NBA 2015-2016 Season Thread

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    Oct 14, 2015 7:41 PM GMT

    Just a couple weeks to go before another exciting NBA season tips off!

    The trek toward the NBA Playoffs and NBA Finals begins on October 27.

    As usual, for starters here’s a preseason power poll, with periodic updates of teams ranked from #30 up to #1. We'll start with the Worst of the Best in the next post.
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    Oct 14, 2015 7:42 PM GMT

    30. Philadelphia 76ers –

    THE GOOD: Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor will be a dynamic duo upfront for years to come… assuming management never breaks them up. The most stable situation for the 76ers is at head coach, so long as Brett Brown maintains his nerve. Isaiah Canaan will lead a scrappy, albeit scattershot, guard rotation.

    THE BAD: The shallowness of talent will ensure (as is the plan) this team is fighting an uphill battle virtually every night. After a disappointing rookie year in Sacramento, can Nik Stauskas become a reliable fixture at shooting guard? And wherefore art thou, Joel Embiid?
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    Oct 14, 2015 7:46 PM GMT

    29. Detroit Pistons –

    THE GOOD: With Greg Monroe out of town, Andre Drummond will have a chance to put up ungodly rebounding tallies, and maybe even nab a spot at the All-Star Game. Swingman Stanley Johnson will have ample opportunity to achieve stardom in just his rookie season.

    THE BAD: The Pistons are sure the Reggie Jackson-Brandon Jennings point guard rotation will pay dividends. Nobody seems to know exactly how. Swapping Monroe with Ersan Ilyasova and adding Marcus Morris seems like a spackle job, but maybe Ilyasova can open up the middle for Drummond.
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    Oct 14, 2015 7:56 PM GMT

    28. Indiana Pacers –

    THE GOOD: Paul George has had a full offseason to recuperate and will try resuscitating Indiana’s playoff hopes from the jump. He’ll enjoy the instant offensive punch from Monta Ellis, who arrives from Dallas to complement defensive-minded George Hill in the backcourt.

    THE BAD: Team president Larry Bird loves the idea of Paul George at power forward. One guy who’s not wild about it? Paul George. Ian Mahinmi deserves to start at center, but for Indiana to contend this season, his incubation for rookie Myles Turner cannot last for long. Depth behind Hill and Ellis is shaky.
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    Oct 14, 2015 8:01 PM GMT

    27. Minnesota Timberwolves –

    THE GOOD: The next act for reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins should be fun to watch, as will rookie big Karl-Anthony Towns. Ricky Rubio has never had this many quality options on the floor. If they’re willing to listen, interim coach Sam Mitchell will give them the confidence to compete nightly.

    THE BAD: Just about everyone on the team either represents unfulfilled potential (including Rubio, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Adreian Payne) or are way past their primes (Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller, Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Martin, Nikola Pekovic). Can the coaching staff find chemistry that works?
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    Oct 14, 2015 8:05 PM GMT

    26. Orlando Magic –

    THE GOOD: Loaded like a baked potato, with upstarts at every position. Taskmaster coach Scott Skiles takes over to whip the young guns into 82-game, 48-minute shape. Tobias Harris and Aaron Gordon are in prime position to make strides and take some of the scoring pressure off of center Nikola Vucevic.

    THE BAD: Forgive them, for they know not what they do! Starting point guard will fall to either the purer but reckless Elfrid Payton, or the athletic yet inconsistent Victor Oladipo. Is rookie Mario Hezonja ready to be Super? This remains Vucevic’s team to lead, by default, but leadership has not been his forte.
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    Oct 14, 2015 8:08 PM GMT

    25. Los Angeles Lakers –

    THE GOOD: Kobe! After a couple injury-riddled seasons, Kobe Bryant seeks to ride off into the sunset proving he can still drop 30 points on any and all comers. Roy Hibbert will be a nice defensive stopgap, while rookies D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle (injured last season) will get ample time to shine.

    THE BAD: Kobe! He is the storefront, but behind him is a franchise reworking in… progress? There is literally no defensive presence among the Lake Show reserves (sixth-man star Lou Williams? Nick Young?) . So Hibbert may need to hold up for 35+ minutes a night for the Lakers to contend out West.
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    Oct 15, 2015 1:09 PM GMT

    24. Portland Trail Blazers –

    THE GOOD: Damian Lillard has always dreamed of being the showcase star. And now he’ll get his wish, with LaMarcus Aldridge having moved out of town. Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, and young Noah Vonleh will hold the fort in place of Aldridge, keeping the Blazers close enough for Lillard’s late-game heroics.

    THE BAD: Be careful what you wish for! Lillard gets excessively moody when things aren’t going his way, and we’ve yet to see what a downward-trending season might do to kick his temper into high-gear. They also lost Wes Matthews and Robin Lopez and traded Nic Batum, while the replacements seem like filler.
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    Oct 15, 2015 1:11 PM GMT

    23. Brooklyn Nets –

    THE GOOD: You won’t have Deron Williams to kick around any more. He agreed on a buyout and is now in Dallas, leaving Joe Johnson and the returning Brook Lopez as stars to point at when things go haywire. Thaddeus Young’s return brings stability to a starting lineup that grew collectively in the 2015 playoffs.

    THE BAD: The Nets long-ago painted themselves into a corner in terms of salary flexibility, but for a team with a shaky defensive frontcourt Brooklyn did itself few favors by adding backups Andrea Bargnani and Thomas Robinson. Somehow, rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson must crack the starting lineup.
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    Oct 15, 2015 1:14 PM GMT

    22. Boston Celtics –

    THE GOOD: Marcus Smart will show great maturity in his second season. And he’d better, since he’s got sixth-man extraordinaire Isaiah Thomas breathing down his neck. David Lee and Amir Johnson add experience to a green core that squeaked into the playoffs in 2015. Jae Crowder’s a surefire fan favorite.

    THE BAD: The team has spent a lot of time grooming big men Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, as well as guard Avery Bradley. Coach Brad Stevens and company need to see new dimensions out of this trio if Boston intends on returning to the postseason. Without that, a fire sale may ensue quickly.
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    Oct 15, 2015 1:16 PM GMT

    21. New York Knicks –

    THE GOOD: Carmelo Anthony is back! He’s a human band-aid whose unique scoring talents mask flaws and alleviate woes. A re-worked front line featuring Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, and Kevin Seraphin, and rookie Kristaps Porzingis can’t possibly do any worse, especially defensively, than last year’s edition.

    THE BAD: With Derek Fisher coaching, GM Phil Jackson continues the quest to cram his tried-and-true (in the 1980s) triangle offense through a round hole. Lots of youngsters must emerge in the rotation with Melo, including Langston Galloway, who’s out to prove last season wasn’t an offensive fluke.
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    Oct 15, 2015 1:19 PM GMT

    20. Denver Nuggets –

    THE GOOD: This team needed an attitude adjustment in the worst way. Thus, out with Brian Shaw and DUI-saddled guard Ty Lawson, and in with no-nonsense coach Mike Malone and lotto-rookie guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Jusuf Nurkic showed strong presence in the paint at the end of last season.

    THE BAD: Kenneth Faried had a nice offseason in 2014, but wound up with little to show for it once the season started. Will a similar fate befell Danilo Gallinari? To contend in the West, Denver needs an upgrade at starting shooting guard, but may have to settle for hopeful growth by Gary Harris.
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    Oct 15, 2015 1:22 PM GMT

    19. Dallas Mavericks –

    THE GOOD: Once he gets healthy, Wesley Matthews will become the two-way player at shooting guard the Mavs have missed, at least on the defensive side of the court. Once he gets healthy, Chandler Parsons will help Dallas score in bunches. Deron Williams bolsters a deep rotation at point guard.

    THE BAD: Losing their grasp on DeAndre Jordan over the summer was a bitter blow for a team desperate for production at the pivot. Now they must hope for Zaza Pachulia (JaVale McGee, perhaps?) to hold up all season long. The defensive stopgap pressure may have Dirk Nowitzki contemplating retirement soon.
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    Oct 16, 2015 3:29 PM GMT

    18. Charlotte Hornets –

    THE GOOD: Al Jefferson returns in superb playing shape, and his arsenal of post moves will raise the offensive tides for his teammates. Nicolas Batum has had disappointing seasons in Portland, but could be the catalyst Charlotte thought they were getting last year with the jettisoned Lance Stephenson.

    THE BAD: Losing defensive keystone Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the outset, for the balance of the regular season, is a huge setback. Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb bolster the Hornets backcourt, but they need players capable of making stops and hitting jumpers consistently to take pressure off Kemba Walker.
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    Oct 16, 2015 3:31 PM GMT

    17. Toronto Raptors –

    THE GOOD: Kyle Lowry has stopped eating his press clippings and has slimmed down, in better shape to drive and defend than ever before. They added two free agents crucial to coach Dwayne Casey’s plans for a more defensive-minded squad – forward DeMarre Carroll and backup center Bismack Biyombo.

    THE BAD: Will Carroll’s addition (alongside in in-shape Lowry) be enough on a team loaded with heavily one-dimensional players? Is former #1 pick and Timberwolves outcast Anthony Bennett primed to move atop the power forward depth chart, or must Toronto settle for Patrick Patterson and Luis Scola?
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    Oct 16, 2015 3:34 PM GMT

    16. Phoenix Suns –

    THE GOOD: Tyson Chandler didn’t come to Phoenix just for their excellent training staff, but he’ll thrive now that he’s stuck here. Scorers Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe will have plenty of time from the jump to establish balance in the backcourt. Rookie Devin Booker could be the bench sniper they need.

    THE BAD: The implosion continues in the Valley of the Sun. Markieff Morris’ whining threatens to put a damper on any postseason run Phoenix would otherwise make. The level of veteran experience coming off the bench is severely lacking, and the starters aside from Chandler aren’t exactly grizzled, either.
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    Oct 16, 2015 3:37 PM GMT

    15. Milwaukee Bucks –

    THE GOOD: Jabari Parker returns after his promising rookie season got short-circuited by a December injury. Khris Middleton and surprising free-agent arrival Greg Monroe will capably help Parker fill up the buckets. Giannis Antetokounmpo remains a tantalizing talent with upside as big as anyone in the league.

    THE BAD: Can a title contender leave the ball in the hands of a point guard as erratic and turnover-prone as Michael Carter-Williams has been? Monroe has never been known as a decent defensive player. Will Jason Kidd start a better defender at center and push a forward like Antetokounmpo to the bench?
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    Oct 16, 2015 3:40 PM GMT

    14. Sacramento Kings –

    THE GOOD: After an offseason of coach-player bickering, George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins are back singing one another’s praises, essential to Cousins’ plans for MVP contention and Sacramento’s plans to finally breach the postseason party. Marco Belinelli seems to be the veteran scorer they’ve long needed.

    THE BAD: America’s Dysfunctional Team has added a hopefully functional point guard – Rajon Rondo, still smarting after his playoff washout in Dallas. Somewhere among Eric Moreland, Kosta Koufos, Quincy Acy, and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein, there’s a frontcourt starter worthy of playing next to Cousins.
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    Oct 16, 2015 3:43 PM GMT

    13. Utah Jazz –

    THE GOOD: Rudy Gobert is the new face of the Jazz, and you can’t miss the Frenchman. The Stifle Tower’s all over the floor and around the rims. An under-experienced but talented bench will push the starters all season long for playing time. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors may make All-Star pushes.

    THE BAD: Their best hopes may have been dashed with the offseason injury to second-year point guard Dante Exum. That is, assuming we’re not seeing vast improvement out of third-year guard Trey Burke. If rookie Trey Lyles emerges but the Jazz can’t regain last season’s momentum, Favors may be on the outs.
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    Oct 17, 2015 6:13 PM GMT

    12. New Orleans Pelicans –

    THE GOOD: After dispatching the Pelicans last year in the first round, former Warriors lead assistant Alvin Gentry brings his championship ring to the Big Easy, instilling new confidence in several dormant veterans. With improved passing and man defense, Anthony Davis could become this season’s MVP.

    THE BAD: One-time All-Star Jrue Holiday is caught up in a squeezeplay between Tyreke Evans and the returning Norris Cole. The backup wing options remain sub-standard, so it’ll become the Big Queasy if anything unfortunate happens to Eric Gordon or Quincy Pondexter. Omer Asik is still a starting center?
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    Oct 17, 2015 6:15 PM GMT

    11. Washington Wizards –

    THE GOOD: Title contention is the hope, especially if top assist-maker John Wall ascends to MVP status. But this season will feel like one long dress rehearsal for the big fish the Wizards hope to woo next summer – Maryland native Kevin Durant. Improved depth at the wings offsets the loss of Paul Pierce.

    THE BAD: Marcin Gortat and Nene’s staleness was on display in the back half of last season, and there’s little reason to believe things will get better in Washington’s frontcourt. Has Otto Porter added enough beef to take over a starting spot? Has Wall’s shooting improved enough to alleviate Bradley Beal?
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    Oct 17, 2015 6:17 PM GMT

    10. Atlanta Hawks –

    THE GOOD: Last season’s #1 seed in the East brought back All-Star Paul Millsap and beefed up, adding Tiago Splitter to address their defensive rebounding issues. Thabo Sefolosha and eagle-eyed Kyle Korver return healthy to start the year. Al Horford won’t let next year’s free agent summer be a distraction.

    THE BAD: After a greatest-season-ever, nowhere to go but down? Several legal proceedings (Mike Budenholzer, Mike Scott, Sefolosha) hang like Damocles’ swords as potential distractions. Can Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s poor defense be fixed enough that Atlanta can forget about losing DeMarre Carroll?
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    Oct 17, 2015 6:19 PM GMT

    9. Houston Rockets –

    THE GOOD: The point guard platoon of recent-arrival Ty Lawson and the recuperated Patrick Beverley may be as good a one-two punch as you’ll find. Lawson’s addition should help take the ballhandling duties away from overworked star James Harden. Trevor Ariza remains the glue for the starting unit.

    THE BAD: Houston lost a lot of depth in their frontcourt positions, so they’ll need much more production out of Dwight Howard, Donatas Motiejunas, and Terrence Jones. For a team that relies so heavily on three-point shots, is there enough accurate shooting… or at least, enough offensive rebounding?
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    Oct 17, 2015 6:21 PM GMT

    8. Miami HEAT –

    THE GOOD: One season removed from LeBron’s exit, and this starting lineup is stacked once again. Chris Bosh returns healthy, as does Dwyane Wade. Point guard Goran Dragic and center Hassan Whiteside arrived in mid-season last year, and now have had a full offseason to soak in Erik Spoelstra’s game plans.

    THE BAD: Lots of “if”s. Contention is conditioned upon Wade, Luol Deng’s and Bosh’s health, Whiteside’s maturity, production from backups Josh McRoberts and Amar’e Stoudemire, and growth by rookie Justise Winslow. If Miami’s not contending midway, expect a fire sale to avoid the repeater tax penalty.
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    Oct 17, 2015 6:23 PM GMT

    7. Oklahoma City Thunder –

    THE GOOD: Did the league (and the West, in particular) luck out by not having Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook together creating havoc for most of last season? We’re about to find out just how lucky they were. Youngsters Steven Adams and Mitch McGary will make defense easier for Serge Ibaka.

    THE BAD: Long perceived as a pros-oriented college coach, can Billy Donovan make the step up to the NBA level? More importantly, is he the coach that can instill assurance in Durant that it will be worth sticking around in the Sooner State next summer? Can OKC’s bench hold any leads their stars build?