NBA playoff game.
14. Houston RocketsTheir franchise player is the most successful D-League player yet. Jeremy Lin earned a fat 3-year, $25 million contract off the strength of 25 starts in the NBA. Shout out to Lin's agent. However, ever since having knee surgery in early April, Lin has struggled with getting in condition to withstand the rigors of a full 82 game season. The Rockets drafted three players in the first round of the 2012 draft and the player who is arguably the most talented of the bunch (Royce White) deals with a disorder that could cause him to miss games due to his unorthodox travel arrangements. This team will struggle but if they get the top pick in the 2013 draft the organization won't mind. It has been 1249 days since the Rockets played in an NBA playoff game.
13. Sacramento KingsThe new trend in Sacramento is to rename their arena every season. This year the Kings will call the Sleep Train Arena their home. In other news, it has been 2357 days since the Kings played in an NBA playoff game.
12. Phoenix SunsSteve Nash went behind enemy lies and the next time he's in Phoenix he'll be wearing the enemy's uniform. Life goes on in the Valley of the Sun. Goran Dragic returns at a more expensive price. He played well for the Rockets and the Suns will be looking for him to continue that level of play. For the first time in a long time, the Suns are without a star player. Life may not be too bright after Steve. It has been 872 days since the Suns played in an NBA playoff game.
11. Portland TrailblazersThe wheels fell off completely in Portland last season. The team got younger but not better. LaMarcus Aldridge says that he wants to be the franchise player. He might change his tune by December when he finds himself facing double teams on a nightly basis. It has been 538 days since the Trailblazers played in an NBA playoff game.
9. Utah JazzThanks in part to Houston's late season meltdown as well as an untimely injury to Ricky Rubio, the Jazz snuck into the playoffs last season only to be promptly shown the exit by the Spurs. They added a couple of guys with the last name of Williams (Mo and Marvin) and they should be able to sneak back in the playoffs again this season. Rudeness awaits them in the form of a sweep if they do get in though.
8. Minnesota TimberwolvesThe aforementioned injury to Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Rubio derailed the T-Wolves chances at a taste of the postseason. The team made a few personnel moves in the right direction with the additions of Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Alexi Shved and Dante Cunningham. Kevin Love looks to carry over his Olympic experience and should have a season filled with games worth of the #StatBeast designation. If Rubio can return to form for them this season, they could be a tough team. It has been 3061 days since the Timberwolves played in an NBA playoff game.
7. Dallas MavericksWith word coming out that Dirk is looking to avoid knee surgery at the start of this season, title hopes should be extinguished in Dallas. Without Dirk, this team can still be good, but they won't be winning championships anytime soon. Mark Cuban dismantled the team hoping to land a free agent whale and has come away empty handed. If Dirk Nowitzki goes down for an extended period of time, people in the Metroplex won't know what to do with themselves.
6. Memphis GrizzliesThe Grizzlies return in year 3 of their status as "potentially dangerous playoff team." The Grizz got rid of the underachieving OJ Mayo and welcome back a healthier Z-Bo. The big man combination of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol could mean bad news for their opposition. Josh Selby and Jeryd Bayless should compete for the scraps left by Mayo. This team ultimately disappointed last season by getting bounced in the first round by the upstart Clippers. Look for the Grizzlies to do their best to right that wrong this season.
5. Denver NuggetsThe addition of Andre Iguodala could pay big dividends for George Karl and the Nuggets. Iguodala is a talented player who brings a lot of different skills to an already talented Denver team. Ty Lawson is one of the best point guards in the NBA and Andre Miller is a great veteran point guard off the bench. If JaVale McGee can continue to improve this team could be really tough. In any event, they'll be fun to watch and I didn't even mention Gallinari, Faried, Chandler or Brewer. That's a deep team right there.
I do expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to claw their way out of a tough, top heavy Western Conference to repeat as Western Conference Champions.
Stay tuned for the MANDOM 2012-2013 Eastern Conference Preview.