Everyone wants to talk about super teams. Of course, the Heat, Knicks, Clippers, Celtics and all the rest of ‘em capture the imagination of the NBA fan base. There’s nothing quite like feeling the anticipation and excitement in the air when you see that news hit telling you Chris Paul has finally been traded and he’s going to the Clippers. What immediately follows is typically more invigorating than what eventually happens. The promise of what could be is almost always better than what is. Even here at Dime, we find ourselves talking about one third of the NBA about 80 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about everyone else.
In the final week before the regular season tips off for real this Sunday on Christmas, we’ll break down each division, team by team in an effort to give you an overall look at what to expect in what’s sure to be a relentlessly exciting season.
5. Charlotte Bobcats
The New Guys That Count: Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Corey Maggette, Reggie Williams
Projected Starting Five: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, Tyrus Thomas, Boris Diaw
Kemba won’t be winning any titles or going on championship-worthy playoff runs this season. His first order of business will probably be to get acclimated with the NBA, take over the starting gig from Augustin and learn to deal with losing. They’ll be a lot of that this season. Want to know how much of a basketball outpost Charlotte has become for NBA heads? Name me some players off their bench. Shoot, there were times this summer where I couldn’t even remember who was coaching them (Paul Silas). It’s never a good thing when your owner is the most famous person – BY FAR – in your entire organization.
There hasn’t been much winning for the Bobcats lately, and even when they did make the playoffs in 2010, they were swept right into summer. What they’ve lacked throughout their existence is a star. Someone to capture the public’s imagination. A player who can take over games late in the game clock, and get a decent shot at the end of a shot clock. Walker’s been known to do that, and already had 18 in his first preseason game.
Charlotte has a long road ahead of them and it’s a steep climb. Reggie Williams is out for two months with a knee issue, and Maggette – thought to be their best offensive weapon – is already battling lower back problems. Even Tyrus Thomas is bound to get hurt at some point. Boris Diaw is apparently their point-center, probably the first to play such a thing in NBA history. If he didn’t look he became Boris Diaws over the lockout then we might go along with it.
BEST CASE: Walker gets his mini Jordan on and takes over a few games early in the schedule. Charlotte survives long enough to get completely healthy and Silas brings everyone together long enough to drive them towards 30 wins
WORST CASE: Walker gets disinterested early, Maggette’s trigger finger is uncontrollable and injury problems banish Charlotte to the league’s cellar.
4. Washington Wizards
The New Guys That Count: Shelvin Mack, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Ronny Turiaf
Projected Starting Five: John Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee
If the NBA was the playground, and no one cared about running plays, playing together and defense, the Wiz would be one of the best teams in the league. Blatche would be the skilled big dude running point, Wall would stand at halfcourt and leak out on every shot and no one would ever challenge McGee. They’d win every game. Take a look at that lineup. It’s better than solid. It looks almost like a playoff team. They’re already one of the most exciting teams to watch. Now they just need to grow up a little.
Wall will make the jump this year. I’m betting on a lineup of somewhere around 19/5/10 with over two steals a night. Blatche is promising to take his job more seriously, McGee is already stuffing opposing centers through the rim and even if Young and Jordan Crawford go after shots like Stacey Patton from Eddie, Washington should bring some semblance of competitiveness to the nation’s capital.
I know it sounds cliche, but Washington needs someone to step up. That locker room is too much like a high school, with cliques and petty problems and players always concentrating on the wrong stuff. No one wants to be signaled out. No one wants to hold people accountable. That should be Wall. We know he loves the game. We know he’ll never stop playing. We know how good he wants to be. But the longer the Wizards continue to sputter, the more it’ll hurt his development.
BEST CASE: Wall makes ‘The Jump,’ Young and Crawford’s subsequent gunning cancels each other out, Blatche realizes his talent and stops shooting running 15-footers, the Wizards sprint into the playoffs and set the stage for an epic breakthrough in 2012.
WORST CASE: Wall’s summer dominance was a mirage, and Washington continues to play like they’re trying to make the playoffs of the EBC at Rucker Park rather than the NBA’s second season.