Originally posted on NBA 24/7 365  |  Last updated 12/24/11

Dallas Mavericks: It seems that fans and analysts only want to talk about what the Dallas Mavericks lost this offseason.  What about the players they’ve added?  Obviously I’m talking about Lamar Odom and Vince Carter, who bring with them a level of skill that easily makes this team more talented than the one that took home the trophy in June.  I’m not sure why everyone is assuming that this team got worse despite becoming more talented.  I don’t think it would be wise to assume they’ll improve, either.  I think it’s stupid to pass judgement at this point because only one thing is for sure: the Mavericks will be different.  That’s all we know right now. 

I feel that the wise thing to do in this situation is to view the Mavericks as if they’re an updated but untested machine.  Constructed exactly as it was last season, this machine–I’ll call it Mavericks 1.0–proved to be capable of producing the desired results.  The most essential components of Mavericks 1.0 remain intact, but a few parts broke.  These broken parts could not be replaced, so an updated version of the same basic machine has been built using a few new parts.  The way the updated machine–I’m calling this one Mavericks 2.0–works differs a little bit from the old one.  It has new and seemingly improved features, but a few functions that the old parts made possible may now be gone completely.  Mavericks 2.0 will have to be tested before we can be sure whether or not the new features will make it superior to Mavericks 1.0.  Version 2.0 comes with a few entirely new capabilities, but 1.0 was incredibly dependable.  Testing begins tomorrow.

Denver Nuggets: I’m not a huge fan of the Nene signing at five years, $67 million.  I realize that the Nuggets are accustomed to competing (they’re coming off of how many playoff seasons in a row?), but this team obviously needs to enter a rebuilding period in order to get back to being a legitimate threat (they really were legit that one year… f@cking Anthony Cater couldn’t inbound the ball).  To let Nene walk would’ve essentially cut the final rope that ties them to the Carmelo Anthony era.  That was a wonderful time, but it’s over, and a new superstar needs to be brought in via free agency or the draft.  Nene isn’t that guy, but you’ve just paid him as if he is.  Now he proceeds to eat up your cap space and stomp on your ping pong balls. 

67/5=13.4, by the way.  That can buy a free agent nicer than Nene, and the market will be strong next season.  Not only that, but it’s supposed to be a strong draft class. 

Look, Denver, half your team fled for China.  This provided a perfect opportunity to completely rebuild and a built-in excuse to help justify your suckiness.  I’m not sure why management chose to pass this chance up.  This is nothing but a fringe playoff team.  No one wants to be one of those for very long.

Golden State Warriors: Remember how they replaced Luke Skywalker’s hand in Star Wars Episode V after Darth Vader cut it off with his lightsaber?  I wish the same thing could be done to fix Steph Curry’s right ankle.  I’m tired of watching one of the most intriguing players in the league crumple to the floor because one of his lower-leg joints was borrowed from a 75-year-old woman.  It’s got to stop.  Hopefully he can stay healthy and the Warriors can…………dare I say compete for a playoff spot?  New Orleans is out and the Clippers are in.  This means the Warriors will have to beat out either the Nuggets or Blazers while also fending off a few other fringe teams.  Provided they stay healthy, I think it’s a possibility.

Houston Rockets: The Rockets are in the same exact boat as the Warriors.  They’ll have the same core players under a new coaching staff competing for one of the final playoff spots.  Regular readers, you know what I’m going to say next.  I hate the Dalembert signing.  Why not just start Jordan Hill and sign a servicable backup?   Said backup probably doesn’t charge $7 mil a year to act like he’s a force with the ball in his hands.  In fact, he’d probably play within his limitations.  That’s something Sammy will never, ever do.  Have fun with the Haitian Sensation, McHale.  Make sure you don’t let him see the tape of your post moves.  He won’t practice them, but that won’t keep him from trying to pull one off two or three times a game.

Los Angeles Clippers: I’ve already seen one respected analyst put the Clippers in the Finals and another call Blake Griffin for MVP.  Um… I’m not really mad at those two, but I think it’s a little early for all that.  The Clippers will absolutely be a playoff team.  Chris Paul and… pretty much Chris Paul had the Hornets in the postseason last year.  He’s certainly not going to fail to get there will all this help.  That’s as far as I’m willing to go right now, though.  Two preseason wins, as un-be-f@cking-lievable as they were, don’t prove anything but the obvious: this team has a sh!tload of potential.  I don’t really even want to go here because I’m already in love with this squad, but they basically played a flawless game on the offensive end in that second preseason contest, yet they could’ve easily lost the game.  Kobe didn’t even play.  I didn’t mention that before because I didn’t want to piss on my own parade, but that was worrisome to me.  I’m thinking these guys will start the season looking a little lackluster at the defensive end.  DeAndre Jordan has the tools to anchor a really good defense, but he can’t do it right now, and that’s something that could keep the Clippers from becoming the great team that many envision right off the bat. 

That whole sh!t being said, I refuse to say the Clippers surely won’t advance to the Finals.  I think the first year could result in just about anything from a first-round exit to a Western Conference title.  There are so many variables… will DeAndre start to learn the basic principles of being a defensive force, not just a shot blocker?  Will Mo Williams thrive off the bench?  Can Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul find a way to not get eaten alive by larger, more-athletic backcourts?  Can Vinny Del Negro handle this situation?  Is Blake Griffin going to be able to continue to land safely after his dunks? 

I happen to think a lot of the answers are “yes.”  Would I put money on any of it?  No. 

Los Angeles Lakers: Anyone who says something like “the Lakers traded away Odom for nothing” is an idiot.  You really think this organization doesn’t have a plan A, B, C, D, and E?  Hell, they’ve probably got a plan Z.  The Lakers will not be making a Finals run with the current roster, but they might have a completely different roster going into the playoffs.  By that time Kobe might not be the best player on the team anymore.  They’ve got the talent and flexibility to make a huge move happen.  Even if they’re unable to pull the trigger on a block buster I’m confident that Lamar Odom won’t go unreplaced for very long.

Memphis Grizzlies: My heart wants me to believe the hype, but sometimes my brain tells me this group has already climaxed.  I’ll just get right to the point: where does Rudy Gay fit in?  Zach Randolph has established himself as the #1 option, and Gay is a guy who will become a spectator if he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.  Will he and Z-Bo be able to play off of each other, or will one of them watch while the other goes to work?  There are enough looks for both players, but “taking turns” won’t help them improve on last season’s run.  I emphasize the word improve because they can be about as good as last year and underachieve at the same time.  This team is looking to take steps forward, and the next one is the Conference Finals.  Getting that far will be anything but a cake walk, and it’s different this time.  Never before were they supposed to win.  That may not seem important, but lightning in a bottle can be lost as fast as it can be caught.  Chemistry is so fragile, yet so very important on the basketball court.  It’s nothing against Rudy Gay, but it’s going to be tough to just throw him out there and expect the team to roll along smoothly.  He’s about to become heavily involved in an offense that found it’s rhythm with no involvement of him at all.  Not even the greatest of square pegs will fit into a round hole.  I’m not saying he’s square… but I’m not 100% sure he’s round.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Will be fun to watch.  Won’t be any good.  If Derrick Williams comes out looking like a beast, bye bye Michael Beasley? 

New Orleans Hornets: Gonna be a long season in the Big Easy…

At least they’ve got the third-best shooting guard in the NBA.  This was going to be the year that everyone would accidentally begin to recognize Eric Gordon.  You know, people would tune in to watch Blake Griffin and be like “oh sh!t, this other guy really is as good as that blogger said he is.”  So much for that.  This blogger will continue preaching the word.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Let’s see… Serge Ibaka is the most overrated player in fantasy basketball, and Kendrick Perkins is the most overrated player in real life basketball.  Anyway, the Thunder will travel as far as Kevin Durant carries them.  How far Kevin Durant carries them will have more than a little something to do with where Russell Westbrook’s head is at.  Will Russell realize that a big part of his role is to help Kevin Durant be the best Kevin Durant we’ve seen thus far, or will he show us a giant rerun of last season’s playoffs?  To be honest, he hasn’t given me any reason to believe we won’t see the rerun.

When Russell Westbrook “gets it” the Thunder make a step forward.  Until then it’s status quo.  I don’t really get why everyone’s got them going to the Finals, and I laugh every time someone talks like they’re going to beat the Heat.  I laugh even harder when someone suggests that it’ll be the Bulls that they defeat.  Weird sh!t can happen in sports, but to predict a Bulls/Thunder Final?  That’s moronic.  Stop outsmarting yourself and go with the obvious choice.

Phoenix Suns: Um………………………………………….. Marcin Gortat will probably have a breakout year?  I don’t know what the hell else to say about this team.  It’s a terrible roster led by two 37+ year olds with no potential for anything but disassembly come season’s end.  They’ve lost nearly all of their entertainment value, and they don’t have much for young prospects.  What’s the objective here, Phoenix?  To let Steve Nash and Grant Hill live happily ever after?  I dub the Suns 2011/12′s most pointless team.  You can completely ignore them this year if you want.

Portland Trail Blazers: I just hope the entire roster makes it through the season without suffering any further injuries of the catastrophic variety.  To think about where this team is and where it should be… it’s really sad.  That should tell you all you need to know about just how good I think they would’ve been had Roy and Oden enjoyed healthy careers.  Okay, back to real life.  Portland competes for a spot somewhere between 6th and 8th and LaMarcus Aldridge makes his first All-Star appearance.  I’ll be surprised if we see Greg Oden at all.  Why put him out there for a couple of games only to risk further injury?  Give him another full offseason to rehab and hope to the basketball gods that it works wonders on his body.

Sacramento Kings: I don’t understand the Chuck Hayes signing.  I think one of the priorities in Sacramento this year is to figure out what JJ Hickson, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jason Thompson are made of.  A four-man rotation at the big spots isn’t unmanageable, obviously, it’s just that Chuck Hayes is a specialist with limitations for whom they’ll be paying a little more than $5 million annually.  With the uncertainty in Sacramento as to when winning will overtake player development as the top prority… do you want a guy like Hayes on the roster for that much money?  Maybe they feel like Hayes will be a good veteran presence to have around the young guys.  I love the talent of DeMarcus Cousins… but I have a hard time believing that much of Chuck Hayes will rub off on him. 

I think they did it because they got impatient.  They wanted to bring someone in, but there wasn’t much out there, so they threw a bunch of money at a guy who, in my opinion, doesn’t really make sense given the situation.

Question for my readers: I just wrote a paragraph about the Kings’ frontcourt and didn’t mention Hassan Whiteside.  Is that okay, or is he going to play this year?  I don’t know much about the guy.  He only got 12 MPG during the preseason.

San Antonio Spurs: You know I don’t talk about the Spurs.  No team has interested me less over the time I’ve been a basketball fan.  Fortunately for me, they become a little bit less relevent with every passing season.

Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter (and Kyrylo Fesenko!).  Salt Lake ain’t big enough for the four (five!) of ‘em, so who’s collecting the bench splinters?  I’m confident that it won’t be Jefferson or Millsap.  Will Favors or Kanter show enough promise in limited time to make the Jazz feel confident in making a trade?  If so, Millsap is on his way out.

Think I’m a bumbling idiot?  Let me know!  Comment, admin@nba247365.com, @NBA247OFFICIAL…

Kevin Durant has...RUSSELL MANIA!
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