T.J. the Sports Geek’s 2018 NBA Season Preview

NBAPreview18

Hello and welcome to my annual NBA Season Preview. I know the season doesn’t start for another two weeks or so,but I am preparing to go on vacation so it was time to get this out before I headed off. In this preview I will detail how well each of the 30 teams will do,a playoff and Finals preview and predictions for who will win the Finals. Let’s begin!

NBAWest

WarriorsAlt1. Golden State (60-22)

Last year the Warriors won the championship yet again and this season they,along with the bandwagon of fans,are thinking about a three-peat. Stephen Curry,Kevin Durant,Klay Thompson,and Draymond Green return to the starting lineup and they’ve added another All-Star to that group in DeMarcus Cousins on a one-year deal. Cousins will be on the injured list to start the year,but should be back midseason to give Golden State a boost. Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston,Jordan Bell,and Quinn Cook headline a deep bench. Not as deep as years past,but still a very good one. Honestly,until someone knocks them off in the Western Conference, this is theirs to lose and it’s not hard to see why.

Rockets2. Houston (55-27)

The Rockets came within a game of knocking off the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. This year they’re hoping they can try again to knock them off and make their first Finals since 1995. James Harden and Chris Paul will lead the way yet again for Houston with Clint Capela returning and Carmelo Anthony coming over from Atlanta by way of Oklahoma City. Gerald Green hopes to have as good of a season as he had last year off the bench along with veterans Michael Carter-Williams,Nene,P.J. Tucker,and Marquese Chriss,who hopes to have a fresh start in Houston after underperfoming his first two seasons in Phoenix. It’s a much different looking Rockets team and I think they’ll be pretty good,but not as mighty as the Warriors are and have been for so long.

Jazz3. Utah  (52-30)

Last season the Jazz dashed to the second round of the playoffs,but lost at the hands of the Rockets in six games. This year they are setting their sights on getting even further. Leading the way is Donovan Mitchell,one of the most exciting rookies from last year,who is quickly putting this team on his back along with Rudy Gobert,Derrick Favors,and Ricky Rubio. Jae Crowder comes over from Cleveland to provide great size and scoring in the frontcourt. The bench with Dante Exum,Thabo Sefolosha,Ekpe Udoh,Will Barton and Alec Burks should be a productive one for Utah and Grayson Allen,the team’s first round pick this year should provide a spark when he’s needed the most. I think the Jazz will only get better with Mitchell leading the way and could be a darkhorse pick to get to the Western Conference Finals.

NuggetsAlternate4. Denver  (48-34)

Last season the Nuggets were one game away from making the playoffs,missing out on the final day of the regular season. This season, I think they make it with being a year more experienced and a few teams in the West falling off a little. Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray,and Paul Millsap look to lead Denver on a deep playoff run. Isaiah Thomas comes over to give the backcourt some much needed help and Juan Hernangomez provides great size in the frontcourt. Gary Harris, Tyler Lydon,and Jarrid Vanderbilt highlight a versatile Nuggets bench and it may be a matter of time until top pick Michael Porter Jr. joins the team. I think Denver has a great chance to make the postseason and could even win a series if every key player is healthy.

LakersAlt5. L.A. Lakers (46-36)

LeBron James is now on the West Coast and has joined the franchise with 16* titles in the Lakers. Can he help make them not only a playoff team,but a team who can contend with the Warriors in the West? Some say it’s a longshot,but they do have one thing on their side: youth. With youngsters like Lonzo Ball,Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram the Lakers have talented pieces in place who will no doubt benefit from having one of the best to ever play the game on their team to learn from and grow. Also aboard are veterans Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee,Michael Beasley,and Rajon Rondo. Los Angeles’ good mix of youth and veterans definitely make them a playoff team. I don’t think as good as some people might think,but definitely a postseason squad nonetheless.

ThunderAlt6. Oklahoma City (46-36)

The Thunder reached the postseason last year only to have it end early yet again. Can Russell Westbrook and Paul George lead the way to better success in the playoffs? If they are to do so,they’ll have to be without one of their best defensive players in Andre Roberson who is dealing with setbacks with a knee injury and is expected to have a reevaluation in two months. Steven Adams will continue to anchor the frontcourt at center with Patrick Patterson and Nerlens Noel coming off the bench. Dennis Schroder comes over to help give a spark to the Oklahoma City backcourt. I think the Thunder will be a very good squad this year,but will need to make a move or two to be a real contender in the West.

BlazersAlt7. Portland  (44-38)

Last season the Trail Blazers finished in the third seed but fell in the first round to the Pelicans by way of a four game sweep. This year they will try and get back and go further in the postseason. Led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Portland boasts one of the youngest teams in the league with Jusuf Murkic,Maurice Harkless,and Al-Farouq Aminu slated to round out the starting lineup. However, with Ed Davis having left the team,it will be up to guys like Zach Collins and Chinanu Onuaku to step up and fill the void. Others who need to bring it coming off the bench include Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin IV, and rookie Gary Trent. There’s a lot the role players need to do to help Lillard and McCollum in order for this team to make the playoffs and with the Jimmy Butler situation up in the air in Minnesota,I think they have just enougn in them to get back.

PelicansAlt8. New Orleans  (42-40)

Last season the Pelicans made it to the second round of the playoffs without DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is now with the team they lost to in Golden State. Anthony Davis continues to be one of,if not,the best center in the league and he’ll lead a lineup with Jrue Holiday, E’ Twaun Moore (who I was very impressed with last season),and Julius Randle,who came over in free agency from Los Angeles to help fill the void left by Cousins. Also coming aboard is Jhalil Okafor who hopes to have a career resurgence in a pivotal role off the bench. Along with Ian Clark,Elfrid Payon,and Cheick Diallo,New Orleans should have a decent bench. I think the key to the Pels getting back to postseason play is the health of Davis and Randle. If they can stay healthy,they may be able to win even more than the 42 I have them winning here. We shall see.

SpursAlt9. San Antonio  (41-41)

This is something I thought I’d never to in an NBA Season Preview. Having the Spurs on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. Sadly,I see it happening. While Gregg Popovich is still one of the league’s best coaches,the lineup on his team is subpar. Kawhi Leonard is in Toronto now,leaving the team with LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol,Rudy Gay,and DeMar Derozan (who came over in the Leobard trade). Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker are both vying to become the team’s new starting point guard as Tony Parker is now in Charlotte. Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli hope to provide a spark off the bench along with Jakob Poltl. If San Antonio somehow finds themselves in the playoff picture and can make a move at the trade deadline,that’s how I see them back in there yet again. However,with the aging starting lineup and the talent they have now,the promise of that happening falls just short.

TWolvesAlt210. Minnesota (39-43)

Last season the Timberwolves ended their 14-year postseason drought,but fell to Houston in five games. Can they make it back? I don’t know. Why? Because Jimmy Butler. Butler is seeking a trade out of Minnesota and that,to me,puts their playoff chances in jeopardy. Sure,Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most talented centers in the NBA and Andrew Wiggins is also very productive and Jeff Teague is a very servicable point guard,but without Butler, this team doesn’t make the playoffs at all in my opinion. Sure,you can plug Luol Deng in there if Butler is shipped out,but Deng is up there in years and not the player he once was. I do like the addition of Anthony Tolliver. He is an excellent frontcourt mate off the bench who can knock down the three and give Taj Gibson a break when needed. I think a lot has to go right for the Wolves to get back and if Butler isn’t there,it isn’t happening.

MavsAlt11. Dallas  (36-46)

The Mavericks,for a while last season looked like one of the teams in the league trying their best to lose as much as possible and as a result finished with 24 wins. This year they are hoping that things turn around with their young team with rookie Luka Doncic coming aboard. The exciting young forward is looking to electrify a lineup with Dennis Smith,Jr., Wesley Matthews,Harrison Barnes,and DeAndre Jordan (who came over for real this time from the Clippers). Dirk Nowitzki is back for his 21st season in Dallas and at age 40 is still hoping he can contribute even off the bench. J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are establishment veterans who will continue their roles off the bench. Rookie Jalen Brunson hopes to provide a spark of his own as Smith’s potential backup. I think with Doncic as well as a lineup that can gel with him the Mavs will finish a lot better than last year,but aren’t quite a surprise playoff team just yet.

SacKingsAlt12. Sacramento  (32-50)

Here is my King of Wishful Thinking pick right here with my hometown team winning more than 30 games. Will it happen? Probably not. Can it happen? Why not? Anything’s possible,right?

This young squad,led by De’ Aaron Fox,has to make strides if they’re going to get this 32-win mark and that means a healthy Bogdan Bogdanovic,who should be back in the lineup before the season starts. Buddy Hield continues to impress with his great three-point shot and is quickly becoming a scoring threat from beyond the arc. Rookie Marvin Bagley III is hoping to have an impact for Sacramento and to show why he was taken second overall behind DeAndre Ayton as well as Harry Giles,who was drafted last year but didn’t play,is hoping to show off his talents. Yogi Farrell, Iman Shumpert,Frank Mason III,Skal Labissiere,and Nemanja Bjelica should round out the core of the bench. Justin Jackson needs to step his game up and prove that he was worth a first round pick last season. If all goes right and this team can make some improvements, they’ll win those 32 games and perhaps more.

GrizzliesAlt13. Memphis (31-51)

After years of being a playoff stalwart,the Grizzlies won only 22 games last season and drafted Jaren Jackson, Jr. with the fourth overall pick in June’s draft. He’ll be coming off the bench to sub into a Memphis lineup with Mike Conley,Marc Gasol,Kyle Anderson,Wayne Selden,and JaMychael Green. If Jackson starts off strong,I suspect he’ll crack the starting five soon enough. The rest of the Grizzlies bench has veterans such as Chandler Parsons, Garrett Temple,and Shelvin Mack. Dillon Brooks looks to build on a strong rookie campaign and Ivan Rabb hopes to be a major contributor in year two.

Overall this team is one that’s in transition and looking for an identity of their own and it’s probably going to take a year or two provided that guys like Conley and Gasol are around to see things turn around.

SunsAlternate14. Phoenix  (28-54)

The Suns won only 21 games last seson,netting them their first top pick in franchise history,Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton. He’ll join a Phoenix lineup with Devin Booker,Ryan Andersen,and T.J. Warren. Josh Jackson is slated to come off the bench with Warren having a good of a year as he had last year. Mikal Bridges,who was drafted by Philadelphia but traded to the Suns,will also hope to have an impact and will have veterans Trevor Ariza and Tyson Chandler to learn from. The Suns definitely have a lot of building to do and figuring out who their core is going forward. I think they’ll do that this year,but it’s a process.

ClippersAlt15. L.A.  Clippers (22-60)

After winning 42 games and just missing out on the postseason, the Clippers have some things to figure out. The team no longer has Blake Griffin,DeAndre Jordan,and Austin Rivers and the starting lineup is one that features a lot of role players who would come off the bench for other teams. Tobias Harris is probably their best player with Marcin Gortat and Danilo Gallinari in the Los Angeles frontcourt. Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley make up the starting backcourt. Lou Williams is a terrific spark plug off the bench,but if the Clippers are out of the playoff picture early he may be on the trade block to a contender. Same with Luc Mbah-a-Moute. I know this team is still coached by Doc Rivers, but this team on paper doesn’t look as good to me as it does others. I think it’s a year of transition for them where players will come and go and building for the future will be the route they go in come season’s end.

NBAEast

CelticsAlt1. Boston (58-24)

Last season the Celtics got to the conference finals and were one game away from heading to the Finals. With LeBron James out west,they hope to make the leap to the championship round. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are healthy and back in the starting lineup along with Jayson Tatum,Jaylen Brown,and Al Horford. Marcus Smart returns to Boston and will come off the bench with Semi Ojeleye,Marcus Morris,Terry Rozier,and Daniel Theis. With Irving and Hayward back,there’s no reason the Celtics can’t win 60 games,but I have them falling short at 58. Nonetheless, look for the Celtics to have a lot of luck this year.

76ersAlt2. Philadelphia (55-27)

Last season the 76ers got back to the playoffs after years of trusting the process. This year they hope to get even further with their star-studded line-up of reigning Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons,Joel Embiid,JJ Redick,Robert Covington,and Dario Saric. The bench gets further solidified with Wilson Chandler coming over from Denver, Markelle Fultz hopes to have a bounce back year after a paltry rookie campaign while T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson will be expected to contribute with limited minutes. I honestly see a lot of potential for Philadelphia to not only surpass where I have them placing here,but to get to the Finals. They’re that talented. If they do,I won’t be surprised,but right now I have them finishing where they did the year before.

RaptorsAlt23. Toronto (53-29)

The Raptors had a great year last year,but it ultimately ended in heartbreak and led to the firing of head coach Dwane Casey. They’re hoping to have things be different this year and I think the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio gives them an edge. But will they win the East? It remains to be seen. Leonard,along with Kyle Lowry,Serge Ibaka,Danny Green,and Jonas Valančiūnas are a pretty good starting lineup. CJ Miles and Greg Monroe are reliable veterans on the bench with youngsters Delon Wright,Pascal Siakam,and OG Anunoby. If there was a time for Toronto to make a run for the East crown,it’s now. Yes,Boston and Philadelphia are going to be tough to contend with,but if they can make a move at the deadline to give them an edge to maybe be legit title contenders.

PacersAlt4. Indiana (51-31)

The Pacers showed that they are still a playoff team and made it back last season with the strong play of Victor Oladipo being the strong point of the season. Can he repeat that performance? If he does,he’ll have a decent starting lineup with Darren Collison,Bojan Bogdanovic,Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner (who I think is getting better every year). Tyreke Evans,Doug “Dougie McBuckets” McDermott,and Domantas Sabonis headline a strong Indiana bench while youngsters T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu hope to have more of an impact in their second year. Aaron Holiday also hopes to have a great rookie campaign. The Pacers are looking pretty good and I think they’ll make a return trip to the playoffs and could go even further than last year where they almost beat a Finals-bound Cavaliers team.

BucksAlt25. Milwaukee (46-36)

The Bucks were upended by the Celtics in the playoffs last season and are hoping to fare better this year opening up their new arena,the Fiserv Forum. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the league and he’ll help lead his Milwaukee squad along with Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe,Khris Middleton,and Brook Lopez,who comes over from the Lakers to try and prove to their Eastern foes and the rest of the league that they’re capable of being better than they were in the past. Donte DiVincenzo,their top pick,is looking to make a splash in his rookie season with his dangerous range from beyond the arc. Tony Snell,Thon Maker,Matthew Dellavedova,and Ersan Ilyasova are among the notables on the bench for the Bucks. I think they are going to be better than last season and will have a higher seed,but are still a little far off from being title contenders.

Heat6. Miami (44-38)

The Heat had a very good campaign last year with a trip to the postseason that ended abruptly by the upstart 76ers. Can they do it again? They’ll be doing so with Dwyane Wade,who made his return to Miami at the trade deadline last season. Wade,along with Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside headline the starting lineup for Miami. Bam Adebayo along with Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk,and Wayne Ellington make up the core of the bench and will be expected to have a strong impact for the team this year. I think they’re definitely playoff bound in a weak conference,but will be lucky to be past the first round.

PistonsLogo7. Detroit (43-39)

The Pistons were on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs went and missed them for the eighth time in 10 seasons. Dwane Casey is now the head coach and the league’s Coach of the Year hopes to have his Pistons be a better team this year. Andre Drummond,Reggie Jackson,Reggie Bullock,Blake Griffin and Stanley Johnson are expected to answer the call in Casey’s starting lineup while their bench with notables like Ish Smith, Luke Kennard,Zaza Pachulia,and Glenn Robinson III are expected to make big contributions for Detroit. With a better coach in place I think the Pistons will be back in the playoffs and if a few pieces of luck go their way they could go even further.

WizardsAlt8. Washington (40-42)

The Wizards,much like the Bucks,are a team that should be a lot better than they are. Will they be better than the slot that I have them at here? That remains to be seen. John Wall,Otto Porter,Jr., and Bradley Beal are very good players in the backcourt and Markeiff Morris and new center Dwight Howard are very serviceable in the frontcourt. Even the bench has some stalwart players in Kelly Oubre,Austin Rivers,and Jeff Green. With players like this you would think that Washington would be in the top three in the East. However, past seasons have shown us that they are and have not lived up to their potential. Sure,there’s still a chance that we’re proven wrong and they do much better than eighth place,but that remains to be seen. Scott Brooks needs to get more out of his talented squad this year or he may be on the hot seat.

HornetsAlt9. Charlotte (38-44)

The Hornets were unable to get back to the postseason last year and now they’re wondering that if they don’t get back if Kemba Walker will leave. Walker,along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist,Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller will try and lead Charlotte back to the playoff picture. Tony Parker,the longtime San Antonio point guard, comes to Charlotte to help solidify the bench along with Jeremy Lamb,Frank Kaminsky,Malik Monk and Bismack Biyombo. Miles Bridges,their rookie first round draft pick ( via the L.A. Clippers) hopes to have a big impact in his first NBA season. With the conference not being as good as the West, there’s always a possibility that a team like Hornets can surprise people and be in the playoffs,but it’s going to take a lot for that to happen.

NetsAlternate10. Brooklyn (35-47)

The Nets are getting better and I think after their last season,a 28-win campaign,they will get to have a better season. I like their starting lineup headlined by D’Angelo Russell, Demarre Carroll,and Allen Crabbe. Brooklyn’s notable reserves include Kenneth Faried who came over from Denver, Jared Dudley who was traded by Phoenix,and Spencer Dinwiddie,who had a great season last year as did Joe Harris and Caris LeVert,both of whom are expected to be as productive this season. I can see Brooklyn finishing as high as ninth place this season,but that depends on how good New York and Charlotte are and if everyone stays healthy. I think they’re a few decent players away from a playoff berth at press time.

KNicksAlternate11. New York  (34-48)

The Knicks were expected to be a lot better than past years and maybe even make the postseason,but in the end won only 29 games and finished in 11th place. This year they’re hoping things will be different and that’ll depend on the status of Kristaps Porzingis who is recovering from an ACL injury that ended his 2017-18 campaign. At press time Enes Kanter is slated to start in his place. Mario Hezonja comes over from Orlando to give the Knicks not only much needed frontcourt help but also shooting from beyond the arc. Trey Burke,a late season addition, had a strong finish to the season and the starting point guard job is his to lose. Tim Hardaway Jr. hopes to build on a superb season last year while Kevin Knox hopes to have a shining rookie campaign. Reserves Noah Vonleh, Frank Ntilikina,and Emmanuel Mudiay hope to fare better this year,too. New York’s postseason hopes rest on whether or not Porzingis can come back swiftly. If he does,they have a shot. If he returns later rather than sooner, they don’t.

CavsAlternate12. Cleveland (31-51)

The return of LeBron James is over and now the Cavaliers have to move on without him yet again. Guys like George Hill,Rodney Hood,and Tristan Thompson will have to be relied upon by Kevin Love to get the team back to respectability as will reserves Jordan Clarkson,Kyle Korver,Larry Nance, Jr., and rookie Collin Sexton. This is a tall task for Cleveland,the winners of the last four conference championships. I think this is a time for the Cavs to find out what will and won’t work for them in the years to come and that key players like Love and Thompson may be traded at some point to contenders. I have them finishing 12th,but they won’t be as bad as LeBron left them last time. Oh,and JR Smith, maybe you should learn when your team has a lead.

Magic13. Orlando (29-53)

The Magic have been trying to rebuild since Dwight Howard left many moons ago. Will this year be any different? Hardly likely. But they’re going to try and gain some sort of traction with the pieces they have in place. Aaron Gordon is back after re-signing with the team on a long-term deal. He,along with Nikola Vucevic will headline a less than stellar starting lineup. Mo Bamba,the team’s top pick this year,hopes to crack that lineup and have a defensive presence felt throughout the league. Jonathan Isaac,Jerian Grant,and Terence Ross are among the notables on Orlando’s bench. I think it’s going to be another trying season for the Magic. There’s always next year,though!

Bulls14. Chicago (28-54)

The Bulls didn’t have the best season last season,but the future does look very bright. Lauri Markkanen had an impressive rookie season and is hoping to improve on that. He,along with Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine,who re-signed with Chicago in the offseason, hope to provide a spark in the starting lineup. Jabari Parker hopes to as well after coming over from Milwaukee and is hoping for a fresh start. Bobby Portis hopes to continue thriving off the bench following a breakout season and rookie Chandler Hutchison is looking to contribute in a big way for his first season. No,this isn’t a playoff team yet but this Bulls team may win some surprise games here and there this year to show the rest of the league that something good is brewing.

HawksAlt15. Atlanta (25-57)

The Hawks had a less than stellar season with a less than stellar lineup last year and as a result,they drafted Luka Doncic with the third pick and then traded it to Dallas for Trae Young,who was drafted fifth. Young joins a backcourt with Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince who headline the starting lineup. Alex Len comes over from Phoenix along with Jeremy Lin and Vince Carter to provide depth on the Atlanta bench consisting of Miles Plumlee,DeAndre’ Bembry,Tyler Dorsey,and rookie Kevin Huerter. I think the Hawks are still in rebuild mode after being a playoff mainstay for many years and that the playoffs are a few seasons away. If they can do me a favor,though,and ditch the puke green in their color scheme,that’d be awesome!

NBAPlayoffs

Opening Round

Western Conference

Golden State over New Orleans

Houston over Portland

Utah over Oklahoma City

L.A. Lakers over Denver

Eastern Conference

Boston over Washington

Philadelphia over Detroit

Toronto over Miami

Milwaukee over Indiana

Second Round

Western Conference

Golden State over L.A. Lakers

Utah over Houston

Eastern Conference

Boston over Milwaukee

Philadelphia over Toronto

Western Conference Finals

Golden State over Utah

Eastern Conference Finals

Philadelphia over Boston

NBA Finals

NBAFinalsPrediction19.png

Golden State over Philadelphia

Enjoy the season!

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