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.
15. Phoenix Suns
If Marcin Gortat hadn’t broken his thumb last night, I might have used this space to talk about how blessed the Suns are to have two starting-quality centers in Gortat and Robin Lopez who only make around $10 million combined. I don’t know how much time Gortat will miss but I don’t imagine he’ll sit out more than a handful of games. He’s a tough mofo.
I know I rank the Suns higher than most people would, but I just really like their 10-man rotation and the various skills guys like Jared Dudley and Hakim Warrick bring to the table. Shannon Brown was a nice free agency addition, rookie big man Markieff Morris should improve the team’s defense if he gets some burn, and Aaron Brooks will likely rejoin the team from China in March. Of course, there may be more than a little sentimentality here on my part — I’d really like to see Steve Nash and Grant Hill in the playoffs at least one more time.
14. New Jersey Nets
The Nets finished 27th in the league in Offensive Efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) last season. You think that might improve a little with a full season of a healthy Deron Williams running the point? There’s more reason for optimism in the Dirty Jerz: Brook Lopez has admitted he was lazy when it came to rebounding last season and proclaims he’ll try harder this season, Kris Humphries is back to put up double-doubles even though he’s playing with a broken heart, and Andrei Kirilenko is expected to join the Nets shortly in the most obvious stunt-signing of this off-season.
It’s really hard to handicap this team because its roster might undergo an extreme transformation before the trading deadline. But I can’t control that, so I see the Nets grabbing the eighth seed in a season where the Eastern Conference should be stronger than it’s been in a good, long while.
13. Indiana Pacers
I don’t know what it is about this team, but I feel like I’m going to be seeing a lot of hipsters wearing Pacers jerseys over the next few months. They have this “underground” feel about them where they’re pretty good but the mainstream doesn’t know it yet. Who is the most “alt” Pacer? It’s got to be Lance Stephenson, right?
What the Pacers lack in star power, they sort of make up for with impressive depth. The David West signing was major, obviously, and the acquisition of George Hill through a draft-night trade with the Spurs gives them a significant upgrade over A.J. Price at backup point guard. This is a team that can suffer a few injuries and still keep slugging it out in the upper half of the Eastern Conference. Hopefully, the fans in Indiana will take notice and show interest — the Pacers were dead last in average attendance last season.