Optimism. Unrelenting positivity. (Not this positive or optimistic, but still plenty positive.) 30 reasons, one for every team, to celebrate the new season.
Atlanta: Marvin Williams successfully consolidates his developing and disparate talents into a coherent whole thus making his value obvious to even the casual observer.
Boston: Glen "Seems like he should be more likable than I find him" Davis's unfortunate college reunion gives Shelden Williams his last, best chance to make a positive impact for an NBA team.
Charlotte: Larry Brown's accomplished a lot of great things in his career. Greatness is unlikely to be present in Charlotte this season so we'll settle for a small, good thing when this team that defends so well and scores so fitfully forces observers, even if only temporarily, to consider the canard "Defense wins championships."
Chicago: I honestly believe that this is the year that Vinny Del Negro learns Mr. Hinrich's first name.
Cleveland: I don't know if this will be the last year that LeBron James is the best small forward in the league or the first year that he's the best power forward in the league but the best player in the world is evolving.
Dallas: Rick Carlisle embraces Drew Gooden's unpredictability and gives him regular minutes. Gooden repays the trust by spear-heading a four-headed monster (Gooden, Dampier, Marion, and Humphries) of offensive rebounding that devastates opponents on the relatively rare ocassions that a Maverick misses a jump shot.
Denver: Ty Lawson per 36 pre-season minutes: 22.1 points, 6.4 assists, 1.7 turnovers, 4.1 steals.
Detroit: Will Bynum wins one for all the underemployed point guards out there.
Golden State: Anthony Randolph somehow becomes more effective and more sui generis.
Houston: The results of the conscious half of the great usage experiment.
Indiana: I'm not down on Jim O'Brien but neither am I predicting him to work a miracle in Indiana this year. Still, if Mike Dunvleavy, Jr. returns at close to full health, this could be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference in calender year 2010.
LA Clippers: One hopes that Blake Griffin's physical gifts extend into the realm of healing quickly.
LA Lakers: You got your Ron Artest in my triangle. You got your triangle in my Ron Artest.
Memphis: The torch is going to be passed, but from Iverson to Mayo or from Iverson to Rudy Gay? There's also the chance that Hamed Haddadi outplays Hasheen Thabeet.
Miami: Michael Beasley reduces his reliance on the jump shot and begins to fulfill his potential to be a largely unstoppable offensive force.
Milwaukee: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute moving his feet defensively. All-Defensive Team voters, take notice.
Minnesota: #1 off-season bargain, Ramon Sessions, puts Jonny Flynn in perspective.
New Jersey: Chris Douglas-Roberts' coming-out party (begins Wednesday in Minnesota) makes League Pass worth it all by itself.
New Orleans: A prayer for patience from Byron Scott and simplicity from Julian Wright doubles as a prayer for Chris Paul.
New York: The backcourt's thin and Nate Robinson's in a contract year.
Oklahoma City: Meaningful Spring games are likely a year away but the joy of discovery has yet to grow stale.
Orlando: The defense will be constant, there will be nights when the offense consists of nothing but layups, dunks, free throws, and open three-pointers, and we will wonder how the Magic ever lose.
Philadelphia: Marreese Speights gets a taste of his own importance and takes the steps to make himself physically capable of playing the volume of minutes his (offensive) talent demands.
Phoenix: As manifestation of a dry sense of humor, Steve Kerr trades for Marcus Landry.
Portland: Nate McMillan leverages his over-abundance of talent by raising the number of possessions per Trailbazer game.
Sacramento: Either Paul Westphal molds this motely collection of defenders into a recognizable resistance force or they're going to have to scramble to outscore the opposition every single night. Both scenarios are must-see.
San Antonio: The model franchise takes a final shot at a championship with its current core. I anticipate both a worthy effort and the coming reconstitution of the team.
Toronto: It's not the Wizards, but the Raptors who possess the highest degree of variability in the Eastern Conference. It's eminently plausible all the parts to fit together and things work according to plan but, with few overlapping parts, it could all far apart with a significant injury to almost anyone. Fourth with 48 wins? Eleventh with 32 wins? Neither would surprise me.
Utah: Kosta Koufos, darkhorse Most Improved Player candidate.
Washington: While learning on the job, JaVale McGee will do shocking things, and, not being a Wizards fan, the bad shocks won't get me down.