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.
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.