Oklahoma City Thunder
Coming into the season… Russell Westbrook is set to miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season, so it looks like the Thunder bandwagon is starting off with a lame wheel. With James Harden no longer in OKC, everybody saw how quickly the Thunder can fall apart with one single injury. Healthy and clicking though, the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka core is as formidable as any in the NBA. Whether they can get contributions from their younger players, like Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and Reggie Jackson will be a big indication of whether or not this team is capable of going all the way this year. This league moves so quickly, it’s crazy to think just a year and change ago they were the odds on favorite to check the Heat.
Alike rapper: Kanye West – KD and Westbrook each defy the boundaries of their position, just like Kanye does with genre. But like Kanye, the team can wil’ out occassionally with reckless decisions (we’re looking at you, Russell Westbrook).
’90s movie: “The Lion King” – Like a young Simba, they can’t wait to be kings.
X-factor: Serge Ibaka – With Westbrook out, Ibaka will need to significantly improve his play in order for this team to stay the course. Is he going to make that leap into an All-NBA power forward? If he does, the Thunder should be able to coast without their All-Star PG. But if he doesn’t, this could be a long season for the OKC fans.
Predicted record: 57-25
Coming into the season… Iguodala jumped town, leaving this ensemble roster missing its biggest piece. Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Andre Miller are all solid, but this is a team that took a step backwards in personnel. Will new coach Brian Shaw get more with less to work with than his predecessor George Karl? It should be interesting to watch Shaw cope with the insanity of Javale McGee. One of the best running subplots was McGee’s on court stupidity over the past few seasons.
Alike rapper: Wiz Khalifa – Only ’cause Colorado’s got that super loud and also their team is straight up called the Nuggets. C’mon son…
’90s movie: “Groundhog Day” – Wasn’t that long ago Denver lost their best player. Then, they at least flipped Carmelo Anthony for a number of lesser pieces. Now, with Igoudala heading West, it seems like their spring ain’t comin’ anytime soon.
X-factor: Faried – Will Faried be able to make a leap from energy, hustle player into a competent offensive threat with a legit post game? He was one of our favorite players last year by being one of the best in-game dunkers in the league. Let’s see if he can build on that this season.
Predicted record: 40-42
Coming into the season… Kevin Love was plagued by injury last season, handicapping the Timberwolves from the get. They added Kevin Martin in the offseason, an actual second scorer, but so much rests on Love’s shoulders. Ricky Rubio played in 57 games last season, 16 more than his rookie year, but shot an abysmal 36%. The name of the game in Minnesota will be health and consistency.
Alike rapper: Joe Budden – Questionable career decisions all around. Brief glimpses of what could be legendary though.
’90s movie: “White Men Can’t Jump” – Self-explanatory.
X-factor: Shabazz Muhammed – The T-Wolves should be better than they are/were, but injuries have limited them for the past two seasons, and early first round pick Derrick Williams has yet to make any real impact in his two seasons in the league. Minnesota needs a second scorer behind Kevin Love. Ricky Rubio is the facilitator, and Chase Budinger can knock down the 3s, but who’s going to be the at the rim scorer? If it’s not Williams or Martin, it needs to be Shabazz.
Predicted record: 42-42
Coming into the season… The Trailblazers could be a very sneaky team this season. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are going to hold it down for sure, but look at the depth of this roster: Nicholas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Thomas Robinson, rookie C.J. McCollum, Robin Lopez, even Mo Williams, who could find some rejuvenation in Portlandia. This squad might be playoff bound, and could catch someone slippin’ in the first round.
Alike rapper: Mac Miller – Good young squad, that retooled slightly differently and is now way more formidable because of it.
’90s movie: “Thin Red Line” – Super deep cast, underrated film.
X-factor: Thomas Robinson – Is it possible to be a 22-year-old journey man? If so, Robinson is it. He’s on his third team in two seasons, with stats that don’t live up to his 5th overall draft selection. The Blazers will have plenty of guards hoisting up shots, and T-Rob can settle into that rebounder-hustler role off the bench and make a name and a home for himself in Portland.
Predicted record: 43-39
Coming into the season… How young is this Jazz team? Their starting five of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Gordon Haywood has a mean age of 21.6. This team is going to take their lumps, but the upside is there. Favors is getting to the point of either paning out or not, and it’s hard to say how Trey Burke is going to fit into the league. With young guards lately, it’s been fairly unpredictable. If all else fails this season, the Jazz might end up with a high lottery pick in next years draft and add to their youthful movemnt.
Alike rapper: CyHi Da Prince – Road to relevancy is a looooong one.
’90s movie: “Kids” – They are young, like kids.
X-factor: Trey Burke – As far as the young buck Jazz go, Trey Burke is the youngest and buckiest. How he contributes this season will dictate the Jazz’s future.
Predicted record: 20-62
Coming into the season… What is good with the Suns? The Steve Nash-Amare years seem a century away now. They traded for Eric Bledsoe in the off season which is good, but have Gerald Green starting at SF, which is bad.
Alike rapper: The Game – Had a little flame back in the day, and now what are you?
’90s movie: “Mission Impossible” – See: winning games this year
X-factor: Alex Len – This squad needs captial H help. Dragic is a nice point guard, but clearly not a premier star. What of Alex Len, then? If he’s butt then this team will be in the basement again, which might be for the best, considering next year’s loaded draft.
Coming into the season… Tyreke Evans went to the Bayou, but the more pressing matter: will DeMarcus Cousins go Big Man Ron Artest on us? We need DeMarcus in our lives. From nights where he scores 36 and grabs 22 boards to the nights where he’s fighting with color commentators and being G. He’ll hold down the post as rookie Ben McLemore swings around the perimeter.
Alike rapper: Tony Yayo – Mediocrity on repeat.
’90s movie: “Shawshank Redemption” – The Kings have been in the cellar for a while now. Can a more focused Cousins and newly aquired McLemore be their ticket out? Also, the Kings fan base likely feels improsined and tortured after all this relocation news.
X-factor: Boogie Cousins – In lettng Tyreke-a-leak go, the Kings are putting all their chips on DeMarcus Cousins. And if dude can manage to not eat said chips, he could be a force in the NBA.
Predicted record: 33-49
Los Angeles Clippers
Coming into the season… Expectations are high for the Clips, who resigned Chris Paul and played homewrecker in the Doc Rivers-Celtics marriage. They flipped Eric Bledsoe into J.J. Reddick and Jared Dudley to go with Jamal Crawford to have the best shooting guard platoon in the leauge. With the death of Lob City and a renewed emphasis on defense, will the Clippers be a championship contender? Not unless DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin somehow learned how to score without dunking. It’s like everytime these two dudes get the ball in the paint, they throw it 200 miles per hour at the backboard. Let’s see if these two got some touch over the summer.
Alike rapper: 2 Chainz – Yesterday’s laughing stock is today’s premiere feature.
’90s movie: “The Matrix” – High-flying, jaw-dropping; could turn dystopian in a second.
X-factor: Doc Rivers – This Clippers squad is stacked like Nicki. There is no reason whatsoever they shouldn’t flourish. They added J.J. Reddick, Jared Dudley, and Darren Collison to their already impressive roster, only sacrificing Eric Bledsoe in the process. What’s kept them from Western supremacy though, is questionable coaching and leadership. Chris Paul is a veteran’s veteran, who needs a coach of the highest caliber to keep him from inspiring a mutiny. Vinnie Del Negro wasn’t it, but ole Doc on the other hand? He’s already said this is the most talented team he’s ever coached, and if everything comes together, the Clips should be thinking Finals or bust.
Predicted record: 58-24
Golden State Warriors
Coming into the season… Picked up one of our favorite players in the league, Iguodala, to go with baby face three point assassin Steph Curry. Golden State established an effective hierarchy last season. Curry and Klay Thompson on the outside. David Lee and Andrew Bogut down low. Jarrett Jack and Harrison Barnes as spark plugs should all else fail. But by signing Iggy, the Warriors put some of that in jeopardy. Jack left for Cleveland, and now Barnes, 21, has to make room for a more experienced, developed small forward. If Iggy causes Barnes to regress or infringes on Thompson’s touches it could be a case of subtraction by addition.
Alike rapper: Kendrick Lamar – The up-and-coming squad that everyone is hyping up.
’90s movie: “Good Will Hunting” – Young phenoms on the block. Could they walk home with the golden statue?
X-factor: Bogut – We know what we’re getting from everyone in their starting five except for Bogut. Are we getting All-Star level production from the Aussie native or are we getting injury prone, bench sitting? If he can be a stalwart on the defensive side, this team could be championship bound. If not, this team is probably not going far in the playoffs.
Predicted record: 52-30
Los Angeles Lakers
Coming into the season… Got dragged through the Dwight Howard mud, Kobe’s coming off knee surgery, and the hype has finally quieted down. Who will survive this season a Laker? There’s a chance D’Antoni, Pau and Kobe are all gone after this season, though it’s more likely that D’Antoni and Pau leave town because Los Angeles might riot like it’s the 1990s if Kobe gets traded. This team has no chance to win the West. Have you seen their bench? It’s Nick Young and no one else. Why aren’t they making phone calls to Luke Walton, Sasha Vuijaic and Slava Medvedenko right now?
Alike rapper: Lil Wayne – Had it once, lost it, but you still have to check for them…just in case
’90s movie: “Titanic” – Big ship in danger of sinking.
X-factor: Kobe – With the Lakers, it’s always Kobe. Sure, Pau Gasol returning to form is big, Steve Nash is going to set the tempo for the offense, and additions like Chris Kaman and Nick Young need to bring something to the table, but it always goes back to Kobe. He’s the face of the franchise, a top 10 player of all time, and approaching the end of his career. Will his health and patience stay intact? The entire Lakers’ season depends on that.
Predicted record: 38-44
New Orleans Pelicans
Coming into the season… Moved their pick in next years draft for Jrue Holiday and signed Tyreke Evans, in what seems like an all-in push for relevancy. With Eric Gordon healthy and in the mix though, that’s a lot of guards vying for touches. Whether they can all coexist or not remains to be seen, but the Pelle Pel’s are atleast poised to make some noise out West.
Alike rapper: Pusha T – The time for reinvention is here. They have a legacy in Seattle like Push did with the Clipse. It’s all in on the new chapter though.
’90s movie: “Thelma & Loise” – This team was sort of slapped together without much thought. Just trying to rack something up quickly. Season could end up with Tyreke and Jrue driving this team off a cliff.
X-factor: Eric Gordon – Remember him? The former Clipper shooter has played a total of 51 games for the Hornets-turned-Pelicans over the past two seasons. With Tyrie and Jrue in town, the pressure is off E-Nice, but not completely. To complete that come back he’ll need to be a knock down shooter who defenders are terrified to leave should either of the new guards penetrate the lane. Can he be Peja in his prime? If so, the Pels could be an exciting team to follow.
Predicted record: 40-42
Coming into the season… They scored D12, who might have found the slipper that fits him best in Houston – a team with stars, but not too many or stars or stars too big or a city with too little media or a city with too much media, but juuuuust the right city. Maybe. Houston can be a real contender in the West, with Howard, Harden, Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik. Expectations will be high, as the Rockets join the Thunder and the Warriors as the young squads to watch out West.
Alike rapper: Drake – New young kings and Dwight Howard is sooo easy to hate. See also: “I reached heights that Dwight Howard couldn’t reach.”
’90s movie: “Toy Story” – James Harden has held it down in H-Town, but there’s a new toy in the box. Can they coexist?
X-factor: Omer Asik – Dwight is an easy one, but Asik stands to mess with the Rockets’ chemistry most. The Turkish Center went from backing-up Joakim Noah in Chiacgo to getting the starting spot in Houston, and after the Rockets aquired Dwight, he requested a trade. We know that Dwight can attract drama, so what happens if the Asik beef isn’t squashed? If there’s no pleasing both of them?
Predicted record: 60-22
Coming into the season… Don’t sleep on the Mavericks. They picked up one of our favorite ballers, Monta Ellis, who should be in full ‘fuck you’ mode after getting no love on the free agent market. This team still has Dirk so they’ve got to be in playoff contention. Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, although shells of their old selves, are still real helpful as role players. And after Darren Collison failed to get it done last season, the Mavs brought in Jose Calderon.
Alike rapper: Jeezy – Have been at the top, even if for a short while. Where to hold the ceiling for the veterans is hard to tell, though.
’90s movie: “Terminator 2″ – This Mavs team has been adding and replacing parts around Dirk like bionic arms and shit. How far off is judgement day with Mark Cuban’s squad?
X-factor: Monta Ellis – The Mavs retool every year, but signing Monta might be their biggest addition yet. They’re no longer depending on the likes of Vince Carter or Jason Terry to put up buckets at the shooting guard position, instead, pairing Dirk with an actually formidible outside threat. Monta can also turn selfish and frustrated real quick, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.
Predicted record: 46-36
Coming into the season… The Grizzlies stayed put this offseason, adding nothing more than stationary ball-shooting machine Mike Miller. Can the front line of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolh, and Ed Davis keep Memphis alive on the West? Can Mike Conely take over scoring duties now that Rudy Gay was sent up north? These are the questions for the steady, far-from-exciting Grizzlies.
Alike rapper: Curren$y – Just a hardworking emcee that puts out quality with each release.
’90s movie: “That Thing You Do” – The Grizzlies do their thing for sure, but they’re a bit of a one hit wonder in this respect. They can hang on the charts with the major players, but haven’t proven they’re able to live at the top yet
X-factor: Marc Gasol – In their first Rudy Gay-less season, the bulk of the offense is going to fall on the Grizzlies frontcourt. Gasol is coming off a stellar season that saw him take home the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Memphis will need that same production and not a Tyson Chandler-esque regression if they want to get beyond the first round of the playoffs this year.
Predicted record: 50-32
San Antonio Spurs
Coming into the season… The old faithful Spurs are content to let the core of this team fade away, changing their roster not one bit aside from replacing Gary Neal with Marco Belinelli. Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli are still holding it down, while Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green continue to gain on-job experience. The Spurs have some youth to build around, but the prevailing question is what happens if they don’t make a Finals run like last year? When will Duncan and Popovich decide to hang it up?
Alike rapper: Nas – Legends still doing it. Got rings, but how much should we expect is left in the tank?
’90s movie: “The Usual Suspects” – You know these bros, you’ve seen them before.
X-factor: Kawhi Leonard – The Spurs have done a beautiful job bringing up new talent while their old foundation continues to embody consistency. Danny Green looks promising, but disappeared in last year’s Finals. Kawhi Leonard on the other hand, improved across the board in his second season, nearly averaging a double-double in the playoffs. Time is ticking for the Spurs Big 3, and Leonard will be the new face of the franchise. What can another year under Popovich’s tutelage do for Leonard? The potential is promising.
Predicted record: 48-34
This post was tirelessly compiled, written, and edited by Ted Simmons and Durty Harry. Ted is an enchanting soothsayer who can be found as @TenchanterS across all platforms. Durty Harry is a durty man. Follow him on Instagram @DurtyHarry.