Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Before free agency starts, before camps even open, name a team that could go either way this season – could be bad, could be pretty good.
Steve Aschburner: One obvious answer is Orlando. If the Magic not only hang onto Howard but acquire someone who might convince their MVP candidate to stick around long-term, they continue as an East contender. If not, they’ll be counting the days till they get lottery lucky again. But a dark horse here could be Boston, which went 11-11 after March 4 last season, has an aging core of stars, a disjointed roster and probably a crankier-than-ever Rajon Rondo. If, early in the schedule, a title chase seems beyond their grasp, things could unravel.
Fran Blinebury: The most obvious candidate here is New Orleans. If they find a way to re-sign David West and go into the season with Paul on the roster, the Hornets can be playoff contenders. But if West leaves or Paul becomes distracted/disenchanted, there is the potential to plummet right to the basement.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Indy. I like the George Hill acquisition on Draft night a lot. I like that the Pacers are in the East, a conference soft enough to always allow for big jumps. I like that they’re pretty good defensively. They could add an important free agent. But there is so much to prove coming off a 37-win season. Indiana won’t be bad. It could miss the playoffs, though, and that would be bad enough.
Shaun Powell: New Orleans with Chris Paul = pretty good. New Orleans without Chris Paul = 1980s New Orleans Saints. The Wizards also have some swagger because of John Wall, but you just never know with this young crew and if they have a clue. Do you really think the light bulb is on yet with JaVale McGee, Nick (if he re-signs) Young and Andray Blatche? OK.
John Schuhmann: Well, obviously Orlando if they trade Howard. But New Jersey is another easy choice. As they stand right now, the Nets might have a tough time making the playoffs. But if they’ve got Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and either Tyson Chandler or Nene, they’re a top-six team in the East. And if they somehow pull off a deal for Howard, they’re in the top three or four, with the best point guard-center combination that we’ve seen in a long time.
Sekou Smith: Since my cupboard of pet teams is already overflowing this season (the Hang Time Grizzlies, L.A. Clippers and now the Minnesota Timberwolves),I’ll channel my dark side and say that this is the year the Hawks hit the skids. (And I realize we’re talking about one of just three teams, along with the Lakers and Celtics, to make the second round of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.) They’ve operating on borrowed time with all of the subtle tweaks the franchise has made the past four years. But without Jamal Crawford (free agent) and a healthy Kirk Hinrich to start the season, the Hawks will start the season in neutral without making a splashy move during training camp. The fact is, they’ve done just about all they can with the current roster, all the while resisting the urge to make any significant changes to their core. This is the year that inactivity comes back to haunt them.