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.

18. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets were the feel-good story of the end of the 2010-11 regular season when they went 18-7 after the Carmelo Anthony trade. Unfortunately, I don’t see how they can sustain that level of success with key players Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith stuck in China due to contractual obligations to their teams. As great a coach as George Karl is, I just don’t think they have the manpower to return to the post-season.

Things aren’t entirely desolate in the Rocky Mountains. The Nuggets re-signed top-10 center Nenê and Arron Afflalo is back to provide his tenacious defense and long-range shooting. Elsewhere, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson both show potential to become top-10 players at their positions. Even if the Nuggets don’t crack the top eight in the West this season, there’s a lot of reason to believe that they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the near future.

17.Philadelphia 76ers
Why don’t I think the Sixers will return to the playoffs this season? It’s not so much that I think they’ll get worse, it’s that a few Eastern Conference teams got better. If I’m mistaken about their fate, it will be because their young backcourt tandem of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will have made a leap forward.

Turner overcame a rough start to his rookie season and removed a potential “bust” label with a strong playoff showing. As for Holiday, he gets overlooked in discussions of the next great crop of young point guards, but anyone who has watched his explosiveness off the dribble and ability to put up points in bunches knows that he’s a frequent menace. He’s still only 21 years old, so there’s certainly a lot of room for growth. With the blossoming of both young guards and the Sixers’ deep bench, they won’t be an easy out for any opponent.

16. Portland Trail Blazers
I won’t join the chorus of people feeling sorry for the Blazers because of the sad sagas of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Their injury histories were well-established when the Blazers drafted them. Sometimes, the dice come up snake-eyes.

All is not lost in Rip City. They’re well-coached by Nate McMillan and they have quality players at every position. LaMarcus Aldridge has made a leap that few people expected, becoming a top-five player at what is arguably the most talent-laden position in the NBA. He’s right on that border between stardom and superstardom, and at the age of 26, there’s no telling whether or not he might be able to take his talents and his teammates to another level.

And while Roy is finished after he announced his medical retirement, let’s not completely count out Oden just yet. What if he’s back in time for the playoffs? With a healthy Oden joining Aldridge in a scary frontcourt, no Western Conference squad will want to face this team in the first round.

Previously: 30-28 | 27-25 | 24-22 | 21-19


Comments (13)

  1. Blazers only at 16? Sure, it sucks that Roy retired and Oden’s out for the season, but the team has only improved from its 48 win form last year. A full season of Gerald Wallace, Aldridge’s continued emergence, shoring up the frontcourt and swapping out Roy’s corpse for an actually productive player in Jamal Crawford should get them over the 40 win mark this year.

  2. I would have put the Sixers higher, don’t forget they were flirting with that #5 spot for a few weeks last season. And guys like Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner are only gonna get better.

  3. Nuggets are a playoff team.

  4. the nuggets are definitely a playoff team

  5. Yes greg oden’s broken hand in college was a clear indication of his subsequent injury problems. Just like shaq and ben wallace’s were…

  6. Blazers will be underrated by the media as usual but I think this years bench is scary! Elliot Williams knocked of 13 pts including 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in a handful of 4th quarter minutes. Chris Johnson is a rising young talent in the post and I’m really excited about this lineup. Love the way they played the first preseason game without many turnovers and shooting a high percentage. Better offensive and defensive efforts than last season. Crawford seemlessly steps into Roys shoes and Williams will make shots Rudy couldn’t last season. This team is custom made for back to back games. Loads of talent. Gerald Wallace is a beast! Jamal is a great all around talent and Batum is poised to become an allstar as well. Go Blazers!

  7. Don’t really understand how the Suns rate better than the Nuggets or the Blazers. They weren’t a playoff team last year, and added…Shannon Brown. Also think the Clippers are overrated at this point. I think they’ll look like the 09/10 Thunder, barely sneaking in to the playoffs.

  8. Nuggets lost a streaky player, an aging big they weren’t going to resign, and a forward who clearly didn’t fit with the team, and somehow that makes them a team in the bottom half of the league? Kenneth Faried is going to be better than Kenyon Martin from game one and Andre Miller is a much better fit for that team than Felton was. The Nuggets were one of the best teams in the NBA after the Melo trade, and that was without Gallinari for large stretches. I just don’t get this at all.

  9. What was Greg oden’s injury history? Pretty sure the only injury he had in high school or college was a broken hand. Hardly an indicator for knees made of macaroni.

  10. Why is everyone so high on the Nuggets? The Nuggets have no D, I think they’ve been rated accordingly. Smith’s known to take plenty of bad shots, but whos supposed to give them that spark off the bench now? They don’t have anyone whos going to put up 15-20PPG regularily off the bench like he did. At best, they’re probably an 8th seed team.

    But I agree with BaraChat, the Sixers have to be higher than 17th. It it wasn’t for their horrible October, this would could have been a 5 seed in the playoffs.

    They had two legit 6th man candidates last season in Williams and Young, and you have to think that Turner will show up and do much better than last year. Philly’s going to be a playoff team regardless.

  11. Sans Roy and Oden, the Blazers have better than the 16th-best roster. They’ll push for home court in the West.

  12. Nuggets? A playoff team? You guys must just be nuggets fans. The blazers however I can see grabbing a late playoff seed.

  13. Blazers @ 16? HA!
    Care to take it back, now?
    Their Over/Under is 37.5. Go for the Over.
    This compressed regular season will reward teams with youth, speed, quickness, depth & experience playing together. Look for big changes in the Playoff seedings.

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