to be a dark horse is, in my interpretation a least, a team that can surpass average expectations by a large margin. A team like miami for example, I can't think of any possible scenario where they would win 50+ in their current incarnation.
The bucks and Indiana are generally rated better than Washington - but, on paper, the wizards have more talent.
Under the right conditions, and I agree that it's not likely, they could be really good. Hence, that's why they're my pick for dark horse.
I think Indiana overachieved last season and the moves they made were lateral, I think they will win fewer games this year. People will be more ready for them, and they are too dependant on Oladipo. Losing Stephenson will be felt imo - his production wasn't great, but he got under people's skins. We probably don't lose that game last year where he got under demar's …
The bucks are probably going to be the 4th best team, but I went with Washington instead because I like wall 😉
Yeah, dark horse label makes your case acceptable but I'm not conceding more than that.
Wizards are top heavy. There's an extremely sharp falloff after Wall and Beal. Honestly, there isn't a player on that team that I'd like on my after Wall and Beal. (and I'd look at a ton of other options before those two).
Chemistry, leadership, attitude, nothing has changed. It has gotten worse with Rivers and Howard.
For all the Raptors blow it up talk, Wizards should have definitively done it.
Could have offered Wall + Oubre JR to Phoenix for 1st pick, fillers + Brevin Knight's contract. (would have to wait until end of July to complete the trade)
Beal to Dallas for 5th pick and Wesley Matthews and Dwight Powell.
Porter, Morris, Satoransky to Memphis for 4th pick, Chandler Parsons and Ben McLemore.
Draft Doncic, Burke, Bamba + their pick.
Strech Matthews and McLemore over two years to avoid tax. Suck for another two years, wait out contracts of Parsons, Mahinmi, Knight, Powell + streches. Have 6 really talented guys on rookie deals plus space for at least one max deal and then some in just two years. Quick turnaround and a better and deeper team in three years. And you lose all the drama, instantly rid of it.
Instead, they are a tax team for 2nd year in row and things are not looking good. And next year, you'll be paying Wall 40M$ while Oubre will look for an extension or new contract as an RFA. No way to improve. All the while their stars are injury prone.
Best case scenario for them? IMO, Second round loss to Boston or Toronto. And I wouldn't except a competitive series.
Indiana has improved. McDermot, not a fan, but he'll fill a role and that is fine. He is being unfairly painted worse than he is due to expectations. He can get away from all of that now, play hard and shoot. Evans is way better than ten Lance Stephensons, even if injury prone. With less of a load, he just might stay healthy for 65-70 games. Expect Sabonis, Turner to improve, Young to play super hard in contract year. Same for CoJo and Collins. Yes, they are dependent on Oladipo but they play hard, together and can ball. And I expect Oladipo to take another step and be even better and more consistent. Overall, they don't seem to have any major holes even if they are not particularly strong outside of Victor.
Bucks are in playoff conversation only because of Giannis. I don't like that team. Think Kidd's coaching has been a lame excuse. Bud is a clear upgrade but I don't think a coach is gonna fix that team. They still lack truly creative play making, shooting, physicality, size. And if Giannis misses any time they'll have no chance. I expect them to do less stupid stuff under Bud but still far from 50 wins. And 50 is kind of a threshold for me. There is something in consistency required for that. It illustrates the level of professionalism and dedication in addition to talent. Maybe they do finally become a team this season but given how much hype they've received over last three, I'm in deep "wait and see" mode.
I can see any of the Wizards, Pacers, Sixers end up third. But I think Indian takes it. Think Sixers take a step back. For a lot of the last season, nobody was playing them hard, they still had that tanking stench on them. Later in the season, their schedule was tanking team after tanking team and wins added up. Now, everyone will take them seriously. Even more seriously than deserved due to hype. There's a ton of data on them. Boston exposed a lot. I think they are in for a major system shock. And they'll miss Illy and Belly. Fultz is a wildcard though, he could save their season if he is himself.