The newest NBA season is almost here and every year we roll out a preview and here’s this year’s edition.
The Spurs are five-time NBA champions and will continue to be in contention for another one. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA right now and his system and the players that come through it always excel and I see no reasons why they can’t or won’t continue to. As long as their core players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker,Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili are there and can stay healthy enough, this team will be geared to repeat.
The Los Angeles Clippers have been through a lot since the Donald Sterling saga. They have new ownership in Steve Ballmer, renewed energy,and renewed vow to be a title contender to bring this franchise it’s first NBA Finals appearance and title. The talent is there, the support is there, they have the right coach in place,now all that’s left to do is go out there and win.
The Thunder in recent years have been title contenders and this year may be no different, but I see them taking a little bit of a step back with reigning NBA MVP Kevin Durant out for the first six weeks of the season. He is a big part of this team and it’s dynamic. I think they can hang on long enough without him and will win enough games to be in good enough contention for an NBA Finals appearance.
I’m going to come out and say it, the Warriors have the right amount of talent to be a title contender. The only thing is they have yet to have the right coaching for that to happen. Mark Jackson was a decent coach, but he didn’t have great assistant coaches in his corner. Steve Kerr is unproven,but he has had on the court success as a player and was a smart broadcaster as well. I think he’s said all the right things and will be a breath of fresh air to guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This is a team that, if coached right, will be a threat to contend in future years should they not get far this season.
Houston was an impressive squad last season,but with the loss of Chandler Parsons to Dallas and severely swinging and missing on trying to get Carmelo Anthony, I think the Rockets will take a step back this season. Sure,James Harden and Dwight Howard will remain the big guns for Houston, but their bench outside of Francisco Garcia and Trevor Ariza has a lot of unproven talent. The Rockets really missed out on getting a big time player to really be a contender and this year,it’s gonna show.
Memphis got further than I thought they would this past season. I was surprised to see them get to the playoffs and win 50 games after the departure of Lionel Hollins as coach. But coach Mike Joerger proved that he was able to lead this team and get them to the postseason. This roster is basically the same, so I see them finishing with the same record as last year,but will be a higher seed than they were last year when they were the seventh seed.
7. Portland Trail Blazers 49-33
The Blazers had a coming-out party last season as they were one of the league’s surprise success stories. An exciting young team to watch with Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Nicolas Batum,and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers will look to improve on last year’s success and have added veterans Chris Kaman and Steve Blake to the mix. I look for Portland to get back to the playoffs but not win as many games as they did last year.
8. Phoenix Suns 46-36
The Suns were ever so close to getting to the postseason the year before that I do think this season they will get in. They had a bright start to their year last season that didn’t have the ending they hoped for. Eric Bledsoe is this team’s leading man who proved that he can lead this team to bigger and better things and with this young nucleus of players the Suns are in a positive direction for this season.
9. Dallas Mavericks 44-38
The Mavericks were a playoff team a year ago and are looking to get back there again. The addition of Chandler Parsons and getting Tyson Chandler back are both big moves for Big D and you have Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. But is it enough? It could be,but I doubt it.
With teams like Phoenix,Denver,and New Orleans also looking to get in, I think it leaves the Mavericks on the outside looking in.
10. New Orleans Pelicans 43-39
Last season I picked the Pelicans to make the playoffs and I was dead wrong. This year I think they almost make it. New Orleans is going to be better with Anthony Davis,Eric Gordon,Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. As long as these guys remain healthy most of the season, the Pelicans are going to be pretty good. hell,they might even be amazing to watch. But since we’re not sure which team we’ll see, I have them barely missing the playoffs.
I didn’t think the Nuggets were as bad as they were last season and I don’t believe it this year.What I don’t believe is that they’re getting back to the playoffs this year. I like Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, but the supporting cast around them isn’t enough to get them back to the playoffs. Maybe in a year or two they’ll be back,but I have a hard time seeing it. It’s up to those guys and coach Brian Shaw to prove otherwise.
The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2006 and it may take some time before they do. But they do have great talent in players like DeMarcus Cousins,Ben McLemore,and Rudy Gay. Add rookie Nik Stauskas to the mix who is a dangerous shooter and you have the makings of a team that may be playoff ready in a couple of years. All Kings fans can do is wait as patiently as possible for the team to get better, or for their new downtown arena to be completed. Whichever comes first.
13. Los Angeles Lakers 32-50
When was the last time anyone predicted the Lakers would finish with a bad record such as this?
Sure,Kobe Bryant is back, but he is aging,and by the way, who is his supporting cast? Pau Gasol has left for Chicago and Steve Nash turns 71 this season (Just kidding,he’ll be 41,which in NBA years is 71!). They do have rookie big man Julius Randle who I think will be a good player. Right now,the Lakers have a lot of rebuilding to do and it starts this season.
Kevin Love has gone to Cleveland and in return for his services, the Cavs gave their first overall pick,Andrew Wiggins, to the Timberwolves. Wiggins willl join the backcourt with Ricky Rubio to build what may be an exciting duo for years to come. The Wolves have some building to do and it starts with Wigging,Rubio,and Anthony Bennett,who came over in the Love trade. They have to figure out who works together and who doesn’t and that’s going to take some time. Be patient,Minnesota,we know you can do it.
15. Utah Jazz 25-57
The Jazz are continuing their rebuilding years. They have great talent there like Derrick Favors and Trey Burke. They’ve even added Dante Exum via the draft, but they have a ways to go before they’re ready to be called a playoff team.
What else can I say? LeBron James is back in Cleveland and he brought some help with him,too. Kevin Love comes over from Minnesota to join James and Kyrie Irving. Many people say that this team is not ready to win a championship, I disagree. If there’s a guy who can make you an instant contender, James is it. Look at what he was able to do with Miami, not to mention that there aren’t many quality teams in the East that can even come close to being contenders for a championship. This team as they sit right now are title contenders.
Really? The Wizards are your second team in the East? Yes they are! My reasons for putting them this high are as follows. Teams like Miami and Indiana are missing superstars either dut to injury or they left via free agency. I also think this team has plenty to build on after a pretty decent playoff run where they got to the second round. They also added Paul Pierce who,at age 37, is still a decent player and can shoot the ball well. They also have great players in John Wall,Nene (who was awesome in the playoffs),and Bradley Beal who can be an All-Star this year if he stays healthy.
3. Chicago Bulls 55-27
I almost didn’t put the Bulls here because although they are a pretty good team without Derrick Rose (and they’ve been without him a lot!), they are a team that shows at times that they could really use him. Rose is back,but can he stay healthy? I find it hard to believe he can since he is this decade’s Grant Hill, but stranger things have happened. Pau Gasol came over from the Lakers to give Chicago some size up front with Joakim Noah. Add a pretty good bench to the mix and you have what I think is the East’s third best team. How well they do in the playoffs will be another story.
4. Toronto Raptors 52-30
The Raptors had a great turnaround season last year that ended with the Nets schooling them in the playoffs. Demar Derozan and his team will look to have much better success than last year. Kyle Lowry was re-signed to a multi-year deal in the offseason which solidifies the backcourt for the Raptors. Sure,putting them fourth is a bit of a risk, but in the East it doesn’t take much to be successful and competitive. Plus,they were the fifth seed last year.
5. Charlotte Hornets 49-33
The Bobcats are no more and the Hornets are back in Charlotte. They also had a breakthrough year last season and look to do more this season. In my view,this team could be a lot better than where I’ve placed them. They have exciting young stars in Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and veterans like Al Jefferson in the mix. They also drafted Noah Vonleh for some extra size and front court presence. He could only benefit from being part of a good young team.
Last season I didn’t think the Nets were going to be as good as everyone else thought. They had a lot of veterans on that team that were past their prime and had a coach who was inexperienced and in the end was wrong for that team. Sure,they have Deron Williams,Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, but they also have Kevin Garnett who should probably be retired at this point. Still,the Nets have enough to get them to the postseason and they have an even better coach with Lionel Hollins.
7. Miami Heat 48-34
LeBron James went back to Cleveland and replacing him is Luol Deng. The Heat still have two of the big three from that era,but are they going to still be as good? That’s a great question to ask because nobody is really sure. If I’m guessing a bit here,I think they will be competitive,but not like they were when James was there. I also think the bench isn’t as good,but with Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts coming over,it has improved. They also drafted Shabazz Napier who I think will be pretty good.
Atlanta was a playoff team last season and nearly knocked off the Pacers in the first round, but that was last season. This year the Hawks will get Al Horford back after missing most of last year due to injury. Paul Millsap looks to continue his All-Star caliber play with a pretty decent supporting cast around to improve on last year’s 38-win record. Plus,the Pac-Man logo is back! You gotta love that!
9. Detroit Pistons 41-41
We’ve been waiting for the Pistons to get better for a long time now. Last year I thought with Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith coming over to join Andre Drummong and Greg Monroe that they’d be back in the playoffs,but that was a season where everything that could fo wrong did. Stan Van Gundy is the new coach and I think he will get this team to play better. It’s not going to be easy,but I think with the talent this team has they can improve on a bad 29-win season. They might even reach the playoffs.
10. Indiana Pacers 39-43
Whoa, so that’s where the Pacers went? Yep. It is!
Paul George is more than likely going to miss most,if not all of this season and while there are a lot of exceptional players on the rest of the team,I think the Pacers are going to miss him. I could be wrong, they could very well be as good or good enough without him and be in the playoffs like every other year,but that remains to be seen.
The Knicks still have Carmelo Anthony and that’s pretty much it. I think the supporting cast around him has room for improvement. I do like Jose Calderon joining them and he will provide great backcourt presence, but they don’t have much else going for them. This is going to be a rebuilding year for them.
The Celtics did not have a great year last year. After only wwinning 25 games, this young Boston squad looks to improve on that. I think acquiring Evan Turner in the offseason will help them,as will getting James Young and Marcus Smart in the draft. The big question is whether or not Rajon Rondo will be moved at some point this season. Only time will tell.
The Bucks were awful last year, there’s no sugar coating that. This was not a roster that had any real winning pedigree, but help has arrived in the form of Jabari Parker. I think he will be a great new presence for the Bucks,who have a young team who is gearing to get better and will try and make some noise along the way.
Orlando is only two seasons removed from the Dwight Howard era, but the rebuilding continues. They do have some exciting players in Victor Oladipo and rookie Aaron Gordon who I think will be the future of the Magic. They’re still young,but might be a fun team to watch in the time to come.
The 76ers are not winning for right now,they’ve let everyone know it,too. Last year they dealt Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel, who will start his rookie year this year instead of last year. Then in this year’s draft they select Joel Embiid who was injured before the NBA Draft and may not play this coming season. Also,the Sixers have a D-League roster and a ton of draft picks next year. So don’t look for them to make much noise this year, with the exception of Michael Carter-Williams,he’s pretty good.
San Antonio over Phoenix
L.A. Clippers over Portland
Oklahoma City over Memphis
Houston over Golden State
Cleveland over Atlanta
Washington over Miami
Brooklyn over Chicago
Charlotte over Toronto
San Antonio over Houston
L.A. Clippers over Oklahoma City
Cleveland over Brooklyn
Washington over Charlotte
Western Conference Finals
San Antonio over L.A. Clippers
Eastern Conference Finals
Cleveland over Washington
Cleveland over San Antonio