The NBA is back!
Struggling in the preseason isn't a phrase that's thrown around much in basketball circles, and rightfully so.
However, there were five teams in the preseason that didn't play up to their abilities in the meaningless schedule.
In the NBA and any other sport, preseason isn't a good indicator of future regular season performance.
Hell, not even regular season performance can accurately indicate playoff results, as evidenced by the Boston Celtics' run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Like some teams that can turn on the proverbial switch in the playoffs, most teams go through the motions in the preseason before turning it up when the lights go on and fans show up.
Unless you're in Atlanta, of course.
Here are five teams that have playoff aspirations that will be a lot better than their preseason record has shown.
No Ray Allen, no problem.
A 3-5 record in the preseason would connote that maybe the Celtics would struggle with the absence of Ray Allen, age of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and the struggles of Rajon Rondo now that he will shoulder a larger part of the offense.
This is simply not the case. Look for the Celtics to play great defense yet again, win their division handily—seriously, Knicks?—and go into the playoffs ready to rumble with the Miami Heat.
This year's team may be better than last year's Eastern Conference finalist.
Avery Bradley, when healthy, is a better defender than Ray Allen and can shoot it a little bit from the corner three as well.
Jeff Green, while overpaid, is a decent defender and a smart, solid offensive player.
Additions of Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger and Jason Terry provide the depth that wasn't there at all last season.
No worries in Beantown.
Recently signed to an extension, Lawson is ready to explode this year.
After winning their first three games, the Denver Nuggets lost their last four and finished last in the ever-important preseason Northwest standings.
After signing a four-year, $48 million extension today, Ty Lawson is ready to unleash his merry band of speedsters to wreak havoc onto the NBA.
The Nuggets have so much depth that conditioning shouldn't be an issue and there will be less wearing down.
This stands even though Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler have been a bit hurt, and JaVale McGee has struggled. As the games wear on, they should heal without compromising team losses because of fewer minutes.
They can run out a solid 10-deep team that will have no issues running teams out of their own building.
Their first month of play includes Phoenix, Orlando, Detroit and Houston.
Also, the tougher part of the schedule plays out near the latter part of the month, with many road games, but Coach Karl should have his deep rotation figured out by then.
Is there any doubt?
The most obvious inclusion in this list: the 0-8 Los Angeles Lakers.
Obviously, they'll be good, if not great.
The 0-8 start is still a bit funny to many Laker haters, though.
Playing without Dwight Howard for a couple games and coach Mike Brown's stubborn implementation of the Princeton offense has caused the Lakers to look a bit out of sync for the first eight games.
The bench, in preseason games, played a large number of minutes, and it's safe to say that Antawn Jamison and company don't occupy the best bench in the NBA.
As a matter of fact, they might own the worst bench.
Antawn Jamison can score a bit, but after him, there is Steve Blake, Devin Ebanks, Jodie Meeks and Robert Sacre. Not pretty.
However, it appears that the full starting five will be out there for Game 1 and the foreseeable future.
When that happens, the Lakers will surely be unstoppable offensively and above-average defensively.
They may take a couple games to get going, but once it happens, those Dwight Howard alley-oops from Steve Nash and Pau Gasol will be a sight to behold.
Pacers may somehow be more underrated than last year.
A bit underrated last year, the Indiana Pacers will once again be overlooked this year.
However, the slow start in the preseason shouldn't be too concerning.
Danny Granger's injury at the beginning of the season does temper expectations a bit, but this can actually help the development of Paul George and Gerald Green.
More importantly, they will be able to weather the storm of Granger's injury because they play the easiest schedule in the first month of the NBA regular season.
Granted, strength of schedule—especially gauged from last year's records—isn't an exact indicator but the amount of cupcakes on the Pacers' schedule is undeniable.
Charlotte, Sacramento, Washington, Minnesota and Toronto make up the bulk of the schedule for the first two weeks.
With the growth of budding young stars like Roy Hibbert, Paul George and the veteran presence of David West, the Pacers will have no problem shooting out the gate before Granger returns.
After struggling for the better part of a decade, the Nets will be back.
The newly-minted Brooklyn Nets' attempt at their own Super Team has started off poorly, even culminating into a loss to their rival New York Knicks.
The scary part is that all their starters played over 20 minutes in that game, and they still lost to a team starting Ronnie Brewer and the ageless Kurt Thomas.
However, once the regular season rolls around, they shouldn't have much issue meshing together and playing well right off the bat.
Joe Johnson fits in extremely well with Deron Williams, low-post force Brook Lopez, ferocious rebounder Kris Humphries and do-it-all player Gerald Wallace.
The issue here may be defense, but they have enough ability to mask that throughout the season.
Reggie Evans, Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks, C.J. Watson and Josh Childress form a very high-upside bench.
The move to Brooklyn will be a success in their first year. Just don't expect the Nets to beat the Miami Heat anytime soon.