There are still six teams, the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Spurs, Cavs and Mavericks, with a legitimate shot at the championship, while the Warriors and 76ers are still a mess. Chris Paul and LeBron are still really good, and Trenton Hassell and Ryan Hollins aren't. However, because the new year is a time for blind optimism, here is why 2010 will be better than 2009 for every team that is currently below .500.
Toronto Raptors-Because Andrea Bargnani is developing into a good offensive player, giving the Raptors a potentially great offense.
New York Knicks-Summer 2010! Summer 2010! Summer 2010! Oh, alright. Because Danilo Gallinari is becoming Peja 2.0, giving the Knicks a credible #2 option after the summer.
Philadelphia 76ers-Marreese Speights! Andre Iguodala! A surprisingly good shot at John Wall!
New Jersey Nets-Brook Lopez is already one of the best centers in the east. Lopez, Devin Harris, a top 3 pick, and a big free agent as the core of a team (probably) moving to Brooklyn? Yes, please.
Chicago Bulls-Vinny Del Negro should be gone soon, and then...Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng...this has the potential to be an exciting team.
Milwaukee Bucks-Brandon Jennings! He's like Magic, Oscar, and Gamera rolled into one! Also, Andrew Bogut has looked good this year, and Ersan Ilyasova was an absolute steal.
Detroit Pistons-Considering what has happened since the last time I wrote something good about this team (a million straight losses), I'm going to give this one a pass.
Indiana Pacers-They're the grittiest team in the league!
Charlotte Bobcats-They are currently 2nd in Defensive Rating, and have the potential to steal some first round games with that stifling defense. Also, Gerald Wallace is averaging over 12 rebounds a game right now. As a small forward.
Washington Wizards-They have talent! They just need to put it together! Just imagine that team with another lottery pick! That's a lot of talent, right?
Minnesota Timberwolves-Kevin Love is a rebounding machine. I wouldn't be surprised to see him average 15 rebounds a game soon. And the Wolves have been playing a lot better since he returned from injury.
Sacramento Kings-This is a team with a really bright future. A lineup of Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, and Spencer Hawes could be absolutely frightening (and extremely entertaining) if everyone stays healthy and continues to develop. They've been a .500 team in a tough conference with some of those guys injured this year. Watch out.
Los Angeles Clippers-They've been non-pathetic even without Blake Griffin. Kaman is averaging 20 a game this year, Al Thornton has turned into an average player (shock of the year for me), and Eric Gordon has had a solid sophomore season. More importantly, Donald Sterling can't own the team forever. Right?
Golden State Warriors-Don Nelson may turn uncrazy at some point. The front office could become (not dys)functional. You never know. At least they have talent.
Memphis Grizzlies-Marc Gasol is the best player everyone's heard of that they think no one else has heard of. Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo are good young players. And Lionel Hollins has figured out how to motivate Zach Randolph. Somebody give that man a medal.
New Orleans Hornets-CP3! He's pretty much locked down the PG spot on the All-NBA first team for the foreseeable future, and is a great reason for optimism.
I'll be posting some retrospective stuff on the past decade in the next couple of weeks. More regular posting will return (or commence) as we get away from the holiday season.