Updated Oct. 28 to reflect the James Harden-to-Houston move.
The end of October brings with it two great occasions, the start of the NBA season and the annual practice of teaching our children the proper way to beg strangers for candy.
Both are equally awesome traditions and so I’m combining the two for The Back Porch’s 2012-2013 NBA season preview. 30 teams, 30 tricks and treats.
* Note: All candies should be taken as the “Fun Size” portions. And yes, it makes a difference. Also, they are all judged by me, so if your opinion differs, well, what do you want me to do? Trade mouths with you?
Feel free to leave your thoughts below or tweet me @TravisKWilliams.
1. Celtics — Pretzel M&Ms
Of all the variations of M&Ms, this is by far the best, in part because it’s so different from all the others. They’ve got a lot of classic old school M&M goodness going on combined in perfect fashion with just enough new school pretzel to give it enough crunch to support mass munching.
When you think Boston Celtics, you’re first thought is likely that they are old. Sure they brought back Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, neither of which are spring chickens, but they ditched Ray Allen and his loose ankles in exchange for Jason Terry, while also drafting Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo and adding Leandro Barbosa. This team is a good blend of old school and new school and they have an extremely deep bench.
2. Philadelphia 76ers — Butterfinger
The Butterfinger is a solid candy bar, but let’s be honest, a lot of it’s popularity is due to either it’s Bart Simpson marketing scheme or it’s use as an ice cream topping. On it’s own it’s good, but there is always that moment about halfway through one when your mouth suddenly feels like a flipping desert. So dry, needs ice cream! Good on it’s own, but always lacking a little something.
The Sixers shook things up this year by jumping in the Dwight Howard drama, shipping Andre Iguodala to Denver and bringing in Andrew Bynum. The question now is going to be whether or not Bynum, Jason Richardson, and Jrue Holiday will be enough to take them past the first round of the playoffs. I think Bynum will be playing bent this year, but I think they’re still missing that element that would make them a top tier squad.
3. Knicks — Candy Cigarettes
Candy Cigarettes were never good. They were like slightly sweeter than chalk chalk. Their whole thing was that they thought they were bad mothers and they wanted you as an 8 year old to feel cool enough to carry Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet. They were all about pretending to be something that they were not.
Yeah, I know they don’t really sell them today, but you know Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby are old enough to remember when they did. Heck, those two are likely old enough to remember folks handing out real cigarettes to kids.
Like the candy the Knicks are all about pretending to be something that they are not. Carmelo Anthony is pretending to be LeBron, Amare Stoudemire is pretending to be a young KG, and Jason Kidd is pretending to be 1999 Jason Kidd. They’re a tricky bunch, because you kind of want to buy into it, but don’t. Reality will likely set in around Valentine’s Day.
4. Brooklyn Nets — York Peppermint Patty
Man, the wrapper is so shiny on the Peppermint Patty. If only it didn’t taste so much like toothpaste halfway through the experience. Granted, your breath is stellar afterwards.
The Nets didn’t get Dwight Howard, so what do they do? They go out and completely over pay for the K-Mart version of Kevin Durant in Joe Johnson. Despite this, if Johnson can find his spot and Brook Lopez and Deron Williams can stay healthy, this team could see a moderate level of success. They’re all dressed up in their new shiny wrappers, but to be honestly, they aren’t that much different on the inside.
5. Toronto Raptors — Orange and Black Nasty Creamy Things
Yeah I’m not even sure these things have a legit name, or flavor. They are gross and you honestly never can remember anyone giving them to you, but somehow your back is full of them by the end of the night. Why do these things even still exist?
Better question: Why do the Raptors still exist? When Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry highlight your roster, there really isn’t all that much hope for the season. Perhaps if a Landry Fields or DeMar DeRozan breaks out they can push for a playoff spot, but I think that’s asking an awful lot.
1. Indiana Pacers — Skittles
Skittles are very solid and very rarely let you down. The only down side is that they always end up turning into one giant Skittle wad flavor. No one flavor really stands up and takes charge.
The Pacers are a very solid team, but as we saw last year in the playoffs, they lack that one star who can take charge in clutch moments. Could this be the year Danny Granger or David West step up and become that guy? I doubt it. The Pacers feel like a team full of role players, granted, very good role players. None the less, I expect them out in the second round of the playoffs.
2. Chicago Bulls — 3 Musketeers
You bite into a 3 Musketeers bar and what’s your first thought? Is it, “mmm chocolate covered air?” That’s mine. This candy bar is pimped as being lower in calories, which makes sense because it tastes like a candy bar someone has taken 50 percent of the good stuff out of. Not saying it’s bad, just saying it’s clearly lacking.
As will the Bulls be this season. Let’s face it, I don’t care how good Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are, they aren’t going to fill that Derrick Rose shaped hole. Chicago’s best chance is to hold on, stay in the race, and pray that some form of Mr. Miyagi-esque healing can take place on Rose’s ACL. Without him, they’re out in the second round. With him healthy, they might could make a push for the Eastern Conference Finals.
3. Milwaukee Bucks — Starburst
Starburst are a very good candy, but they require a lot of work for what you get because of that individual wrapper. That wrapper is also the downfall of ever taking this candy to school. Individual wrapping increases your odds of people trying to bum that candy off you by 75 percent. Fact.
Of course the other downfall is that lemon flavored Starburst kind of suck.
The Bucks have some quality individual talent, especially in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, but it’s going to take a lot of work to get that talent to mess. Is Scott Skiles the man to do this? Perhaps. No matter those fellas should be up to the challenge because it is a contract year for both. Problem there is, everyone else is going to start to want them too and I mean, you’re the Bucks.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers — Popcorn ball
The popcorn ball doesn’t seem like a bad idea at first. The problem is that no one in the history of mankind has ever finished one without needing to shopvac themselves off. Odds are that today there are still pieces of popcorn ball in the cars of parents with kids in college.
The Cavs seemed to have a few nice pieces in place. Kyrie Ivring, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thomas. Those guys have the potential to put together some highlight reel moments. They also, however, have the potential to become a mess. I’m banking on more of a broken apart mess than highlight at this point.
5. Detroit Pistons — Dots
You always tell yourself this round of Dots isn’t going to be so bad. This round isn’t going to taste like it was created in 1975 and has been sitting on a shelf ever since. You tell yourself this and you’re always wrong. Yes, Dots are always bad, are always stale, and they will always been stuck in your teeth for the next three hours.
There may be times this season you want to tell yourself the Pistons aren’t that bad. You will be mistaken. You’re looking at a team that will bank on Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond, neither of which I see leading Sports Center any time soon. Suck it up Pistons fan and just try and avoid even tasting this team.
1. Miami Heat — Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Pumpkin Shaped
You ask someone to off the top of his head name the best all-time Halloween candy and I guarantee 7 out of 10 times, this one pops up. It’s the sexy choice and it’s ingrained in your mind because you never get home from trick-or-treating without at least five of them. The thing is though, they aren’t really the best candy and to be honest, you never get through eating one without getting a case of peanut butter cup fingers. The sexy choice isn’t always the best choice.
Sure, the Heat are the sexy pick to repeat, but stop and just think about what that repeat is riding on — LeBron James staying healthy and ticked off. I’m guessing at least one of those two status won’t be maintained for the entire season, the latter being my better guess. Also, what did the Heat do to get better? Ray Allen is Spurs’ Steve Kerr at best right now and I’m not even sure who Rashard Lewis is now. Bottom line, when your buddy starts talking up the Reese’s pumpkin, quickly offer all of yours at a 2-for-1 Snickers to Reese’s ratio.
2. Atlanta Hawks — Whoopers
Whoopers are able to hold their weight in the trick-or-treat bag because they bring with them that fool proof crunchy chocolate combo. The downside is that the inside is pretty much a tasteless powder. It makes the end suck. I’ve never taste Anthrax, but if you told me it was like that I would believe you.
With Joe Johnson gone the Hawks are going to live and die by Josh Smith and Al Horford. This might not be such a bad thing if Horford stays healthy and will likely do them well in the win column. What they lack however, is fire power, especially in the clutch. That is unless you feel the likes of Anthony Morrow, Kyle Kover, and/or Jeff Teague is ready to shoulder that load. I do not.
3. Washington Wizards — Gobstoppers
Gobstoppers aren’t a bad candy, but they aren’t anyone’s favorite either. What they are most known for is falling out of the box and rolling into the most hard to reach place in the room. They just kind of end up all over the place.
On paper the Wizards don’t look to shabby. John Wall, Emeka Okafor, Nene, and the rookie Bradley Beal, all could had decent seasons. The problem is that along with that good potential they also have the potential to end up all over the place and make a huge mess. Lucky for them there are two other teams in the Southeast who will make a much larger mess.
4. Orlando Magic — Raisins
Seriously, if you give out raisins what you’re really saying is, “please egg my car.” Yeah, I get that you think you are being noble by offering the “healthy” snack, but nobility is no excuse for ignorance and you’re putting yourself in an awful place.
The Magic thought they were fighting the good fight by holding on to Dwight Howard, not caving in to his demands and not shipping him off 18 months ago. You know where it got them? To a starting line up highlighted, yes HIGHLIGHTED, by Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu. What an awful place to be.
5. Charlotte Bobcats — Pencils
Yet another classic bit of Halloween ignorance. If you’re giving these out your best bet is to start praying the parents on your street all have their kids on leashes. Best case scenario if you got these in your bag is that you hold on to one long enough to do a math problem with it one day. More likely though, that pencil will be lying on that person’s driveway as you walk to the next house.
All I can really say about the Bobcats this year is that if you find yourself watching them, try and find something productive to get out of it. Maybe you drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in some bizarre rookies-only fantasy league or perhaps you place a side bet on Ramon Sessions’ three-point attempts. I don’t know. All I’m saying is be creative though if you’re going to spend your time watching these guys.
Predicted playoff seeding: 1. Heat, 2. Celtics, 3. Pacers, 4. Bulls, 5. Hawks, 6. 76ers, 7. Knicks, 8. Bucks.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder — Take 5
The Take 5 is quite possibly the perfect candy bar. It ‘s sweet, it’s salty, it’s smooth, it’s crunchy. It’s got all the right ingredients — peanuts, caramel, chocolate — all blended perfectly around a pretzel, plus the Fun Size is actually the real size of half a legit bar.
The Thunder have all the right ingredients to win a title and a coach in Scott Brooks who seems to know how the blend them all together. After making it to the finals last year, they should enter this season eager to return. Of course the biggest roadblock to making this return will likely be the Lakers now that they’ve acquired Dwight Howard, but keep in mind OKC has a little Kryponite for Dwight in Kendrick Perkins. Dwight hated playing against him back when the Magic routinely faced the Celtics in the playoffs. I think it was the snarl.
The Thunder have a great blend of the right ingredients and barring something tragic, they should play into June.
*** As of Oct. 28 the Thunder have also rid themselves of what could have been a season long headache by shipping James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and two first and one second round draft picks. While Harden was stellar in OKC, by holding out you kind of have to wonder how serious he was about being apart of that group. I think this could be the move that locks the Thunder in for multiple titles.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves — Zero
I’m convinced there are two types of people in this world. People who love Zero bars and people who either have never had one or who haven’t had one since their taste buds grew in. Peanuts, caramel, and nougat covered in white chocolate. How could you not be down with that? You rarely, if ever, get these in your bag as your knocking on doors, but if you do, thank that giver multiple times.
Let’s be honest, how am I not going to give a team with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour, and Robbie Hummel the only white chocolate candy out there? More seriously though, there are also really only two types of basketball fans. Those who think the T-Wolves will be good and those who haven’t watched them recently. Just like the Zero bar, a good Minnesota team is a rare find, so treasure this one.
3. Denver Nuggets — Twix
The Twix bar might be the most hindered by the “Fun Size” rule. Twix just aren’t thick enough to carry their weight when decreased like this and somehow the company got off without putting two in a package like the legit size does. That’s not right or fun.
The Nuggets have some fire power behind the newly acquired Andre Iguodala, Danny Gallinari, and Ty Lawson, but they are lacking when it comes to size. I don’t think Anthony Randolph and JaVale McGee are going to fill that void, which will likely become painfully at times, many of those times coming in the playoffs.
4. Utah Jazz — Bit-O-Honey
Every Bit-O-Honey is no less than 100 years old. Fact. Also, no Bit-O-Honey can be eaten in less than 5 minutes. Fact. It’s not necessarily a bad candy, but three minutes in you’re kind of wondering, “Why am I still chewing? And am I chewing the wrapper on accident?”
The Jazz have the opposite problem the Nuggets do, Utah has two solid big men and are lacking decent guard play. Guessing Utah will try to slowly grind out games against teams by pounding the ball inside, which is their best bet unless you really think Gordon Hayward is going to revive his Butler magic.
5. Portland Trailblazers — Dum Dum sucker
I think the stingiest people on Earth work in the Dum Dum factory. Seriously, is it at all possible to put less candy on a sucker stick? Try to hang that thing in your mouth like a traditional sucker and you’ll be sucking on stick paper in about 30 seconds. No, just bite down and get on to the next one. You know you’ve got at least 20 in your bag anyway.
The Trailblazers have about the same sweetness-to-stick ratio as the Dum Dum. LaMarcus Aldridge is there, but with free agency looming, it’s doubtful he will be much longer than the candy on the end of the Dum Dum stick. This looks to be a very unsatisfying season in Portland, might as well bite down and get on to the next one.
1. San Antonio Spurs — Raisinets
Yeah, I know you think this is your grandad’s candy, but give it a shot and you’ll see it’s got more youthful appeal than you thought. Honestly, chocolate covered is the only way to eat raisins because it somehow performs some type of crazy magic on makes them delicious.
Your first thought on the Spurs is likely that they are the old guys, but take a second look and you’ll find they’re a little younger than you thought. Parker just hit 30 and guys like DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard are pretty dang young. Plus, I kind of think Tim Duncan might be a robot and they age completely differently than humans.
2. Dallas Mavericks — Pixie Sticks
Have Pixie Sticks ever been more than just a quick sugar fix? You have to shoot them all at once, there is no savoring or even really enjoying here. You just slam it and sit back waiting for it to kick in. I swear a drug addict invented these.
The Mavericks brought in a lot of temporary fixes. They got O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Chris Kamen, and Darren Collison all on one-year deals, making most NBA minds think they’re just buying time until they can make a run at a stud over the summer. They likely are, but with Dirk Nowitzki already hobbled and having knee surgery, these temporary fixes have the chance to build their resumes. I think they’ll play hard and be decent. Not good, just decent.
3. Memphis Grizzles — Pop Rocks
Pop Rocks always felt like the candy that was supposed to be the next big thing, but never really made it. Everyone talked them up, talked about downing them with soda, and about numerous other tricks you could supposedly do with them, but really when you got them, they sucked. You might as well have been eating a mouth full of gravel from your driveway.
The Grizzles were supposed to be the up and coming Thunder-esque team in the West. A couple years later and we’re still waiting on that coming. Yes they still have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but they lost O.J. Mayo and I’m just not convinced Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen are going to be filling that void anytime soon. Making the playoffs would be a huge success for this group.
4. New Orleans Hornets — Nerds
Is it possible to eat these without making a mess? I don’t think so. Little kids love them and parents hate them because once a package is opened in a mini van, that vehicle is infested with them forever. Aside from the mess though, at their best they are just a slightly larger version of sweetened sand. It kind of makes me wonder how they tricked people into paying for them.
The Hornets are going to be a similar mess this season and you’re often going to wonder how Eric Gordon tricked the team into paying him so much. Granted it will be fun to watch the development of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. The thought of them catching on quick, along with the fact Houston is in their division, is the only reason they aren’t at the very bottom.
5. Houston Rockets — Good and Plenty
Yet another candy that feels like it’s been sitting out on a counter for about a month before they packaged it. These could be good, but they never are. They’re stale and kind of hard to swallow.
I think the Rockets are going to feel very stale this year, but when your roster is highlighted by Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lin, what do you expect? Mad props to anyone who can name another person on this roster off the top of his or her head. This season will be hard to swallow for any diehard Rockets fan.
*** As of Oct. 28 the Rockets roster will be highlighted by James Harden and Jeremy Lin, thanks to the trade that sent Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and three picks to OKC. Harden averaged just under 17 points last year in a little more than 31 minutes of action per game. This will be his real chance to breakout and prove he can be the front wheel of the tricycle instead of one of the back ones. The problem is those back wheels are often too small to work up front. Harden made just under 50 percent of his shots last year, but he was only taking about 10 shots a game. I’d guess he’ll be taking no fewer than 15 a game this year with every defenders’ eyes on him. Keep that percentage up could get dicey.
1. Los Angeles Lakers — Blow Pop
When it comes to solid Halloween candy, few have stood the test of time like the Blow Pop. It’s a good size sucker, so it lasts a while and once it’s done you’re left with a decent chew of gum. It’s like a meal with a free dessert. Plus, they really don’t have a bad flavor. The only way this candy fails is when it’s core of gum goes stale and you’re left gnawing at that stick like a beaver trying to salvage it. Couldn’t you just throw it away? No. No you could not.
Let’s be honest, the Lakers’ roster looks better than a lot of people’s fantasy teams this year. Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant. Who wouldn’t take those three any of the past five years? Much like the Blow Pop though, I’m concerned about what’s on the inside. How will this group mesh? Will Steve Nash be able to navigate distributing the ball between Dwight and Kobe successfully? Will Pau Gasol embrace his role as the fourth option now? Will Metta World Peace stay far enough away that his crazy doesn’t rub off on Dwight? (I feel like all of these guys outside of Ron, Dwight has the most crazy cat lady potential.) And the biggest question, can Mike Brown coach? NBA analysts tell me he can, but all I’m seeing is a guy who has had both LeBron and Kobe on his teams and still has no rings.
The Lakers are going to be very good, but make no mistake about it, they aren’t walking into the finals just yet.
2. Los Angeles Clippers — Clark Bar
The Clark Bar is a pretty good candy bar, but you can’t tell me when it shows up to the candy bar party all the other bars aren’t looking around and wondering who the heck invited him. Something about grouping it with the top tier of bars just doesn’t seem right.
The Clippers are going to be good this year, but they’re still going to be the Clippers. Getting Chauncey Billups back healthy will be huge for them and if DeAndre Jordan can hold things down in the paint — because it seems Blake Griffin has no interested playing on the end of the court where he can’t dunk — they’re going to win plenty of games. Of course not as many as the other guys sharing the building, keeping their JV Lakers status fully in check.
3. Golden State Warriors — Sour Patch Kids
I’m not a big sour candy guy or a big child-shaped food guy, but Sour Patch Kids get me. I find that you have to be careful with them though. If you get reckless and plow through an entire bag you will very likely suffer from a nasty case of Sour Patch tongue burn and nothing will taste right for at least 24 hours.
I like this Warriors’ team. They’ve mixed in Jarret Jack and Carl Landry with Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry, David Lee, and Harrison Barnes. Plus everyone is geeked about Klay Thompson and his ability to shoot the three. They look like they should content for a playoff spot, but I want to be cautious with them because I know they are one Curry ankle sprain away from burning me.
4. Sacramento Kings — Limited Time Caramel Apple Candy Corn
I’m not a fan of candy corn at all, but the caramel apple flavor sucked me in for a while last year. This year though, gone. You can’t find it anywhere around where I live. Now it’s not an awful tragedy because it wasn’t great, but for that brief three-week window last year, it was nice.
The Kings have some decent ingredients going for them. DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans seem to be blooming and if they can keep their minds right, could be on the road to All-Star status. The rest of the roster is really young, which I’m doubting will blend well with the looming rumors of the team moving. They won’t be great, but watch them while you can Sac-Town.
5. Phoenix Suns — Smarties
Is it just me or do you never really remember getting these on Halloween, but yet at the end of the night your bag is completely full of those little pieces of colored chalk? They’re the ultimate space filler. Nobody really likes them and if they disappeared not a soul would notice.
With the absence of Steve Nash, would anyone other than that gorilla really notice if the Suns just didn’t play this season? Their roster is highlighted by Luis Scola and word is tens of people have rushed out to purchase his jersey. You know though, if you’re going to root for an awful team, there are a lot worse place to do it than Phoenix.
Predicted playoff seeding: 1. Thunder, 2. Lakers, 3. Spurs, 4. Timberwolves, 5. Clippers, 6. Warriors, 7. Nuggets, 8. Mavericks.
Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics over Heat
Western Conference Finals: Thunder over Lakers
Finals: Thunder over Celtics