Continuing on with the Preseason rankings, here are teams 19-11.
19. Golden State Warriors
Last Year: 23-43(4th in the Pacific Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Can this new nucleus do what the old one couldn’t?
-For some reason, the Golden State Warriors are everyone’s dark horse to make the playoffs in the West. News Flash: Stephen Curry is not a franchise NBA player. In his career, he has averaged 17PPG, 5APG, and 1SPG. While these numbers are good, he does not scratch the surface of most all-star teams, and simply has not shown the will to carry a team like he did in his Davidson years. Until he changes, the Warriors cannot make the next jump to the next level with a supporting cast of Andrew Bogut who has played in 74 of 148 possible games and David Lee, who has also shown to be good but not great. Unless all three of these players stay healthy (which has been extremely difficult to do) and have career years, the Warriors will be locking up another late lottery pick.
18. Milwaukee Bucks
Last Year: 31-35(3rd in the Central Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Is the Monta Ellis/Brandon Jennings backcourt an elite one?
-The answer to the question above lies solely on what the two players will be playing for. If they are playing for the Bucks, where Monta will get himself to the free throw line more and take smarter shots while Jennings shares the ball then this team has a great chance to succeed. If Jennings and Ellis are playing for themselves; considering both are in a contract year, then I think this team could be in trouble. While the signing of Samuel Dalembert and the resigning of Ilyasova were good moves, Jennings’s and Ellis’ play will have to become less selfish for this team to go anywhere.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Year: 26-40(5th in the Northwest Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Can the T-Wolves hold off through the injuries of Love and Rubio long enough to make a playoff run?
-If these rankings were made two weeks ago, the Wolves would be up in the 13-15 range. The loss of Love for even a few games hurts this team a great deal, never mind 6-8 weeks. Minnesota was already playing the “tread water” card while they waited Rubio’s turn, but the loss of their two best players will be tough to come back from if they struggle early. The Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko signings are now as important as ever, as these two past All-Star caliber players need to drive this train until their current stars return.
16. Atlanta Hawks
Last Year: 40-26(2nd in the Southeast Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Is Josh Smith a career Hawk, or is he another player headed out the door?
-The Hawks may be the hardest team to predict after their offseason. Joe Johnson was their most prolific scorer in almost a decade, and seeing him go definitely hurts their offense. But at the same time, Lou Williams and Devin Harris aren’t awful consolation prizes at all, especially at a combined $13.5 million. With a healthy Al Horford back, the Hawks have the chance to contend once again for a playoff spot if Josh Smith plays up his talent level. Because he is in a contract year, that should happen but if the Hawks start to slide don’t be surprised if Smith is on the trading block.
15. Utah Jazz
Last Year: 36-30(3rd in the Northwest Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Which big men stay, and which go?
-The Jazz have four big men for three spots. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are the future, along with Gordon Hayward and which point guard they decide to finally replace Deron Williams with. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are the two players in question, and it will be up to the front office to decide who stays and who goes. Until this gets solved it could cause a lot of stress on the team, but they could also be a dark horse with proven veterans like Mo Williams and Randy Foye joining the backcourt.
14. Dallas Mavericks
Last Year: 36-30(3rd in the Southwest Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Is this the end for Dirk?
-The Mavericks went from NBA Champions to just another team in one very quick season. Dirk went from looking like the best player in the league to a forward who looked three or four years past his prime. While you could account that to him simply celebrating and not expecting the lockout the end, his knee surgery this year doesn’t seem like it is going to help the getting back in shape case. While this team is loaded with veterans once again, and has also added some young pieces in Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo they look to be another team who will only go as far as their crippled star will take them.
13. New York Knicks
Last Year: 36-30(2nd in the Atlantic Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Can the oldest team in league history succeed around its two superstars?
-Obviously the storyline above encompasses A TON of material. Carmelo and Amare retain their “superstar” tags of this team now that Jeremy Lin is gone. They replaced Jeremy Lin with two years older, two years slower, and two years heavier Ray Felton, and a 39 year old Jason Kid. Oddly enough Jason Kidd is only the second oldest player on his team, as Kurt Thomas starts this year at the spry age of 40. I am going to write a lot more about the Knicks this year so I will keep this short. While Carmelo and Amare will produce, this experiment could either send a team into a deep playoff run or be a laughing stock.
12. Memphis Grizzlies
Last Year: 41-25(2nd in the Southwest Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Can Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph fit into the same system?
-It is no secret; the Grizzlies are good. They have a ton of talent, and can score in bunches when needed. However, with only so much space on the offensive side of the floor, many think that there isn’t enough room for the Grizzlies’ three superstars. In the playoffs against the Clippers you Gay take a turn, then Randolph take a run, then Gasol take a turn. But to have one succeed, the other two had to back off to make it work. What good is three superstars if they cannot coexist? If they can figure out a way this team could be deadly in the West, as they are one of the few teams who matchup with the Lakers. If they don’t however, it might be time to move one of these pieces for someone who does fit.
11. Chicago Bulls
Last Year: 50-16(1st in the Central Division)
Hot 2012-2013 Storyline: Can the Bulls survive a tough offseason and an injured superstar?
-A healthy Derrick Rose puts this team in the top six or seven teams in the league. It has to be mentioned though that this team had an awful offseason. Gone are key bench players Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik. Who replaced them? Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammad, and Vladimir Radmanovic. A test I always love to give a team’s offseason is the trading card test. Would you trade your old player’s cards for your new players? Unless you are into last names with three or more syllables, the Bulls bench got a lot worse. And with Rose’s injury, the Bulls are going to have to hope this subpar bench can put up some great numbers to keep them in position come playoff time.
Tune in tomorrow for spots 10-1, but until then an awesome NBA YouTube Video.