25. Sacramento Kings
The Kings roster, as currently constructed, will either make management look brilliant or brainless, but definitely not somewhere in between. Health and maturity permitting, the Kings have a solid young duo of the future in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, but questions still abound on this roster. Is Evans a point guard? How will he play with the enigmatic Jimmer Fredette? And where does now restricted free-agent guard Marcus Thornton fit in with all this, after averaging 21 points with the Kings last season in 27 games? As soon as they solve those simple questions, they should be well on the way to success. It’s just a matter of how long that takes.
Notes: Don’t forget that the Kings traded down in the draft to pick Fredette 10th instead of 7th while also picking up the terrible contract of the past-his-prime veteran John Salmons. So far the Kings are looking pretty stupid.
24. Washington Wizards
I just want to preface this low ranking by saying that I really do like the Wizards and hope that they do well this season. I’m probably only saying that because John Wall should be the most exciting young point guard in the NBA since the last most exciting young point guard in the NBA and because their new retro inspired jerseys are a work of art. Based on inflated summer basketball stats that mean less than nothing, Wall should emerge as a dynamic leader for this group of youngsters. With a tandem of two very big men who really need to develop in JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, the Wiz already have their most important pieces in place to be competitive on both ends of the floor. With a little maturity and a focus on winning (two road wins all last season), the Wizards are definitely a team on the rise and one that will be entertaining every night for years to come. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win any time soon.
Note: If you don’t believe me that JaVale McGee is a very big man, then watch this informative video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ice7VG-L57Q
23. Utah Jazz
With the clear NBA bottom dwellers out of the way, this is where the rankings get tougher, and the Jazz fall to this spot by default. They are still recovering from the sudden resignation of their long, long time head coach Jerry Sloan in the middle of last season, and the departure of superstar point guard Deron Williams shortly after. The team now lacks an identity. What they do not lack however, is big men. They currently have veterans Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur along with unproven young players Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Don’t be surprised if we see one of those older players traded soon for some severely needed help in the backcourt. Devin Harris will look to regain his former all-star form we saw in New Jersey while trying to lead this eclectic group.
Note: For those of you who followed college basketball at all, you’ll notice that Jimmer Fredette did not get drafted by the Utah Jazz like everyone wanted. They got Alec Burks instead, but I hear great things about him too, despite his name not being Jimmer.
22. New Jersey Nets
Hey, speaking of the Nets, here they are! People all across the Garden State are all asking could this finally be the Nets’ year? And by that I mean the year they get Dwight Howard. The move to get Deron Williams at last year’s trade deadline was a great step in the right direction (only if he re-signs!) for this Brooklyn bound team. The task now is to keep Williams happy. Unfortunately, the Nets will be the subject of trade rumors all year to the point that you won’t notice how they’re playing anyway. But, if you are planning on paying any attention to the team itself, obviously look out for a strong showing from Deron Williams in his quest for more help. Despite only playing in 12 games for the Nets last year, he averaged just under 13 assists to go with his 15 points. The other big question is whether or not Brook Lopez will be able to grab a rebound this year after averaging a dismal 6 all last season. With numbers like that, it’s easy to understand why the Nets so desperately crave three time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard.
21. Phoenix Suns
Just two years removed from the Western Conference Finals, the Suns are a team that looks to be in rapid decline. The Suns employ roughly the same style that made them so successful in this decade, but they just don’t have the pieces they need to generate wins. Former two time MVP Steve Nash will be 38 in February (regardless of whether or not he is traded) and while Marcin Gortat should surprise as one of the top centers in the league, the roster is too thin beyond that. Players who should be no more than role players on good teams will be forced to step up into bigger roles. With the potential of three games in three nights looming, Nash may struggle to keep up his pace, which is unfortunate because their backup point guard Aaron Brooks will be playing in China. Short of Nash winning his third MVP award (anything is possible with him), the playoffs look like a long shot in Phoenix.
Note: Phoenix finished with a 40-42 record last season and were in tenth place in the West. The Indiana Pacers finished with a 37-45 record, got the eighth seed, and beat the Bulls once in the first round. I just thought I’d point out how unfair the West is.