Photo: Marty Lederhandler (AP Photo)

Well hello there, fellow basketball enthusiast! It’s that time again: Time for the NBA season to have begun literally over two hours ago, when the Celtics and Sixers tipped off in Boston. There could be no better time than this to look ahead to what the 2018-19 season has in store for us, except maybe Christmas.

Below you’ll find an alphabetical list of the NBA teams, and at least in some cases possibly some information about the large men wearing their uniforms, such as some of their names. That’s handy! Look, let’s just do this thing.


Atlanta Hawks

GIF: YouTube

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What is their deal?
The Hawks went 24-58 last season, finished dead last in the Eastern Conference, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007; they stunk like shit and were awful to watch. But, uh, on purpose! After years of annual rejiggering to remain competitive in the weak East, Atlanta’s braintrust made the choice to go in the tank in 2017-18, in hopes of finally, finally, for the first time in literally the entire history of the franchise, landing and keeping something like a transcendent, exciting talent up at the top of the draft. For their, ah, efforts (?) they received the third overall pick, and used it to draft slick Slovenian ball-wizard Luka Dončić, the coolest and most exciting European player to enter the draft since Dirk Nowitzki. Then they traded him for a dollar-store bootleg Curry brother! Ha!

Who are their guys?
Wised-up basketball knowers will make sounds and perform excitement about Taurean Prince and John Collins, but Atlanta’s only guy is Trae Young, the wee three-bombing chucker from Oklahoma for whom they traded away the rights to Dončić. The bet behind that trade is that Young can give the Hawks their very own Steph Curry to build around; this almost certainly won’t happen. Young is a fun lil’ player with more going for him than just the confidence to huck up a bazillion irresponsible three-point attempts, but the odds were overwhelmingly against there ever being one Steph Curry—even within the Curry family, the attempt to duplicate his skillset yielded an earthbound role-player Basketball Reference regards as more similar to Carlos Arroyo than to his own brother—much less two within a decade. In any event the very revolution Steph himself ignited has changed the game in ways that will flatten out the impact of anybody else with a similar skill-set coming after him.

Still, building around a ballhandling guard with prodigious shooting range and the confidence to splash threes off the dribble will never be exactly a bad idea again, pending a return to the hand-checking rules of the 1990s. At the very least, Young projects to be fun and spicy and telegenic, unlike literally anyone who has played for the Hawks since Dominique Wilkins left town.

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Are they good?
Heavens no.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
I’m sure nobody in Atlanta would complain if everything in that Trae Young section up there turned out to be completely wrong and he and the Hawks lit the league on fire this season. But the Hawks still own their own 2019 first-round pick, which, even with the rejiggered lottery system, means they’d rather win 20 games than win 30.

Why should I give a damn about them?
You shouldn’t!


Boston Celtics

Assholes!
Photo: Maddie Meyer (Getty)

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What is their deal?
Without Gordon Hayward for all but the season’s first few minutes, without Kyrie Irving for the season’s final month and all of the playoffs, and relying heavily on then-rookie Jayson Tatum and backup guard Terry Rozier for offense, the Celtics went 55-27 in 2017-18, won two playoff series, and took LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Barring an even worse dispensation of bad injury luck, they’ll be even better this season. God damn it.

Who are their guys?
All of their guys are their guys! It’s sickening!

The Warriors are more stacked than the Celtics (and any other team literally ever) at the very top of the roster, and the Los Angeles Clippers are absurdly overstuffed with rotation-grade players, but the Celtics have, by far, the NBA’s best combination of front-line talent and depth. Every starter—Irving, Hayward, Tatum, Al Horford, and Jaylen Brown—is good enough to be an all-star; Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Smart would all be starters on at least half the other teams in the NBA, and will come off Boston’s bench. Hell, even Daniel Theis and Semi Ojeleye are probably fine.

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By the end of last season, coach Brad Stevens probably was getting a little bit too much credit for this—you’d have thought he was steering Tatum around the court with an Xbox controller, judging by some of the praise—and the players too little. But still. Particularly as a Wizards fan, it’s pretty remarkable to watch how well and with how little apparent friction Stevens’s Celtics integrate the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses of literally everyone who makes his way onto the floor in a Boston uniform.

And there are some deeply imperfect assholes on this team! Morris and Smart are assholes! Irving is a dull, performatively galaxy-brained flat-earther! Rozier is a hothead who wants to fight everyone! Baynes looks like a hipster bartender from Brooklyn dressed up like a switchel brewer from colonial Vermont and I hate him! Put these same players in Wizards uniforms and the result would be a clown car plunging into a volcano. In Boston they’re a model of interpersonal harmony.

The point here is that the Celtics can roast in hell.

Are they good?
They’re reeeeeeeeeally good.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
This season will be a disappointment if they do not represent the East in the Finals. Kyrie Irving can opt into free agency next summer. They’re trying to win.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
They’ll play smart, creative, flexible basketball, they’ll be on national TV a lot, and along the way to a deep playoff run they’ll probably kick the crap out of your favorite team a couple times, unless they (or the Warriors) are your favorite team, in which case you can eat my butt.


Brooklyn Nets

Jarrett Allen.
Photo: Abbie Parr (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Nets went 28-54 last season; it was an improvement. If that’s largely a gauge of how miserable the Nets have been, it does genuinely seem to point to things getting better in Brooklyn. For the first time in actual years, the Nets sometimes resembled a credible NBA team last season. A bad one, of course, and possibly forever! But a spirited and competitive one, one aiming to play good basketball and sometimes even succeeding at it, one you could look at and go, “Okay, yes, broadly this at least belongs to the same category of thing as, say, the Memphis Grizzlies.”

Who are their guys?
For the first time since they came to Brooklyn, the Nets actually have some cool, interesting players on the roster. (That shit-ass 2013-14 team with the half-retired corpses of the Eastern Conference’s most annoying septuagenarians on it doesn’t count.) Caris LeVert is funky and cool. Giant rim-battering doofus Jarrett Allen, pictured above, is bouncy and cool. Three-bomber extraordinaire Allen Crabbe is a hoot. Spencer Dinwiddie oscillates wildly between ballsy shot-making and utter ineptitude, and it’s fun. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sometimes does raw athletic shit. D’Angelo Russell is insanely corny and it’s hard to imagine what anybody ever thought he’d be particularly good at, but, uh, I dunno, maybe he still has some potential yet unrevealed?

Are they good?
Oh my, no, they are not good. But maybe they are mediocre?

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
Here is a bleak thought: Part of what spurred the Nets to play pleasantly dignified basketball last season is that they did not possess the rights to their own 2018 first-round draft pick, and therefore had no incentive to tank. Well... they possess the rights to their own 2019 first-round draft pick.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
For the past few years the NBA has felt like it had 29 teams, and then the Brooklyn Nets. It will be good for the sport if the Nets can start to seem like just another NBA team, rather than a weird gross adjunct you can’t bring yourself to look at. That’s hardly an argument for watching their games! But, uh, it’s a possible outcome for which to harbor a vague, passive hope?


Charlotte Hornets

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What is their deal?
The Hornets went 36-46 last season. It was the second straight year they went 36-46. They responded by adding a completely washed-up 36-year-old backup point guard and Bismack Biyombo. They’re hopeless.

Who are their guys?
It doesn’t matter. They’re going to have a going-out-of-business sale before the trading deadline.

Are they good?
They suck.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
Who the fuck even knows with these dinguses.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
It’s not clear their own front office gives a damn about them.


Chicago Bulls

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What is their deal?
The Bulls went 27-55 last season, the third-worst record in the East. They’re awful and they’re at least another season or two away from trying not to be awful.

Who are their guys?
Tall, slick-scoring Finnish goober Lauri Markkanen is their guy. He’s quite a guy, a 21-year-old legit seven-footer with an oh-so-pretty shooting stroke who flashed loads of promise at both ends of the court when not struggling with injuries during an otherwise hellish 2017-18 season. Around him the Bulls are attempting to cobble together the appearance of a promising young core out of some combination of Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, and Wendell Carter Jr. It’s fine to forget literally all of these names for the next 24 months.

Are they good?
They’re puke!

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They could not win even if they wanted to, and they don’t.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
Uh, they might try to trade, uh, Robin Lopez at some point? No, you’re right, that doesn’t count.


Cleveland Cavaliers

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What is their deal?
The Cavs went 50-32 last season, fought off three younger insurgent rivals in the playoffs, and made their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, where J.R. Smith farted the whole team’s heart out at the end of Game 1 and the Golden State Warriors defeated them in an ugly four-game sweep. Then LeBron James left them in free-agency for the second time. Now they’re dead forever.

Who are their guys?
Dead-eyed Kevin Love is all they have left.

Are they good?
They’re dead forever.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
Dead forever.

Why should I give a damn about them?
D-E-A-D-F-O-R-E-V-E-R.


Dallas Mavericks

Luka Dončić!!!!!!!
Photo: Richard Rodriguez (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Mavs went 24-58 last season, and tanked shamelessly down the stretch. That’s horrible! But it wasn’t entirely without stuff to feel good about: For one thing, Dennis Smith Jr. had a terrific rookie season and seemed to solidify his place in the team’s post-Dirk Nowitzki future. For another and infinitely more important thing: LUUUUUUUKAAAAAAAAA!

Who are their guys?
So, turns out, Dirk’s extended valedictory tour (now entering at least its fourth season) plus the team’s continual clumsy efforts at retooling to give him one last run at the mountaintop, and last season’s tank job, have combined to put the Mavs in position for what could be a neat trick. When Dirk finally does retire—possibly this coming spring, at last, for chrissakes!—the Mavs might pull off the extremely rare seamless transition from one foundational player’s era to the next’s, without having to wander in the wilderness for even one season in between. This, of course, depends on Luka Dončić turning out to be as good as the hype, but as draft bets go, he seems like a pretty safe one: a genuine by-God prodigy who dominated the planet’s second-best professional league as a teenager, coming to a stable NBA squad reasonably well-stocked with young talent and led by one of its smartest and most flexible coaches, Rick Carlisle.

Make no mistake: The Mavs very well might stink this season, as Dončić adjusts to the NBA and/or reveals himself as a turkey. But he and Smith will be an extremely intriguing pair to watch, right off the bat, and possibly for years to come, and it’s pretty damn nice for Mavs fans not to have to endure lost years of flailing and tanking to find the team’s next locus of hope and excitement after ol’ Dirk.

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Oh, right, they also signed DeAndre Jordan’s old ass in free agency. Uh, cool?

Are they good?
Well, they’re (probably) not tanking anymore, so they’ll be better than last season no matter what. “Good” might be a stretch, especially in a Western conference that remains tough as hell. “Respectable” seems like a fair goal. They’ll beat the living shit out of the Wizards, that’s for damn sure!

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They do not own their 2019 first-round pick, so they’ll be trying to win.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
Dončić is going to be very cool and very fun, possibly right away.


Denver Nuggets

Look at this big doofus.
Photo: Matthew Stockman (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Nuggets went 46-36 and missed the playoffs by one damn game last season. One game! Makes you sick! The miserable, anti-fun Timberwolves went instead. Fuck that!

Still, it was a good campaign for the Nug Men. One of the league’s weirdest and most entertaining young cores took definitive shape and found some success, and the six-game winning streak they tore off right at the end of the schedule, when their playoff hopes seemed completely shot, was one of the most fun things that happened in the 2017-18 season. It just happened to end with a disappointing loss to those sucker-ass Timberwolves.

Who are their guys?
Round-bodied Serb giant Nikola Jokic is their main guy. Down the stretch of last season, and particularly during that fantastic last-minute winning streak, the skill-set that until then had mostly made him an advanced-stats curio—a seven-footer with three-point range, a refined back-to-the-basket scoring game, and the passing eye and creativity of Chris Paul—coalesced into the production and impact of a legit superstar. He was, and now provably can be, a monster.

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Which, of course, means that now all anybody can talk about is how he’s a crappy defensive player. He is! He’s a clumsy cave troll with anvils for feet at that end of the floor; when he does bother moving those big stanchions, it’s mostly to pivot out of the way. This nonetheless strikes me as a somewhat overblown concern. The dude is a phenomenal engine of points! If his lax defense is hurting the Nuggets, yeah, okay, he can work harder at it—and the coaches can damn well come up with a scheme that mitigates his limitations, so that the team reliably breaks even with him on the floor. That shouldn’t be too hard to do. The friggin’ Rockets figured it out with James Harden.

Anyway, Denver’s got other guys too. Jamal Murray is ballsy and fun and competes like hell. Gary Harris is kind of bland, especially compared to Jokic and Murray, but he’s good. Will Barton never saw a locked-in defense he didn’t mistake for a wide-open look, and that rules. Paul Millsap is old and annoying but probably still fine. Rookie Michael Porter Jr. has played like 17 minutes of healthy basketball in his entire life and comes off like a smarmy chud but somehow everyone has decided that this definitely means he is a phenomenal talent, so, uh, great. And they signed poor lil’ Isaiah Thomas to a one-year deal over the summer; if he can recover any of what made him good before his hip crumbled to dust, he might add yet more no-defense shotmaking to the rotation.

Are they good?
They’re good! The Nuggets are solidly a good NBA team. With a few breaks and some steady improvement from their young fellers, they uh might make the playoffs.

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Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win.

Why should I give a damn about them?
There’s a lot of dismally same-y basketball out there in the NBA, these days. The Nuggets are unique and interesting. Their foundational player is a rotund seven-footer who wants to throw no-look lobs to guards and then stroll around on defense like he’s on a walking tour of a botanical garden. It’s good, high-scoring basketball. For them and for their opponents!


Detroit Pistons

Pictured: The face you’d make, too.
Photo: Gregory Shamus (Getty)

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What is their deal?
They blow is their deal! They went 39-43 last season, flailed around like madmen, made a truly bonkers trade to try to save coach/team president Stan Van Gundy’s job, missed the playoffs, and fired Van Gundy. Now they’re stuck with the dubious spoils of that trade, and of the four years Van Gundy spent not really being up to the challenge of running their basketball operations. It’s pretty bleak. But also, who knows, maybe they’ll make the playoffs. The East sucks.

Who are their guys?
Here is a horrifying fact: Blake Griffin is under contract through the 2021-22 season, for a total of roughly $142 million in salary. The Pistons are stuck with him. He is their guy, whether they like it or not. Puuuuuuuuuke.

If Griffin isn’t quite washed up yet (debatable!), then he is washing up at the speed of sound. Once upon a time he was a gravity-defying dunk machine who’d go up and get NBA Jam-ass lob passes; then, for the briefest of moments, he was a coast-to-coast nightmare point forward with flashes of three-point range on his jumpshot. Now he is a below-the-rim stiff who hits like 30-percent of his jumpers and can’t switch on screens or protect the rim or stay healthy. He’s a decent facilitator from the elbow or the free-throw line extended. Great. That’s exactly the big skill-set his teammate Andre Drummond added over the past two seasons, and now it’s completely redundant. They don’t make much sense next to each other, and they’re Detroit’s two most important players, and the Pistons probably are stuck with both of them for a while. Woof. Maybe new coach Dwane Casey can figure something out.

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The pantry’s pretty empty beyond those two. Stanley Jackson has clearly worked very hard on his game, and this preseason at least has seemed desperate to show that he is now a complete two-way wing who can create offense and do cool shit at both ends. The problem is, he’s really not that. He’s just an energetic guy with a good NBA body. You watch him and go “Maybe someday he can be P.J. Tucker.” Reggie Bullock can shoot, and is already 27. Reggie Jackson is 28 now, and it’s time to stop waiting for him to turn into more than a guy who dribbles around screens and bricks floaters.

Are they good?
No. But with the Cavs plummeting into the toilet, the Hornets probably like 15 minutes from trading Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum for whatever they can get, and nobody else poised to move up from the bottom of the conference, the Pistons likely are next in line to slide up into the East’s atrocious eighth playoff seed. FiveThirtyEight gives them a 58-percent chance of making the postseason. Yuck. Congratulations to the Boston Celtics on their first-round victory.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They really have no choice but to try to win.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
God, please don’t.


Golden State Warriors

Pictured: A metaphor of some sort, maybe.
Photo: Ethan Miller (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Warriors went 58-24 last season, claimed the West’s second playoff seed, made a joke out of the entire regular season by then rolling to and through the Finals with comic ease, and claimed their second consecutive championship and third in four years. Then they added 28-year-old four-time all-star DeMarcus Cousins, when healthy one of the NBA’s top dozen or so players, at their only position of need in free-agency.

A sports season is lots of different stories; what pulls them all together into one narrative is the pursuit of the championship. The Warriors open the 2018-19 season as, collectively, the only relevant character in that overarching narrative. For that reason, that narrative is more boring right now than it has been in the NBA in decades, and the Warriors are the least interesting sports team in the world.

Who are their guys?
Oh please.

Are they good?
They’re okay.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
On a nightly basis they will care less about winning than just about any other team in the NBA.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
Do you like watching bored people sleepwalk through work responsibilities that do not challenge them at all? Then you’re gonna love the 2018-19 Warriors, literally the only NBA team that matters.


Houston Rockets

Photo: Ronald Martinez (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Rockets went 65-17 last season, won the West’s top playoff seed and an MVP award for James Harden, and took a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference Finals by lulling the Andre Iguodala-less Warriors into playing dismal and unfavorable isolation-ball. It might have delivered the Rockets their first trip to the Finals since Hakeem Olajuwon was around, if not for an injury that kept Chris Paul out of the last two games of the series, both of which the Rockets lost, by a combined 38 points.

I would like to take a moment here to address a common refrain from Rockets fans, who interject whenever anybody talks about how boring and rote the Warriors have made the NBA to go We were a Chris Paul injury away from going to the Finals. Yes. That may very well be true. On the other hand, a Chris Paul injury is not a fluke: He has missed significant time to injury in most of the seasons of his 13-year career, and was already 32 years old—ancient for a tiny guard—at the time the Rockets added him. Chris Paul going down with an injury at an inopportune time actually is much, much more in line with his history than a team with Chris Paul in it winning the conference finals, which had never previously come close to happening. The latter would have been the fluky occurrence. When it didn’t happen, that was events flowing smoothly down the ordinary course of history. A more accurate thing to say than that the Rockets were a Chris Paul injury away from going to the Finals is that the Rockets were an ordinary Chris Paul postseason away from losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round.

Anyway, now that you are sufficiently annoyed, let’s move on.

Who are their guys?
Harden, Paul, center Clint Capela, and doughy sixth man Eric Gordon were Houston’s guys last season, and they’re super duper Houston’s guys now, because the Rockets let a handful of other guys—important switchy D-and-3 guys Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute and declining stretch-big Ryan Anderson, for example—leave town without real replacements lined up. They added, ah, Carmelo Anthony, who was awful in his one season in Oklahoma City, who may well be completely washed up, and who somewhat notoriously got along terribly with Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni when they were paired up in New York. I’m grimacing very much right now.

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Are they good?
They’re very good. They’re probably not as good as they were last season.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win. Which makes letting Mbah a Moute and Ariza leave seem awfully fuckin’ weird!

Why should I give a damn about them?
If some shit goes badly awry in Oakland and the Warriors completely fall apart—think, like, a cataclysmic Bay Area earthquake, here—the Rockets would take over as the favorites to represent the West in the Finals. Which might be more convincing as an argument for keeping an eye on Golden State’s injury report than for paying particular attention to anything the Rockets do.

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Indiana Pacers

Pictured: My enthusiasm level for writing about the Pacers.
Photo: Gregory Shamus (Getty)

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What is their deal?
Hoo boy, this blog is getting long. Getting pretty dang long!

The Pacers were the surprise of the East last season: In the aftermath of Paul George’s exit, widely expected to populate the bottom of the standings, they went 48-34 and entered the playoffs in the fifth seed and as the unofficial Team Nobody Wanted To Play At All. They pushed the Cavaliers to seven tough games in the first round. Victor Oladipo blossomed into a genuinely breathtaking two-way highlight reel and fringe MVP candidate. The whole thing ruled, frankly.

In last season’s preview, I decorated their entry with a gif of the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth. I regret it. The Wizards should have been the Bog of Eternal Stench!

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Who are their guys?
They have so many cool guys! There’s Oladipo, of course, who, like, started eating more chicken breasts or some shit and suddenly was downright frighteningly quick at both ends of the court and spent all last season slicing opposing teams to ribbons. Then there’s the pair of fun young bigs, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, and a smattering of useful journeyman guards (Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans, Cory Joseph), and the designated three-point guys (Bojan Bogdanovic, Doug McDermott), and even a couple of enjoyable junkyard-dog types (Thaddeus Young, Kyle O’Quinn) to bang around, fight for rebounds, finish around the rim, give hard fouls, and so forth. It’s a likable team, is what I am saying here, in as few words as I can manage.

Are they good?
They’re good! Probably not quite as good as Boston, Toronto, or Philadelphia in the East, but good nonetheless!

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win!

Why should I give a damn about them?
I don’t have time for this!


Los Angeles Clippers

I’m not going to think of a clever caption for this.
Photo: Sean M. Haffey (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Clippers went 42-40 last season; it wasn’t quite enough to get them into the West’s playoff bracket, but it counts as a success anyway, considering they lost both their Chris Paul replacements (Patrick Beverley and Miloš Teodosić) to injuries pretty much right off the bat, traded Blake Griffin for like half a team in January, and rode with a sixth-man in his 13th pro season as their best player for pretty much the whole season. Their roster is bonkers; it’s like somebody held the NBA upside-down, shook it over a bucket, and made a team out of what fell in. They’re hilarious and you’ll like them.

Who are their guys?
He’s probably not their best player anymore, or anyway if he isn’t it won’t be surprising because he’s actually old as hell, but Lou Williams deserves first mention, here. The shameless chucker and head-fake artist narrowly missed out on an all-star appearance last season coming off his own team’s bench, which would have been amazing; he’s one of the sport’s real delights.

But the most enjoyable thing about these Clippers, even after they traded away unexceptional swingman and James Harden victim Wesley Johnson for flotsam yesterday, is how absurdly deep they are in rotation-grade NBA players. They go like 12 deep! It’s nuts. There’s Williams, and Beverley, and Teodosić; then there’s Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Avery Bradley, Luc Mbah a Moute, Montrezl Harrell, Mike Scott, Boban Marjanovic, and Marcin Gortat. And then there’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the rookie they took 11th overall out of Kentucky; and Jerome Robinson, whom they took two picks later out of Boston College; and, hell, maybe even Sindarius Thornwell, who allegedly played in 73 games for the Clippers last season while somehow leaving me with absolutely no impression of what his game is like or if he is worth a damn.

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None of these players is particularly great. But there are so damn many of them! If nothing else the Clippers have no excuse for not beating the living shit out of pretty much anybody else’s bench unit. This is gonna be weird and silly and then they’ll probably trade a bunch of dudes in January.

Are they good?
They’re probably good. Whether it’s possible to grind a playoff appearance in the stacked West out of this bunch of weirdos is a separate question, but they’re probably good.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win. Well, I can’t speak for all of them, but some of them are for sure trying to win.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
I’m not sure you should. But they’ll be fun to keep track of, if only for the novelty.


Los Angeles Lakers

Photo: Ethan Miller (Getty)

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What is their deal?
LEBRON JAMES!!!!!

Who are their guys?
LEBRON JAMES!!!!!

ALSO AND TO AN INFINITELY LESSER EXTENT LONZO BALL, BRANDON INGRAM, KYLE KUZMA, LANCE STEPHENSON, RAJON RONDO, MICHAEL BEASLEY, AND JAVALE MCGEE!!!!!

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Are they good?
LEBRON JAMES!!!!!

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
LEBRON JAMES!!!!!

Why should I give a damn about them?
LeBron James.


Memphis Grizzlies

GIF: YouTube

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What is their deal?
I’m sick of them!

Who are their guys?
Fuck them!

Are they good?
I don’t give a damn!

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They ought to be trying to go to hell!

Why should I give a damn about them?
So that I don’t have to!


Miami Heat

He’s so damn old!
Photo: Will Newton (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Heat went 44-38 last season, landed the East’s sixth playoff seed, and, in a testy five-game first-round defeat, performed the Philadelphia 76ers’ baptism-by-fire. That was actually a pretty good outcome for a funky, weirdly-shaped team of largely mismatched parts united mostly by their shared crotchetiness. This season will largely function as Heat legend Dwyane Wade’s extended farewell tour, but they’re also in the mix for another playoff run.

Who are their guys?
Ugh. Look. As an on-court strength for a basketball team to have, depth is good. It’s good to have lots of useful players. But when there’s like a frickin’ hour and a half left until the first game of the season tips off, and you are still working on a blog that will have the phrase “NBA season preview” in its headline, these decentralized teams with lots of useful guys on them are pretty frickin’ annoying!

Josh Richardson is Miami’s best player. There. I don’t give a frig if you agree or not. That is my position and I am sticking to it. Some other important Heat players are: Goran Dragić, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington, the vile Canuck ogre Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow, and Hassan Whiteside. Knowers like to fawn sort of quasi-ironically over Dion Waiters; I will list him among Miami’s key players only when he demonstrates that he can remain uninjured and productive for more than 90 seconds at a time. Is Bam Adebayo good? I don’t know. I just like to say “Bam Adebayo” whenever I get a chance. Bam Adebayo.

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Wade is very old now and hasn’t actually been good in like three years. But as he demonstrated in last spring’s Sixers series, he may still be wily enough to make the good kind of difference in small spurts. Does that make him important? Probably not. But he’s definitely one of Miami’s guys, if only honorarily.

Are they good?
They’re fine. I would not rule out them snatching the life out of one of the East’s young whippersnapper contenders in the first round this coming spring.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win.

Why should I give a damn about them?
I guess if you were really into Wade during his prime, you might want to catch some of his final season?

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Milwaukee Bucks

Photo: Maddie Meyer (Getty)

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What is their deal?
Another season, a familiar sense of vague disappointment. The Bucks went 44-38 in the 2017-18 season and pushed the injury-mulched Celtics to seven games in the first round.. The Celtics were one of the sharpest and best coached teams in the NBA last season, but it’s probably still a series the Bucks should have won: Boston came into it reeling from the loss of Kyrie Irving, and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best available player on either team by miles. When a team with a healthy superstar meets a team starting a rookie and a backup point guard in place of its two best players, the former is supposed to win.

On the one hand, it’s hard to miss that while the Bucks have been flailing around just to tread water in the crappy East, both the Celtics and the Sixers—and, last season at least, the Pacers—have passed them by. I guess maybe that could be a bitter pill for Bucks fans to swallow? On the other hand, they have Giannis. I would trade places with them in a second.

Who are their guys?
Giannis Antetokounmpo is their guy. He’s also my guy. He is everybody’s guy. He’s a seven-foot point guard who can Euro-step to the rim from the parking lot and he farts rainbows and sweats liquid joy. And if the Bucks keep crapping out in the first round of the playoffs, it will be fair to wonder what the hell his damn problem is!

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Are they good?
Yes. But are they good............... enough? (Probably not.)

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win.

Why should I give a damn about them?
Having rained on his parade, let me now backtrack and reiterate that Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the truly unique players in the history of basketball and a genuine thrill to watch. So, uh, watch him!

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Minnesota Timberwolves

GIF: YouTube

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LOL.


New Orleans Pelicans

*Fucking insanely heavy metal voice* Anthony Davis
Photo: Ezra Shaw (Getty)

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What is their deal?
It finally happened! It took DeMarcus Cousins’s Achilles tendon exploding, and a midseason trade for Nikola Mirotić, and Jrue Holiday finally fully returning from the injury and personal adversity purgatory where he’d spent the previous, uh, like four friggin’ years, but they finally found an assortment of players that Anthony Davis wouldn’t have to wear around his neck like a fucking millstone. The Pelicans went 48-34, returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, swept the puny Portland Trail Blazers directly to hell, and, ah, well, that’s where the triumph juice wore off. The Warriors crushed them in the second round, and that was that.

But still! What a frickin’ season! And now Anthony Davis can just be a great player gunning for MVP trophies and championship rings without the weird stink of perennial disappointment hanging over his head.

Who are their guys?
I have an Anthony Davis take. It’s not the most empirically upstanding take, I’ll confess, but I stand by it. My Anthony Davis take is: He would be a 15-percent better player if he stopped wearing a stupid-looking fitted t-shirt under his jersey, like a friggin’ teenager who is ashamed of his bird chest.

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Get out of my face with It’s orthopedic or whatever! It’s a bad look and I reject it.

Are they good?
I don’t know! They have a weird roster and they’ll have to rely on Elfrid Payton for key contributions this season and I’m still not totally sure about Mirotić. But they were good at the end of last season, and if they’re good again this season the NBA will probably force the MVP into Anthony Davis’s hands just to get it out of James Harden’s.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re desperately trying to win. Davis is eligible for free agency after next season (he has a player option for 2020-21, but presumably he’d only use that if he blows out his knee between now and the end of next season) and he’ll have suitors crashing through his walls for the next two years. New Orleans’s best chance to keep him is if they can win and win and win.

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I hate talking about basketball in these terms.

Why should I give a damn about them?
Anthony Davis owns.


New York Knicks

GIF: YouTube

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson (Getty)

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What is their deal?
It kinda went bad for the Thunder at the end of last season. The 48-34 record itself was a bit of a disappointment, after they added Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Patrick Patterson to their Russell Westbrook-Steven Adams core, but there were moments when it looked like they had a ceiling up there in the vicinity of Houston and Golden State. Then they fell apart and got melted by Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. This blog is too long and by God it is Lightning Round Time.

Who are their guys?
I can’t be the only person who, when that Utah series was coming to its ugly conclusion and the Thunder’s players looked like they’d rather chug lava than spend another moment in each other’s presence, would have bet his whole life that Paul George would never wear an Oklahoma City uniform again. And then he re-signed with the Thunder! Ah, life. Who can foretell the future. Not I.

In any case, there’s Paul George, there’s Westbrook (in general, if not tonight against the Warriors), there’s Adams, and eventually there’ll be defensive ace and world-historically putrid jump-shooter Andre Roberson, whenever he returns from the injury that ended his 2017-18 season. And there’s Dennis Schröder, liberated from the Hawks to be Westbrook’s backup and/or backcourt partner. That has to make Thunder fans at least as nervous as it makes Thunder opponents.

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Are they good?
They’re fine. They’re not gonna knock off the Warriors, but they’re fine.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’ll be trying to win for at least the next few years.

Why should I give a damn about them?
Get out of my face!


Orlando Magic


Philadelphia 76ers

This photo is from a game that is literally happening as I’m finishing this “preview” blog.
Photo: Adam Glanzman (Getty)

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What is their deal?
They literally just now lost to the Celtics, is their deal.

Who are their guys?
Fuck man, you shoulda just turned on TNT. They were all out there doing stuff.

Are they good?
Probably!

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to win. Tonight they should have tried harder!

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Why should I give a damn about them?
Don’t, for all I care!


Phoenix Suns

When you’re trying to be patient, but the season already started and the preview blog isn’t up yet.
Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty)

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What is their deal?
They had the worst record in the NBA last season, they fall toward the end of the alphabet, and that’s all you need to know.

Who are their guys?
If all goes according to plan, Devin Booker will be their James Harden and Deandre Ayton will be their, uh, I dunno, Joel Embiid? David Robinson? If all goes less well than that, Booker will be their Mitch Richmond and Ayton will be their Greg Oden. To help the two young fellas out, the Suns have surrounded them with a bunch of weirdo mercenary veterans who suck, as well as some fellow youths who also suck.

Are they good?
They’re poop.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re probably happy to lose for another year or two, so long as Booker and Ayton show some signs of life.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
You shouldn’t.


Portland Trail Blazers

“Where is the blog.”
Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty)

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What is their deal?
That first-round sweep was rough. The Blazers have a bizarrely expensive roster and not much room to improve over the next few years, so finding that they’re only good enough to get smashed by a lower-seeded Pelicans team has to have stung pretty hard. Still, there are worse spots to be in, for fans, than rooting for a team featuring a pair of fun and telegenic backcourt stars that likely needs more good fortune than is reasonable to hope for in order to get anywhere farther than the second round of the playoffs in the foreseeable future. Take it from me, a fan of the Wizards, who are similar in pretty much every respect except that nobody anywhere likes their players, including those players themselves.

Who are their guys?
That’d be Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the aforementioned pair of stars. They’re delightful, they may never even get to be the best backcourt tandem in their own conference, and I can see the finish line from here.

Are they good?
Sure.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They have no real choice but to try to win, for the next several seasons at least.

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Why should I give a damn about them?
Ultimately there’s no particularly convincing case for giving a damn about anything. You flop around in the mud for a while and then you become the mud and somebody else flops around in you and that’s it. It’s all a sick farce!


Sacramento Kings

GIF: YouTube

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San Antonio Spurs

This is a photo of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Photo: Sam Greenwood (Getty)

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What is their deal?
Somehow, with Kawhi Leonard opting out of pretty much the whole season, with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili visibly mouldering, with people named Bryn Forbes and Dāvis Bertāns and (probably) Jrlbv Kkgjhlrehre playing key rotation roles, the Spurs went 47-35 last season and returned to the playoffs for the 20th year in a row. Their reward for this ludicrous feat of professionalism and competitive pride and coaching was a perfunctory first-round gentleman’s sweep by a Warriors team using half its hands to stifle yawns.

Then they traded Leonard’s dead weight for one of the best scorers in the NBA. So maybe it wasn’t all bad.

Who are their guys?
I have noticed a fair bit of handwringing, around the basketblogs, over how the Spurs will find space in the half-court for both LaMarcus Aldridge and the newly acquired DeMar DeRozan, both of whom like to shoot lots of mid-range jumpers. Eat my ass! Last season the Spurs won 47 games in the Western conference while trying to figure out how to find space in the half-court for both Aldridge and the smoking hole where Kawhi Leonard was supposed to go. DeMar DeRozan is much better and rangier than the smoking hole where Kawhi Leonard was supposed to go; he spaces the floor much better than the chronic lack of Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs will be fine.

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Another Spurs guy is Rudy Gay, about whom I have a take. My take is that if Rudy Gay came along now, instead of in 2006, he would be, like, a fucking mega-star. In today’s NBA, with all its emphasis on shooting and mobile bigs and switchy defenders and perimeter skills contained in big, strong frames, he would be the sort of player people leap out of chairs and roll around on the floor and foam at the mouth over. He would be the all-court four from outer space. He would log minutes at center and run opposing teams into dust. He would be a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Instead he will be remembered as one of the most disappointing players of his generation. That’s not fair!

Anyway, Manu’s gone and Parker’s gone, and Kawhi and Danny Green are in Toronto, so coach Gregg Popovich is really all that’s left of the continuity that kept the Spurs up at or near the top of the NBA for two uninterrupted decades, unless you count Patty Mills, which I don’t. Time flies! Or passes, or whatever. Time moves. This is a deep and profound observation.

Are they good?
They’re probably pretty good. I’m told that Bill Simmons said some shit on some podcast the other day about how like DeMar DeRozan, who notably has spoken about his struggles with depression, will not be as good this season because the unexpected trade to San Antonio probably made him depressed. Even if that turns out to be true, that seems like a pretty insensitive thing to say about a public figure or anybody else.

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Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re always trying to win.

Why should I give a damn about them?
I don’t think you should bother. Maybe this is the end for Popovich? He won’t make a big deal out of it, and I don’t see why you should, either.


Toronto Raptors

When you’re fuckin’ stoked to move to Canada.
Photo: Vaughn Ridley (Getty)

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What is their deal?
The Raptors won 59 games, the East’s top playoff seed, and a playoff series last season. They overhauled their approach to offense and turned their all-bench second unit into one of the NBA’s most fearsome five-man groups. It was the most successful campaign in the history of their franchise. Then they got swept in the second round by the Cavs, fired their coach, and traded away their best player for a malcontent who ghosted on his team for all but a few minutes of the entire 2017-18 season. So, uh, hm. Yeah.

In defense of those decisions, it was probably reasonable for anybody to conclude that the Raptors had gone about as far as that configuration of players and coaches was going to take them—that they’d never get past LeBron as long as he stayed in the East, and that in the meantime the Celtics and Sixers were on the verge of surpassing them if they hadn’t already. Hell, those are the conclusions I reached, too. But man, they really had a good thing going. And it’s gonna be kinda hard to defend the moves if Kawhi opts out of the last year of his contract and joins LeBron in L.A. next summer.

Who are their guys?
Kyle Lowry is still there, of course, along with lots of the other guys who made the Raptors so good last season. But all eyes will be on Kawhi. Or at least that will be how I keep this section of this blog as short as possible.

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Are they good?
It’s not entirely out of the question that they could be the East’s best team, if Leonard plays like he did in his last full season. If he makes up another reason to take a season-long vacation, they could be lottery bound.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to do some damn thing, that’s for sure.

Why should I give a damn about them?
Are you Canadian?


Utah Jazz

“You can’t call it a preview at this point, man. It’s just a view, now.”
Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr. (Getty)

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What is their deal?
I’ll own up to it: I thought the Jazz were gonna be crap last season. They lost Gordon Hayward for nothing and replaced him with a teeny lil’ guard the size of an action figure. I thought they’d need at least a year to figure shit out! Instead they won 48 games and waxed the Thunder in the first round. The point here is that you should have stopped reading this blog a long time ago.

Who are their guys?
Their guys are the very small and fearless Donovan Mitchell, the very tall and insurmountable Rudy Gobert, the very werewolf-looking Ricky Rubio, some guy named Joe Ingles, and probably Derrick Favors unless he is on some other team now. Possibly they have some other guys. Honestly, when I finished the Raptors section, I thought it was time to wrap this thing up. I forgot all about the Jazz! It’s their fault for being boring.

Are they good?
They’re good.

Are they trying to win or trying to lose?
They’re trying to get this blog over with. Oh no wait, that’s me doing that. The Jazz are getting in my damn way!

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Why should I give a damn about them?
Their coach, Quin Snyder, makes fucked-up Satan faces on the sideline!


Washington Wi—

This blog is over!