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NBA Preview A-Z, Amazingly, Without Mentioning LeBron James

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The NBA season begins tonight. We’ll have the season prediction post later today. The LeBron worship can be found in ever nook and cranny of the web, and with good reason. We’ll write about him enough this season, but we’ll leave him out of this post.

Andre Drummond, the Detroit center who dates a Nickelodeon star, will lead the NBA in blocks this year, dethroning 2-time champ Serge Ibaka.

Brad Stevens, new coach of the Celtics. Will he and Rajon Rondo get along? Will Boston win 25 games? To me, this is as fascinating a coach-team pairing as Chip Kelly and the Eagles.

Curry, as in Stephen, the best shooter in the NBA (and the first guest on my podcast!). Having touted the greatness of Curry for years, I’m all in this year: The loaded Warriors will get to the NBA Finals.

Danny Granger, Indiana’s best player two years ago, returns from injury to play second fiddle to young star Paul George. Is Granger the X-Factor in the East? Are the Pacers the 2nd best team in the East, or 3rd behind Chicago?

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Ellis, Monta is now in Dallas. He started his career in Golden State, then was shipped to Milwaukee (in the Andrew Bogut heist). Ellis turns 28 this week. Any shot he and Dirk Nowitzki lead the Mavericks into the playoffs? Sorry, not in the loaded West.

the time luol deng dunked on lebronFree Agency, 2014. Sure, it’s nine months away, but LeBron and Carmelo headline the class. If both stay in Miami and New York, respectively, there’s still Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Shawn Marion, Danny Granger and possibly Zach Randolph. I’ll exclude Kobe and Dirk Nowitzki for now, because it seems unlikely they’ll go elsewhere for the final year or two of their career.

Gordon Hayward, the Butler hero who has gone to Utah and been a serviceable player for a few years, but is up for a contract extension and things aren’t going well. What are the odds he ends up in Boston with the Celtics and his old coach Brad Stevens?

Houston, the most buzzy team in the West thanks to the offseason addition of Dwight Howard. Between Harden and Howard, anything less than 55 wins and a deep playoff run will be a massive disappointment.

Iguodala Dolla Dolla bills, y’all. One of the league’s elite perimeter defenders is now in Golden State, where he’ll be assigned Kevin Durant or James Harden or Tony Parker in crunch time. Between Iggy and young Harrison Barnes, the Warriors have a terrific 1-2 punch on the wing.

Jrue Holiday was traded to the Pelicans (nee Hornets) on draft night, and New Orleans is a sleeper team with plenty of offense in the West. That is, assuming Eric Gordon can stay healthy, Anthony Davis continues to improve, and Tyreke Evans is cool with coming off the bench as the 6th man.

Kevin Durant, the second best player in the NBA, is ticketed for three more years in Oklahoma City. How’s this: Lakers extend Kobe for two more years after this one, and then Durant takes the torch in the purple and gold in 2016? I’m in the minority, but without a 3rd scorer, I’m not sure how the Thunder win the West.

Lob City is now more than just CP3, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. They Paper Clips added role players JJ Redick, Jared Dudley, and Darren Collison, but most importantly, coach Doc Rivers. Best in the West?

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Michael Jordan, owner of the sorry, going-nowhere Charlotte Bobcats. Yes, as the season wears on, and it is clear the Bobcats will be lottery-bound again (think, mid-December), MJ should suit up just for kicks.

New-look Nets, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, winding down their Hall of Fame careers on a 2nd-tier contender in the East, playing for … Jason Kidd.

Oladipo, as in Victor, the dunky-happy #2 pick of the Orlando Magic who should be a Rookie of the Year contender. The Magic hit rock bottom last year (20 wins) and could be in for one more long year, but keep an eye on this franchise in 2015.

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Philadelphia 76ers, worst team in the league. Will they win 15 games? That might be an accomplishment given the inexperience and lack of talent on the roster. The future has promise, if Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Tony Wroten play like they did in college.

Quick Question: What are the Lakers doing? Who are they building around? Is this the least talked-about Lakers team in years? Sorry, that was three questions.

Philadelphia 76ers v Chicago Bulls - Game One

Rose returns. Derrick Rose, the NBA MVP in 2011, hasn’t played in a game since the Ice Age, I think. The team is much like he left it, except Jimmy Butler could end up being their third most valuable player after Rose and Joakim Noah.

Suns, because they could have as many as four 1st round picks in the 2014 draft. That will be the only thing to talk about at Suns games this season because for the love of Tom Chambers, this roster is pathetic.

Tristan Thompson, the emerging Cleveland power forward, used to shoot lefty, but he’s now shooting righty. If that somehow doesn’t make the Cavaliers titillating to you, this should: Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are a dynamic backcourt, Andrew Bynum should be healthy, and the playoffs should happen.

Udoh, Ekpe, a colossal bust from Baylor who was the 6th pick in the 2010 draft. He’s done virtually nothing in the pros, but given the dearth of talent in Milwaukee, I suppose he could find some minutes this season.

Vesely, Jan, was the 6th pick in the 2011 draft by the Wizards, and the only reason people have referenced him to this point in his career are because of his girlfriend, and his unbelievably slow growth as a player. Does he averaged more than 11 minutes a game?

Washington Wizards Media Day

Wiggins, as in Andrew, the Kansas freshman who is pegged for stardom and should be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. Among the contenders for his services: Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Sacramento and Phoenix. “Tanking for Wiggins” will definitely be a thing this year, unless Julius Randle dominates so much at Kentucky that it becomes “Tanking for Randle.”

Xavier McDaniel. He’s been out of the NBA for probably two decades, but come on, it’s Xavier McDaniel. Obligatory Singles reference.

Young, Nick, aka Swaggy P. I’ve been a Nick Young fan dating back to his days at USC, and now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon because they seem to enjoy his sartorial selections and fantastic quotes.

Zaza Pachulia, formerly a goon in Atlanta, is only on this list because I needed to squeeze in a dig at the Milwaukee Bucks. They’ll definitely challenge Philadelphia for the worst record in the NBA, and OJ Mayo will probably lead them in shots taken, bad shots taken, and scoring.

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