Pelicans

Pelicans

• Perhaps no team has more to figure out than New Orleans. The Pelicans have 12 rotation-level players before Jahlil Okafor and Jaxson Hayes, and half of them have 3-point shooting track records ranging from spotty to “My Eyes! Ze goggles do nothing!” Playing even one non-shooter alongside both Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors strangles the half court.

Cramped spacing doesn’t matter as much in transition, and Alvin Gentry wants these guys running like hell. It will just take time to sort through all the possible lineup contortions — and land on the right offense-defense balance. There is a playoff team in here. Will they find it in time?

Pistons

• We might have to name this tier after the Pistons.

Bulls

• Jim Boylen is probably the biggest coaching wild card in the league. Will Chicago post up 100 times per game, or play fast, as the Bulls did late last season? No one knows! It might change week-to-week! Exciting!

Vegas has these guys around 33 wins. I am more (wait for it) bullish. With Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, the Bulls have the talent and balance to hang in the East playoff non-race. The major concern beyond inexperience: precisely zero reliable wings behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr. Playing Satoransky as a backup wing mitigates that, but it also could mean more of Coby White, Kris Dunn, and Ryan Arcidiacono (quietly solid last season).

It’s time for LaVine to prove he can contribute to winning basketball. This is a huge Year 3 for Lauri Markkanen.
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