The NBA season is right around the corner, starting off with the Knicks v.s Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Per usual the Cleveland Cavaliers are of course the favorites to come out the conference for the 3rd year in a row. The Cavaliers lost key players when Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova, but were order to retain indispensable players LeBron James as well as J.R. Smith As for the rest of the Conference there was major losses and additions across the board. We saw longtime franchise stars like Dwyane Wade and Al Horford leaving for the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics respectively. With the sudden influx of money players like Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, and Andre Drummond benefitted the most and signed big money contracts to stay with their franchises. After preseason study and research it’s time to roll the red carpet for my predictions for this new NBA season.
The Playoff Teams:
- Cleveland Cavaliers:
After a long and needed offseason the reigning NBA champions haven’t changed much. They offset the losses of Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov by adding Kay Felder in the draft and signing Chris “Birdman” Anderson as well as Mike Dunleavey to add perimeter shooting. Resigning LeBron James, J.R. Smith, and Richard Jefferson was of course the main and completed priority. With their same starting 5 and an improved supporting cast the Cavs will look to run the table once again and return to the NBA Finals. w
2. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are coming off a franchise best season and didn’t lose a lot of production when playoff darling Bismack Biyombo left for the Orlando Magic in free agency. Dwane Casey will continue to lean on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as well as giving an eager Jonas Valanciunas plenty of touches in the paint as an underrated third scoring option. Along with a improved bench and shooting the Raptors are being slept on as one of the better and balanced in the NBA. Look for the franchise north of the border to repeat or improve on last seasons success.
3. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics had an interesting offseason. Despite losing Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger in the offseason, and not being able to capitalize on their plethora of draft picks, they were still able to sign All-Star big man Al Horford and get thrust into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Add Brad Stevens with the developing youth and veteran leadership this proud franchise has signed over the past couple offseasons and this is a team with the potential to be Top 10 defense and offense this season.
4. Indiana Pacers
This is officially Paul George’s team. Larry Bird has signed and traded for players that will help this offense into the modern era. Instead of George Hill and Lance Stephenson, the backcourt is occupied by Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis. Myles Turner has replaced Roy Hibbert at the center. And while Paul George has kept his spot at small forward, the power forward spot is now owned by Thaddeus Young. Gone are the gritty and defensive teams from the Conference Finals teams. Team President Larry Bird has gifted Paul George the talent that best suits his unique skill set, what happens next is up to Paul George.
5. Miami Heat
Gone are Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic usher in a new era for this Heat franchise. The biggest x-factor for this team will be who fills in at the small forward and shooting guard spot. Dion Waiters was signed in Wayne Ellington, along with Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson should make for an interesting rotation at the 2-gaurd spot. At the small forward Heat fans will be waiting to see how much Justise Winslow has improved over the summer. If he can find his 3 point stroke and continue to play strong defense then he has potential to be one of the stronger 3-D wings in the league. Hassan Whiteside finally his contract and from what Heat fans have seen from him so far in preseason action he has improved his post offense and has quit hunting blocked shots so often, instead choosing to alter shots or force contested layups.
6. Detroit Pistons
Like Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond got his big contract this past offseason, and the Detroit Pistons along with their infusion of young talent have the potential to do some damage during the regular season and playoffs. The Pistons will have Tobias Harris who has always been a strong scorer at the small forward spot. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to take another step forward in his progression as a 3-D wing. Stanley Johnson will also be expected to take another step and expand his skill set after a good rookie season. The main thing to watch will be how Reggie Jackson performs when he comes back from his knee injury. Last season he found his niche as a pick and roll maestro and picked his spots well as a scorer. At this point we know what we will get out of the face of the franchise in Drummond. Defense, and plenty of buckets out of the pick and roll. This seasons success hangs on how he lives up to his massive contract and if has solved his free throw woes.
7. Washington Wizards
Last season was filled with mediocrity and frequent for the Wizards. A season filled with hope after coming just a millisecond away from forcing a Game 7 was wasted due to bad luck and even worse coaching. During the offseason, NeNe walked away, but the Wizards added Andrew Nicholson, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith, and traded for Trey Burke. They also brought Tomas Satoransky stateside, and someone who jumps out the gym and should be a terror in transition with John Wall. After an offseason where dissent was rumoured between Bradley Beal and John Wall, these backcourt partners must lead this team to the playoffs success in order to alleviate any imagined beef between the two. If the two most important players for this franchise are unable to harmonize the Wizards must consider blowing the team up.
8. Chicago Bulls
This has got to be the one the oddly put-together teams in the League today. The original plan was to allow the team to rebuild around Jimmy Butler and surround him with the right talent. Instead they signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls won’t have to much shooting on the court. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic are expected to be rotation guys and Mike Dunleavy is no longer around to help spread the court. Taj Gibson may even be on his way out the door. If this team makes the playoffs it will be a miracle with their strange team but anything
Just Missed the Cut
New York Knicks
The Knicks added some pieces in Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, and Brandon Jennings. It’s going to be interesting to see how they mesh with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. The big if is the health of Rose and Noah. Last season Rose did play 66 games and (knock on wood) his health seems to be trending in the right direction. On the other spectrum Noah seems like a shell of his fiery self, perhaps a product of the heavy minutes he played under former coach Tom Thibodeau. Phil Jackson is stuck in his ways with the Triangle offense and it’s unlikely that he won’t butt his head and try to force Jeff Hornacek to run his antique offense. It’s easier to see this team underachieving and just winning 40 games.
Kemba Walker had a career year last season. He finally discovered his shooting stroke, and he had a supporting cast that fit his game. Nicolas Batum was the perfect fit next to him as another playmaker and ball handler. Al Jefferson was the big man down low that could take the scoring load is Walker was off. And a collection of wing players like Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, and PJ Hairston filled in to replace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after he went down with an injury just 7 games into the season. Jeremy Lin played a great role as 6th man off the bench and did a great job running the offense with the rest of the Hornets bench players. Unfortunately they lost Lee, Lin, and Jefferson and it will be hard to replace their production. The playoffs may be a taller task than they anticipate.
Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard will make for one of the most dangerous pick and roll duos in the NBA, but how long will it take till Howard starts demanding for his touches in the post instead of running the play that is guaranteed success when he runs it successfully. This team has enough talent, athleticism, and shooting but the ability of Schroder to scale back turnovers and his erratic shooting and the drama that comes with Dwight Howard playing for you may set this team back an unexpected step.
Do you even have to ask?
Plenty of length and defense but what about shooting? What do we expect out of the Giannis Antetokounmpo in his first full season as the starting point guard. Can Jabari Parker live up to his potential as a scorer extraordinaire? Can Khris Middleton come back from his injury and torch the nets as the Bucks sharpshooter? As of right now there’s just too many questions and not enough answers.
They shot themselves in the foot trading away all their draft picks in earlier offseason. At least they’ll be watchable. Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should make an interesting trio.
Should make for a fun team to watch for transition buckets, Aaron Gordon will be lighting up rims with his thunderous dunks and that should be about the only bright spot for this franchise.