Kevin Durant’s injury is the latest reminder that preseason predictions are folly. Too many unknowns will emerge between now and June — injuries, ownership changes, firings, inexplicable slumps, and X-rated Twitter escapades.
Predictions are also fun! It’s useful to comb new rosters, league trends, and burbling scuttlebutt, and suss out things that could happen over the next 10 months. You’re mostly going to be wrong, especially on the ultraspecific calls, but it’s a good way to take in the wider NBA landscape and hazard some funky educated guesses.
Herewith, our third annual 33 Crazy Predictions for the NBA Season:
1. Cleveland will lead the league in points per possession.
I’m on a two-year run calling the league’s best offense, and I’m going back East for a bet on a revamped team that has to play Indiana and Chicago a combined eight times. Gulp.
The Cavs need time to learn David Blatt’s system, which will feature loads of movement on both sides of the floor, lots of tricky screening action, selective post-ups, and Princeton-style elements. Expand the picture to include defense, and the Cavs probably need another big man and a wing player with shooting range to reach their championship-level ceiling.
But this team should be a scoring juggernaut immediately. Their core lineups will include four 3-point shooters, including perhaps the league’s most prolific long-range shooting big man in Kevin Love. All four of those players can work off the bounce if they catch a pass with the defense scrambled, initiating drive-and-kick sequences the Cavs can repeat until they get the look they want.
And the Cavs will scramble defenses. Love is the perfect Blatt big man, and LeBron is the perfect high-IQ floor general to get everyone organized. Love and Kyrie Irving will have to make some sacrifices, and Dion Waiters probably still thinks he should get 20 shots per game. But if the ball moves like it should, everyone will get enough chances.
There will be some spacing issues when Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson share the floor, but the Cavs will figure it out. Add one more cog and a year of seasoning, and these Cavs will have a shot to trump the Steve Nash–era Phoenix teams and produce the greatest single-season offense in league history.
Threats lurk everywhere, though Durant’s injury takes the Thunder out of the picture. The Spurs are a perennial top-five offense. Houston is potent. Golden State has looked extraordinary in the preseason, but two of its games have come against the Lakers, and it’s starting from a lower baseline.
Portland had the league’s best offense over the first couple of months of last season, and it’s bringing back every key contributor. Dallas had the league’s best offense after the All-Star break and figures to be better.
But the bet here is Cleveland.
2. Boston will keep Rajon Rondo and trade Jeff Green.
Gather all the intel you’d like, and this will still be a borderline 50/50 guess on both guys.
Boston has gauged the market for both over the last year or so, and its expected price for Rondo has been sky-high, per several league sources. That price will drop as Rondo’s deal ticks toward expiration, but the market for him is thin. Point guard is stacked leaguewide, and Rondo is 28, coming off ACL surgery, and seeking a max contract as he approaches free agency. A few suitors could wait to chase him in the offseason instead of dealing assets now and risking that Rondo walks in July.
If Boston wants a big haul, it has to hope a potential Rondo suitor feels some unexpected desperation early in the season. Houston is under pressure to win now, and if it starts slowly, Daryl Morey might swallow hard and meet Boston in the middle. Rondo and James Harden make for an awkward fit, but talent tends to work itself out, and the Rockets are confident they can re-sign stars once they get them.
Sacramento has outsize expectations after Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins won gold with Team USA, and any owner with outsize expectations is an explosive wild card. The Kings have three point guards, including two free agents they signed this summer, but they will soon realize their team just isn’t very good.
Depending on what happens with Rudy Gay, a Rondo pal, the Kings might not have enough cap space to chase Rondo in free agency — building an urgency to trade for him now.
There are other theoretical fits, but none that has the required combination of trade assets, devil-may-care boldness, and confidence in winning the Rondo free-agency game.1 If a frothy market doesn’t materialize, the Celtics might resign themselves to keeping Rondo in hopes that the extra year they can offer in free agency coaxes him to return at a price below the max.
1. One that keeps coming up in chats with team execs outside of Boston and Phoenix: Would the Suns deal Eric Bledsoe for Rondo? Ryan McDonough, the Suns’ GM, loves Rondo and pushed Boston to draft him in 2006. The Suns are set to be capped out, meaning they could not simply sign Rondo in free agency. But they have three quality point guards, all younger than Rondo, and giving up a player like Bledsoe is just too risky without any assurance that Rondo stays long-term.
Rondo is a flawed, temperamental player, but he’s a pass-first star who could work as bait for an alpha dog. Without him, Boston is just a collection of unmolded pieces waiting for a unifying force, playing the lottery in the meantime.
Green has a player option for 2015-16, meaning he may be working on a de facto expiring contract. His price will come down as the season moves along, but Boston might be willing to accept a diminished return. He’s a likable guy with more fans across the league than you might expect, and he can split minutes between the two forward positions.
We know now that Green isn’t a primary offensive option, but he has become a good spot-up shooter, he runs the floor, and he’s a nice secondary threat. He can attack gaps in the defense, provided a teammate cracks them open first.
New Orleans and Washington have obvious needs on the wing, and both have sniffed around Green in the past. But the Pelicans have already traded a bundle of first-round picks, and the Wiz are just $1.5 million below the tax without an obvious midrange salary to move in exchange.
The Raptors have bad memories of Joe Johnson bulldozing them in the post, and they have all their own picks, plus the midsize expiring deals linked to Landry Fields and Chuck Hayes. Atlanta and Detroit could use a boost on the wing, and it’s easy to see Green fitting as a hybrid forward in both Houston and New York. Denver’s roster seems ripe for a trade, though the Nuggets are crowded on the wing.
Green could fit in lots of places. If Boston doesn’t view him as a long-term core piece, he’ll be easy to move.
3. The league will break the record, again, for most 3-point attempts.
History marches on, even as Byron Scott rants about those kids and their long hair.
4. The Pacers will miss the playoffs, even if they keep their roster intact.
This team ranked 29th in points per possession after February 1, and they lost their two best perimeter players in the offseason. They’re saying all the right things about avoiding tankery — about keeping David West and Roy Hibbert, and defending like madmen — but there just isn’t enough scoring juice here. It’s unclear how these guys are even going to get the ball into the paint, and post-ups for Hibbert and West aren’t scaring anyone.
The middle of the East should be better, and the Pacers look like a team that will be left out in the cold.
5. Bonus crazy Indy prediction: Rodney Stuckey will be their leading scorer.
It will probably be West, and George Hill says he’s ready to ramp up his offense. But Stuckey is Indy’s only proven off-the-bounce threat, and he’s going to feast on all the shots he wants during a contract year.
6. Detroit will make the playoffs.
This is more a vote of no confidence in the Miami–Brooklyn–New York–Indiana crew. Charlotte might even fall short of internal expectations, and nobody knows what Atlanta will do if and when a new owner buys the team.
Stan Van Gundy added a dose of wing shooting, and he’ll stabilize Detroit’s base defense and rotation in ways that should have been obvious to any coach a year ago. He’ll coach up Andre Drummond on both ends, and if Brandon Jennings barfs up awful shots, Van Gundy has a proven placeholder in D.J. Augustin.
New York is learning a complex new system, and it projects as a bottom-10 defense.2 Brooklyn has lots of interesting pieces, including stealth first-team All-Rookie candidate Bojan Bogdanovic, but needs to reintegrate Brook Lopez without sacrificing what emerged as a legit top-10 defense last season. Lopez and Deron Williams have to prove their long-term health.
2. Count that as an official bonus prediction, if you’d like.
Miami is paper-thin. Seriously, look at the last eight names on this roster. They are banking on major contributions from guys like Danny Granger and Udonis Haslem. Their point guard rotation might be the worst in the league; if Dwyane Wade can’t work as a no. 1 pick-and-roll guy anymore, they will struggle to create offense.
Erik Spoelstra is a whiz, and he’ll have the Heat whipping the ball around and maximizing space just like they did when LeBron was around. Josh McRoberts fits those principles like a glove. But LeBron isn’t around anymore, and if Wade wears down or misses significant time, the Heat will be in danger of falling out of the playoffs.
7. Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, and Andre Drummond will play fewer than 500 minutes together.
This trio logged nearly 1,400 miserable minutes last season, a number that would have been unfathomable had Detroit not been tanking down the stretch to keep its own pick — a futile attempt that drew the ire of the basketball gods in the lottery.
The all-big look didn’t work on either end, but it was especially damaging on defense. You don’t need to be Van Gundy to realize it’s time to try other things. Van Gundy has already said he’ll cut the all-big minutes, and he has brought one of the three off the bench in every preseason game thus far.
It would make Monroe furious, but Van Gundy’s best option might be to use him off the bench. Monroe could guard centers and run the offense through post-ups and his drive-and-dish game from the elbow. He’s better suited to that responsibility now than Smith is, and Van Gundy will find plenty of crunch-time minutes for everyone depending on matchups and game flow.
8. The Lakers will rank 28th or worse in points allowed per possession.
Every stats-based prediction has to have a Philly allowance at the bottom. The Sixers avoided the cellar in this category last season, and they finally have Nerlens Noel to swat at everything in sight. But they’re going to be awful and a real risk to pull the historically rare double of finishing last in both points scored and allowed per possession.
They are the only thing standing in the way of a last-place Lakers finish. This team has none of the raw ingredients of even average defense — no slithery point guard to run around screens, no wing stopper, minimal team speed and rim protection. Byron Scott will talk the talk, but his Cleveland teams were disastrously bad on defense. Even defense-first coaches need talent, especially in the killer Western Conference, and the Lakers are bereft of it.
9. Philadelphia will win fewer than the 19 games it won last season.
Those Sixers started 3-0 and have since jettisoned their only three NBA-quality veterans in Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thad Young. Those guys aren’t world-beaters, but they are actual NBA rotation players. The Sixers’ roster is so bad, some guys have the NBA equivalent of the Facebook question mark for their official league profile photos.
10. Philly will sniff out Michael Carter-Williams deals.
They tried hard during the draft, but they couldn’t draw the trove they envisioned or guarantee that the player they wanted with an acquired pick would be there, per several league sources. Expect Philly to repeat the exercise. It’s not a shot at Carter-Williams, or even a signal that the Sixers are dying to trade him. He may well end up a long-term cog in Philly.
The team knows point guard is the most replaceable position in the league today, and it will seek out any deal that adds to its stockpile of high-value draft picks.
11. Joel Embiid will play this season.
He’ll be ready by the last couple of weeks, and the Sixers will want to remind dispirited fans that the cavalry is coming.
12. Serge Ibaka will win his first Defensive Player of the Year award.
Ibaka is always in the running, and his skills have caught up with his reputation. No one has an iron grip on this award like Dwight Howard did a half-decade ago; it rotated over the last three seasons between guys who rose up behind outstanding play and an easy media narrative. Tyson Chandler held the 54-win Knicks together! Joakim Noah kept the Bulls afloat! Marc Gasol exists!
This feels like Ibaka’s time, though Howard and perhaps Andrew Bogut will butt their way into the conversation. Chandler declined last season, Noah is 29 and back in the Derrick Rose shadow, and Hibbert could toil for a bad team.
The Durant injury casts a spotlight on every supporting player, and if Ibaka anchors a defense that hangs in, he should emerge as the favorite.
13. The trade deadline will be … dead.
This queasy feeling may change after the Board of Governors meets next week. They’ll emerge with a clearer salary-cap projection for 2015-16 and 2016-17 and lift some of the fog in which NBA executives feel they are operating.
Still: The league is like the wild, wild west right now. No one is quite sure what path the cap will take, and uncertainty can breed caution; no one wants to make a move that looks silly two years later.
Only one surefire first-round pick changed hands around the last two trade deadlines combined, and though picks have moved more freely at other times, pick-hoarding in February may dampen the deadline again.
First-round picks are even more valuable in the wake of the new national TV deal. Rookie-scale contracts are set in stone through 2020-21, meaning salaries for young guys won’t jump as fast as other contracts in proportion to the rising cap.
Veteran contracts are shorter than ever; teams aren’t interested in dealing valuable assets for a guy who can walk four months later.
14. The same eight teams will make the Western Conference playoffs.
I can’t settle on a team that should fall out, nor a usurper that might overthrow them. Internal team projections around the league peg Memphis as the most likely victim, but the Grizz won 50 games last season despite the prolonged absences of Gasol and Tony Allen. The ages of Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter turn off the stats-based projections, but this is a deep team that brings ferocious defense every night.
Portland finished “just” 23-19 after a blazing start, and it skated by with a rickety and absurdly low-risk defense that doesn’t figure to get all that much better. Houston lost Chandler Parsons, Golden State relies on a few nicked-up bodies, and the Mavs squeaked in.
Everyone below the Spurs-Thunder-Clippers triumvirate is one big injury away from disaster, but the same goes for the Pelicans, Suns, and Nuggets. If Tyreke Evans starts, the Pelicans will have zero reliable depth beyond Ryan Anderson, and they’ll have some spacing issues playing Evans, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik together.
The Pelicans have to figure out the optimal fit of all their ball handlers after a season of injuries. The potential is there; some of the lineups that figure to play a ton this season blitzed the league in limited minutes last season.
Markieff Morris is a better overall player than Channing Frye, but he’s not in Frye’s league as a long-range shooter, and the Phoenix sprites will have to squeeze through tighter driving lanes. The Suns won’t catch the league off guard again, and a bunch of guys, especially Goran Dragic, have to show they can replicate career years. Then again, Eric Bledsoe missed half of last season. Man, the West is unfair.
Denver might go 14 deep, and when the Nuggets are merely decent, they sprint into 30 home wins. From there, basic math usually points to the postseason.
But there could be tension below the surface. Ty Lawson has a balky ankle, Brian Shaw probably still has ambitions of running the triangle, the center position is unproven, and this roster feels ripe for a shake-up. Denver has seven guys earning between $4.5 million and $11.5 million, most on short-term deals, and it’s a lock to be involved in dozens of trade rumblings over the next few months. Most of the movable players need to rebuild their trade value after injuries and disappointing play; otherwise I’d include an ironclad prediction of a big Nuggets deal.3
3. As I noted over the weekend, Randy Foye would fit into Washington’s $4.3 million trade exception, and could move easily given that Shaw has to juggle Foye, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Gary Harris on the wing. But the Wiz are just $1.5 million below the tax, so they’d have to send someone back to Denver — plus a second-round pick or two.
Denver conceives of itself as a playoff team. What happens if it falls behind early?
One of these intruders might surprise us, but none of them feels quite solid enough yet to break into a super-strong top eight.
15. Memphis will have its best offense of the Z-Bo era.
The Grizz have never ranked above last season’s 16th in points per possession in the Grit-n-Grind era, and jumping into the league’s top half will be tough. Only the Timberwolves are a lock among last season’s top-15 offenses to fall out, and Cleveland is a cinch to replace them. The Heat, no. 2 last season, will tumble, and it’s not hard to see scenarios in which the Knicks, Nets, and Hawks fade.
The Nuggets, Wizards, and Pistons finished a hair behind Memphis last season, and all three might improve on offense.
The Grizz scored at a borderline top-10 rate when Gasol and Mike Conley played together, and they’ll have unprecedented depth (for them) on the wing with Carter onboard and Quincy Pondexter back. Carter brings a dash of ballhandling none of the other wings provides, and the Grizz only need Tayshaun Prince in select matchups that call for his long-armed defense.
16. Teams will shoot less than 50 percent in the restricted area when Anthony Davis and Omer Asik share the floor.
Yeah, good luck. That would be a stingier number than any team put up last season, and even stingier than what Indiana surrendered with Hibbert walling off the basket, per NBA.com.
This has a better chance of coming true if Monty Williams drops both his bigs back against the pick-and-roll after having Davis scramble around the 3-point arc over Brow’s first two seasons. Williams had a courtside seat for Team USA’s World Cup run, when Tom Thibodeau had Davis sit back like Noah and alter every shot opponents dared attempt in the paint.
17. Lottery reform will pass somewhere between 25-5 and 29-1.
Philly will vote against it and won’t mind being the lone holdout. A few small-market teams might think about defying Adam Silver; there is some fear that giving near-.500 teams a better chance at leaping into the top three muddles what had been the only surefire path for a small-market team to nab a superstar.
Some teams set to give or receive protected picks have to think hard about their votes. The Pelicans owe the Rockets their 2015 first-rounder, but New Orleans would keep the pick if it falls within the top three or anywhere from no. 20 to no. 30.
The Pelicans and Rockets chose those numbers carefully. The current lottery system only draws the first three picks; the Pelicans set this up so that if they miss the playoffs, they lose their pick unless they luck into a top-three drawing.
Under the NBA’s new proposal, the lottery drawing would determine the first six picks. That makes it more likely for New Orleans to barely miss the playoffs, start at something like no. 13 in the lottery order, and draw its way into the no. 5 spot — coughing up a more valuable pick than expected. That is their worst-case scenario.
The proposed system also increases the odds of New Orleans’s best-case lottery scenario: starting at no. 13 or 14 and drawing into the golden top three.
Which way would you vote if you were the Pelicans? The Lakers and Suns have a similar protected-pick dilemma between them, and it might be even trickier, since the Lakers could remake themselves into a dangerous team over just one summer.4
4. Los Angeles owes Phoenix a first-round pick via the Steve Nash deal. The pick is top-five protected this year, and top-three protected in 2016 and 2017.
Philly has some potential allies, but they are few, and by vote time, the Sixers may stand alone.
18. Andris Biedrins will make more than one free throw this season.
He’s not in the league anymore, but this is an annual tradition we must carry on. On some basketball court somewhere in the world, Biedrins will knock down a foul shot.
19. The Jazz will extend Alec Burks, but not Enes Kanter.
Extension talks are in chaos as teams and agents wait for the league to provide salary cap clarity. Teams might be eager to lock in long-term deals that will morph into bargains, but agents are wary of signing long-term contracts for the same reason. Being known for signing an under-market contract is bad for luring future clients.
As a wing player who has mostly come off the pine, Burks might settle more readily for a compromise number. Kanter is a big man with bigger dreams, and the Jazz have Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert on the roster.
The Magic and Hornets are working on their own extensions with Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Kemba Walker, but those talks might come down to the wire.
20. A majority share in at least one team besides Atlanta will change hands or be in the public process of changing hands.
Mikhail Prokhorov wants to retain control of the Nets even if he can strike a deal with Guggenheim Partners for some minority stake, but no one in the league offices would be surprised if Prokhorov eventually cashes out.
Even if he stays put, would-be buyers are circling any team that might become available, and it seems likely that some owner bites in the next year or 18 months.
21. Al Horford’s name will enter trade talks.
It happened in stealth mode last season, when the Hawks reached out to a select group and made it known that Horford could be had for the right price — including an unprotected 2014 first-round pick, per several league sources. Nothing materialized, and Horford is ready to return from another torn pectoral muscle.
A healthy Horford is a top-20 player on a below-market contract that runs through 2015-16 — long enough that some team could talk itself into gambling on him. He could net a hefty return for the Hawks, who have been happily skipping down the “pretty good with cap room” path under Danny Ferry.
They have worked to stay competitive, in hopes that they’ll eventually sign a star into that cap space and vault from “pretty good” to something better.5
5. Having pick swap rights with Brooklyn helps sustain this strategy; the Hawks can hope for a lottery pick from Brooklyn without rebuilding themselves.
Stars have rebuffed Atlanta’s money, and the ugly Luol Deng controversy did not enhance the team’s appeal. New owners over the last half-decade have green-lit some aggressive teardowns.
The Hawks don’t have a new owner yet, and as long as Mike Budenholzer is running the front office, they are unlikely to make any trade that represents a present-day step back.
If the ownership situation changes before the deadline, there’s no telling what stance the Hawks might take with Horford, Jeff Teague, or anyone else. Teams will inquire about Horford either way.
22. The Cavs will fill the Keith Bogans Memorial Trade Exception.
They might not do it until next summer, but they’ll do it, and they’d be better making a move this season to bolster their 2014-15 title chances. They’ll look at any number of the wings named here, and they’ll keep calling Denver about Timofey Mozgov.
The key question is what Cleveland might be willing to include as sweetener in any trade. They have their own first-rounders, likely to be at the bottom, and a potential future lottery pick from Memphis. That might be the swing asset, and Cleveland has been reluctant to give it up.
That could be one bonus of punting on a Thompson extension. An extension would make him very hard to trade, but without one, he’s a nifty $5.1 million chip.6
6. Let’s pretend LeBron won’t make a Thompson extension happen.
23. Jason Smith will emerge as New York’s best two-way big man.
Smith isn’t a great defender, but he’s miles better than the comedy duo of Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani. Smith has decent mobility against the pick-and-roll, and enough hops to offer rim protection as a helper.
He won’t try 3s or fancy baseline spin moves; Smith knows his limits and is good at what he does. He’s a 45 percent–plus midrange shooter, mostly on pick-and-pops, and he should take to the triangle better than the lumbering Samuel Dalembert.
New York’s best two-way big man is Carmelo Anthony, even if he brings fire on only one side of the ball, but Derek Fisher seems set on playing him mostly at small forward.
24. Ramon Sessions and Reggie Jackson will each start at least 20 games.
Jackson was getting this spot even before Durant’s injury, and he has a major leg up now. Even when Durant gets healthy, it might be time for Brooks to stop messing around with Andre Roberson, Jeremy Lamb, and others — and to just start his five best guys, as he did late in the conference finals against San Antonio.
Darren Collison had a nice year in L.A. as a bench spark plug, but his limited playmaking and god-awful defense have prevented him from locking down a starting job at any NBA stop. Sessions is no better defensively, but he’s bigger and more dynamic slicing into the teeth of defenses.
He will probably vault ahead of Collison during some stretch, and the Kings might experiment with starting both of them. That’s suicidal for defense, but Sacramento doesn’t have a ton of great options.
25. Kyle Lowry will make the All-Star team.
It’s time, and these things can be kind of like the Oscars, where guilt drives voters to reward people who really should have won the year before. The competition is tighter this season with Rose and Rondo back, but the Raps are going to be good, and the coaches will reward them with at least one All-Star spot.
26. Kyrie Irving will get voted into the All-Star game.
This would cost the Cavs a few million, since a second starting nod would trigger the so-called “Derrick Rose Rule” raise for Irving. The field will be stronger, with Rondo and Rose back, John Wall gaining steam, and Wade, the other incumbent starter, set to retake an expanded role. Rose is über-popular and represents the biggest threat to Irving.
But the Cavs are going to be THE story this season, and Irving crept within 70,000 of Wade’s vote total last season.
27. DeMarcus Cousins will make his first All-Star team.
I have no idea how this is even possible, but what the hell. Let’s boogie. Love has traipsed East, but Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook are healthy again, and Durant should be back in time to claim his rightful spot. There is no obvious big man to excise from last year’s roster, and Cousins’s tech-filled preseason hasn’t been encouraging.
Still: Boogie’s got that sheen of Team USA maturity, he’s going to put up monster numbers, and he has made huge strides on defense — at least when he tries.
28. Someone will max out DeAndre Jordan in the summer.
It will probably be the Clippers, just because Jordan and Blake Griffin are close, Jordan has become a valuable two-way center, and inertia usually wins. The Clippers could in theory interject themselves into the Durant sweepstakes by letting Jordan walk, getting by with Spencer Hawes for one season, and waving max cap room at Durant in the summer of 2016.
That’s a riskier route, and Jordan will have suitors this summer — even amid a crowded big-man market.
29. DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Hawes will play at least 300 minutes together.
Doc Rivers is probably going to give the two-center look an honest shot. Hawes’s range and passing skills would leave the paint free for Jordan’s ferocious rim rolls, and Jordan’s shot-blocking would help the Clippers’ solid scheme clean up whatever mess Hawes makes on defense.
It may not work, and Hawes will struggle to chase power forwards away from the basket. But there are matchups in which the two can get by, and the Clippers aren’t teeming with quality backup bigs.
30. The Warriors will monitor Andre Iguodala’s minutes more carefully.
He might even miss games just to rest. Iguodala is too important, on too long a contract, for the Warriors to overload him.
31. Phoenix will trade Gerald Green.
It’s a matter of math. The Suns just inked Bledsoe, Isaiah Thomas, Zoran Dragic, and the Morii to multiyear contracts, and they’ll get an extra first-round pick from the Lakers at some point over the next three seasons. Barring a big trade, the roster is damn near full going forward.
Green will be a free agent in July, and while he was productive raining 3s for Phoenix last season, he may not have a future here. Trading him would be a gamble, since the Suns don’t have a traditional shooting guard with Green’s range. P.J. Tucker is a defense-first small forward, Marcus Morris is a tweener forward, and it’s unclear if Zoran Dragic and Archie Goodwin are ready to contribute.
The Suns do have three starting-quality point guards, and those guys will eat up a lot of the shooting guard minutes. Green is movable, and if the Suns can get a couple of second-rounders for him, they might pull the trigger.
32. Milwaukee and Minnesota will each trade a wing player.
This is another numbers game. There are just too many bodies and too many young guys who need minutes. Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger are on trade-friendly contracts, and the Cavaliers will likely consider both with the Keith Bogans Memorial Trade Exception.
Milwaukee did well to steal a first-rounder from the Clippers in the Jared Dudley deal, but the wing rotation is crowded — especially if Brandon Knight gets time at shooting guard. Dudley is easier to move than O.J. Mayo and rangier than Jerryd Bayless.
33. Dozens of crazy unexpected things will happen, and some of those things will impact the championship picture.
That’s the one upside to the overlong 82-game season: There is plenty of time for legitimate surprises, both happy and sad. Two more weeks, people. Two more weeks.