To recap: I rank each team from 1-10 on their projected starters, bench, coach and watchability, using a 1-10 scale, and rate them overall based on a (starters x 5) + (bench x 2) + (coaching x 2) + watchability to give them an overall score. Why does watchability matter? Because we're not robots here, that's why.
I'm breaking down these previews into small, bite-size chunks to make them more palatable to read, around 1,000-1,500 words each, obviously spending more time on the contenders than the minnows. Enjoy and leave me all kinds of comments about why I'm terribly wrong.
Boston Celtics: 42.5
Projected Starters (4): C Brandon Bass, PF Kelly Olynyk, SF Jeff Green, SG Avery Bradley, PG Rajon Rondo
Obviously, this is only a guess what their starting lineup will be and for all I know this quintet will never play a second together. Rondo figures to come back by New Year's and it's an open question how long it will take him to get to top form and how hard he'll want to push it for a tanking team. The speculation is that if he does go full-tilt, it will only be because he's being showcased for a trade. Rondo at his best is one of the top players in the league, but even he can only do so much with these vagabonds around him -- though it must be mentioned that Green sure showed some "leap" potential in the playoffs last year and that Bradley and Olynyk have upside as well. Bass is another guy who figures to be flipped at some point. I'd give them a higher rating if you could guarantee me that Rondo will be there all year and give them 60 games.
Humphries will be a guy freed up to put up empty stats in a no-pressure situation, as long as he gets playing time. Sullinger, if he stays healthy, will be a typical undersized backup four who can score and do nothing else, a la Glen Davis. Wallace is just collecting a paycheck. Lee is someone who'll play a ton, especially early while Rondo is on the mend. Pressey and Brooks might play a ton in the second half of the season for tankapalooza purposes.
Coaching (6): Brad Stevens presumably knows what he's getting himself into and one would think he and GM Danny Ainge are on the same page about the team's thinking, both in the short-term and long-term. Stevens seems like an ideal guy to develop youngsters, which would be great if the team had a bunch of them. Alas, there's just Olynyk, Sullinger, Pressey and Bradley if you want to be generous. I'm sure he's hoping for a couple more via a Rondo trade.
Watchability (3.5): Rondo is someone I love to watch when he gives a damn, but we might only get a handful of games for him in Celtics green where he's engaged before he's gone. If he is indeed in their long-term plans, then I'm sure he'll be encouraged to sit as long as possible and to not play hard when he does return, to treat the regular season as one long extended training camp for 2014-15. Either way, the Celtics aren't going to offer us many reasons to watch them.
Best-Case Scenario: Rondo and Stevens are serious about their mutual admiration, the Celtics have a terrible year despite promising seasons from Olynyk and Sullinger and they land a superduperstar in the lottery.
Worst-Case Scenario: They flip Rondo for pennies on the dollar, the ping pong balls don't fall their way in the draft lottery and Stevens winds up giving a press conference like this in December of 2014:
Realistic Scenario: They trade Rondo for a decent, not great, offer because while Stevens may like him, Ainge does not. They wind up with the fourth pick in the draft, which won't be a disaster for them, but won't be franchise-altering either. I can see somebody like Marcus Smart, the Oklahoma State point guard, or Australian swingman Dante Exum, as a Celtic.
Degrees of Best All-Time Player to Manu Ginobili: 6 (Bill Russell, who was with John Havlicek on the 1964-65 Celtics, who was with Cedric Maxwell on the 1977-78 Celtics, who was with Ainge on the 1981-82 Celtics, who was with Wesley Person on the 1993-94 Suns, who was with Boris Diaw on the 2003-04 Hawks, who was with Ginobili on the 11-12 Spurs.)
Philadelphia 76ers: 18.5
Projected Starters (1.5): C Spencer Hawes, PF Thaddeus Young, SF Evan Turner, SG James Anderson, PG Michael Carter-Williams
At various points throughout the season I think there will be D-League teams who could beat the Sixers. The front court boasts three guys who are all capable of giving you a good performance on a given night, but none of them are anything close to a dependable star. Young might be a fourth option on a contender and Hawes is a serviceable big, but I'd want no part of Turner and I suspect neither do the Sixers at this point. Look for him to be moved.
Meanwhile, Anderson couldn't stick as the Spurs fourth-string shooting guard but will be starting here. Oy vey. Rookie MCW is the odds-on favorite to finish dead last among qualified players for worst shooting percentage. He's shot 32.8 percent in preseason, though to his credit the assist-to-turnover ratio hasn't been a disaster. Lottery pick Nerlens Noel is one three-legged selfie from being Greg Oden 2.0 and won't play the whole year, according to new coach Brett Brown, and Jason Richardson, another projected starter when he was acquired, might be on the shelf for the whole campaign as well.
This is what an expansion roster looks like, if the other 29 GMs are all smart and really hate your team. The Sixers will play at least ten other guys throughout the year who aren't listed here.
Coaching (4): Either Brown secretly hated Gregg Popovich or this is a case of when being ambitious goes disastrously wrong. Maybe he needed the money for some reason, like an impending divorce or something. Regardless of his motivation, Brown had more talent on hand with the Boomers.
Watchability (1): Advisable only if you're the kind who enjoys reality television or rubber-necking wrecks on the road. I do not.
Best-Case Scenario: They land the first pick in the draft without suffering the indignity of breaking the all-time futility mark set by the 72-73 Sixers and manage to win at least ten games, while Carter-Williams proves me wrong and doesn't turn into a draft bust.
Worst-Case Scenario: They win five games, become a national laughing stock like the 2008 Detroit Lions, MCW turns in the kind of season that makes Austin Rivers feel better about himself, Noel suffers complications in his rehab to really put his career in doubt before it even began, Turner becomes totally worthless and after all that they wind up with the fourth pick in the lottery.
Realistic Scenario: They do break their own franchise record, finishing 8-74, they trade Turner for a second-round pick and some other team's washout (maybe even Rivers!), Noel gets a clean bill of health for 2014-15, MCW disappoints but shows some flashes here and there and they get the second and 12th picks in the draft, since the Pelicans don't make the playoffs either and the Sixers got their pick in the Jrue Holiday swap.
Degrees of Best All-Time Player To Manu Ginobili: 4 (Wilt Chamberlain, who was on the 1971-72 Lakers with Jim Cleamons, who was with Ray Williams on the 1978-79 Knicks, who was with Kevin Willis on the 1985-86 Hawks, who was with Ginobili on the 2003-04 Spurs.)
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