NBA 2014-2015 Season Thread

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    Oct 26, 2014 3:02 PM GMT

    It's that time again! A new NBA season tips off on Tuesday, featuring some familiar faces in some surprising places.

    I'll post a season preview for each of the NBA teams -- from worst to first -- in the season-opening RJ Power Poll.

    So of course, that means the Sixers are up next! icon_razz.gif
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:03 PM GMT

    30. Philadelphia 76ers

    The Good: Nerlens Noel is finally ready to contribute alongside 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams. MCW got Rookie of the Year honors despite the Sixers sucking last season, so Noel should get a good shot at it this go-round. Philly’s brass will be very patient around their cornerstones, including future rookie Joel Embiid, and coach Brett Brown.

    The Bad: You will be hard-pressed to name more than five players on this roster without your head starting to hurt. Barring monumental growth from MCW and Noel, this team may challenge the 2012 Bobcats for The Worst Team Ever.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:03 PM GMT

    29. Orlando Magic

    The Good: After over a decade of steady play from Jameer Nelson, Elfrid Payton seems about as ready as a rookie can be to take the reins. Nikola Vucevic has signed an extension and the young big man is primed to play more consistently this season.

    The Bad: You get the feeling coach Jacque Vaughn is incubating this roster for somebody else. Injuries to starters Victor Oladipo and Channing Frye won’t help matters out of the starting gate. Top talent Arron Afflalo was shipped in the offseason to Denver for Evan Fournier. Tobias Harris, Fournier, and Aaron Gordon can be exciting but, like a lot of the youngsters on the roster, raw like sushi.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:09 PM GMT

    28. Milwaukee Bucks

    The Good: Lots of long-limbed young talent (Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, Khris Middleton) alongside leading Rookie of the Year contender Jabari Parker and shotblocking Larry Sanders.

    The Bad: They’ll have plenty of occasional highlight plays, but won’t gel enough to contend anytime soon. They need shooters like Ersan Ilyasova and Jared Dudley to rediscover their jumpers in order to contend from game to game. The development processes for ship-jumping coach Jason Kidd include Antetokounmpo as a 6-foot-10 point guard, which could make Brandon Knight expendable if it works out.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:12 PM GMT

    27. Los Angeles Lakers

    The Good: Kobe Bryant is back. Rookie Julius Randle will form a nice offensive rotation with power forward Carlos Boozer. Kobe Bryant is back. Jeremy Lin will sell the few tickets that aren’t already sold. And, Kobe Bryant is back.

    The Bad: It’s hard to find anyone on new coach Byron Scott’s roster capable of making stops. Which means expect a lot of Kobeball just to try and keep the Lake Show in games. Steve Nash is already checked out for the season, so there’s that. A lot of pressure will be on Lin, tasked to balance running an offense with getting his own shots and deferring constantly to Kobe.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:14 PM GMT

    26. Utah Jazz

    The Good: The backup centers appear to have developed enough that Derrick Favors can play with flexibility at power forward. New coach Quin Snyder will have almost the whole roster jacking threes, which could be entertaining, at least.

    The Bad: Gordon Hayward was brought back, but Utah needs 2012-13 Hayward and not the one from last season that regressed under pressure. Rookie Dante Exum will provide a youthful and exciting backcourt with second-year star Trey Burke. But neither player is good enough defensively to keep Utah’s opponents at bay.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:17 PM GMT

    25. Indiana Pacers

    The Good: David West will be eager to show the Pacers are not going away quietly, although he’ll need help with leadership from center Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill. Coach Frank Vogel got an extension this summer, so no matter how bad things get, he’ll be a mainstay on the sideline all season.

    The Bad: Their season concluded in August, when superstar Paul George snapped his leg, mere weeks after Lance Stephenson bolted for Charlotte. Additions Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles feel more like spackel, and underutilized Chris Copeland and Solomon Hill will have to grow by leaps-and-bounds for Indiana to contend offensively.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:19 PM GMT

    24. Boston Celtics

    The Good: Big men Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk appear ready to make a big step up after injuries and conditioning issues derailed their rookie seasons. This duo, Marcus Smart and James Young will be the future for young coach Brad Stevens, and they’ll have ample opportunity to cut their teeth right away.

    The Bad: Assist-meister Rajon Rondo will be out of action for awhile. When he returns, if you enjoy him in a Celtics uniform, enjoy him while you can. Danny Ainge will have Rondo and his expiring contract on the block right up until the trading deadline. While he’s on the floor, he’ll have a hard time finding anyone aside from Olynyk who can hit a jumpshot. Jeff Green has demonstrated he won’t ever be more than a talented role player, but he will be able to help Evan Turner learn how to deal with disappointment.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:22 PM GMT

    23. Sacramento Kings

    The Good: Rudy Gay feels at-home for the first time in a couple years, and is ready to redeem himself after signing a new contract to stay in Sactown. After years caddying for All-Star quality players, free agent acquisition Darren Collison is out to prove he’s an 82-game starting point guard. And DeMarcus Cousins should be the top scoring center in the league.

    The Bad: Starting power forward is a crapshoot, although the veteran Carl Landry should have the lead. Rookie Nik Stauskas will be pushing Ben McLemore out of complacency at the shooting guard position, but the reserve options across the board are defensively deficient. Will Cousins continue to improve on his composure issues?
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:24 PM GMT

    22. Dallas Mavericks

    The Good: Dirk Nowitzki is as good playing at cruise-control as any veteran star. Dallas is vastly improved at small forward, with the additions of Chandler Parsons and Al-Farouq Aminu. They also have a bevy of veteran tools at point guard, with the acquisitions Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton. Super-scorer Monta Ellis is coming off his most efficient season.

    The Bad: Defense-minded players Shawn Marion and (yes) Vince Carter are gone. Unless Tyson Chandler is healthy and directing traffic on the floor, the Mavs are going to have a hard time defending opponents. The reserves aside from the point guard spot will likely be inexperienced (as far as playing together) and inefficient.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:26 PM GMT

    21. Detroit Pistons

    The Good: After his successful years in Orlando, new coach Stan Van Gundy knows how to handle an athletic big budding star that can’t make free throws, so Andre Drummond and Josh Smith should be no problem for him. Point guard Brandon Jennings is about as entrenched in the franchise as he’s been for years, including his up-and-coming years in Milwaukee.

    The Bad: Josh Smith is probably best suited as a sixth-man, and the sooner Van Gundy moves contract-expiring Greg Monroe ahead of Smith in the starting lineup the better. Their top summer acquisition Jodie Meeks will be out for awhile, pressing big growth from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Will Van Gundy’s candid commentary in the media wear on player’s fragile egos during the season?
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:29 PM GMT

    20. Charlotte Hornets

    The Good: The teal-and-purple Bugs are back! Lance Stephenson’s addition is another big splash, and he’ll blend well in the backcourt offense with his fellow New Yorker Kemba Walker. With Al Jefferson’s continued improvement on defense, plus their free agent additions, plus Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte’s D might be the best outside of the Windy City.

    The Bad: This team has few reliable shooters, so the pressure will be on Stephenson to make shots at the ends of games. They’ll need Marvin Williams to approximate the catalyst role the departed Josh McRoberts held during Charlotte’s playoff push. Rookie Noah Vonleh has a way to go before he turns the corner.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:32 PM GMT

    19. Brooklyn Nets

    The Good: Brook Lopez was looking pretty good on offense before going down for the year midway through last season. While the sudden departure of coach Jason Kidd was unsettling, new coach Lionel Hollins will be a steady influence who’s eager to impress after getting ousted in Memphis a couple seasons ago. Former top-line point guard Deron Williams insists he’s as healthy as he’s been in awhile. Paul Pierce is gone, but mega-bucks Joe Johnson is quite familiar with the point-forward role. Mason Plumlee looks ready for major minutes after his summer stint with Team USA.

    The Bad: Is Alan Anderson an everyday starting shooting guard? If not, is newcomer Bojan Bogandovic? There’s no deadwood on the roster, but a lot of veterans (Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, Williams, Johnson, Jarrett Jack) who have seen better days. Lopez may be the one veteran with upside, but Hollins needs him to be less of a bucket-flller and more of a traditional rebounder.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:34 PM GMT

    18. New York Knicks

    The Good: After spurning more surefire championship-contention options this summer, Carmelo Anthony took the bigger paycheck to return to Madison Square Garden, and he’s committed to making Phil Jackson and rookie coach Derek Fisher’s Triangle offense work. He’ll have plenty of help from pass-first pass-second pass-third point guard Jose Calderon, who arrives after helping Dallas get to the playoffs last year. J.R. Smith, Andrea Bargnani, and Tim Hardaway, Jr. will be ready to fill up the buckets from the perimeter. With Calderon, these players will be able to catch-and-shoot more, relying less on pull-up jumpers.

    The Bad: They’ll need perpetually unhealthy bigs Samuel Dalembert and Jason Smith to remain on the floor as a stopgap. Without them, and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks might become the first basketball team in history to give up 200 points. Melo playing the best D of his career will be crucial, as there’s not much coming from the highly-paid comedy duo of Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:38 PM GMT

    17. Phoenix Suns

    The Good: A high-powered offensive backcourt attack will be molded in coach Jeff Hornacek’s image, a bevy of near-All-Star quality guards who can get to the line. Eric Bledsoe is back after a protracted summer holdout, joining his fellow borderline superstar Goran Dragic, his brother Zoran Dragic, and ex-Kings scoring guard Isaiah Thomas.

    The Bad: As is the case for several middle-tiered teams, their biggest issue is they’re playing in the Western Conference; in the East they’d be at least a #6-seed. The Suns will put up pinball-style numbers, but they failed to improve the defense in the frontcourt, making life miserable for young bigs Markieff and Marcus Morris, Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. Throw in Gerald Green in the mix, and how tough will it be for Hornacek to rotate all this talent at the guard spots?
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:41 PM GMT

    16. Miami HEAT

    The Good: The whole band hasn’t broken up! Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh return to South Beach, and the backfill of forwards the team added (Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger) isn’t all bad. Deng should provide scoring, passing, and defense to help compensate for You-Know-Who. The HEAT liked enough of what they saw of McRoberts in the playoffs to bring him into the fold.

    The Bad: LeBron James has taken his talents back to the south shore of Lake Erie. Wade will still need lots of rest to make it to the postseason in reasonable shape. Is Shannon Brown sufficient to fill the void on one of those back-to-back nights? Mario Chalmers has declined quickly, and the loss of James won’t help the slide. He will likely battle all season with Norris Cole to be the starter at point guard.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:45 PM GMT

    15. Minnesota Timberwolves

    The Good: All those years with Kevin Love was not enough to scratch a playoff spot. Now that he’s been traded, does a deeper team with Ricky Rubio at the helm and top pick Andrew Wiggins have enough to make a difference? Nikola Pekovic will form an interesting pairing in the frontcourt alongside ex-Sixer Thaddeus Young, Gorgui Dieng backing him up with defense. Rubio and Kevin Martin will be spelled by Mo Williams, who brings offense and attitude to the floor.

    The Bad: Minnesota’s success is going to depend on young backup bodies getting thrown to the, umm, wolves, specifically 2013 #1 overall Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, and high-flyer Zach LaVine. General Manager Flip Saunders interviewed multiple coaching candidates before deciding to hire himself. Will that work out?
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:47 PM GMT

    14. New Orleans Pelicans

    The Good: Anthony Davis ought to make another big leap into stardom this season, and it will be easier for him to focus at power forward with Omer Asik coming over from Houston to man the center position. The season fell apart early with season-ending injuries to point guard Jrue Holiday and sharpshooter Ryan Anderson. Both are back and ready to go.

    The Bad: The Pelicans probably have to stay in the playoff race throughout the season, as anything short of that will imperil coach Monty Williams’ job. Aside from Anderson, there are some very shaky options to choose from among the reserves, although Austin Rivers or newly-acquired Jimmer Fredette will have ample opportunity to surprise people.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:53 PM GMT

    13. Denver Nuggets

    The Good: After missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, a lot of key cogs return to start the season healthy. That includes high-scoring Danilo Gallinari, who missed all of last season, the human blooper reel JaVale McGee, and super-sub guard Nate Robinson. Jumping-jack forward Kenneth Faried’s confidence is sky-high after a star turn at the FIBA World Championships with Team USA. Arron Afflalo returns to the Rocky Mountains to boost the offense even higher, his 3-point shooting in Orlando the most improved of any player last season. Everything is set up really nicely for second-year coach Brian Shaw, and for speedy borderline-star guard Ty Lawson.

    The Bad: It’s all about health, chemistry, and defense. The Nuggets gave up a ton of points last season, and they will rely heavily on rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic, plus McGee and center Timofey Mozgov, to slow their opponent’s roll.
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    Oct 26, 2014 3:58 PM GMT

    12. Washington Wizards

    The Good: John Wall and Bradley Beal are out to cement their place as the league’s best backcourt duo. Savvy veteran Paul Pierce swings down I-95 from Brooklyn to help the Wizards contend. Pierce, Nene, Marcin Gortat, and Andre Miller bring a lot of know-how to support Wall and Beal. Swingman Otto Porter drew raves for his improved play over the summer.

    The Bad: The Wizards have beset by the injury bug worse than just about anybody, as Beal, Kris Humphries and Martell Webster will miss significant time from the outset. For now, the lack of shooting guards will press Glen Rice, Jr. heavily into the rotation. As good as Wall and Beal will be, it’s hard to envision this team contending for titles if one of the frontcourt starters (Nene or Gortat) misses time late in the season.
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    Oct 26, 2014 4:00 PM GMT

    11. Toronto Raptors

    The Good: This team comes into 2014-15 with a bunch of upside and a revived fanbase, and they look young and hungry to make a move into championship contention. Kyle Lowry is the straw that stirs the drink, and aside from falling just short in Game 7 of the first round, the energetic point guard has had the most momentous calendar-year of any NBA player. Lou Williams arrives from Atlanta to form a high-scoring guard rotation with All-Star DeMar DeRozan, Lowry, and Greivis Vasquez. James Johnson was added to help coach Dwane Casey establish a defensive mentality. Jonas Valanciunas seeks to move into the upper half of NBA centers.

    The Bad: Just as Lowry and DeRozan made major strides last season, there’s got to be major collective improvements in performance and consistency upfront. That includes the power forward rotation of Amir Johnson, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson, small forward Terrence Ross, and Valanciunas.
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    Oct 26, 2014 4:02 PM GMT

    10. Atlanta Hawks

    The Good: Back after his second pectoral injury in three seasons, center Al Horford returns to guide a team that faltered in the second half of the regular season. The Hawks redoubled their efforts just in time with a passing- and perimeter-happy offense, nearly upending top-seeded Indiana in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Point guard Jeff Teague led the way and is out to show he can play at a high level every night. Fire-hot shooter Kyle Korver is the league’s best at moving on offense and creating havoc without the ball. Lunchpail All-Star forward Paul Millsap added a three-point shot last season to his usual double-double production, and can benefit from a great contract year.

    The Bad: This team failed to make any wow-inducing moves in the offseason despite having as much salary space as any contender, settling for defensive-mided upgrades in Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore. Atlanta’s offseason became loaded with humiliating news-making distractions and shakeups coming from ownership and the front office. It remains to be seen how the flux will impact the team’s cohesion on the floor.
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    Oct 26, 2014 4:05 PM GMT

    9. Memphis Grizzlies

    The Good: Mainstay double-double machine Zach Randolph re-signed in the offseason, rejoining his good friend Marc Gasol and maintaining stability in the starting lineup. Older-but-wiser Vince Carter adds to the strong veteran leadership among the starters, including defensive maestro Tony Allen and Mike Conley, who indeed would be a star point guard in a big NBA market.

    The Bad: The starters will need to rest sometime, and Grizzlies backups Quincy Pondexter, Courtney Lee, Beno Udrih and Jon Leuer will have to join center Kosta Koufos in making the top-line’s in-game vacations worthwhile. Carter and Lee will have to help boost Memphis’ notoriously deficient three-point shooting.
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    Oct 26, 2014 4:07 PM GMT

    8. Houston Rockets

    The Good: Defensive stopper Patrick Beverley is being handed the point guard keys from the start of the season for the first time in his career. The Rockets swung-and-missed on Carmelo in free agency, and lost key cog Chandler Parsons to their rival Mavericks, but filled the space admirably with former Rocket Trevor Ariza, whose quality of play rebounded nicely in his expiring-contract year. Ariza and Beverley will reduce the pressure on star center Dwight Howard to make up for mega-scorer James Harden’s comically-bad defense.

    The Bad: Houston will have a problem if any one of the starters get injured. They may have the greatest imbalance in the league, between the starters and the bench. Any combination of Rockets reserves would lose games to every NBA team besides (maybe) the Sixers. Terrence Jones blocks shots as a help defender but must do more to contain opposing power forwards. Can Beverley spread the floor more for Howard and Harden with an improved perimeter shot?
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    Oct 26, 2014 4:09 PM GMT

    7. Chicago Bulls

    The Good: Derrick Rose is all the way back (we hope?) this time, and his absent offensive skills in 2013-14 were clearly the difference between title contention and a first-round postseason exit. Pau Gasol left Kobeland for the Second City, diversifying a frontline captained by Joakim Noah and supported by Taj Gibson and newcomer Nikola Mirotic. A team that struggled to score will welcome rookie Doug McDermott, college hoops’ leading scorer last season. With Rose back, the Bulls have flexible rotation options at every position.

    The Bad: Can Rose return to his former MVP-quality play, and sustain it for 80-plus games? The Bulls will only reach the NBA Finals if he approximates his former (2012) self. Coach Tom Thibodeau is notorious for running his key players into the ground with major minutes. Even with the improved depth, will his hard-driving defensive style grind down his starters by season’s end?