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That’s right, folks: The NBA is back, baby! Literally it is already back, literally the first game has already tipped off. Seems like a good time for a thorough and detailed season preview blog. I hope you know where to find one, because this one is some half-assed shit I just whipped up today!

Onward, to the teams, all incredibly very many of them.


Atlanta Hawks

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What is their deal?
The Hawks went 43-39 last season, scored the East’s fifth seed, and gave the Washington Wizards six intermittently chippy games in a pretty miserable first-round series before being eliminated. It was the Hawks’ 10th consecutive playoff appearance; only the San Antonio Spurs, who made their 20th straight postseason appearance in 2017, have a longer streak going. That’s pretty amazing! On the other hand, the Hawks have advanced past the second round exactly one time during this streak, and have a better chance of colonizing the moons of Jupiter than of doing it in 2018. That’s pretty depressing.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Uh, hm. Not really anybody, actually. Paul Millsap’s off to Denver; Dwight Howard—after a single weird homecoming season in Atlanta in which he averaged 14 and 13 and led the Hawks in Win Shares, but apparently everybody on the team hated his guts and wanted him dead—is off to Southeast Division rival Charlotte. Where, presumably, given the track of his career to date, he will lead the NBA in rebounding and also get Julius Caesar’d by his fellow Hornets.

Dennis Schröder is still around. Great! The narrative after the playoffs held that the young German point guard had had a breakout series against Washington; in the abstract that’s wonderful, but the bigger picture strips some of the luster off it. Schröder was the third-best guard in that series, and the two guys who were better (John Wall, Bradley Beal) both play in the same division as him. Like, assuming he maintains that career-high level of play this season, he’ll be Atlanta’s best player by a mile ... and quite possibly not more than the sixth-best starting guard in the Southeast Division, after (in some order) Wall, Beal, Miami’s Goran Dragić and Dion Waiters, and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. Hell, you could argue for Josh Richardson giving the Heat alone three guards better than Atlanta’s best player. Oof. It’s not even a particularly good division!

Are they good?
Decidedly not. The question is whether the East worsened to an even more extreme degree than the Hawks did, in which case the Hawks might be right there in the running for its fifth seed once again. Rename it for them! And/or get rid of conferences and just seed the 16 best teams across the league so that this will stop happening.

Should I watch them?
God no.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Boston Celtics

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What is their deal?
The Celtics went 53-29 last season, snatched the East’s top seed away from the Cleveland Cavaliers down the stretch, won two playoff series, and went down in five games in the East finals. Then they blew up their entire damn team!

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, that’s for damn sure! They got rid of just about everybody else. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, of course, got blockbustered off to Cleveland in the Kyrie trade. Avery Bradley is off to Detroit. Repulsive Canuck ogre Kelly Olynyk is off to Miami. Gerald Green is in Milwaukee. Jonas Jerebko is in Utah. Amir Johnson is in Philadelphia. Tyler Zeller is in Brooklyn. The only holdovers from last season’s squad are pugnacious backup guard Terry Rozier, fake-pugnacious spatula-handed shit-for-brains Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Ambien Incarnate, Al Horford. They’re important by default, as Keepers of the Celtics Lore.

They drafted Jayson Tatum, but he’s not an important hoops-doer yet. I’ll talk about him an hour after next season starts, dammit!

Anyway everybody is very excited about Kyrie. That’s fine. But it’s worth remembering that, even including the past three seasons when the Cavs mopped up the East and made an annual summer rental out of the Finals, lineups with Kyrie as their best player and primary ball-handler have tended to fare really, really badly. It’s possible, even now, that he’s still a broadly not-very-good player with a knack for getting sexy buckets for himself. We’ll see.

Are they good?
Probably! It’s hard to know exactly how good they’ll be, since they’ve almost completely flipped over the roster from last season, including shipping out the single most important player on last season’s team (Thomas). But the shitty Eastern Conference will give them plenty of slack to figure things out, and it’s hard to figure on a Brad Stevens-coached team with Hayward, Irving, and Horford on it being less than pretty good, so long as the supporting cast around them isn’t completely atrocious.

Should I watch them?
Sure. Stevens-ball is pretty good to watch, and (Smart aside) this season it’ll benefit from practitioners less awful than Kelly Olynyk.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No. Neither are their old ones! Don’t @ me!


Brooklyn Nets

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Charlotte Hornets

Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty

What is their deal?
The Hornets finished the 2016-17 season with a 36-46 record and missed the playoffs. Coming as it did a year after they’d claimed the East’s sixth seed and seemed to establish themselves in what passes for that shitty conference’s upper tier of teams, this qualified as a huge disappointment. I feel bad about them now.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
It’s the same goddamn guys, and I’m sick of it! Kemba Walker (feisty) and Nic Batum (I’m contractually obligated to make some kind of reference to him being the French Scottie Pippen here, so: He is like the French Scottie Pippen) are the main hoops-doers. Except that Batum is already injured, with a torn ligament in his elbow that will keep him out for at least another month, and he’s aging and possibly not particularly good anymore.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, I am sorry to say, is not an important hoops-doer. The verdict is in. He’s just a rotation guy who shoots jumpers like he’s trying to put a heavy bucket of water on a high shelf without spilling any on his head.

The Hornets wisely jettisoned globally useless gigantic doofus Roy Hibbert midway through last season; this season, they have Dwight Howard, which is hilarious. He’s better than Hibbert. He may even be good. No bet is safer than that he will wear through his teammates’ patience by Christmas.

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Quietly, because the nature of the Hornets is to be forgotten periodically by all but their most fervent fans, the team was hurt pretty bad last season by the 20 games tall goober Cody Zeller missed to injury. They went 33-29 with him; they went 3-17 without him. I guess that makes him an important person on this team. Whatever! The Zellers, they can all go to hell!

Are they good?
No.

Should I watch them?
No.

Are their new uniforms cool?
Not any cooler than the old ones.


Chicago Bulls

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Cleveland Cavaliers

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What is their deal?
The Cavs, even more so than the Warriors or the flamboyantly tanking Lakers, wrote a damning critique of the NBA’s regular season in 2016-17, all but expressly targeting the minimum number of wins they’d need in order to clear their path to the Finals, relaxing at exactly the point they were assured of reaching that goal, and paying basically no penalty for it. For whole months of the regular season—and for the entirety of their run through the East playoffs, and in the fact that they managed to peel even one game off the historically dominant Warriors in the Finals—they made the case that they may have been one of the strongest teams the NBA has ever had. And yet they finished with a decidedly un-special 51-31 record, the East’s second seed, and the league’s 20th-highest defensive rating. Because they didn’t need to be any better than that, because the East is trash and the regular season is just a very long prologue for the teams that matter and they could get away with conserving their energy for the final two weeks of a nine-month season.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
LeBron James! LeBron is still the world’s most important hoops-doer. What defines the importance of the hoops-doers around him is what LeBron needs from them. Jae Crowder, for example, will be an important hoops-doer because LeBron needs somebody who can switch with him on defense, take on tough assignments at either forward spot, and let him play free-safety so that he can conserve his energy for making cool shit happen on offense. Isaiah Thomas (assuming he ever actually returns from his spooky and ominous hip injury) and Kevin Love are important hoops-doers because returning to the Finals will be less taxing for LeBron if the team’s secondary possession-eaters are actual good basketball players and not Iman Shumpert. Dwyane Wade is an important hoops-doer because he and LeBron are the most charming and charismatic comedic duo since Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke. And so on.

Are they good?
They’re damn good! The big variables are Thomas’s hip and the still impossible-seeming prospect of LeBron entering a full-on, non-incremental decline. He’s gonna be 33 soon! He’s been toting an insane basketball workload for 14 straight years! He’s never had a major injury! How has he not exploded into sawdust yet.

Should I watch them?
Listen. Someday in the not-too-distant future, LeBron will be gone from the NBA, and it will seem fucking crazy that anybody ever passed up an opportunity to watch this person play basketball on television even once. Yes. You should watch them. Even though they will spend much of the regular season openly coasting, you should watch them.

Are their new uniforms cool?
Nope.


Dallas Mavericks

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What is their deal?
The Mavs went 33-49 last season, finishing well out of the running for a playoff spot. And my God, my God, they are running it back.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
In Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel (playing on a dirt-cheap one-year qualifying offer so that he can hit unrestricted free-agency next summer), and rookie Dennis Smith, Jr., the Mavs have assembled the young core of a team that could spend the next decade, uh, continuing to go 33-49 after Dirk Nowitzki retires. I dunno, man. I think we’re supposed to be optimistic about this group, but I can’t do it. Maybe Smith will turn out to be, like, Gary Payton? I could go for that. I will check back in three years to see if he is Gary Payton.

Are they good?
They’re not good.

Should I watch them?
This is like the 75th straight season that you have not wanted to miss what could be Dirk Nowitzki’s final season. I’m done with this shit! You don’t have to watch the Mavs! If you’ve seen one one-legged fallaway jumper, you’ve seen ‘em all!

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Denver Nuggets

Photo credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty

What is their deal?
The Nuggets went 40-42 last season, and missed the West’s final playoff spot by one measly game. More importantly, they incubated what appears to be one of the next true stars of the sport. This was a big and very pleasant surprise. On the other hand, it means I cannot use the .GIF of their limp, unconscious mascot being lowered from the ceiling on a rope to illustrate their entry in this post. They’re too good for that now.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Nikola Jokic! The slightly tubby, sweet-passing, slick-scoring Serbian big man is the coolest player the Nuggets have had since Young Melo. More than that, he’s very good, and one of the few truly unique matchups in the league, a near-seven-footer who passes like a Harlem Globetrotter. Around him, the Nuggets have some other spry young players, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray and Juancho Hernangómez. They’re fun and you’ll like them.

They also, in what probably registers as a sign of their legitimacy, were able to add Paul Millsap in free-agency. Millsap is aging, rapidly, but he’s still pretty good, and he’ll improve what was a truly disastrous defense. He’ll also flop around a lot and try to make up in cheap-shit free-throws what he no longer has the athleticism to get for himself via the actual game of basketball, like a friggin’ jerk!

The Nuggets also still have Kenneth Faried, who is not an important hoops-doer at all, but apparently still regards himself as one, even though he pretty much sucks.

Are they good?
They’re pretty good!

Should I watch them?
You should definitely watch them.

Are their new uniforms cool?
They got rid of the baby blue. Contract the franchise and deport Jokic to the moon.


Detroit Pistons

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What is their deal?
Thirty is a small number if you are counting, for example, the calories in your dinner. It is a pretty big number if you are counting basketball teams! Hoo boy, we are not even halfway done here. The Pistons finished the 2016-17 NBA season with a 37-45 record. They did not make the playoffs. They were bad, bad to watch and bad at basketball.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, and the newly acquired Avery Bradley, whom the Pistons got from Boston in a trade that sent off Marcus Morris so the Celtics could clear away enough salary commitments to sign Gordon Hayward. Those are the important basketball persons in Detroit. They’re not very good, and probably at least one of them will get traded at some point.

Down in the comments some asshole will say rookie Luke Kennard is an important hoops-doer on this team. Eat my butt! Luke Kennard is just Kyle Singler with a combover. He can go to hell!

Are they good?
They’re not good.

Should I watch them?
No.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Golden State Warriors

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What is their deal?
Sadly, the Golden State Warriors folded as a franchise in 2016-17. They sold off their assets and used the money to build a rocketship and flew it into the Sun, where it and they were vaporized by intense heat. It’s a real shame.

Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
They don’t have any.

Are they good?
At feeding the insatiable thermonuclear engine that brings light and life to our planet? Not particularly. But at least they tried!

Should I watch them?
You can’t. They’re gone.

Are their new uniforms cool?
I feel like you’re being willfully obtuse at this point.


Houston Rockets

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What is their deal?
The Rockets shifted James Harden to point guard last season; playing wacky run-and-gun Mike D’Antoni ball, chucking literally all the three-pointers, and no longer wearing a sullen Dwight Howard around their necks like a yoke, they went 55-27, crunched up the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs, and gave the San Antonio Spurs five tough games in the second round before completely imploding in the sixth and losing by 39 points at home.

So, uh, all in all it was actually a fabulous season. It just ended kinda strangely and badly.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
James Harden had one of the best seasons anybody has ever had last year. Beyond the numbers—and what numbers they are! 29 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds per game, and a truly insane and record-shattering 464 total turnovers on the season—Harden was the Rockets in 2016-17, and the Rockets were extremely good almost solely because of him. A few years from now, when all the pencil-neck basketbloggers are done faking orgasms over Kawhi Leonard’s utterly unmemorable 26-6-4 plus good defense, it will seem absurd that the MVP discussion included anybody but Harden and Russell Westbrook.

And then Houston went out and added Chris friggin’ Paul! This will be very weird. In Harden and Paul, the Rockets have paired two of the most ball-dominant players in the NBA, as well as what sure as hell seem, on the surface anyway, to be two violently clashing personalities: Harden with his sometimes eccentric shot selection and wavering interest in defense, and Paul with his vociferous and overbearing perfectionism and maniacal drive to squeeze all the life and blood out of the game of basketball. I, uh, hope they stagger their minutes, some, is what I am saying.

It had better work like gangbusters, too, because the Rockets thinned themselves out pretty dramatically to make the payroll math stand up. Gone are Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, Montrezl Harrell, and Sam Dekker; none of these are particularly great players, but all of them were fixtures in Houston’s rotation when healthy. In addition to Paul, the Rockets also added bulldog defender P.J. Tucker, and, uh, generic basketball men Luc Mbah a Moute and Tarik Black. What I am saying here is that they are not the deepest team the sport has ever had.

Are they good?
They’re good.

Should I watch them?
Yeah, you should watch them. Either they’ll be a fascinating success or they will be an absolute fucking nightmare, and both of those are good television.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Indiana Pacers

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Los Angeles Clippers

Photo credit: Josh Lefkowitz/Getty

What is their deal?
The Clippers finished the 2016-17 season with a 51-31 record (the same as the Cavs!), claimed the West’s fourth seed, and ducked out in the first round as once again all their key players’ ligaments turned to wax. It was the fifth straight year the Clippers reached 50 wins in the regular season and crapped out of the playoffs early. Assholes.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
The nature of the sign-and-trade that sent Chris Paul to Houston—with one of the NBA’s best players going in one direction and none of the NBA’s best players coming back the other way—means that the Rockets are the team generally receiving lots of credit for improving over the offseason. That’s fine: It’s extraordinarily rare for a team to be able to add a mega-star via trade, period, much less to be able to do it without having to part with the mega-star already on the roster, and that makes the Rockets very special. But! The trade made the Clippers deeper and more balanced, netted them a not-terrible replacement for Paul (Patrick Beverley), and when you factor in the other changes they made to the roster, I think it’s entirely possible that they’ll be better in 2017-18 than they were in 2016-17. Shut up! It’s possible!

But first, ugh, yes, depressing below-the-rim-ass Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are still around and they’re still the most important hoops-doers on the Clippers, and, uuugggghhhh, I’m sick of them, you’re sick of them, everybody is sick of them. However, the Clippers also now have extremely cool Serbian guard Miloš Teodosić, quite possibly the best and slickest passer in the NBA right now as a 30-year-old rookie, and he is going to do lots of shit that rules very hard, especially with Jordan. Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari will be fun, too.

What I am saying here is that the Clippers could be not-hateful for the first time in many, many years this season. That’s something to feel good about.

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Are they good?
They’re good. The question is whether they’re still good enough for people to pretend to buy them as championship contenders. I don’t know!

Should I watch them?
Teodosić will be appointment television. Yes you should watch them.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Los Angeles Lakers

Photo credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty

What is their deal?
The Lakers went a truly horrendous 26-56 last season. But enough about that shit! Here comes Lonzo!!!!!!

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
It seems a little weird, if you go off the particulars of his on-court abilities alone, for a player like Lonzo Ball to occasion quite this much excitement. By the looks of things, he really will turn out to be the kind of guy who mostly just facilitates good play by making quick decisions and sharp passes, who shines in the stuff you need lineup stats and plus-minus figures to really suss all the way out, rather than the kind of megawatt superhuman talent who trashes opponents and transfixes casual fans with the actual stuff he does on the court. (It’s possible I’m wrong about this. But what seems certain in any case is that he will be a fine NBA player.) The thing, I think, is that, in his stylish game and his cool confidence and his good looks, and in the kookiness of the LaVar Ball Traveling Shoe-Sales Circus that he brings with him, and in the sport-transcending fame he achieved long before the draft, he seems equal to the job of being the face of the Los Angeles Lakers in a way that, for example, poor, bland D’Angelo Russell never would. The NBA is more healthfully aligned when the Lakers’ best player is famous on his own, and not just because he plays for the Lakers, you know? Lonzo Ball is a genuine star, entirely apart from the Lakers uniform, and he also wears a Lakers uniform, and that is exciting.

But hey, also, the Lakers might just have a not-terrible team around him, too. They brought aboard Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Brewer, and Andrew Bogut; none of these are world-beaters (though Lopez, especially now that he’s added a three-point shot, is genuinely Good), but they’re the kind of credible NBA veterans who generally know where to be and will give Lonzo opportunities to throw cool passes that lead to easy buckets. Young Brandon Ingram showed flashes of spidery brilliance in summer-league play and looks like he’ll be a fun running mate. Julius Randle, I dunno, he kinda sucks? But maybe eventually he will not. I’m trying to be optimistic, here.

Are they good?
Probably they are still pretty shitty. But they will not be as shitty as they were last season, even if they don’t win a lot more games.

Should I watch them?
Yes.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Memphis Grizzlies

Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty

What is their deal?
I don’t really know what the hell is going on with the Grizzlies. They went 43-39 last season, snagged the West’s seventh playoff seed, and gave the Spurs six mostly tough games in the first round. It was like the 19th straight year their season has gone that exact way, and therefore it made some sense for them to say goodbye to some of the very old dudes who defined those 19 straight years, and they did. What they did not do was replace them with anything to feel all that good about, so far as I can tell.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
It’s still Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, both of whom are still great and still maybe not quite as highly regarded by casual fans as they ought to be, and who taken together still do not give the Grizzlies anywhere near enough firepower to be a serious threat to the topmost teams in the Western Conference. The solution to this gap is supposed to be Chandler Parsons, I guess. What the Grizzlies will do about his splintered popsicle-stick skeleton is unknown at this time. Chandler Parsons couldn’t walk from my house to my mailbox without shattering his pelvis.

They added, uh, Ben McLemore. Who is terrible. And Tyreke Evans. Who is fine I guess but can’t shoot or stay healthy, which may mean he is not actually fine at all. It’s just my opinion but probably don’t fill out your roster with guys who flamed out on the Sacramento Kings.

Are they good?
I don’t think they’re good. But, ugh, they’re probably playoff-bound anyway.

Should I watch them?
No.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Miami Heat

Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty

What is their deal?
I like these dang Heat! They went 41-41 last season and missed out on the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker in favor of the miserable, miserable Chicago Bulls. But in the meantime they were fun and funky and good to watch, and I feel bad about having predicted that they would suck.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Goran Dragić, Hassan Whiteside, and Dion Waiters are the most important hoops-doers for the Heat. Dragić remains, at a gently declining 31 years old, one of the best guards in the NBA at breaking down a defense off the dribble, and is a joy to watch. Whiteside is a giant bad-tempered monster who wrecks all types of shit around the rim, probably will win another rebounding title, and apparently hates Joel Embiid. Waiters will enter his sixth consecutive season of wrongly believing himself a genuine basketball superstar, but in 2016-17, for the first time, he showed signs that he may actually have become a not-bad player, and his lunatic confidence and occasional bursts of true and temporary excellence make for a good show.

The Heat have some other nice players, Josh Richardson and Rodney McGruder and the Johnsons (Tyler and James, no relation). They added repulsive Canuck ogre Kelly Olynyk, who is neither good nor fun but will be important for them. Justice Winslow probably isn’t good, but he’s still young enough that it’s plausible he might become good. They drafted a person named Bam Adebayo, and even if he stinks “Bam Adebayo” will be fun to say.

Are they good?
Sure! In a ramshackle kind of way, one probably a bit more dependent on Waiters than I consider advisable, they are good. They’re almost certainly a playoff team in the East.

Should I watch them?
Yes.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Milwaukee Bucks

Photo credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty

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

Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
GIANNIS BABY, FUCKIN’ GIANNIS, THE GREEK FREAK, HELL YEAH, HELL YEAH.

Are they good?
HELL YEAH THEY’RE GOOD, HELL FUCKIN’ YEAH.

Should I watch them?
THE GREEK FREAK BUDDY, THE GREEK FREAK, HELL YEAH, GOTTA WATCH THE GREEK FREAK.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Minnesota Timberwolves

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What is their deal?
The Timberwolves got off to a hot (for them) start last season, and for a second they seemed like they might be 2016-17's team of HELL YEAH, but then they reverted to form and went 31-51 and missed the playoffs by like a thousand games. Along the way they did annoying shit like let coach-GM Tom Thibodeau heap insane playing-time burdens on his top few players, with the predictable result that one of them (Zach LaVine, since shipped out to Chicago) blew out his ACL for no good fucking reason at all. Then the season ended and they got extremely busy.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Jimmy Butler! The Bulls traded for Jimmy frickin’ Butler, and all they had to ship out was busted LaVine, crappy Kris Dunn, and someone named Lauri Markkanen. I’m not gonna double-check this for accuracy but Butler’s probably the biggest star the franchise has ever traded for (as opposed to trading away). He’ll be reunited with Thibodeau, his coach for his first couple seasons in Chicago, so that he can play 47 minutes a night, age like a banana, and be a hobbled washout who can’t bend his knees by the time he hits 30.

But hey, that’s only one of the ball-pounding wings on the Timberwolves who scores too many of his points via shitty, contested pull-up jumpers! They also have Andrew Wiggins, whom they signed to a five-year, $148 million max contract extension a few days ago. Somehow this does not convince me that they won’t trade him. I’m not even sure he’s good! But he’s definitely important, for now.

Even so, even with Butler and Wiggins, the most important hoops-doer on the Timberwolves is Karl-Anthony Towns. This will be a big season for the freakishly gifted, outrageously likable young seven-footer: It’s his third as a pro, and generally speaking a truly special player’s personal excellence ought to start translating into team success by right around now, barring extraordinary circumstances working against him. You can quibble with some of the margins of Towns’s game, if you like—he doesn’t always get back on defense in the biggest of hurries, for example, and more broadly has not been a good defender so far in his career—but he’s absurdly good for a not-yet-22-year-old, and now it’s time for that to make the Timberwolves an actual dangerous team. Or else he will end up consigned to that worst and grimmest of fates: Making me vaguely depressed when I think about him, like Anthony Davis.

Are they good?
They damn better be!

Should I watch them?
Yes.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


New Orleans Pelicans

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty

What is their deal?
The Pelicans went 34-48 last season; out West they were the last of the Truly Shitty teams to still have what vaguely resembled a plausible shot at the eighth playoff seed if you squinted really extremely hard. Also, at the deadline they made one of the weirdest, funkiest trades I can remember, and as a result have one of the only genuinely hilarious rosters in the NBA. But also they’re depressing shit and I hope they all fall down a really deep manhole.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
This is probably the last season that the Pelicans can get away with being a shitty, miserable, go-nowhere franchise with a ridiculous clown-car roster before Anthony Davis will begin agitating for a trade, if he hasn’t already. Last season was the last season they could get away with being a shitty, miserable, go-nowhere franchise before it would cause me to feel sort of bad about Davis himself.

It’s hard to say that any of this persistent, perennial failure is Davis’s fault—or anyway it’s hard to demonstrate it with, like, stats—but, man, he was supposed to be the next truly superhuman, force-of-nature, LeBron-grade player, and ... he is! His production is incredible, his abilities visibly out-of-this-world ... and yet, the Pelicans stink. His personal greatness does not swing games the way that level of personal greatness is supposed to. And, to my eyes, what sure seems like far too often he seems content to cruise through games, deferring to shitty, mismatched teammates and then making the plays of least resistance against defenses and opponents he could crumple up and devour at 75-percent exertion. It’s depressing!

This probably tracks back to the atrocious organization around him. If he is not giving them his all, well, they certainly do not deserve it. Look at this bozo-ass team! Rajon freaking Rondo! Tony freaking Allen! Jordan freaking Crawford! E’twaun freaking Moore! These washed-up dinguses are some of Anthony Davis’s most important teammates. Worse yet, in most cases they’re improvements over last year’s team. The Pelicans are hell.

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But also, they have DeMarcus Cousins, which is hysterical. In Cousins and Davis, the Pelicans have two of the NBA’s top, uh, two centers, sharing a starting five. It’s insane and wonderful and I love it. They’re gonna trade the shit outta Cousins, probably.

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

Should I watch them?
Sure as you are born, Davis will put up something like a 40-point, 20-rebound, six-block game at some point in the season’s first week. It will be breathtaking. And the Pelicans will lose by 14. So, uh, yes, watch them, if you like being intensely frustrated.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


New York Knicks

Photo credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty

What is their deal?
Well, they finally got rid of Carmelo Anthony, probably two seasons after it became the smart thing to do. Oh, but, right, before that, they played last season, and went 31-51, and missed the playoffs, and fired Phil Jackson when it became clear that he would rather nuke the franchise into permanent radioactive sterility than endanger any tiny subatomic portion of his ego.

Actually, all of this qualifies as positive developments, for the Knicks.

Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
The only Knick who matters is Kristaps Porzingis, and restoring his good feelings about being a Knick ought to be the only goal of basically everybody else who works for the organization, this season. On the other hand, this 7-foot-3 doofus thinks he is not a center, and that’s stupid, and if they don’t make him play center I am going to drive up to New York and kick all their asses, because he definitely 100-percent is a center.

Actually I will probably take the bus. That changes nothing!

Are they good?
No. In fact they’re quite bad. But they’re the good kind of bad, now, for the first time in years: The kind of bad with room for improvement and the potential to fill at least some of that room. That’s progress.

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Should I watch them?
Ha ha ha, hell no, of course not, are you out of your fucking mind, they suck so bad.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Oklahoma City Thunder

Photo credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty

What is their deal?
YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
The Thunder did all the shit this offseason, somehow scoring both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony without gutting themselves. And they signed reigning MVP Russell Westbrook to a massive extension! A Russell Westbrook-Andre Roberson-Paul George-Carmelo Anthony-Steven Adams lineup ought to be able to hang with anybody, and to crush most of them.

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The also got Patrick Patterson! That’s not nothing! He’s very good! I’m so proud of them. They are truly Going For It.

Are they good?
They’re friggin’ good!

Should I watch them?
In fact, you have to. It’s the law.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Orlando Magic

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Philadelphia 76ers

Photo credit: Jamie Squire/Getty

What is their deal?
They’re ready to try climbing out of the toilet, is their deal, and it’s wonderful. The Sixers went 28-54 last season, the fourth in a row that they’ve finished 14th or worse in the 15-team Eastern Conference. (Uh, they did not make the playoffs.) But, in the offseason, they added veteran players of actual cost and consequence for what only feels like the first time this millennium, and seem to have agreed to allow some of the springy young dudes they’ve drafted over the past five years to actually try their hands at playing some basketball for once, and possibly for as many as two or even three minutes at a time. That’s good! It’s good to welcome one of the sport’s classic teams back into the Actual NBA, from the Weird Provisional Alternate NBA where they’d spent the past half-decade sucking and failing on purpose.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
It seems weird to say this about a guy who will be playing at least the first part of the season under a hilariously restrictive minutes limit (that he hates), but center Joel Embiid is the most important hoops-doer in Philadelphia. In fact, if he ever gets and remains healthy enough to convince the brass in Philly to let him be an actual NBA player, rather than an artificial scarcity they can use to sell the promise of the undefined future, he might be one of the most important hoops-doer in the entire sport. He’s that good! He’s phenomenally good. He has also missed 215 of the 246 games in his three-year career, so far.

But hey, about those veteran players of actual cost and consequence that the Sixers added: They’re sharpshooting guard J.J. Redick and interior mauler Amir Johnson, both of whom have reached the point in their careers at which NBA free agents tend to look for stuff like a legit shot at the playoffs when deciding where to play. This is encouraging! Johnson’s the sort of player the trends in the sport don’t smile on, but Redick’s still fine, and he’ll be very good for the young dudes in Philadelphia who need a spaced-out floor to try out stuff.

The most important of those young dudes, other than Embiid, are point forward Ben Simmons and point guard Markelle Fultz, both making their debuts this season. Are either of them good? I have no idea! Fultz in particular has suddenly begun shooting his free-throws like an insane person swatting at invisible flying insects. But Simmons has looked great, and will be fun, because great passers are always fun.

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Are they good?
Probably not quite good, just yet. But on their way to good! Certainly good enough to kick the dicks off the Washington Wizards tomorrow night, to punish me for saying they are not quite good yet. They’re gonna win by 30!

Should I watch them?
Yeah, you should watch them for sure. The Embiid sightings will be precious things, and possibly rare. Like getting to see a whale breaching!

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Phoenix Suns

Photo credit: NASA/Getty

What is their deal?
Their deal is they went 24-58 last season, and you have to do better than that if you expect more than perfunctory treatment down here at the latter end of the alphabet!

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
I don’t know. Rex Chapman or something.

Are they good?
No.

Should I watch them?
No.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Portland Trailblazers

Photo credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty

What is their deal?
So, yeah, the Blazers took a bit of a step back last season. A year after finishing fifth in the West and snatching a series win off the (hobbled, but still!) Clippers, they came in eighth last season, at 41-41, and got swept to hell by the Warriors in the first round. I still like ‘em. You don’t get to tell me what to like!

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
It’s still Damian Lillard’s and C.J. McCollum’s team, until further notice. But the trade that brought them sullen Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkić turns out to have been a good one. They’re much better with him than they were without, for reasons I will not dig into here because we are already at like 175,000 words here and [extremely Ringo Starr voice] I’ve got blisters on my fingers.

Are they good?
They’re fine. Cannon fodder of course, but fine.

Should I watch them?
I mean, they’re on in the middle of the night over here on the good coast, but yeah, watch ‘em when you can.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Sacramento Kings

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San Antonio Spurs

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

What is their deal?
Really they were not all that close. Honestly, they probably were not going to win the series no matter what. But a 21-point lead in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is not nothing—and then, well, shit. Zaza Pachulia slid his foot under Kawhi Leonard’s jumpshot (on purpose or not!), and that was it.

But before that, the Spurs, in their first season post-Tim Duncan, went 61-21, took the West’s second seed, and saw Leonard blossom into one of the NBA’s best all-around players. It was a hell of a season! It would have been the best season in at least a few other franchises’ entire histories. I don’t think that is much comfort to the Spurs, who got boned.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Leonard, of course. For as great as he was last season, he still finished the campaign with plenty room to improve as a ballhandler and playmaker, and the track of his career suggests he’ll seize on it. Which would be scary! He was ridiculously good already.

And then there’s the usual gang around him: LaMarcus Aldridge, aging but still pretty good; Manu Ginobili, not so much aging as just old as hell but still occasionally capable of that weird herky-jerky Manu brilliance for a few minutes here and there; Tony Parker, basically dead but nobody really wants to tell him. Patty Mills, whatever, he’s fine. Likewise Danny Green and Pau Gasol.

Oh hey and also! They got Rudy Gay, heretofore the least Spurs player imaginable. Rudy frickin’ Gay! If he is ready to be a power forward and stop shooting midrange jumpers forever, he is still dynamic enough to be good for the Spurs. He could be a fine power forward, in fact! No, I mean it! He’s actually been fine the past couple years, toiling in Sacramento, where nobody could notice ever. I promise.

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Anyway the big picture here, perhaps more than ever, is of a team that will be better than the sum of its individual parts in the regular season—because most of its individual parts are not all that great but their preparation and experience and consistency will help them beat the shit out of many NBA teams—and then less good than that in the playoffs, where having good individual parts is more important.

Are they good?
Yeah, of course, they’re good.

Should I watch them?
Sure. They play good basketball and then (or sometimes before) Gregg Popovich tears the president a new one in a press conference. It’s fun.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Toronto Raptors

Photo credit: Dianne Manson/Getty

What is their deal?
Listen. The Raptors have done exceptionally right by their fans over the past few years. They have put together a team that wins a lot of games, sends players to the All-Star game, and mounts what seems, at least once or twice per season, like a reasonable case for hoping it might fight its way into the Finals, each year. That’s great. It’s admirable as nerdy basketball personnel management shit and as fan service. But I haaaaaaate the Raptors. I hate them! I hated them even before they eliminated the infinitely more fun and likable Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s playoffs. I just ... I hate them. I tell myself it’s all the flopping—they do a really amazing amount of flopping, even for an NBA team—but it’s also the (deeply related) inert bullshit offense and the (deeply related) annual postseason shittiness and the (less related) ugly stupid uniforms and the fact that they’re named after fucking dinosaurs, and, just, everything. I hate them. They’re butt.

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Oh, right. They went 51-31 last season, finished third in the East, beat the Bucks in the first round, and got swept in the second by the Cavs.

Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valančiūnas, again, ugh, fuck, this team never changes, even when it changes. Serge Ibaka. Frickin’ C.J. Miles. They’re gonna win 50 games again, aren’t they? God.

Are they good?
No! Dammit, no! They’re butt! They suck and they’re butt!

(Yes, they’re “good.” Pfft. What is “good” but “bad” spelled differently, anyway.)

Should I watch them?
So long as I don’t have to, I don’t give a damn!

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Utah Jazz

Photo credit: Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty

What is their deal?
They went 51-31 in 2016-17; it only seems like half the teams in the NBA did that. Like the Blazers the season before, they snuck past the injury-wracked Clippers in the first round; like the Blazers the round before, they got swept by the Warriors in the second. Then two of their three best players bolted. I don’t think they’re gonna go 51-31 this season.

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Who are the important hoops-doers on this team?
It’s the Rudy Gobert show, now. Gordon Hayward’s gone; George Hill is gone; less importantly, so are Boris Diaw, Trey Lyles, and Shelvin Mack. They added Ricky Rubio to replace Hill, and it’s possible he’s an upgrade, though he sure as hell never actually made the Timberwolves good in any of the, like, 31 straight seasons everybody kept expecting him to do that. Anyway, yeah, Rudy Gobert. He’s very tall, blocks lots of shots, and I would not bet any amount of money against him going the way of Roy Hibbert over the next three seasons, because he can’t switch on defense and his offensive game ends at the borders of the restricted circle.

Mostly I have not mentioned rookies here, but Donovan Mitchell seems like he will be extremely cool and good. He was bananas in summer league. His arms are longer than my legs! He’ll have a chance to shine, probably, now that poor Dante Exum is out for yet another season with yet another awful, completely unfair injury.

Are they good?
They’re fine.

Should I watch them?
No.

Are their new uniforms cool?
No.


Washington Wi—

That is all the NBA teams. Thank you.