This Monday through Friday, I’m going to give my season predictions in a countdown from worst to first. The format will be three teams per post, one post in the morning and one in the afternoon. Whichever team you’re a fan of, there’s a good chance you’ll feel like I’m disrespecting them. I understand this, and I promise you I won’t take your insults personally.
24. New Orleans Hornets
Can an NBA franchise build around Eric Gordon? That question won’t be answered this season, but a lot of people will begin to think so when he finishes in or near the top five in scoring. This is his team, for better or worse, and while he might not be thrilled about his new situation, he’ll have the opportunity to rack up some impressive numbers and possibly even earn himself a max contract in the summer.
The rest of the roster is likely to be less than the sum of its parts, and I’ll be surprised if Emeka Okafor is still a Hornet past the trade deadline. This is a team adrift, and they’re even less likely to contend for a playoff spot than they are to receive any kind of worthwhile fan support. If they extend Gordon after the season, they’ll be able to complement him with a pair of top 10 picks in a talent-heavy draft. Hopefully, they’ll attract a suitable buyer before next season so they can develop a real identity, whether it’s in New Orleans or elsewhere.
23. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are stuck on a frustrating treadmill with no escape in sight. It seems like every season they’re not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to score a franchise-altering player in the draft. They tried to make a splash this off-season by tendering an offer sheet to DeAndre Jordan, but the Clippers matched it. They made overtures to Tyson Chandler, but he understandably chose to take his talents to The Big Apple. There was even some talk that they were involved in Chris Paul trade talks, but we all know how that turned out.
New coach Mark Jackson intends to make defense a focal point of this team, but what I expect will happen is that their pace will slow and their offense will wilt while Jackson proclaims a measure of success simply because they’ll allow fewer points per game than last season. Monta Ellis isn’t my favorite player, but I hope he gets traded this season so he can land on a team that is a better fit for his talents. Nobody wants to hear about how the 2012-13 season will be when he and Stephen Curry finally figure out how to play together effectively.
22. Washington Wizards
It’s John Wall and his band of merry misfits! In spite of Wall’s prodigious potential, it’s next to impossible to take this team seriously with the way it’s currently made up. Their frontcourt of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche has the highest differential between video game effectiveness and real life results that I’ve encountered in my lifetime. Last time I checked, NBA 2K12 doesn’t have a “Goofiness” rating. How entertaining they are on YouTube is proportional to how much they make their coaches want to drink poison.
Wall’s speed, hops and court vision attract a lot of attention, and justifiably so, but his leadership skills will be equally important when it comes to steering this team in the right direction. It’s a lot to ask of a 21-year-old to be the voice of reason, but somebody’s going to have to play the “Mean Daddy” role when JaVale and Nick Young are engaged in a saltine challenge during a timeout. If Wall can inspire his teammates to play a brand of basketball that doesn’t make Zombie John Wooden want to go on a killing spree, this group might mess around and grab an eighth seed.