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NBA fans: now we’re in the thick of things.
With just over a month until the season opens, there's no one better to celebrate than the strongest underdog teams – those ranked 15-11 in the league. One of them is surely set to defy the odds and make a run in the playoffs, but your guess is (almost) as good as mine when it comes to which of these guys will make that run.
15. Dallas Mavericks: They’ve ridden of drunken floor general Jason Kidd, and although he’s ancient that’s not necessarily a good thing. Who is going to get the ball to Dirk now that he’s gone? And who’s going to score if Dirk’s not on the court now that Jet Terry is gone? There are a whole lot of questions to be answered in Dallas this year, but in the end I’d bet on them making the playoffs (although they will probably be a low seed) because there’s never been a big man with a smoother stroke than Dirk. Are they a championship contender? Most likely not. Team Grade: B-
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Everything about the Grizzlies screams volatile, from gunslinger Gilbert Arenas to often accused drug dealer Zach Randolph, but star Rudy Gay seems to be getting better year after year - as does Marc Gasol, himself fresh off a Silver medal and worldwide recognition in the Olympic games. However, the biggest advantage Memphis has over other teams is the presence of lockdown defender Tony Allen, who will fearlessly harass tiny guards like Rajon Rondo and bigger, stronger slashers like LeBron and Kobe. The Boston Celtics are certainly kicking themselves in the ass after getting rid of T.A. Team Grade: B
13. New York Knicks: There’s a reason why the Knicks are unlucky number 13. Well, it’s because they’re unlucky! No NBA team has been a bigger disappointment this century, as Spike Lee’s boys haven’t won a playoff series in over 10 years – but there surprisingly is hope in the Big Apple despite the departure of Linsanity. Perennial All-Stars and deadly scorers Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudamire are going to benefit big time from the addition of aforementioned drunken floor general Jason Kidd. If only they didn’t get rid of Mike D’Antoni – he’d be the perfect guy to coach this offensive-minded squad. Team Grade: B
12. Golden State Warriors: Here’s where the haters are going to chime in! Hi haters! Just listen to me here though... With the addition of Andrew Bogut, the Warriors now have a strong inside presence with him, David Lee and Andris Biedrins. Even with all of them, the guards are where the most potential of this team lies, as Stephon Curry and Harrison Barnes could seriously be one of the best backcourts in the league a couple of years from now. With Stephon and Monta Ellis no longer competing for dribbling time behind the arc, this opens up the Warriors to use a functional offense and use Steph as their full-time point guard. Team Grade: B
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Yes, we all know Andrew Bynum is now going to be predominantly making his presence known on the east coast, but the 76ers’ success truly lies in the development of Evan Turner. Can he become a persistent offensive threat for 82 games? Can him and Jrue Holliday get the ball down low to Bynum in a half court offense? These are all questions just waiting to be answered, but I see Bynum dominating the East Dwight Howard style and Philly being very competitive. Team Grade: B
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