Grading Every NBA Team's Roster Entering First Week of Training Camp
In the NBA, one or two players can make a world of difference, but it takes an entire team, fighting together, to win a championship.
Would LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been found hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy into the air without the help of athletes like Shane Battier, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers by their side? Would Kobe Bryant be in possession of five championship rings without the assistance of a string of talented supporting casts? Heck, would Michael Jordan have taken the Bulls as far as he did, as often as he did, without a core group of guys who had is back?
No, three times over.
Far too often, when we think of an organization's roster, we're focused on the superstars, the starting five, maybe even the first or second guy off the bench.
But NBA depth charts delve deeper than six or seven, and when evaluating each team's current assembly, so will we.
*Note: All rosters are based upon training camp dockets and are not considered final; teams will eventually adjust sets accordingly to fit within confines of 15-man limit.
Guards: James Anderson, Devin Harris, John Jenkins, Carldell Johnson, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams
Forwards: Damion James, Ivan Johnson, Kyle Korver, Ismail Muhammad, Mike Scott, Josh Smith, Anthony Tolliver
Centers: Keith Benson, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, Johan Petro
The Hawks aren't necessarily better off than they were last season, but they certainly have more options.
Not only does Atlanta still possess two star players in Al Horford and Josh Smith, but its incredibly deep in the backcourt, with players like Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and Lou Williams all clamoring for a prominent role.
Center is hardly an issue for the Hawks either. Horford and Zaza Pachulia make up one of the better big man tandems in the league.
Atlanta's downfall will prove to be its forward spots. Outside of Smith, there aren't a lot of competent options at the 3 or 4. Kyle Korver is definitely one, and Ivan Johnson has shown some grit as well, but it's unclear how he will handle an increased role.
Lack of depth at the forward positions will force the Hawks to play a lot of small-ball, using players like Morrow and Williams out of position on plenty of occasions.
And yet, while their docket is rough around the edges, it's tough to envision this team not making the postseason.
Guards: Avery Bradley, Dionte Christmas, Courtney Lee, Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry
Forwards: Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, Kris Joseph, Paul Pierce, Jamar Smith, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox
Centers: Jason Collins, Fab Melo, Darko Milicic
Boston's roster boasts the perfect balance of youth and experience, which is why it should come as no surprise when the boys in green embark on another late postseason run.
Instead of rebuilding, the Celtics attempted to retain their contender status, which they ultimately did. Rajon Rondo, along with veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry anchor in a rotation that is extremely deep at both forward spots, but with plenty of talent at positions one through five.
A lack of depth in the backcourt and at center is cause for some concern, but let's face it, Garnett spends most of his time playing the 5 anyway. As for the backcourt, the Celtics have numerous forwards—Green and Pierce for starters—who can handle the ball and create plays for others.
So, while Boston's assembly is not without flaws, it is strong enough to contend. And that's all that matters.
Guards: Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Stephen Dennis, Joe Johnson, Jerry Stackhouse, Tyshawn Taylor, C.J. Watson, Deron Williams
Forwards: Andray Blatche, Josh Childress, Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries, James Mays, Carleton Scott, Tornike Shengelia, Mirza Teletovic, Gerald Wallace, Jordan Williams
Centers: Brook Lopez
Comparing this season's Nets roster to the one from last season is like night and day.
Brooklyn completely retooled its dynamic, re-signing superstar Deron Williams and bringing in additional firepower in Joe Johnson. Returnees Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace round out one of the most talented starting fives in the league.
The problem for the Nets, though, lies on the bench. They have plenty of depth everywhere you turn—from C.J. Watson to Reggie Evans to Marshon Brooks to Mirza Teletovic—except at center.
Brook Lopez is the only true center center on the roster, and while players like Andray Blatch, Evans and even Teletovic can help out, Brooklyn's lack of size is bound to kill them on some nights.
And perhaps even derail any championship aspirations.
Guards: Matt Carroll, Ben Gordon, Gerald Henderson, Ramon Sessions, Jeffery Taylor, Kemba Walker
Forwards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tyrus Thomas, Reggie Williams
Center: Bismack Biyombo, DeSagana Diop, Brendan Haywood
Where's the balance?
I've been chastised for my brutal interpretation of the Bobcats plenty of times before, yet I stand by it. This is a team in desperate need of a leader, some experience to combat its youth. Most importantly, though, this is a team in need of some direction.
Though Charlotte has plenty of talent in the backcourt, guys like Matt Carroll, Gerald Henderson and even Ramon Sessions will be forced to play out of their comfort zones because of deficient depth at the forward spots.
I'm not saying Sessions will play the 4, but there will undoubtedly be times he shifts to the 2, so Henderson can play the three, and so on.
So, let's put my personal feelings aside and just call a lost team, a lost team. Until Charlotte can deepen its attack at the 3 and 4, there's only so much progress it can incur.
Guards: Ryan Allen, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler, Vance Cooksey, Andre Emmett, Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Derrick Rose, Marquis Teague
Forwards: Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Marko Jaric, Vladimir Radmanovic
Centers: Kyrylo Fesenko, Nazr Mohammed, Joakim Noah
I'm not down on the Bulls, nor do I doubt their potential, even without Derrick Rose. I am, however, weary, of their ability to stay healthy without him.
It's not just about the talent on this roster. Because let's face it, when people are calling for the roster spot of someone like Carlos Boozer, the team's in pretty good shape.
The caveat there is Chicago's health. It's not just Rose the Bulls have to worry about, but Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton as well. In other words, the rest of the team's normal starting lineup.
So, while the Bulls are a great team, they're also fragile, which is a major problem.
That said, their ability to remain relevant, to remain a part of the championship conversation despite such fragilities, is a true testament to how talented this group really is.
Guards: Daniel Gibson, Kyrie Irving, Jeremy Pargo, Donald Sloan, Dion Waiters
Forwards: Kelenna Azubuike, Omri Casspi, Michael Eric, Alonzo Gee, Luke Harangody, Jon Leuer, C.J. Miles, Samardo Samuels, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Luke Walton
Centers: Tyler Zeller
In all reality, Tyler Zeller is not the only center in Cleveland. Though undersized, Anderson Varejao is considered a center in most circles. So while the Cavaliers appear incredibly thin there, those two make up a nice duo at the 5.
And Cleveland's problems sure don't stem from the backcourt either. I've got my reserves about Dion Waiters' ability to live up to his draft position and become more efficient, but he, along with a superstar in Kyrie Irving and two glue guys in Daniel Gibson and Jeremy Pargo are more than capable.
Which brings us to the forward slots, where quantity, not quality runs rampant. C.J. Miles, Omri Cassipi and Alonzo Gee make up a small forward rotation with promise, but none of them scream game-changer.
And who do you want backing up Tristan Thompson at the 4? Is Cleveland supposed to use a three-man rotation in the low post with Thompson, Varejao and Zeller all game?
For the Cavaliers to make the jump back to playoff contender, they must shore up the forward spots, with talent that can guarantee production. And that's in addition to hoping Waiters pans out down the road.
Guards: Josh Akognon, Rodrigue Beaubois, Vince Carter, Darren Collison, Jared Cunningham, Dahntay Jones, Dominique Jones, O.J. Mayo, Delonte West
Forwards: Elton Brand, Jae Crowder, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brandan Wright
Centers: Bernard James, Chris Kaman
Three cheers for surprises.
After the free agency all but decimated the Mavericks once again, Mark Cuban and company went to work, assembling a deceptively deep unit.
Newcomers Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo all but ensure Dallas will remain competitive as Dirk Nowitzki enters the twilight of his career. There's also a potential scoring gem to be had in Jae Crowder—and maybe Josh Akognon as well, though not likely—which would only strengthen the Mavs' offensive attack.
Throw in established veterans like Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Deltone West, and the ever underrated talents of Rodrigue Beaubois and you have the makings of a roster with the potential to shock a lot of people.
Just color Dallas the 2012-13 version of the 2010-11 Grizzlies.
Guards: Anthony Carter, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Julyan Stone, Ben Uzoh
Forwards: Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Quincy Miller, Anthony Randolph
Centers: Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov
Kenneth Faried's facial expression captures the semblance of Denver's roster perfectly—fierce.
Show me a weak position on the Nuggets' docket and I'll promptly name 10 reasons why you're mistaken. Because while this team isn't littered with star power, it is laden with unselfish depth.
You've got Ty Lawson and Andre Miller to lead the floor-general charge and a slew of wings who can spend time at the 2, 3 or 4 in Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala and Quincy Miller. Then there's also the interior pillars to consider in Faried, Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov. Even Anthony Randolph's versatility sheds another bright spot on this roster.
Simply put, not enough can be said about how well-rounded this docket is.
Subsequently, it would come as a great surprise if Denver isn't found battling its way deep into the postseason in 2013.
Guards: Will Bynum, Kim English, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey
Forwards: Austin Daye, Andre Drummond, Jonas Jerebko, Corey Maggette, Khris Middleton, Tayshaun Prince, Kyle Singler, Charlie Villanueva
Centers: Jason Maxiell, Greg Monroe
Outside of Greg Monroe at center, there's not one player or position you look at and think "wow, this team's going places" with regard to the Pistons.
Though Tayshaun Prince was once considered a near star-caliber player, he's well past his prime. Jonas Jerebko has shown some offensive prowess, but he remains fundamentally raw. And speaking of raw, as prolific as Andre Drummond has the potential to be, he has a long, long way to go on both ends of the floor.
Even the backcourt, with scorers Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, doesn't instill fear in opponents. Not only will the two often find themselves overmatched physically, but Will Bynum and Kim English are hardly strong enough stopgaps in their stead.
But yeah, there's should-have-already-been-an-All-Star Monroe. He's the only player who really provides Detroit with any source of immediate hope.
So just focus on him for now.
Golden State Warriors
Guards: Kent Bazemore, Carlon Brown, Stephen Curry, lance Goulbourne, Stefhon Hannah, Jarrett Jack, Charles Jenkins, Tarence Kinsey, Brandon Rush, Klay Thompson
Forwards: Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Rick Jackson, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry, David Lee, Jeremy Tyler
Centers: Andris Biedrins, Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli
Now pictured above is what I call a formidable Big Three. When the two players not named David Lee are healthy, that is.
Golden State, much like Chicago has an extremely talented roster—though not as proven. Unfortunately, their potential is marred by an excessive number of injury risks.
Yes, the Warriors acquired some much needed insurance in the forms of Harrison Barnes, Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack, and have reasons to be optimistic in Brandon Rush and Klay Thompson. But that's not enough. They need their stars to be on the court consistently.
So, essentially, this team will go as far as Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry's health bills allow it.
Guards: Toney Douglas, Kyle Fogg, Courtney Fortson, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Shaun Livingston, Scott Machado, Kevin Martin, Cemetri McCamey
Forwards: Jon Brockman, Carlos Delfino, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, Terrence Jones, Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson, Diamon Simpson, Royce White
Centers: Omer Asik, Greg Smith
I've been constantly ridiculed for my lack of faith in the talent Houston's assembled, so let me address that misconception.
I don't doubt, by any means, how talented the players on the Rockets are. What I doubt is this team's ability to tie them all together.
Think about how many players on this roster remain unproven, are still raw, in need of some serious two-way refining. Lost count? There's my point.
Jeremy Lin very well could be a star. Royce White, in all his position-less glory, could very well destroy the competition. And Donatas Motiejunas could very turn into the seven-foot monster he's supposed to.
But right now, Houston's roster is fitted with odds and ends, and training camp isn't enough time to sort through this mess of talent.
Which is going to make for an uglier regular season than the individual talent here would suggest.
Guards: Blake Ahearn, D.J. Augustin, Sundiata Gaines, Paul George, Gerald Green, Ben Hansbrough, George Hill, Orlando Johnson, Lance Stephenson
Forwards: Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Pendergraph, Miles Plumlee, David West, Sam Young
Centers: Roy Hibbert, Ian Mahinmi, Luke Nevill
Rest assured, I'm not sleeping on the Pacers, but I'm not nearly as sold on them as I was last season.
I've moved on from the notion Indiana overpaid Roy Hibbert. The fact is it did, and it had to.
What truly makes me uneasy is the team's point guard situation. George Hill is not the playmaker he's made out to be. Is he a good backup, someone who can direct the offense in a pinch? Of course, but so are Paul George and Danny Granger. Should they get an opportunity to start at the point as well?
D.J. Augustin has show some starting-caliber prowess, but he still needs to prove he can produce the same type of numbers within a system that contains, you know, talent.
Outside of point guard, there are no glaring holes Indiana needs to fill, though. Another shooter to help relieve the burden off Gerald Green, Granger and George's shoulders would have been nice, but that held true last season.
The reality is, the Pacers can compete with almost anyone in the league; they're a good team. They're just not great.
Los Angeles Clippers
Guards: Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Willie Green, Travis Leslie, Chris Paul
Forwards: Matt Barnes, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Trey Thompkins
Centers: Ryan Hollins, DeAndre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf
Cautiously optimistic—that's how the Clippers must approach the 2012-13 campaign.
Los Angeles made a series of acquisitions that undoubtedly improved the state of the roster, but between the excessive number of injury-prone athletes and players with question marks, this dynamic has the potential to implode.
An encouraging reality, though? If Blake Griffin can hold true to his word and improve his jumper, the Clippers' offensive attack stands to become much more lethal than the addition of Jamal Crawford and return of Chauncey Billups could ever make it.
Because ultimately, this team will go not as far as Chris Paul can carry it, but how far he and Griffin can carry it. Paul can't do it alone; he needs another two-way superstar to ensure Los Angeles can compete with the in-house rival Lakers and defending champion Heat, among other teams.
Los Angeles Lakers
Guards: Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant, Chris Duhon, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jodie Meeks, Darius Morris, Steve Nash
Forwards: Earl Clark, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Devin Ebanks, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison, Reeves Nelson, Metta World Peace
Centers: Ronnie Aguilar, Jordan Hill, Dwight Howard, Robert Sacre, Greg Somogyi
The Lakers are even scarier to look at in a picture than they are on paper, aren't they?
Los Angeles had the most successful offseason of any team in the NBA. Overnight, it transformed from a fringe-contender into a championship favorite. That's quite the accomplishment, even for a squad that already boasts the likes of Kobe Bryant.
Though there are plenty of issues regarding the chemistry between the Lakers' star-studded quartet, you have to believe that this assembly is not only going to work, but thrive.
Can you imagine Steve Nash failing at anything? Is Dwight Howard about to let what is left of his image escape him courtesy of a poor season? And will Bryant really allow this team to strive for anything but perfection?
Showtime is back in Tinseltown, and it isn't going anywhere. Not anytime soon anyway.
Guards: Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, Mike Conley, Wayne Ellington, D.J. Kennedy, Ronald Murray, Josh Selby, Kyle Weaver, Tony Wroten
Forwards: Darrell Arthur, Michael Dunigan, Ronald Dupree, Jarrid Famous, Rudy Gay, Quincy Pondexter, Zach Randolph
Centers: Marc Gasol, Hamed Haddadi, Jerome Jordan, Marreese Speights
Am I being too generous? Not at all.
Memphis is one of the deepest teams in the NBA, and somehow, they seem even deeper after O.J. Mayo's departure.
Why exactly? Because Jerryd Bayless and Tony Wroten are going to work wonders for this squad.
Both athletes are unofficial combo guards who will not only be able to run the offense for the second-unit, but also come in and play off the ball whenever needed. Factor in the returns of Darrell Arthur and Marreese Speights, along with the addition of Wayne Ellington, and you have one of the most top-heavy benches in the league.
Oh yeah, there's also the starting lineup to consider. Last time I checked, Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were no slouches. In fact, they're far from it; they're more like the Fundamental Five if anything.
So, assuming Randolph can follow up his injury-plagued campaign the way Gay did last season, the sky's the limit for this depth-laden entity.
Guards: Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Terrel Harris, Garrett Temple, Dwyane Wade
Forwards: Shane Battier, Chris Bosh, Rodney Carney, Robert Dozier, Josh Harrellson, Udonis Haslem, LeBron James, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller, Jarvis Varnado
Center: Joel Anthony, Mickell Gladness, Dexter Pittman
Here is our official tribute to versatility.
Which also explains why the Heat operate much of the time without a true center, because guys like Dexter Pittman and Joel Anthony cannot play more than one position.
From the bench to the starting lineup, Miami's roster appears unstoppable. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are fresh off a championship run, and have now found two former All-Stars to run with this season in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
From there you have the likes of Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Josh Harrellson, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller—players who, collectively, inject plenty of offense, defense and rebounding in the Heat's rotation.
What more could you ask for?
Outside of a second-straight championship ring, nothing.
Guards: Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Doron Lamb, Beno Udrih
Forwards: Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Tobias Harris, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ekpe Udoh
Centers: Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla, Larry Sanders
Though the Bucks need a center capable of making a two-way impact to emerge, they need Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings to succeed even more.
Why? Because they're it. Milwaukee's backcourt is anything but laden with talent, and if the Ellis-Jennings dynamic fails in any capacity, the Bucks don't have anywhere else to turn or talented enough players to shake things up.
And the more you look at the roster in general, the more you realize how young, inexperienced and thin it is.
Subsequently, for the Bucks to even think about making the playoffs, Ersan Ilyasova, along with Ellis and Jennings will have to thrive, because outside of a promising John Henson, there isn't much else to get excited about in Milwaukee.
Guards: J.J. Barea, Malcolm Lee, Luke Ridnour, Brandon Roy, Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved
Forwards: Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham, Robbie Hummel, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Derrick Williams
Centers: Nikola Pekovic, Greg Stiemsma
Disappointed? You shouldn't be.
I've criticized Minnesota's offseason extensively over the past couple of months, but even I'm not going to deny the potential of this team.
My greatest knock is that the Timberwolves are liable to collapse if Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy don't come near the high ceiling that has been set for them. The fact is, even if it was Kevin Love who hadn't played NBA-caliber basketball in a year, I'd be weary of getting too excited.
That said, look at the depth this team has. Once Ricky Rubio returns, not only do Kirilenko and Roy become lethal weapons regardless of how far gone they are, but Love becomes that much more dangerous as well. So does Chase Budinger. And hey, so do Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic.
Do you see a pattern?
Rubio is the lace that ties all this together. Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea are solid guards with decent court vision, but neither of them match the anticipation and innate instincts of Rubio. Plus, with him in the lineup, the other two instantly become off-ball weapons.
Subsequently, as long as Rubio's healthy, and Love doesn't have to shoulder the leadership burden on his own, this team is headed in the right direction.
New Orleans Hornets
Guards: Eric Gordon, Xavier Henry, Roger Mason Jr., Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts, Greivis Vasquez, Chris Wright
Forwards: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Darius Miller, Dominique Morrison, Jason Smith, Lance Thomas, Hakim Warrick
Centers: Solomon Alabi, Robin Lopez, Darryl Watkins
The Hornets won't find themselves playoff-bound, but it doesn't matter.
New Orleans is a much more talented team this time around, having snagged both Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers in the draft and having re-signed Eric Gordon, as well as acquired Ryan Anderson.
Now, with this core in place, the Hornets finally appear to have depth. Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez are hardly players whose jerseys you'd wear, but they're solid reserves and more than serve the Hornets immediate purpose.
Because while it's unlikely that this team earns a postseason bid, their docket has officially gone from irrelevant to compelling.
And that's a huge victory in itself.
New York Knicks
Guards: Oscar Bellfield, Ronnie Brewer, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert, Chris Smith, J.R. Smith, James White
Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland, Steve Novak, John Shurna, Amar'e Stoudemire, Mychel Thompson, Rasheed Wallace
Centers: Marcus Camby, Tyson Chandler, Henry Sims, Kurt Thomas
Simultaneously, New York's roster is being both over and underestimated.
The Knicks had far from a successful offseason. It marked what seemed like the upteenth summer of a docket upheaval and they added a plethora of aging veterans. So many veterans, in fact, New York has become the oldest team in NBA history.
That's not a good thing by any means.
And yet, the Knicks still added a handful of quality players. Marcus Camby, Ronnie Brewer and even Jason Kidd are not to be trifled with. Factor in the star power Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler provide, along with a strong supporting cast in Iman Shumpert (when healthy), J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, and you have a team that could contend for a title.
But they could also fall flat on their faces, which is why its premature to deem them one of the most talented rosters in the league.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Guards: Daequan Cook, James Harden, Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Liggins, Eric Maynor, Andy Rautins, Walker Russell, Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook
Forwards: Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Lazar Hayward, Serge Ibaka, Perry Jones, Daniel Orton, Hollis Thompson
Centers: Cole Aldrich, Kendrick Perkins, Hasheem Thabeet
Oklahoma City didn't do much to retool its roster this season, but that's because it didn't have to.
The core to contend has always been there in Kevin Durant, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook, but the additions of Hasheem Thabeet, Perry Jones and Andy Rautins have helped deepen an already deep rotation.
So, while Oklahoma City will look strikingly similar to the product put on the court last year, its subtle changes, coupled with its already establish superiorities, has rendered it one of the most, if not the most, talented players clip in the league.
Guards: Arron Afflalo, E'Twaun Moore, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Ishmael Smith
Forwards: Gustavo Ayon, Glen Davis, Christian Eyenga, Moe Harkless, Justin Harper, Al Harington, Josh McRoberts, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, Quentin Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu
Centers: Nikola Vucevic
Once you move past the Dwight Howard saga, it's really not all that bad in Orlando. Except that it is.
While the Magic have a assembled a nice group of talent, there is no rhyme or reason to this structure. Not only could they have gotten more in return, but they could have it least ensured some balance.
Currently, Orlando is laden with forwards, most of which aren't versatile. The same cannot be said of the backcourt or center situation, though, as the Magic are wafer thin there.
Players like Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson, Andrew Nicholson, J.J. Redick and Glen Davis are capable, but they're nothing to get truly excited about; none of them scream playoff contender..
So, as optimistic as you'd like to remain, there's no use getting around it—it's going to be a long, long season in Orlando.
Guards: Jrue Holiday, Royal Ivey, Jason Richardson, Xavier Silas, Evan Turner, Maalik Wayns, Nick Young
Forwards: Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie, Devin Dearcy, Damien Wilkins, Dorell Wright, Thaddeus Young
Centers: Kwame Brown, Andrew Bynum, Dan Gadzuric, Spencer Hawes, Mikki Moore
Are the Sixers currently overdoing it at center? Yes, but they'll trim the excess talent by training camp's end and that still doesn't change how much talent is on this roster otherwise.
Andrew Bynum's arrival—knee problems and all—introduces an exciting new dynamic to the city of Philadelphia. Finally, they have a budding star to build around, someone who commands so much attention, that the defense splits their focus.
That's what Bynum does for the Sixers. That's what players like Jason Richardson, Evan Turn, Nick Young, Jrue Holiday and Dorell Wright will capitalize off.
And that's what will ultimately propel Philadelphia back into the playoffs, and beyond.
Guards: Shannon Brown, Goran Dragic, Diante Garrett, Othyus Jeffers, Kendall Marshall, Sebastian Telfair, P.J. Tucker
Forwards: Michael Beasley, Ike Diogu, Jared Dudley, Wesley Johnson, Markieff Morris, Luis Scola
Centers: Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat, Solomond Jones, Luke Zeller
Phoenix rebounded quickly after Steve Nash.
No, the Suns are hardly the team they were under Nash, but they're still relevant. Subtle, yet impact-ready additions like Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola have given this team hope. Which, amid a time when Nash is beginning a new tenure elsewhere and Channing Frye has been struck by tragedy, is an amazing reality.
Factor in the presences of Shannon Brown and Marcin Gortat, along with rookie Kendall Marshall, though, and you have more than hope—you have a team that is guaranteed to have a bright future.
One that will culminate in a playoff berth sooner rather than later.
Portland Trail Blazers
Guards: Will Barton, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Ronnie Price, Nolan Smith, Elliot Williams
Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Luke Babbit, Nicolas Batum, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, J.J. Hickson, Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavlovic
Centers: Meyers Leonard
There's something seriously troubling about Portland's current roster. And no, it's not the absence of a center not named Meyers Leonard.
Truth be told, the Blazers have plenty of players—like J.J. Hickson or Jared Jeffries—who are capable of manning the 5 when called upon. However, the same cannot be said for their backcourt rotation.
Damian Lillard is a stud and Wesley Matthews is one of the most under-appreciated talents in the league. But after them, who is there?
Nolan Smith turned some heads last season, but he's still a project, just like Will Barton will be. And that's a problem.
How can the Blazers be expected to return to the postseason, or even close to playoff form, when their backcourt makeup is noticeably shallow? Better yet, outside of Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, is the frontcourt in much better shape? Not at all.
And Portland will suffer in in 2012-13 as a result.
Guards: Aaron Brooks, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, John Salmons, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton
Forwards: DeMarcus Cousins, Tyler Honeycutt, James Johnson, Travis Outlaw, Thomas Robinson
Centers: Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson
The Kings aren't a bad team, they're just poorly constructed.
Sacramento has a wealth of talent on its roster, but a lot gets lost in the win-loss translation.
With DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson to lead the interior charge, the Kings should easily become one of the strongest rebounding teams in the league.
From there, though, Sacramento is one of the most enigmatic, uncertain teams in the league.
Can Isaiah Thomas successfully follow up an improbable rookie campaign? Does Tyreke Evans have a star-caliber year in him? Will Jimmer Fredette and Aaron Brooks proved counterproductive within the same system? Is there a competent small forward in our midst?
Those questions, and more, are the types of issues facing a Kings roster that is surprisingly talented, yet woefully unproductive.
San Antonio Spurs
Guards: Nando Colo, Manu Ginobili, Daniel Green, Stephen Jacksobn, Cory Joseph, Patrick Mills, Gary Neal, Tony Parker
Forwards: DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Derrick Byars, Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard
Centers: Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter
Key member's of San Antonio's core may be aging rapidly, but the Spurs have begun to inject spots of youth into their roster of as well, which should pay off immediately.
Though players like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and even Tony Parker are far from fountains of youth, they all possess that same desire to win, that unwavering sense of motivation.
Add a pinch of youngsters Daniel Green, DeJuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard and even Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal, and you have a roster that is much more balanced than people give San Antonio credit for.
So, while the Spurs are nowhere near as athletic as a team like the Thunder, they're far more exuberant and spry than they let on.
Simply put, on paper alone, title contention is anything but out of reach.
Guards: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Kyle Lowry, John Lucas, Terrence Ross
Forwards: Quincy Acy, Alan Anderson, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson, Linas Kleiza, Dominic McGuire, Tomislav Zubcic
Centers: Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray, Jonas Valanciunas
It's all about potential in Toronto.
While the Raptors could easily wind up finishing amongst the NBA's basement dwellers once again, they also have the potential to make some serious noise.
Newcomers Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas inject a refreshing amount of versatility into Toronto's lineup, and have the potential to make an immediate impact on the offensive end.
Combine such levels of prowess with the already heightened offensive instincts of Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon, and this is a team that is constructed to put plenty of points on the board.
But can confidence on offense lead to lockdown defense? Will the Raptors, in all their offensive glory, be able to match the team's defensive ranking of 10th overall from last year?
With such an offensively oriented group it's going to be difficult, but their ability to do so will be the difference between a playoff chase and guaranteed lottery spot.
Guards: Raja Bell, Alec Burks, Randy Foye, Kevin Murphy, Chris Quinn, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, Mo Williams
Forwards: DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Evans, Derrick Favors, Trey Gilder, Gordon Hayward, Darnell Jackson, Paul Millsap, Marvin Williams
Centers: Brian Butch, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter
Unlike last season the Jazz have some actual depth in the backcourt. It's not much, but the sheer combination of Randy Foye and Mo Williams to go along with Raja Bell and Alec Burks has far more potential than any backcourt assembly Utah put together last season.
Small forward has even become less of a sore spot as well. Gordon Hayward has star-like potential on offense, and Marvin Williams stretches the floor with his ability to play both the 3 and 4. Even Jeremy Evans is likely to get in on the party.
And then, as we all know, until Utah breaks up its low-post quartet, it has the deepest interior assembly in the league. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors all have the type of two-way impact that ensures the Jazz will never be overpowered down low.
Though such a collective is far from powerhouse-esque, there is no doubt Utah is talented enough to clinch another understated playoff berth.
Guards: Bradley Beal, Jordan Crawford, Steven Gray, Shelvin Mack, Cartier Martin, Jannero Pargo, A.J. Price, John Wall
Forwards: Trevor Ariza, Earl Barron, Trevor Booker, Brian Cook, Shavlik Randolph, Tomas Satoransky, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Martell Webster
Centers: Nene, Emeka Okafor
Even with John Wall on the sidelines, the Wizards have the potential to surprise us all.
That said, potential can account for only so much. Between the injury-prone Nene, the uncertain ceiling of Jan Vesely and Bradley Beal's transition into the NBA, among other things, there are far too many issues and question marks plaguing this Washington team.
A somewhat busy offseason saw the Wizards bring in proven performers like Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, but even they cannot offset the multitude of underdeveloped, albeit promising, prospects Washington is currently home to.
Who knows, though, maybe this is the year Trevor Booker becomes a consistent inside presence. Maybe Jordan Crawford can turn into a reliable contributor on either end of the ball. Maybe Chris Singleton will have a stronger-than-projected sophomore campaign.
Until those "maybes" become realities or the Wizards' core prove capable of carrying rendering such uncertainties irrelevant, though, Washington is merely an improved team that will still fall short of a playoff berth.