Blogtable: One Tough Team To Read

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.

This week, we borrow three questions from The Starters season preview podcasts.

Toughest team to read | Asik’s future in Houston | Pick a Wildcat to build around

Which team is the most difficult to forecast?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMemphis. A team like Milwaukee might wind up cusp of the playoffs or it could plunge well into the lottery because of its mix of role players, inexperience and possible mediocrity. But to me, the Grizzlies are a bigger mystery because they’ve been a contender, but one generating wildly mixed predictions this fall. They underwent a coaching change from Lionel Hollins to Dave Joerger, and it’s unclear if Mike Miller brings enough shooting help to materially change the Grizz offense. I still like this team but, boy, the preseason pickers have them all over the West standings from about fifth to ninth.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI’ve seen the Lakers picked to finish anywhere from fifth to 12th in the Western Conference. The opening night win over the Clippers notwithstanding, there are so many questions. Of course, the most importance is when and how Kobe Bryant will return from his torn Achilles tendon. Can Pau Gasol stay healthy all year to hold things down in the middle? Can an aging Steve Nash hold up at all?  Do they have enough offensive firepower to survive in a loaded Western Conference? It all seems one big roll of the dice.

Jeff Caplan, There are a few out there. What will Denver do? How will the Lakers jell without and then with Kobe? Will Andrew Bynum play for the Cavs ? All are solid candidates, but the Dallas Mavericks are one giant question mark. They’ve got nine new players around the veteran core of Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon are your starting backcourt. Samuel Dalembert, who averaged 16 minutes a game last season with Milwaukee, is your starting center. They’re loaded with guards and light on muscle. Some think the offense will light it up and the defense will stink. Some think they’ll make the playoffs, others think they won’t get close. It should be interesting.

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
(Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe Thunder. When will Russell Westbrook return and at what level? Can Jeremy Lamb go from a successful D-League season to contributing in the big leagues to help replenish the depth? Will Reggie Jackson turn promising signs into reality and become a dependable Westbrook replacement and eventually a big factor off the bench? The organization that prides itself as a model of stability is suddenly facing a lot of variables.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comA lot of them are difficult and Atlanta is at the top of the list. The Hawks have a very good big-man rotation with Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Elton Brand. They have good shooting at every position and a quick and developing point guard — Jeff Teague — who  can create openings for his teammates. But they have a new coach, are a prime candidate for a midseason trade, and have a very suspect bench, especially until Lou Williams returns.

Sekou Smith, After that opening night performance from their unheralded bench, I’d think the Los Angeles Lakers would be the slam dunk pick in this category. They were already going to be extremely difficult to evaluate because of their reliance on Kobe Bryant and the fact that no one knows exactly when they’ll get him back and what sort of shape his game will be in when he does return. But when we wake up to Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill highlights on and NBA TV, we’ve officially entered the basketball version of the Twilight Zone. Sure, it’s just one game. And the Los Angeles Clippers clearly are not now what we expect them to be. The Lakers, however, offer up all sorts of strange possibilities. They are playing loose this season, even after Kobe returns, and Mike D’Antoni is not operating under the same sort of pressure he did last season. They could get on an inspired roll to start this season and make some noise in the Western Conference … or opening night might have just been one of those nights and they’ll be a speed bump for the true contenders in the West this season. You just never know in a situation like this one.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogTo me it has to be the Lakers. Will Kobe be back to anything approaching his very best form? When will Kobe even be back? With Dwight Howard gone, will Mike D’Antoni be able to play an even more uptempo style of play? Will Pau Gasol go back to dominating the interior? Will Steve Nash stay healthy? Will Chris Kaman find a freezer large enough for the cow he purchased? Will Nick Young crash any more toboggans? There are just so many questions that have yet to be answered in Hollywood.

Philipp Dornhegge, Deutschland: Probably the Cleveland Cavaliers. They want to make the playoffs, and looking at the roster they sure could. But there are a lot of question marks also. How much is Bynum going to play? How many games will Anderson Varejao last. Can Kyrie Irving stay healthy and, more importantly, take the next step and be more committed on defense? I’m also curious to see how Mike Brown will set up this offense. They have the potential to land at 5 or 6 in the East, but falling to 9 or 10 isn’t impossible.

Hanson Guan, China: The Thunder. Because Russell Westbrook will miss more time than expected, and even if he returns ahead of schedule, his healthy status remains up in the air. The Thunder are my favorite to take the West, but without Westbrook the whole season, I really don’t know how far they can go.


  1. Karlo Garcia says:

    Houston is the team most difficult to forecast. Time will tell if Dwight promises a championship & the expectations this season.

  2. I think the Houston Rockets are the most difficult to forecast. Their expectations are so high. They have Dwight Howard, but will his health last a full season? Will he make the impact he was supposed to make in Los Angeles last year, meaning at least a trip to the Finals? Will Houston trade Asik, who is rumored to be discontent on the bench? Or, will he and Howard together put Houston’s best team on the floor – with Asik playing Center and Howard at PF? Is Houston a real contender for NBA champion? Beverly replaces Lin at PG? Now Bev out for rib injuries in game 1.

  3. Go Thunder says:

    OKC is one of the most underrated teams.
    Why? Because I really believe KD will have a monster season (Just might win the MVP award.)
    And Lamb will become a solid bench player.
    The big question that few if none have spoken about is Kendrick Perkins!
    He is what I believe the reason the Thunder have not been able to get over the hump.
    Ibaka, Lamb, Reggie, KD or Westbrook’s health is not the main reason I believe.
    They should have gone for Kaman even tough his injuries and age might be a problem he and a lot of other not Super Stars centers are better then him (Thiago Splitter, Nene Hilario, Varejao and Omar Asik to name a few.)

  4. okc2014 says:

    OKC will do just fine!!!!!!

  5. PC3 @SWHTOWN20 says:

    Anybody who thinks that the lakers beat the clippers was not a fluke is crazy…The Thunder are lost without James Harden their Anchor & they are expecting Jermey Lamb to a replace an offensive/Shooting/drawing fouls Genuis=Kmart after two seasons in the D League Not gng 2happen & its looking like the only reason the OKC went to finals was BC of the #4 player in the league James Harden & the countdown has begun how long before Durrant Says Enough is Enough OKC & takes his talents to Houston RT Jalen Rose/University of Texas Longhorns …

    • jake s. says:

      Another veteran shooting guard is needed. Dirk if he isn’ burried in Dallas, Shumpert if he doesn’t ask for too much. James Harden was a ball stopper at OKC.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Jalen Rose doesn’t know what’s he’s talking about.

      Serge Ibaka and Jeremy Lamb will combine as a solid #3 and #4 options behind KD and Russ.

      Kevin Martin was good, but he only averaged 15 PPG last season off the bench. Reggie Jackson can do that all by himself. So can Ibaka and so can Lamb.

      Sefolosha had 14 so points tonight in a close win at Utah.

      Jeremy Lamb is a sophomore, not a rookie. Last season, he didn’t play much. This season, he will develop fully. Yes, it’s going to happen.

      Durant will probably retire in OKC. Thunder will sign him an extension well before his current long-term contract expires.

      You’re just a Thunder-hater. Thunder are still the favorite in the West and are an exciting, young team.

      I’ll miss Harden, of course. But he was the 3rd option. Ibaka and Lamb now have the opportunity to reach new heights. Lamb is actually a better defender than Kevin Martin. Lamb is as good a shooter as there is in the entire NBA. Watch. It will happen.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      You seem to forget how stellar Lamb was over the summer. He won an award of some type. Don’t remember. Now, I know that’s the summer.

      Trust me. This kid is so young and will develop into a future All Star.

      Remember, James Harden wasn’t great right away, either. He had about 9 PPG as a rookie. I think he got better as a sophomore and then broke through big in his 3rd year.

      Trust me. Jeremy Lamb will develop in similar fashion. They don’t need Lamb to be a superstar, even right now. Just to be a great option behind KD, Russ, Ibaka, and Reggie Jackson.

  6. Mr.Speedy says:

    Lakers actually looked pretty good against the Clippers without Kobe, a team that swept them last season. I think they have a good chance at making the playoffs..:)

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      Nope. The West (in my opinion) is a lot deeper than last season. The talent got spread around equally which will make for good competition. Thus, Lakers won’t make the playoffs. Not even close. They weren’t supposed to be in the playoffs last season, but they cheated to get in. I’m glad Howard left for Houston (a team that plays team basketball) and doesn’t cheat.

      No one should ever be optimistic about the Lakers. You risk looking foolish; you’ll get knocked down. Lakers will finish: #12 to #15 in the West seeds. Somewhere around there. The Kings will be better than the Lakers.

      The fact the Clippers got whooped by the lowly Lakers only proves they stink now. They should still make the playoffs but they’ll get ousted in the 1st round. Doc Rivers and Chris Paul sold out. They don’t want it anymore.

  7. Charles Murray says:

    I want to say the Nuggets. Last year they were 57 wins, 3rd best record in the NBA; beat everyone except Miami, including OK, Clips, Mem, Ind, Chi, SA, etc. They did lose Iggy, but everyone else is back with some adds. What if Shaw, an NBA ring holder, can get them to play defense? What if they still run when they can? What if Javale blossoms? Fornier and Randolph have played exceptionally; Faried, JJ can do the job. I just don’t know. They almost beat Clips and Chi in preseason without most of their starters. Is there a surprise there?