The Celtics are definitely rebuilding, but no team with a top-five point guard in the league like Rajon Rondo is tanking anything. Jeff Green can score. Gerald Wallace has too much heart to tolerate losing at a record clip. Kelly Olynyk looked very good in the NBA Summer League and could be a sleeper Rookie of the Year pick.
Brad Stevens will have some growing pains in the NBA. There hasn't been a successful coach from college to the NBA since ... Larry Brown?
The Eastern Conference is top heavy. There are three open playoff spots and here's a crazy prediction - if Rondo comes back healthy early and is willing to be the leader and not rock boats, the Celtics could make the postseason. Rondo is the biggest question mark this season. He could embrace this role of franchise player or could bully his way out by February. Toss up.
23. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Count me among the group not buying into the Cavs as a playoff contender.
Kyrie Irving is already one of the game's best and at the most important position. He can not lead this team by himself, which is why the Cleveland brass has tried to surround him with talent (and because they've been luckier than any team in the universe).
The Cavs got the first pick ... again. The Cavs shocked a lot of people by taking Anthony Bennett. He's a matchup problem, yes, but not a franchise guy. Hey, someone had to be the first pick in this dreck, why not a guy named Tony Bennett?
The reason Cleveland isn't a playoff team yet is because these high picks won't turn into enough of a supporting cast. Dion Waiters scored a decent clip, but doesn't have one other great skill. Tyler Zeller is the very definition of average and should aspire to be Nick Collison. I'm pro-Bennett, but not right away and Tristan Thompson figured out what ailed him his first few years - he SWITCHED HIS PRIMARY SHOOTING HAND! (he's not terrible, so apologies.)
Then, there's Bynum. It was low-risk, high-reward to sign him for two years. Anything you get from him is delicious gravy, but if you count on him for a single thing, you're a fool. The guy who nearly died from a collapsed lung has a better chance of playing
22. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Also, count me out on the Pelicans, starting with this silly name.
It's easy to appreciate everything New Orleans did in the offseason. They acquired a 23-year-old All-Star point guard for a potentially damaged center and a top-five protected pick.
Jrue Holiday is a very good player, but it's doubtful, to me anyway, he will become great. That's not a knock on Holiday, but is he worth possibly two No. 6 picks, including one in a loaded draft? I don't think so.
Greivis Vasquez was more than capable. Is Holiday an upgrade? Yes, but the gap between the two is not as large as some might think.
The big problem with the Pelicans' offseason was the acquisition of Tyreke Evans. Actually, the acquisition wasn't the problem, the contract was. Not my money, but four years, $44 million is a lot for a young player whose scoring numbers have declined every year in the league (20.1 ppg in his NBA Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009-10 to 15.2 ppg last season). Granted, Evans was on the U.S.S Sinking Ship Sacramento where no one knew what to do with him, but would you count on Evans as a major contributor for your team?
Also, losing Robin Lopez will hurt some. He rebounded at the same clip as a bunny rabbit, but Lopez scored 11.3 ppg, which is very solid production for the position.