Photo credit: Ed Maloney/AP

Holy smokes, the NBA season is here! Good thing I started working hard and diligently on this season preview a long time ago, and definitely not on Tuesday afternoon, in the back of a rental car on the way to the airport.

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This is the second straight year that the NBA started its season on the same night as Game 1 of the World Series. That’s dumb! I hope you did not watch the extremely butt Knicks-Cavs game that kicked things off. I hope you watched baseball instead. I watched baseball. The baseball was strong.

In any event, here is your very comprehensive and knowledgeable team-by-team preview of the 2015-16 NBA season, which has already begun. Onward, to the teams!

Atlanta Hawks

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal? 
The Hawks went a somewhat disappointing 48-34 in 2015, got summarily dismissed in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and promptly parted ways with both their franchise cornerstone center (Al Horford) and the career mediocrity they’d spent the previous few years pretending was a star point guard (Jeff Teague). They’re a wobbly month away from trading everyone else and hard rebooting this shit. They also might win the crappy Southeast Division.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Horrifyingly, Dwight Howard is one of their noteworthy basketball persons. Diminished as he is, Dwight’s still a useful player for a team that can figure out what to do with him at the offensive end; the problem, by all accounts, is that he’s such an intolerable fucking horse’s ass, personally, that he burns through his coaches’ and teammates’ goodwill in like five seconds and after that it’s all they can do to restrain themselves from murdering him. Now he is playing for his hometown team immediately after it ejected the stablest and longest-tenured members of its core. I’m sure this will all turn out great.

Paul Millsap also is one of their noteworthy basketball persons. He’s much, much better and more important than Howard, but he’s 31 years old, will be an unrestricted free agent after next season, and is a player type—undersized power forward—that generally ages like warm cottage cheese in the NBA. Perhaps the ascendant pace-and-space, switch-everything basketball paradigm will extend his prime, which would be great, but what I am saying here is that the Hawks will not be unreceptive to trade offers for Paul Millsap.

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And then there’s Dennis Schröder, who probably was better than Teague two seasons ago, definitely was better than Teague last season, and now gets to be the starting point guard, just in time to be paired with an aging, clumsy, shit-for-brains center who will pout like a baby every time he’s asked to roll toward the basket instead of being allowed to waste a possession in the low post. Maybe Schröder will make this work! Probably he will not.

Kyle Korver is not one of Atlanta’s noteworthy baskeball persons anymore. He’s too damn old now! I’m sick of him.

Are they good? 
Not really, but we’re talking about the Eastern Conference, here. They can make the playoffs—they can host a series in the playoffs!—if they want to. It depends on where they’ve set the winning-percentage threshold in their competing-versus-tanking algorithm.

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Are they worth watching?
No.

Playoffs?
Hmm. Put them in the “maybe” category, for now.


Boston Celtics

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Celtics finished the 2015-16 season with the same record (48-34) as the Hawks. They got eliminated by those very same Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. And yet the 2015-16 season somehow was a tremendous success for the Celtics, even as it signaled the frustrating end for the Hawks’ core. The Celtics then paid a ton of money to sign one of the key aging players (Al Horford) from that frustrating, disappointing Hawks core. Somehow this makes them insurgent dark-horse championship contenders. You figure it out.

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These Celtics manage the tricky and dubious feat of being both a collection of mutually supportive overachieving cast-offs, misfits, and outright mutants, and also, simultaneously, fucking loathsome. Part of this is the stain of Boston sports, but also, the Celtics are just intolerable. That’s important to know.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Horford, of course, is one of their noteworthy basketball persons. He’s still good, in his perennially underwhelming Al Horford-y way, and very much the sort of infuriating try-hard Dudley Do-Right player this Brad Stevens-coached iteration of the Celtics treasures. I look forward to the 10th straight season of Horford’s dopest individual highlight being a clunky-looking 20-footer.

Weirdly, this will only be the second season Isaiah Thomas has started out on the Celtics; it feels like he’s been there forever. That is because Boston is the Overlook Hotel. In any case, he is very small, has (figurative) balls the size of all outdoors, and is lots of fun, if you are into floaters and pull-up jumpers and very tiny humans.

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Repulsive Canuck ogre Kelly Olynyk is in a contract year! He’ll be looking to drive up his value on the open mar—hahaha psych nobody but the Celtics will want this doofus.

Forward Jae Crowder is not one of Boston’s noteworthy basketball men, because he is not very good, but man are the Celtics’ fans gonna flip out in the comments about my having said so. They’re certain he’s a budding star, and are wrong.

Are they good?
Sure. Given the state of the East, they’ve got a shot at the second seed.

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Are they worth watching?
I’d rather die.

Playoffs?
Probably? Anything can happen, man. Let’s call this a “maybe” until we see how Horford fits.


Brooklyn Nets

Photo credit: AP

Charlotte Hornets

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Hornets, too, went 48-34 last season. I guess those were the hot numbers at the time! This qualified as a tremendous success for the Hornets, who have been crud pretty much ever since the NBA returned to Charlotte. The Heat dispatched them in the first round of the playoffs, in a seven-game series I cannot remember at all and which may have been simulated by a computer.

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Over the summer, they said goodbye to center Al Jefferson, combo guard Jeremy Lin, and wing Courtney Lee. They replaced them with atrocious elbow tower Roy Hibbert, who possesses no discernible basketball abilities, and the extremely fun Ramon Sessions, who cannot be stopped from getting to the hoop. Take the good with the bad, I suppose.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Kemba Walker is their most noteworthy basketball person. He’s quick and ballsy and never saw a jumper he didn’t want to take. He will hit at least a couple of insane buzzer-beaters this season, unless his limbs fall off. I will cut and paste this paragraph into next year’s NBA season preview, unless my limbs fall off.

The Hornets also re-signed French forward Nicolas Batum this past offseason. He was terrific for the Hornets last season, playing his way into a huge contract after a couple of down years in Portland. At his best he’s Euro Scottie Pippen, a smooth do-everything forward who never looks like he’s working all that hard. At his worst he plays and looks exactly, exactly like a hungover Frenchman jonesing for a smoke. I would have bet my eyeballs on him following the Boris Diaw path through Charlotte to San Antonio, and I am glad that I did not.

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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is another noteworthy basketball person in Charlotte. I am sorry to say that, for as terrific a defender as he is, and for as hard as he works to be a net positive on offense, and as likable a guy as he generally seems to be, he is most noteworthy because this will be his fifth season as an NBA swingman and his jumpshot still looks like this:

His shot doctor, you will be surprised to learn, is not Bill Cartwright.

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Are they good?
Possibly? Which is to say, not really. They’ll probably make the playoffs, though! And that’s not nothing.

Are they worth watching?
Sure! Whenever Roy Hibbert is not on the court.

Playoffs?
This is a tough one. I say they’ve got a shot at it, unless eight teams in the East finish with better records than theirs.


Chicago Bulls

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Bulls did not go 48-34 last season; they went 42-40, in the most miserable, depressing fashion possible, where everybody hated everybody and felt bad about everything and what seemed like the silver lining—Jimmy Butler having a breakout season and seeming to come into his own as a superstar—turned out to be this gross thing where there were bad vibes between him and pretty much everybody else in the organization and the whole thing stunk, just stunk, and I hated it.

Over the summer, the Bulls finally sloughed off the sodden corpses of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, both of whom were once very good, and both of whom are now wildly terrible. If you are a Bulls fan, you can feel good about this only long enough to remember that the Bulls replaced these two with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, who, if they are not quite sodden corpses, at the very least are old as hell and not all that good anymore and hilariously incompatible with each other and with Jimmy Butler. (To be clear, Wade remains vastly better than either Rose or Noah—but Rondo may actually be worse than either, which is saying a lot.) Also, uh, they got Michael Carter-Williams and Robin Lopez. Congratulations?

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Butler and Wade are their noteworthy basketball persons, but that won’t stop Rondo from pounding the ball into an orange pancake on every possession in grim, miserable pursuit of a dozen forced assists to cover for the fact that he’s been in the NBA for 10 years and still can’t reliably sink a goddamn 15-footer and shoots free-throws like Andris Biedrins.

For a minute there it looked like Nikola Mirotić would be one of Chicago’s noteworthy basketball persons, but he regressed last season and now I kind of think he’s just a guy. I sure would like to be wrong!

I think Doug McDermott could wind up playing a lot of minutes this season, as the Bulls hunt around for guys who can make shots from outside the radius of their own wingspans. He’s not very good.

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Are they good?
Buhhhhhhhhh. Not really. They can’t shoot for shit, they’re overstuffed with guys who need the ball in their hands and a well-spaced floor in order to cook, and they’ll need a lot of punch from some dudes who are extremely past their primes. On the other hand, I am almost certain that they will grind their hateful way to a friggin’ seventh seed or some shit.

Are they worth watching?
Sure.

Playoffs?
Hmm. Maybe?


Cleveland Cavaliers

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
THEY DID IT, MAN. THEY FUCKIN’ DID IT.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
LEBRON JAMES DID IT. HE’S PRESIDENT NOW.

Are they good?
THEY’RE THE CHAMPIONS.

Are they worth watching?
THEY WON THE NBA FINALS, MAN.

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Playoffs?
Probably, unless they get that post-championship malaise. Let’s call it a “maybe” for the moment.


Dallas Mavericks

What is their deal?
Listen. I admire Mark Cuban’s determination to run it back with Dirk Nowitzki as many times as Dirk wants to, and to do all he can to give Dirk the best team possible each year instead of pulling the plug and angling toward whatever the next era of Mavericks basketball will be. I really do! But man, it starts to seem like some kind of dreary time loop after a while. We passed this house three hours ago!

The Mavericks went 42-40 last season and somehow landed the West’s sixth playoff seed, behind a roster on which nobody in particular played all that great overall, but on which Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia, and, like, Ray Felton, of all people, were not as bad as probably most people expected them to be. Over the summer the Mavs looted Golden State’s recycling bin, overpaying for Harrison Barnes and scoring Andrew Bogut on the cheap when the Warriors had to clear space for Kevin Durant’s contract.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
For better or worse, Barnes is their most noteworthy basketball person, for the foreseeable future. The trouble with this, y’see, is that Harrison Barnes actually is not good. Rather, he is bad.

This was the funny subplot of last season’s buildup to free agency. Somebody was bound to fork over a shitload of money for Barnes, despite his comprehensively mediocre production in Golden State, based on the reasoning that he’d flourish once liberated from the Warriors’ pecking order and given latitude to play like a star. What this team would be ignoring, of course, is that, raw per-game counting stats aside, the third scoring option on a team with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on it—and Draymond Green dishing assists in 4-on-3 layup drills on damn near every possession—has just about the easiest job in the damn universe, and by all rights ought to be posting insane efficiency numbers if he is absolutely any kind of basketball player.

For the past two years, Barnes has never, never had to create a bucket against a defense tilted toward him; he has never had to work against the opposing team’s best perimeter defender; he has never been the guy who had to cook up some shit in the final seconds of the shot clock or game clock. He had an endless buffet of open looks, of scrambling closeouts to blow by, of being guarded by the guy the opposition was trying to hide. Why would his unimpressive scoring get better when the circumstances get worse? The answer: it would not. In all likelihood it would—will—get worse, even if an increase in the volume of his shot attempts yields a higher scoring average.

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Which leaves the Mavericks with what Barnes, essentially, is: a robotic doofus with no standout skills whose confidence evaporates at the slightest breeze. The Kevin Seraphin of combo forwards. He will be taking 20 shots per game in a Mavs jersey for the next several years. This is going to work out great.

Of course Dirk Nowitzki is still an extremely noteworthy basketball person. Even now, with 17 seasons and dozens of playoff games as a high-workload star behind him, he’s still a good shooter, even if just about all that can be said for the rest of his game at this point is that he knows exactly where to be and intends to get there in time. He’s still got that funky one-legged fallaway. It’s still terrifyingly, gloriously unstoppable.

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Then there’s Bogut. He’s a dipstick and a mortal lock to miss half the season, but when he plays, he’s very, very good. He’ll make Dirk’s job a lot easier on defense, and maybe on offense, too, with his passing. And his moving screens, the sonofabitch.

Are they good?
They ... might be good! Barnes will be underwhelming, of course, but they’ve got a handful of guys who can play, and Rick Carlisle is as good a coach as isn’t named Gregg Popovich currently working.

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Are they worth watching?
Sure.

Playoffs?
Maybe! Let’s see how Barnes adjusts to playing outside of Golden State for the first time in his career.


Denver Nuggets

What is their deal?
Here is how Wikipedia summarizes the 2015-16 Denver Nuggets season:

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The 2015-16 Denver Nuggets season was the 40th season of the franchise in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The season saw the team change their uniforms.

TMI, IMO.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Look. It doesn’t matter. They’re going to trade all of them.

Are they good?
They’re bad.

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Are they worth watching?
No.

Playoffs?
Anything can happen.


Detroit Pistons

Photo credit: Paul Sancya/AP

What is their deal?
The Pistons went 44-38 last season, returned to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, and got swept out in the blink of an eye by the Cavaliers. That’s okay! It was a good season for them. They’re fun and you’ll like them.

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And now they have giant “sort of an odd thing” Boban Marjanović, who is impossibly vast and awesome and actually might be a little bit good at basketball. It’s good times in Detroit.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Center Andre Drummond is their most noteworthy basketball person. I think after last season, and the previous three, it’s fair to conclude that Drummond has more or less settled into who he’ll be in the NBA. He is not going to be an especially versatile offensive player, ever. He will not eat possessions in the low post, or pop out for jumpers, or direct the offense from the elbow, or whatever. That’s fine! He will be a guy who gets his on the offensive glass, or by sliding along the baseline to catch and dunk, or by rolling to the basket, while also devouring every rebound in sight and just generally being a terrifying presence in the middle of the lane at both ends of the court. This is a fine thing to be. I’d bite off my entire pinky finger to get an Andre Drummond on the Wizards.

And in any case, it’s probably a good thing for the Pistons that Drummond seems to have a modest hunger for touches, because their next-most noteworthy basketball person, point guard Reggie Jackson, wants to take all of the shots. This works out pretty nicely, whenever Jackson is not telling hecklers to suck his dick. He and Drummond make for one of the more entertaining and potent pick-and-roll combos in basketball: Drummond sets the screen, and rolls, and Jackson shoots and shoots and shoots forever and then Drummond grabs the offensive rebound and spikes his first three put-back attempts off the backboard before finally elbowing the ball into the hoop.

The Pistons also have Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, and Marcus Morris. Sometimes some combination of those guys does good stuff.

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Are they good?
They’re not bad!

Are they worth watching?
I guess.

Playoffs?
Hmm. They’re in the mix. Maybe they’ll get in!


Golden State Warriors

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Warriors went 73-9 in the 2015-16 regular season, the best record any NBA team has ever had. They went to the Finals and took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. No team had ever squandered such a lead in the Finals to that point.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the reigning NBA champions now.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
The Warriors’ most noteworthy basketball person is reigning two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steph Curry.

The Warriors also have two-time All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson.

And All-Star and all-defense first-teamer Draymond Green.

On top of those three stars, the Warriors shocked the world this summer by signing four-time scoring champ, seven-time All-Star, and 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, who shot 39 percent in the three straight games his Oklahoma City Thunder lost en route to pissing away a 3-1 lead to these same Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

Are they good?
Historically!

(Historically, they are the first team ever to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.)

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Are they worth watching?
Hell yes they are! Especially when they do stuff like this:

Playoffs?
The next team in the preview is the Houston Rockets.


Houston Rockets

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Rockets, fresh off a run to the conference finals the season before, went 41-41 in the 2015-16 season, got coach Kevin McHale fired, farted their way to the West’s eighth playoff seed, and went out in five at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who became the first team ever to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals a few weeks later.

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The Rockets ditched Dwight Howard, finally; pairing him with James Harden worked for a weird little while, and then it suuuuuuper duuuuuuper didn’t work anymore, not least because Howard is a repugnant phony who also sucks at many of the things he likes doing best on a basketball court, like having a basketball in his hands and trying to put it through a basketball hoop. Recently a few places, most notably ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, have reported that some combination of Harden and Rockets management wanted Howard benched for Clint Capela last season, but that interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff “resisted” the move. In probably related news, J.B. Bickerstaff is an assistant head coach in Memphis now. He probably wasn’t going to get the permanent job anyway, but at least now we know that he is a psychopath.

Mike D’Antoni’s the head coach now, and this will be weird and wacky and probably not very successful. Let’s focus on the weird and wacky.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
James Harden, the loathsome genius, is their most noteworthy basketball person. Presumably he will be the primary ballhandler in D’Antoni’s frenetic pick-and-roll game, unless D’Antoni has gone really nuts. And here you thought Harden dribbled a lot before.

Harden ... is still Harden. You know the drill. He will be maddeningly brilliant on offense. He will stand around on defense. People will despise him—including many of those who recognize how singularly gifted he is and even admire his game—for reasons they will struggle to articulate. Maybe he will locate a dandruff rock the size of a baseball in his beard.

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Of course other players will do stuff—shoot threes, mostly—for the Rockets, but really, c’mon. The Rockets are James Harden.

Are they good?
Eh. Not really. But they’re gonna shoot a lotta fuckin’ threes, man.

Are they worth watching?
Sure. Harden’s good TV.

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Playoffs?
They’ve got a crack at it! That’s all you can ask for in life. I’ll call this a “maybe” type of situation.


Indiana Pacers

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
Man, there really are a lot of NBA teams. Have you ever noticed? I mean there are a lotta friggin’ teams in the NBA! Too many, you might say.

The Pacers went 45-37 last season, scored the East’s seventh seed, and pushed the Raptors to seven games in a series that looked, for whole long moments, like the Pacers might win it. Young Myles Turner was a revelation; they got some weird, fun, generally welcome production out of Monta Ellis; they played fast and took irresponsible shots and were good to watch. But all of that stuff was just a nice bonus. The important thing is, Paul George returned from his gruesome broken leg, and was fully and gloriously himself, and made it through the season without any of his other bones turning into accordions.

Also, the Pacers have Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague, and Thaddeus Young now.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Paul George and Myles Turner are their noteworthy basketball persons. I mean, they have other basketball persons, but really it’s just those two, and they’re splendid.

Are they good?
Yeah, I mean, they’re not great, but they’re good.

Are they worth watching?
What the heck, go for it.

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Playoffs?
The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make.


Los Angeles Clippers

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
Their deal is, I’m fucking tired of them!

Blake Griffin missed most of the 2015-16 season after he broke his hand while beating up a team employee, but the Clippers still went 53-29 and landed the West’s fourth seed in the playoffs. Then Griffin re-died and took Chris Paul with him and the Blazers knocked the Clippers’ tattered remains out in six. Then they did the Clippers thing where they overpaid to re-up their shitty bench, added some players who suck, and locked themselves into another year as unlikable also-rans who make you feel somewhat better about the Warriors.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Ugh, the same ones as always. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and J.J. Redick. You know them. You’re sick of them. We’re all sick of them. Probably they are sick of themselves, if they have any taste whatsoever.

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Hilariously, Doc Rivers gave a three-year, $36 million deal to his own son Austin, a comprehensively terrible player who, in four NBA seasons, has never so much as approached replacement-level production. His career highlight, without question, is the time he tried to dribble behind his back, stumbled, and punched the ball out of bounds while faceplanting in the middle of a playoff game, and then did the same exact thing all over again two nights later.

Are they good?
Sure. Yes. Fine. They’re good. Whatever.

Are they worth watching?
I hate them!

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Playoffs?
Only time will tell.


Los Angeles Lakers

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
They don’t exist anymore. I’m sorry. RIP the Lakers.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
They don’t have any basketball persons.

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Are they good?
N/A

Are they worth watching?
They’re unwatchable, as currently they do not exist.

Playoffs?
You never know!


Memphis Grizzlies

What is their deal?
Despite pretty much nightly being forced to cobble together a roster out of whichever retired and/or unemployed basketball players happened to be within driving distance of the arena, the Grizzlies, under head coach Dave Joerger, finished with a 42-40 record last season and scratched their way into the West’s seventh playoff seed, whereupon the Spurs, one of the best regular-season teams of all time, swept them away. For this outrageous feat of foxhole coaching, Joerger was not retained. He’s the head coach of the Sacramento Kings now, and also possibly the saddest hard-luck bastard who ever lived.

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His replacement is named David Fizdale. That’s all you need to know about David Fizdale.

Anyway, many of the Grizzlies’ mainstays are not in traction anymore, so that’s good. They also signed slick-shooting and handsome Chandler Parsons, whose bones are made of crunchy taco shells.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Marc Gasol is their most noteworthy basketball person. He broke his foot in the middle of last season and missed the last few months of it; a broken foot is usually pretty much a death sentence for centers, but maybe won’t be this time? Prior to that, he was one of the very best two-way players in the entire NBA, a sublime defender with a nifty, diverse skill-set at the other end of the court; if he is Andray Blatche now, that will be very sad.

Mike Conley also is back, after a season crumbled to dust by injuries. Kind of hilariously, after several years of everybody talking all the time about how underappreciated and underrated he was, he is now the signee of the largest contract, in terms of total value, in NBA history. I’m very happy for him! He’s extremely good! Probably he is not quite good enough to be making more money this season than Steph Curry did in the previous two put together, but hey, the collective bargaining agreement works in mysterious ways.

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Parsons, too, is a noteworthy Grizzlies basketball person, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to write a paragraph about him before I know whether he’ll miss 70 games and make a waste of it. I will edit this post in May if he deserves it!

Zach Randolph is not a noteworthy basketball person anymore.

Are they good?
Yes.

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Are they worth watching?
They are. Take advantage soon, before Parsons poops out his femur and dies.

Playoffs?
Hmm. Let’s see how they adjust to a new coach and to not being encased in full-body casts anymore.


Miami Heat

Photo credit: Twa Ho/AP

What is their deal?
Hey, remember back in June, when The Ringer’s Bill Simmons wrote a zillion-word piece about how Miami’s Pat Riley is the Keyser Soze of NBA personnel honchos; how he has a Svengali-like ability to seduce and influence the league’s stars; how he—and not LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh—was the true architect and guiding master of the Big Three that delivered the Heat two championships; how his spooky charisma and big-shot résumé gave him the best shot at winning the bidding war for Kevin Durant and launching the next Heat dynasty; how all he ever had to do was slap his championship rings on the table and issue a dare to be great, and whichever superstar he wanted would magically sprout fountain pens for fingers in his haste to sign up?

And then remember, ha ha, remember like two minutes after that, when Durant signed with Golden State, Wade left the Heat on apocalyptically bad terms, Bosh did too, and Riley couldn’t land anybody better than Dion fucking Waiters in free agency despite oodles of cap room and no state income tax in the NBA’s sexiest warm-weather city? Remember how LeBron James hates Riley’s goddamn guts now? And, hey, remember how the entire Heat franchise is a radioactive nuclear waste pile now because Riley alienated some of the best, most respected, and most powerful players the NBA has ever had, who also happen to be hugely influential among their peers? And how the Heat have no players and no clear path to contention and will probably have to scrap everything and rebuild, but they still have Pat Riley, the great leader of men?

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Ha ha ha ha ha.

(My favorite part of that Simmons column was the opening anecdote, presented as evidence of Riley’s singular pull on superstar talents, in which Riley, back in the summer of 2007, made a big impression on Kevin Garnett, the available superstar of the moment ... but failed to bring him to the Heat. Yes, truly, Pat Riley gets what he wants, like for example the time when he wanted Kevin Garnett and inspired him to go somewhere else.)

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

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Are they good?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Are they worth watching?
Ha!

Playoffs?
We’ll see!


Milwaukee Bucks

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Bucks finished the 2015-16 season with a 33-49 record. They missed the playoffs. They played inexplicable, incoherent basketball. They were awful. I’m so mad at them.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Giannis Antetokounmpo is their most noteworthy basketball person. This only feels like the eighth straight season of waiting for Antetokounmpo to become a genuine player of consequence, rather than a very entertaining doofus who sometimes does cool stuff. Late last season, when it was too late to really make a difference, coach Jason Kidd finally had the brainwave to let Antetokounmpo run point, and it ruled; maybe that will turn out to be what unlocks his potential. I am very sorry to say that I’m not all that optimistic about it anymore.

I’m not sure who their other noteworthy basketball persons are. Last season I would have said they were Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, John Henson, and Greg Monroe. Then the Bucks went 33-49, and were for long stretches one of the ghastliest and most inept teams in the NBA. Now I think they’re all a bunch of assholes.

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Are they good?
I don’t think they’re good.

Are they worth watching?
They’ll have to goddamn prove it!

Playoffs?
Y’know, it’s a real possibility.


Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo credit: Jim Mone/AP

What is their deal?
HELL YEAH BUDDY HELL YEAH. HELL YEAH.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
HELL YEAH BUDDY HELL YEAH. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, ANDREW WIGGINS, ZACH LAVINE, RICKY RUBIO, TOM THIBODEAU, HELL YEAH, MAN, HELL YEAH, HELL YEAH.

Are they good?
HELL YEAH THEY ARE BUDDY, HELL YEAH.

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Are they worth watching?
HELL THE FUCK YEAH MAN.

Playoffs?
I DUNNO MAN WE’LL SEE.


New Orleans Pelicans

What is their deal?
Last season was supposed to be the one in which the Pelicans built upon the first playoff appearance of Anthony Davis’s career and launched themselves to the top (or near-top) of the Western Conference. Instead, everybody was injured all the time, Davis regressed, new coach Alvin Gentry’s schemes made pretty much everybody worse, and the Pelicans finished an atrocious 30-52 and missed the playoffs altogether.

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They’re a mess. Their roster is full of mismatched parts that wouldn’t be much good even in their ideal settings; it’s also, somehow, despite its dearth of talent beyond Davis and possibly eternally injured point guard Jrue Holiday, very expensive. If you pinned a printed-out list of every active player in the NBA to the wall, put on a blindfold, and threw a dozen darts at it, virtually any combination of names you hit would suit Davis as well or as badly as his current selection of teammates. Now that I think of it, that may very well be what the Pelicans’ front office has been doing these past four years.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
There’s no way around it: His 50-point opening night notwithstanding, the shine has come off Davis somewhat since he entered the NBA as the most hyped draftee since LeBron and seemed, if anything, to exceed those expectations through his first couple seasons. It’s a weird thing: He’s a fucking astonishing basketball player, possessing gifts and skills so extraordinary that even the most casual basketball fan will find, in any given quarter of watching him play, some reason to go “Whoa, that guy is a monster!”—and yet, somehow, his greatness has not managed to make his team all that good, and most of the time has not kept it from being pretty shitty. That means something! You can debate exactly what it means, or how definitively it means it, but it definitely means something.

This is not football. Truly transcendent professional basketball players ... well, transcend. Their teams win. LeBron James not only took some bozo-ass teams full of incompetent mutants to the Finals in his first run in Cleveland; he took them to the Finals as top seeds. Carmelo Anthony, for all his supposedly terminal faults, didn’t miss the playoffs a single time in his first decade in the NBA. Dwyane Wade made the playoffs 11 times in 13 years in Miami. Tim Duncan literally never missed the playoffs. Anthony Davis, on the other hand, has been there once, in four seasons, and got swept. If this is a gauge of just how lousy his complementary parts and the organization around him have been (it is; they have been), fine, but still. Something’s missing. This is less than we were promised.

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The Pelicans have no other noteworthy basketball persons. He says, pointedly.

Are they good?
Anthony Davis scored 50 points on opening night. He pulled down 16 rebounds, blocked four shots, assisted on five buckets, and even threw in seven—seven!—steals, for good measure. No player has done that in living memory. And the Pelicans lost, at home, to the fucking Nuggets.

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No. They are not good.

Are they worth watching?
Anthony Davis put up a 50-16-5-7-4 line on opening night! He may very well do that multiple times this season! Hell yes they are worth watching!

Playoffs?
It’s a whole new season, buddy. Let’s see what happens.


New York Knicks

What is their deal?
They’re too fr*ckin’ raw and twisted for you, man.

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The Knicks finished 32-50 last season and missed the playoffs. Then they added, ridiculously, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah’s moldering old husks. At great cost! It’s fr*ckin’ sick, man. I’m fr**kin’ out!

They also scooped up whichever one of the Plumlee clan (Milton? Moses? Muhammad?) was available in the draft, and Courtney Lee. So, like, uh, Killer Croc and the fake Tom Hardy guy.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
The Knicks still have Carmelo Anthony, who is still good, whatever anybody might say to the contrary. They also have Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah now, which is fucking hysterical. But the truth of the matter is, their only noteworthy basketball person is Kristaps Porzingis. The trick of it is, nobody else in the organization seems to understand that.

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Because they’re so g*sh d*ng twisted!!!!! 

Are they good?
LOL nah.

Are they worth watching?
Hmm. Do you slow down to gawk at a bus accident?

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Playoffs?
Ugh, maybe. The East s*cks.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Oklahoma City Thunder went 55-27 last season, Billy Donovan’s first as an NBA head coach. In the second round of the playoffs, they crushed the San Antonio Spurs, one of the best regular-season teams of all time; in the Western Conference Finals, they took a 3-1 lead over the Golden State Warriors—the best regular-season team of all time—before running out of gas and falling in Game 7 on the road. They may very well have been better—lots better!—than the Thunder team that went to the NBA Finals back in 2012. They certainly were set up for years of championship contention and/or rings.

Then Kevin Durant ran up the white flag and ran off to join the Warriors and the front office traded Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic, and now the Thunder probably aren’t very good at all. In any case Russell Westbrook probably will exercise his option to leave after this season [CORRECTION: next season*], after which the Thunder likely will become the worst team and market in the NBA and stay that way for many years.

On the other hand, Russ is gonna tear shit up in the meantime. So, uh, there’s that.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
I like Steven Adams. I am very intrigued by Domantas Sabonis. Hell, I even like Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson. But the Thunder’s noteworthy basketball person is Russ. The Thunder are Russ. He’s all they’ve got.

Are they good?
Not as good as they would have been if Kevin Durant had any balls!

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Are they worth watching?
Sure. Russ is always worth watching, if only so he won’t get mad at you.

Playoffs?
I have no idea.


Orlando Magic

Photo credit: AP

Philadelphia 76ers

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Sixers finished 10-72 last season, the third straight season they won fewer than 20 games, a stretch encompassing the entire failed, disastrous Sam Hinkie era. He’s gone now, mercifully; the team will eventually trade away at least two of the three centers he drafted, and is at least a few years away from being better than completely awful as it recovers from the wreckage he left behind.

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On the other hand, one of the centers the draft delivered to him, Joel Embiid, looks like he might turn out to be very good, which Hinkie’s numerous sycophants and apologists, in sports media and out, have already begun posing, hilariously, as vindication of a “Process” entirely premised on the idea that the only meaningful gauge of success in the NBA is championship rings.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Embiid’s gonna be a monster, man! So long as his feet stay attached. He’s soooooo good. Better yet, he’s fun, unlike his fellow Sixers center Jahlil Okafor, who is not.

Ben Simmons, the splendidly gifted point-forward the Sixers took with the only first overall pick their years of deliberate failure got them, also looks like he will be a terrific NBA player. Unfortunately he will miss at least the first few months of his rookie season with a broken foot. Unless the Sixers vastly outperform expectations in the interim, he may very well not play at all until next autumn.

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Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Dario Šarić also seem like they could be good NBA players. I’d bet against any of them turning 25 as members of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Are they good?
No.

Are they worth watching?
Embiid sure is.

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Playoffs?
The sky is the limit!


Phoenix Suns

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
It’s real bleak, man. Real bleak.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Ask me again after the trade deadline.

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Are they good?
They’re not good.

Are they worth watching?
I forgot they existed until just now.

Pla— 
Shh.


Portland Trail Blazers

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Blazers went 44-38 last season, knocked off the depleted Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, and scraped a game off the depleted Warriors in the second round before getting punched out. This was a lot more than most people expected of them in their first year post-LaMarcus Aldridge, and it’s extra cool because they were fun as hell all along the way. They’re fast and weird and feisty and you’ll like ‘em.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Point guard Damian Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum are their most noteworthy basketball persons. Well, actually, I mean, no disrespect to McCollum, but really it’s the Dame Lillard Show. When he’s cooking, there’s nobody in the whole NBA—not even Steph Curry himself—more fun to watch than Dame. Case in point: The time he put 51 on Curry and the Warriors last season and beat them pretty much entirely by himself, in one of the most bonkers displays of furious shot-making I’ve ever watched:

McCollum’s good too! He’s very good. He’s just good in a much more familiar kind of way. He probably will not ever do anything awesome enough to make you jump-kick a hole in the ceiling of your living room.

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The Blazers added dumpy oddball Evan Turner this summer. I don’t even know how to classify his weird-ass game, which I once described as the basketball equivalent of a wet fart. He’s not bad, but damn is he hard to watch sometimes. He’ll make the Blazers better, somehow.

Are they good?
They’re good!

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Are they worth watching?
They’re extremely worth watching.

Playoffs?
Y’know, I think they could do it. Let’s call this one a “maybe” for now.


Sacramento Kings


San Antonio Spurs

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
They had one of the best regular seasons any team has ever had! They went 67-15 for chrissakes. And then they ducked out in the second round like a bunch of chumps. And now Tim Duncan is gone. Dammit.

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The truth of the matter is, last season’s Spurs were never quite as good as their record made it look. Or, rather, playoff basketball is juuuust different enough from regular-season basketball that a team can be historically good at one and gravely vulnerable at the other, and that was the case for the Spurs last season. In the regular season there’s never really enough time for a lot of sophisticated game-planning for any given opponent, so a really cohesive, smart, focused team can crush opponents just by being sharper and more consistent than anybody else. In the playoffs, over a seven-game series, if you don’t have a single guard or wing on your entire roster who can, for example, just straight-up beat his defender off the bounce and create some offense, pretty much any good NBA team will figure out how to punish you for it.

And that’s basically what happened to the Spurs. They had so many good, hyper-competent NBA players ... but they didn’t have anybody who could warp a defense all by himself, and clever, selfless ball movement—whatever any fusty old shithead might bellow to the contrary—can only do so much. Eventually somebody has to be able to beat his man. Watching the Spurs grind and grind and grind to manufacture buckets against the long, athletic, springy Thunder in the playoffs was excruciating. The Warriors would have slaughtered them.

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This will still be a shortcoming of the Spurs in 2016-17. They’ll still be leaning pretty heavily on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for playmaking on offense. They’ll once again find brilliant solutions for it, to get them by in the regular season; witness the 29-point beatdown they put on the Warriors on opening night. And they’ll pin their hopes on Kawhi Leonard continuing his freakish growth into a whirling all-court monster.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
It’s Kawhi’s team now, buddy. I mean, it basically was his team last season, too—Tim Duncan having long since gracefully stepped out of the superstar role—but now it’s super-duper his team. Kawhi’s terrific efficiency, and the Spurs’ historic regular-season greatness, did a lot to mask at least one significant gap in his game last season: He still can’t really create off the dribble with any kind of consistency. On another team that might not be a big deal, but, in case you missed the friggin’ doctoral thesis in the section above, this was a major area of weakness for the Spurs. The good news is, apparently Kawhi is some kind of fucking cyborg who can just upload new skillsets into his CPU, because he’s expanded his game at a downright upsetting rate since he came into the NBA in 2011, so I’m sure he’s friggin’ Tracy McGrady now.

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LaMarcus Aldridge, of course, is another noteworthy basketball person on the Spurs. Apparently there’s some talk they might trade him, since he’s a lot older than Leonard and it’d behoove the team to get their key players on roughly the same career timeline. That makes sense. In the meantime, Aldridge is outrageously fucking good. It’s almost not fair.

The Spurs signed Pau Gasol this summer. I’m not sure if he’s a noteworthy basketball person anymore. He’s very old now!

Are they good?
Of course they are.

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Are they worth watching?
Of course they are.

Playoffs?
It’s the dawn of a new era in San Antonio! Let’s see how things shake out. Maybe they’ll make a run!


Toronto Raptors

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Raptors had a great damn year! They went 56-26, scooped up the East’s second seed, made the conference finals for the first time ever, and pushed the eventual champs to six games before bowing out with dignity.

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They did all of this, literally all of it, by flailing their arms in traffic to earn foul calls. I’d rather watch a maniac feed kittens to a wood-chipper.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are their noteworthy basketball persons. Lowry is tough and ballsy and a terrific regular-season player; in the playoffs he struggles because his first step is slower than continental drift and he’s slightly past his physical peak, which wasn’t all that high a peak to begin with. DeRozan is a shameless midrange chucker and flop artist who stole his game from an unfair caricature of what the NBA was like in 2006. He’s like James Harden with worse hair and none of Harden’s genius for shot-selection or varying angles and speeds of attack. This seems like I’m bashing these two good Raptors, but I’m not. They’re splendid NBA players. I just hate watching them.

I would have added Bismack Biyombo to the list of noteworthy Raptors basketball persons, but the Raptors did not re-sign him in free agency. Instead, they added spherical tub Jared Sullinger, who has nothing going for him at all.

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Jonas Valančiūnas is fine, I guess.

Are they good?
Yeah. Probably not quite as good as they were last season, when they had two of the East’s best centers on the roster and could not have given minutes to Jared Sullinger even if they wanted to, but they’re good.

Are they worth watching?
You can’t make me.

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Playoffs?
They’ve got a puncher’s chance!


Utah Jazz

Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
The Jazz finished the 2015-16 season with a 40-42 record; they missed the playoffs. In related news, I am sick of waiting for their asses. This is like the fifth straight year the Jazz are supposed to be the hot upcoming team. Maybe they’re just shitty.

Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
They don’t have any. That’s right, dammit! We’ve all extended them too much damn credit these past couple years, and they’ve used it all up. They don’t have any noteworthy basketball persons until some of them actually do some shit. Until then, they can go to hell!

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Are they good?
They’re shit.

Are they worth watching?
No. In fact, they should have to watch the rest of us.

Playoffs?
Mmmmmaybe?


Washington Wizards

Pictured: Two people who dislike each other. Photo credit: AP

What is their deal?
I don’t want to talk about it.

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Who are their noteworthy basketball persons?
I said I don’t want to talk about it.

Are they good?
I’m not doing this.

Are they worth watching?
Leave me alone!

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Playoffs?
No.


Who will be the champions of basketball?
You and I, my friends. You and frickin’ I.