infuriating? Sure, sure, defensive statistics, they play an up-tempo game, yeah yeah whatever. They can’t stop the other team, and it doesn’t matter if a team can score 120 on any given night if they let their opponents score 135. So what did the Nuggets do? They traded away their best defensive player for nothing, of course, and did little to make up for it. Well, Nêne’s healthy, apparently, so there’s that. JR Smith and Linas Kleiza are pure scorers. And, uh…they signed Chris Anderson? Whatever. They are so screwed. But, okay. Better days, better days…
Oklahoma City Thunder:
2007-2008 record: 20-62
The Thunder are a terrible team with a terrible name, a terrible logo, and horrific franchise karma. Reborn from the not-dead Seattle Supersonics, they sold out all of their season tickets in a few weeks in Oklahoma City. Because there’s not much else to do there, you know? But those season ticket holders aren’t going to see much. Kevin Durant is, of course, a future all-star talent. And Jeff Green, Nick Collison, and Russell Westbrook all have the potential to be very good players some day. But this team is just not going to win.
2007-2008 record: 22-60
Ugh. The TImberwolves…well, uh, Al Jefferson is an incredibly good player, an overlooked potential All-Star scorer and rebounder. And, uh, they got Kevin Love! If he stays off the doughnuts, which he’s reportedly doing, he could be a valuable asset even as a rookie – especially since, oh right, the Wolves are terrible.
That’s it, fine readers of this fine blog! Thank you for reading, and the season starts next Tuesday. In the meantime, our top-secret Number One Hottie will show his face later today. See ya!