Basketball’s back, folks.
While I was able to enjoy parts of it since I’m a huge fan of the league, the general consensus of sports fans was that last year’s NBA season sucked. And for the casual fan, I don’t blame you for thinking so. There was very little parity in the NBA last year, and a very big majority of last year’s preseason predictions were true in the end. However, after an exciting offseason, fans of the NBA seem to be a lot more excited for this season, with a few new look teams, and a few other teams on the rise. There seems to be more excitement coming into this season, and I’m ready for it to unfold.
It’s way too early too tell what’s going to happen this year, but I feel confident in some of my knee-jerk reactions after the first week. Maybe the biggest knee-jerk reaction is thinking these are great knee-jerk reactions, but I have decided to combine these along with some of my other preseason predictions to give an update on where all 30 teams are headed.
Atlanta Hawks– They have enough experience to keep them out of the basement of the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks impressive run of 10 straight playoff appearances will come to an end this year, as their entire starting lineup from 3 years ago is gone. However, they still have pieces that were important to those teams in Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, and 2015 Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer. Expect a major drop off in wins, but this team will be better than most think.
Boston Celtics– They won’t win as many games as last year, but they will still be one of the best teams to watch in the league.
As great of a player as Gordon Hayward is, I don’t think his loss will result in that many fewer wins than they were projected. However, they gave up a lot of their depth to acquire Hayward and Kyrie Irving, and now they are down a lot of depth and Hayward. This team may take some time to get it together also, as they have only returning 4 players, and just one starter (Al Horford). That being said, they were great to watch last year, and now they have one of the most incredible players to watch in Kyrie, so they will still be a hot watch in the NBA this season.
Brooklyn Nets– Bet the over in every Nets game this year.
Don’t take that tip as a definite, Vegas could adjust the lines. But the Nets first two games both went over, game 3 went under by half a point, and game 4 went over. The point being that the Nets have a team to watch that is actually pretty exciting. They’re currently leading the league with 123.5 PPG, but they have also given up 122.5. I’m not expecting a playoff appearance from my Nets this year, but they’ll be a fun team to watch. Jeremy Lin’s loss hurts, but D’Angelo Russell, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, and Jarrett Allen have all looked good through their first 4 games as Nets. The 19 year old rookie Allen (video above) could prove to be a steal at 22nd if he can develop his NBA with that size. Russell has turned the ball over a bit too much, but he has also made some incredible plays.
Charlotte Hornets– The Hornets will return to the playoffs this season.
…but a lot of that will by default of a weak Eastern Conference. Outside of the Cavs, Wizards, Celtics, Raptors, and Bucks, there are no teams in the East that really come up as noteworthy on an opponent’s schedule. Kemba Walker will make another All-Star team, but besides that, there won’t be much to talk about with the team unless there is Dwight Howard drama. I do think they will be the 7th or 8th seed though. BTW, the Jordan logo on their uniforms is fire.
Chicago Bulls– They were already going to be a mess, and things got even worse before a game was even played.
The Bulls have been searching for an identity for a few years now, and many fans felt they did not get enough for Jimmy Butler. Now, an incident like this happens just days before the season starts. The Bulls are a mess, and I think they will finish in the basement of the Eastern Conference this year.
Cleveland Cavaliers– By season’s end, they will be better than last year’s team.
After an interesting offseason in Cleveland, this Cavs team suddenly looks different. However, they are still the best team in the East until someone proves otherwise. Getting adjusted to post-Kyrie, with Wade and DRose, and eventually Isaiah Thomas life is going to be a transition. But by seasons end, this group of veterans will have a team that will be even stronger going into the playoffs’s than last year’s.
Dallas Mavericks– Dirk’s age will finally catch up.
Saying Dirk will struggle this season because he has started the year with just 7.3 PPG through four games is definitely a knee jerk reaction. But it’s also definitely possible when you consider he’s 39 years old. Watch out for Dennis Smith Jr., the rookie out of NC State who is a project favorite for Rookie of the Year. The Mavericks are not a terrible team, but they won’t be competing for a playoff spot at the end of the season.
Denver Nuggets– They are not a playoff lock in a competitive Western Conference.
With the addition of Paul Millsap, and full year with Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets are deserving of a playoff projection this year. However, since this lineup does not have that much playoff experience outside of Millsap, the Nuggets are going to be fighting for seeds 6-8 come seasons end with teams like the Jazz, Clippers, Blazers, Grizzlies and Pelicans.
Detroit Pistons– The Pistons will also return to the playoffs this season.
I see the Pistons as a team very similar to the team they are fighting in the above video, the Hornets. The Pistons have a higher ceiling behind the likes of Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson, and Andre Drummond. However, they were favored to make a jump last year, and they ended up taking a step back. Like the Hornets, they should take a late playoff seed by default.
Golden State Warriors– Their road back to the Finals will be more of a challenge, and Steph and KD are the spoiled kids who are lost when they don’t get their way.
Most readers may not know because I have not really blogged about them, but I hate the Warriors with a burning passion. I won’t deny that they are the best team in the league and they are my pick to win the title once again. As for my first point, I think their road back is going to be tougher, because each and every night, teams will be going out and giving their best. We’ve seen that in their early games against the Rockets, Pelicans, and Grizzlies. As for my second point, fuck KD and Steph. I didn’t watch the game, so I don’t know how the refs were throughout, but Steph throwing his stupid mouthpiece at the official was fucking ridiculous. YOU WEREN’T EVEN FOULED BUDDY. And that’s why I fucking can’t stand Steph. Guy has won 2 MVPs and 2 championships in the last 3 seasons. He also carries himself as a humble, respectful player and a nice overall guy, because that is who he is. But then when he does not get his way, all he does is bitch and moan, and throw his disgusting mouthpiece. TWICE NOW. LeBron wants respect when he complains to refs all the time, and I see why that is annoying, but that’s who he is on the court every night. I hate Draymond too, but at least he knows he’s the bad guy and always acts like that. Steph always comes across as the respectful guy, but then when he doesn’t get his way and acts like an asshole, he acts like he deserves that respect of being an asshole just because of how good he is. And it’s a fucking joke that he has now thrown his mouthpiece at a fan, and a ref, and has not gotten suspended for a single game. And KD just had to get himself involved like the fucking loser he is. Then shows off his ring finger to the Memphis crowd. NEWS FLASH BUDDY: ANY GRIZZLIES PLAYER OR FAN COULD HAVE HOPPED ON THE WARRIORS TRAIN AND WON A RING THE SAME WAY YOU DID! Okay, now, the NBA is coming for the Warriors, and while Golden State will probably win in the end, I’m excited for the war to come.
Houston Rockets– The addition of Chris Paul won’t be as valuable as the Rockets had hoped.
The Rockets will be one of the top teams in the West once again this year. However, I don’t think their addition of Chris Paul will be that valuable. CP3 has not played in a tempo like this in quite awhile, and this is how the Rockets run every night. This is undoubtedly James Harden’s team, and they were able to win on opening night at Golden State despite little contribution from Paul. Also, I read that part of the reason the Rockets traded for Paul was because their next move was to trade for Melo, which obviously fell through. That being said, I think Harden and the Rockets will have another great season.
Indiana Pacers– Their season will be very similar to the Nets’ season.
The Pacers and the Nets have very similar looks this year. They both have an average age of 25.4, both have a mix of young guys and veterans, but overall, they both have a much different looking lineup than they did as recently as two years ago. In addition, both teams will score a lot and give up a lot of points. My prediction is that the Nets and Pacers will finish within 3 games of each other.
Los Angeles Clippers– He won’t win MVP, but Blake Griffin will be this year’s Russell Westbrook.
Last year, All-Star KD left All-Star Russell Westbrook, and he went off. This year, All-Star CP3 left All-Star Blake Griffin, and he will go off as well. Griffin scored 29 points in each of his first two games, then followed it up with 22 in game 3, and has looked dominant with the ball in his hands. I think he will be an MVP candidate, and will lead the Clippers to a late playoff spot.
Los Angeles Lakers– He may not average a triple-double as a rookie, but Lonzo Ball has potential to be great in all three major offensive categories.
Lonzo Ball comes in as one of the most intriguing rookies of all time. Every game he plays will be treated as a real event by fans and the media. He went off against the Suns and was an assist short of a triple double. While his numbers weren’t nearly as good against the Clippers and Pelicans, he had 9 rebounds against the Clippers and 13 assists against the Pelicans. It’s clear he has potential in all three major offensive categories, and while he may be shut down scoring on certain nights, he will find a way to get either 10 assists or 10 rebounds on most nights.
Memphis Grizzlies– They are still a playoff caliber team.
Most people are picking the Grizzlies to be on the outside looking in come playoff time, but they are still easily good enough to be anywhere from a 6-8 seed. They have made the playoffs 7 straight seasons, and still have most of their top pieces. They played hard in the first round against the Spurs last year, and have beaten the Warriors and Rockets early. While I’m not guaranteeing they will be a playoff team, they still have an excellent chance to make it come April.
Miami Heat– They won’t be nearly as dominant as the team that went 30-11 in the second half of last season, but they will return to the playoffs.
Dion Waiters and the Heat were so exciting to watch in the second half last year. The combination of their great finish and the weak East means they will most likely be a playoff team. But don’t expect them to be nearly as good as that team. That team would have won 60 games over an 82 game stretch, which will obviously not happen. Things should even out, and the Heat won’t be dominant, but they’ll be a playoff team once again.
Milwaukee Bucks– Giannis will win MVP.
The Greek Freak has been picked by many as a breakout player this year, and he has completely lived up to that prediction so far with three 30+ point perforamnces and one 44 point performance. Nights like these prove that he could be the league MVP this year. Also consider the other stars of the league. Almost every single one plays with another star, and their numbers would be completely different than if they had their own team. Giannis is the best player on a team without more than one star, and I think he will completely breakout this year and with MVP.
Minnesota Timberwolves– They will wish they were an Eastern Conference team.
The TWolves will undoubtedly be the most improved team in the league this year in my mind between potential breakout years for Andrew Wiggins, KAT, and the addition of Jimmy Butler. I also think they will be the 5th seed in the West behind the four clear juggernauts… and for that reason the TWolves will wish they were just slightly more Eastern on the US map. They could be a top 2 or 3 team in the East, but in the West it will be a real challenge to make in out of the first round this season.
New Orleans Pelicans– They are not guaranteed to make the playoffs in a competitive West, but they will be much stronger than they were after acquiring Boogie last year.
Many people thought the Pelicans would make the playoffs last year after trading for Demarcus Cosuins. However, it didn’t really work out. But after an offseason, I think the Pelicans will figure it out with this big man combo of Cousins and Anthony Davis. The Pelicans will be one of the many teams fighting for a late playoff seed come seasons end.
New York Knicks– Kristaps Porzingis will be team MVP, and it won’t be close.
This is not exactly a hot take, but Porzingis is that much better than any of his teammates. Tim Hardaway Jr. is much better than the player that was with the Knicks a few years ago, but it would take an extreme breakout for him to live up to that contract. Porzingis will have an excellent year for a bad Knicks team, who will be looking to get one of the top picks in the 2018 draft.
Oklahoma City Thunder– There will be growing pains, but this team will figure it out by the end of the season.
As comes with any new combination of superstars, they will have to adjust to each other’s playing styles, and in PG and Melo’s cases, a brand new team. The Thunder have lost a few games early on, and I think there will be an adjustment period. However, by seasons end, I think these three stars form an awesome team that will ultimately be the biggest threat to knock off the Warriors.
Orlando Magic– Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon will have their best seasons to date, and the Magic will be in the mix for a late playoff spot.
A little biased because I’ve watched the Magic play the Nets twice now, but Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon have looked great. Vucevic has been one of the best players on the Magic for a few years now, and the 4th year player Gordon could be in turn for a breakout year. The Magic’s lineup looks a little more similar to last year’s than some of the other lower Eastern Conference teams, so by seasons end, I think they will be in competition for one of the later playoff seeds.
Philadelphia 76ers– Minutes restrictions, potential injuries, and youth will make this team still a year away.
The Sixers have potential to be much improved this year, as can be seen in performances like in the video above. But they were 0-3 going into that game. Joel Embiid has minutes restrictions and Markelle Fultz may have a shoulder injury that prevents him from shooting free throws. The Sixers are probably also going to be careful with Simmons as well, and both he and Embiid could always get hurt, and the team could shut them down for a time in thoughts of their futures. While they will be great on some nights and fun to watch, I think all of these factors will prove to make them another year away from being a legit player in the Eastern Conference.
Phoenix Suns– The Suns had the worst record in the NBA after 3 games, and that fact may still be true after 82.
The Suns were looking terrible through three games, so they fired their coach and it got a whole lot worse when Eric Bledsoe tweeted he didn’t want to be there anymore, and now the Suns are looking to trade him. Phoenix has some exciting young players, most notably Devin Booker, who could be an All-Star is the conferences were more even. But the Suns will struggle this year, and they will finish with the worst record in the West, and possibly the NBA as well.
Portland Trail Blazers– The Blazers will be better than last year, but making the playoffs will be a tougher task.
With Damind Lillard and CJ McCollum getting another year older, and the Blazers getting a full season with Jusuf Nurkic, I think the Blazers win more games than last year. However, with the competition for the later seeds in the West that I’ve mentioned throughout this article, a better Blazers team won’t make it much easier to make the playoffs this year.
Sacramento Kings– De’Aaron Fox will be the best rookie that no one is talking about.
Everyone is talking about Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, and Dennis Smith Jr., but no one is talking about the 5th pick from Kentucky in De’Aaron Fox. Fox is leading the Kings with 15 PPG through 4 games. Fox will also see good playing time on a young Kings team, and he may not be better than some of these rookies, but he will be the best of the ones no one is really talking about.
San Antonio Spurs– Despite the offseason noise in Houston and OKC, the Spurs will finish higher in the standings than both of those teams.
The Spurs will be the 2nd seed in the West, because that’s who they are, and they have a very similar lineup to last year, unlike the Rockets and Thunder. The Spurs have been a top 2 seed in the West 6 of the last 7 years, and I see the same happening this season as well.
Toronto Raptors– While I don’t think they have any chance to beat the Cavs in a 7 game series, they are the best team in the East that no one is talking about.
The Raptors have been a top-4 team in the East for 4 years now, but since they have not really made any additions, they have not been very newsworthy. However, they are still one of the best teams in the East. With the injury to Hayward and their loss of depth, the Celtics could easily see the Raptors win the Atlantic this year. It would take an injury to LeBron to give them any chance to make the Finals, but they are still a team that is notable on any team’s schedule.
Utah Jazz– The Jazz will be just fine without Gordon Hayward, and they will go back to the playoffs.
Gordon Hayward was a tough loss for the Jazz, but they are deep enough to make the playoffs again. With players such as Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, the addition of Ricky Rubio, and a few others, the Jazz have enough to make the playoffs once again. There is a lot of competition for the final few spots, but I think the Jazz may be the best of all those teams.
Washington Wizards– The Wizards will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics have lost Hayward and depth, the Raptors have not improved much, and the Wizards are getting better, and they will face the Cavs in the Conference Finals. The Wizards probably can’t beat the Cavs, but I like them to take the next step and be one of the NBA’s final four teams.
Excited to see all of the predictions come true. Then again, I didn’t like how every prediction came true last year, so let’s hope for some chaos. Here’s to a great NBA season.