Atlanta Hawks - Lou Williams is coming back. He is awesome off the bench, and I used to hate him, because my brother used to be the 76ers a couple years ago and dominate me with Lou Williams. If Williams finally becomes as good as his video game identity, he will be first-team All NBA.
Boston Celtics - Jeff Green. I have an unnatural love for Jeff Green, because I worked for the Sonics during their final year, meaning I saw Green's and Durant's rookie year. He also got Scottie Pippen comparisons all the time, and Scottie will always be near and dear to my heart. Is he going to be Scottie Pippen? No, but he showed flashes of brilliance, and the Celtics are going to need somebody to step up, and Jeff Green is probably their best option for that.
Brooklyn Nets - Aundray Blatche. Oh yes, out of all the changes the Nets made, I'm going with a guy they brought back. Blatche, who took the minimum to screw over the Wizards more, so they have to pay him as much as possibly after amnestying him is going to be one of the most interesting players of the season. That is because he will be playing with KG. Blatche has always had talent, so will KG help him unlock those skills, or will he drive KG insane? There is NO MIDDLE GROUND. Can't wait.
Charlotte Bobcats - Kemba Walker. I think most would say he had a disappointing rookie year, but his second year, he improved across the board with increased usage. Now that he has Al Jefferson to take some of the defensive focus away from him, he could easily go for 20 PPG. Also, do not count them out of having the worst overall record. This team isn't just going to stand up and let the 76ers be worse than them; they'll have to earn it.
Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose. So I'm an admitted Bulls fan, and there are a lot of things I could write here, but everything pales in comparison to this team having Derrick Rose back. The Bulls could really use a backup center, but outside of that, this team looks great. They may even occasionally bench Deng since they have Dunleavy to take minutes at the 3, and they can just play Jimmy Butler 45 minutes a game so Thibodeau doesn't get out of rhythm. Taj added 20 pounds of muscle and has looked like a beast in the preseason. Okay, need to stop before I start waxing poetically about what Erik Murphy can bring in his 10 minutes of garbage time this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers - Anderson Varejao. Yes, Kyrie is great and everything about Andrew Bynum is worth paying attention to, but don't forget how great Varejao was last year before a blood clot ended his season. It's never just one thing with Varejao, but it's always something. I really hope he stays healthy, because he's a total hustle player, and if he's playing the Bulls, I'll want to reach through the screen and strangle him, but you just gotta respect what he brings to the court.
Dallas Mavericks - Dirk Nowitzki. If he's back to 100%, or even near there, he's amazing to watch. He does things that nobody else in the game can do, and we should not forget how great he is. Never forget: Initially traded for Robert "Tractor" Traylor.
Denver Nuggets - Everybody. Seriously, everyone. Checking out their roster from top to bottom, I can see the value in every player they have. They are kind of like an experienced college team where they'll play a lot of guys and can scrap with teams that have better talent. They will just keep throwing out lines, and they have an insane bench scorer who can turn into the best player on the court in Nate Robinson. JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried as their starting front court has so much potential. They are likely going to regress, but they are also likely to bother every team they play as they keep sending out fresh guys.
Detroit Pistons - The Frontcourt. I kind of feel bad for Greg Monroe, because he is a very good NBA player, but he is completely uninteresting compared to Josh Smith and Andre Drummond. But how those three work together in an offense where they will basically just all be calling for the ball in the paint, with Josh Smith occasionally popping out for an ill-advised three just because he can. Also, they may never get the ball with Brandon Jennings running the point. They will have the biggest smiles on some nights and the biggest frowns on others. I expect this team to make Assistant Coach Rasheed Wallace proud with their number of ejections.
Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry. He's really amazing when healthy. I don't think he'll ever be fully healthy for a full year, but who cares? When he's out there, it is nearly impossible to change the channel.
Houston Rockets - Dwight Howard. I know everybody hates Dwight Howard, and he does seem incredibly douchey, but back when I worked for the Sonics. I saw him put up 39 points, and I'm pretty sure that 24 of those points were scored on dunks. I just checked the box score and he somehow made 15-20 free throws in that game. To be fair, Robert Swift was injured during that game, but I will never forget how dominant he was in that game. Back surgeries are bad news, but he has actually had time to totally rest it, and if he's back to Orlando Magic Howard, the Rockets are going to be a contender.
Indiana Pacers - The Next Level. The Pacers have three guys who have a very realistic shot of making a huge leap forward in their game. The most obvious is Paul George who already showed that he's good enough to be a star, but if he can make a higher percentage of shots and get to the line some more, he might be a superstar. Roy Hibbert was dominant in the postseason, and if he does that all season, that could make things very interesting. There's also Lance Stephenson, who might be great, but could also turn into a guy who takes so many bad shots that he cancels out his defensive contributions. But if he developed a consistent three from the corner, he could cause some serious issues for other teams.
Los Angeles Clippers - The Wings. Yes, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are great, but their wings are what could bring this team to the next level. They are all guys who are way better suited to be on a contender. Jamal Crawford is a heat check guy who can score a ridiculous amount of points if he's on. If he's off, you bench him, and it's no big deal because of the other guys around him. Matt Barnes is a nice contributor, Jared Dudley fills many of the same roles, as he plays tough defense and is high energy. And then there's JJ Redick, who was made to play for a contender as he provides above average defense and great shooting. Nothing else, but that's all they need. I also really like Reggie Bullock, but I do think it'll be tough for him to get many minutes.
Los Angeles Lakers - Steve Nash. I love Kobe too and am anxious to see him back, but I feel like everybody forgot how great Steve Nash is. The way that people talked about Nash, I would have thought he played 20 games and produced zero value. Yes, he's awful on defense, but he still has tremendous court vision and almost shot 50-40-90 last year. Also, Kobe. He's more like Jordan than any other player in history. And yes, LeBron's better, but he would cut his left arm off to win another championship, and you have to respect that.
Memphis Grizzlies - Grit n' Grind. This is not going to be pretty basketball, but if you fondly look back on the 90s, this is the most 90s style team you could ever possibly see.
Miami Heat - LeBron. I know I have picked some under-the-radar guys for other teams, but LeBron is amazing to watch. Remember, LeBron got better last year. He could still be improving. That is so scary. When he plays the Bulls tonight, I am going to be filled with hate, but I still can't wait.
Milwaukee Bucks - LARRY SANDERS! - Credit to Zach Lowe, because he deserves the CAPS treatment. Not only does he block shots like no other, but he also did this.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Ricky Rubio. Not only is he the happiest guy in the NBA, but he also makes others around him happier. He is encouraging Alexey Shved to play with a smile, because he plays better when he is happy. If I could adopt an NBA player, it would be Ricky Rubio. Am I the only one who imagines him as the Tom Haverford of the NBA. I can't be.
New Orleans Pelicans - Anthony Davis. If The Brow takes the leap (like everyone in the world seems to be predicting), New Orleans basketball will be really fun. I still worry about their defense, but with Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis out there, they'll be incredibly fun to watch while they have the ball.
New York Knicks - Carmelo Anthony. He's got old man game. He's not an athleticism guy, but he knows all the tricks to get his shot off, and that will never leave him. Down the road, if he wanted to take a smaller role, he could probably keep being a valuable contributor for a team well into his 40s.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant. Nearly the same explanation as LeBron. Durant is still getting better, and that's scary. He's great. Enjoy him in his prime.
Orlando Magic - Youth. Trying to decide what young guy is the man to get most excited about is too tough, so I'm just happy to watch everybody. Yes, Oladipo and Vucevic are the best bets to stand out, but Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson could also take steps forward this year. No, they probably won't be good, but it'll be fun to see who's the best of the bunch.
Philadelphia 76ers - Brandon Davies. Remember him? From BYU. He got dismissed for the honor code, which most likely means he had sex, possibly with the Mormons most valuable commodity, white women. But he's on the 76ers. There are 29 teams that he probably couldn't get playing time with, but he's on the one where he can. I know people keep saying that they won't break the record for most losses, but man, you look at this roster, and they definitely have a shot.
Phoenix Suns - Eric Bledsoe. This is easy, because he was exciting in limited minutes for the Clippers, but now the Suns may as well play him as much as possible and see what good comes from it. They may even trade Dragic to help with the tanking, which would give him even more freedom to do as he pleases. It's Bledsoe's team, and I can't wait to see how that turns out.
Portland Trail Blazers - Damian Lillard. He was Rookie of the Year last year, so he may be getting better still. Even if he is only as good as last year, that's still a fun player to build around. He's also got Aldridge in the middle and a lot of quality NBA players around them.
Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins. There's basketball in Sacramento, and maybe this is the year that Cousins figures it out. Yes, I could see myself saying that in six years too, but things might finally be coming together. If Cousins cared, just, like 80% of the time, he'd be an All-Star. If he cared all the time, he's an MVP candidate.
San Antonio Spurs - Teamwork. Yeah, it's cliche, but how do you separate an individual on this group that is made to be a team. Duncan is fantastic, Tony Parker is properly rated by hardcore NBA fans, but still underrated by the casual fan, maybe Ginobili can only play 15 minutes, but if he does it at Ginobili levels, that's still great, and then there's Kawhi who turned into a beast down the stretch. You put these parts together, watch them gel perfectly, and enjoy the fun.
Toronto Raptors - Jonas Valanciunas. He was super popular to be a sleeper last year, and he was fine, but what he showed in the summer and preseason lead me to believe that he might be taking a big step forward this year. Honorable mention to Rudy Gay who is seen as highly overrated by analytics, but he's still a really good basketball player, and that shouldn't be underestimated.
Utah Jazz - The Bigs. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Who is going to be the dominant big? No idea. Are either of them going to be good? Probably, but we don't know. I'm anxious to find out.
Washington Wizards - Johnley Beall - John Wall and Bradley Beal are two players I love watching, and they work great together. They have been helping each other get better since the moment Beal was drafted, with Beal helping Wall on his shot, and Wall helping Beal with ball handling and defense. These are two guys who can be All-Stars with Beal as a dominant scorer, and Wall as the most athletic point guard in the league who can do things that nobody else can. Do not underestimate how good these guys can be.
The season opens up tonight, and there's plenty to be excited about.