UA-59049186-1 NBA Regular Season Preview - Good if it Goes

NBA Regular Season Preview

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Western_Conference_(NBA)_logo

Predicted Standings:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Memphis Grizzlies
  4. Los Angles Clippers
  5. Utah Jazz
  6. Portland Trail Blazers
  7. Oklahoma City Thunder
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves
  9. Houston Rockets
  10. New Orleans Pelicans
  11. Denver Nuggets
  12. Dallas Mavericks
  13. Los Angles Lakers
  14. Phoenix Suns
  15. Sacramento Kings

Breakdown

The NBA Western Conference is a done deal as far as I’m concerned. The Golden State Warriors, barring catastrophic injury, are going to have the best record and finish as the 1 seed in the West. They won 73 games and then added Kevin Durant to the mix. What else is there to talk about? I think the Spurs finishing 2nd is also a done deal. Things are going to get very interesting after that. I think the West has 12 teams that have a shot to make the playoffs. Pretty much everyone in the projected standings from the Mavericks up has a shot. Outside of the Jazz, I don’t think there’s really anything to discuss or debate as it relates to the top 6 teams I have. As for the Jazz, expect them to be in the 50 win range and a top 5 seed out west. That team is absolutely loaded. They may just have the deepest bench in basketball and on top of it, the starting 5 is really good too. It’s not a sexy team to talk about because A. they play in Utah and B. they don’t have a superstar, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the Jazz aren’t going to give teams hell this year. The toughest thing for me was predicting who would get those final two spots. I think the Thunder are going to get in despite being a highly flawed team. That’s in large part due to Russell Westbrook playing with a major chip on his shoulder this season after being spurned by Kevin Durant. I think the Timberwolves break through this year and get that final playoff spot out west. I think Karl Anthony-Towns is on the verge of super-stardom and Andrew Wiggins is on the verge of being an all-star. Rubio is starting to shoot the ball from the outside better as a set shooter and the addition of Kris Dunn, who could be the rookie of the year, is going to be huge for them.

The Rockets, Pelicans, and Nuggets will all be in the race but I think they all come up short. I expect the Rockets to be offensive juggernauts that can score at will but with new head coach Mike D’Antoni at the helm it’s expected they’ll play even less defense than last year. The Pelicans have Anthony Davis but he’s not going to play the entire year without getting hurt and neither will Jrue Holiday and even if they did I just don’t think the supporting cast is good enough to finish top 8 in the west. The Nuggets are improving as an all-around team but I still don’t think Mudiay is ready yet and I don’t trust them defensively. I give Dallas an outside shot to sneak in because they have Rick Carlise at head coach but even he can’t stop father time from taking out Dirk nor can he fix what might be the worst PG situation in the NBA. But IF Dirk can fight off father time one more year and Harrison Barnes has some sort of breakout year then the Mavs could shock us all. There are no sequences of events where I can see the Suns, Lakers, or Kings making the playoffs. But I must say the Lakers fans will have a lot to cheer about as D’Angelo Russell comes into his own. He’s looking like a star in the making based on his summer league and preseason play.

Eastern_Conference_(NBA)

Predicted Standings:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Milwaukee Bucks
  7. Charlotte Hornets
  8. Chicago Bulls
  9. Detroit Pistons
  10. Orlando Magic
  11. Washington Wizards
  12.  New York Knicks
  13. Miami Heat
  14. Philadelphia 76ers
  15. Brooklyn Nets

 

Breakdown

The West might be a forgone conclusion for the first time in years, but for the East, it’s going to be pretty predictable for yet another year. The team with LeBron James wins- it’s as simple as that. LeBron is probably gonna coast and put up a ho hum 25, 7 and 7 leading the Cavs to the 1 seed. How it shakes out 2-5 is going to be really interesting to me. I like the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics, and the Hawks could sneak into the mix as well as they always do well in the regular season. Ultimately, I give the edge to the Pacers. Of all those 4 teams, they have the best overall player on either team in Paul George, who may be an MVP candidate this season. They also added Al Jefferson and Myles Turner is going to be a star in this league one day. The Celtics added a huge piece in Al Horford that I think ultimately will help propel the Celtics to 2nd in the East. They’re going to be an elite defense again this season and I think Horford will help them improve a lot on offense. The Raptors lost some key bench guys and I think they’ll fall back a little this season compared to what they did in the regular season a year ago. But I also think a full year of a healthy DeMarre Carroll will pay dividends for this team. The Hawks adding Dwight Howard is very intriguing but the bench took a hit with Teague being traded and Schroeder going into the starting lineup. I think Dwight makes the Hawks a better team defensively and on the boards but offensively they may see some slippage with his inability to help space the floor or make free throws. The only reason I don’t have the Bucks in that conversation is because they’ll be without their second-best player Kris Middleton for most of the season. Even without him, there’s still plenty of talent left on the roster for the Bucks to be a playoffs team. A lot of people are down on the Hornets but not me. They lost Jefferson but when he was out of the lineup a year ago the team was still able to win games and now they should have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for more than 7 games this year. Gilchrist could be due for a breakout season with reports of him improving as a shooter. I also love their young front courts guys in Cody Zeller and Frank Kamisky along with veteran Marvin Williams. The 8th spot was tough to pick. You can make a compelling case for the Bulls, Pistons, or Magic and even the Wizards if you think the chemistry will be there or the Knicks if you think they’ll stay healthy and can survive having a mediocre bench. But ultimately I think the Bulls get in. I don’t love the potential spacing issues with Rondo, Wade, and Butler all playing on the perimeter together but I think the Bulls have just enough good players to overtake the Pistons.

The Pistons made the playoffs last year and will be in position to do so again this year. However, I’m just not a fan of the Pistons bench. I’m also not a fan of a Harris/Morris duo at the forward spots defensively even though it really works offensively. If Jackson can improve as a defender and Caldwell-Pope can improve offensively then perhaps I’ll be wrong. Don’t sleep on the Magic either. I don’t think they’re quite ready to make the playoffs yet. I’m not a fan of Elfrid Payton at all as a starting PG, but everything around him looks good. Fournier can make shots from everywhere and Gordon is an athletic freak that can really defend and is improving on offense. The additions of Ibaka and Biyombo are going to be huge for this team as well. But at the end of the day, I just don’t see 1 player that they can consistently rely on for offense. I don’t trust the Wizards at all. The talent is there in the starting 5 especially if Otto Porter has a breakout year but this just seems to be a team that suffers from coaching and chemistry issues. You can believe in the Knicks if you want to, but I’m not buying it. There’s no way that team stays healthy and even if they do, the bench is thin and lacks firepower and there are just too many question marks overall with this group. The most intriguing angle to look at with the Knicks is whether or not Porzingas overtakes Melo as the Knicks best player. Miami has no shot to make the playoffs but they’re an intriguing team to keep an eye on too me. Hassan Whiteside looks like he’s probably going to have the typical monster statistical year on a bad team. Without Wade or Bosh though, this team just won’t have enough to win many games. The Sixers are a tough nut to crack. I don’t really know what to make of them and with Ben Simmons now hurt it’s even harder to figure them out. But even with all the questions, they’re still going to be better than the Nets, who are easily the worst roster on paper in the league. But hey, it’ll be exciting watching Lopez and Kilpatrick get buckets in defeat.

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Playoff Predictions

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If the bracket ends up shaping out this way, the 1st round will be pretty straight forward outside of the 4/5 matchups. The Warriors, Spurs and Griz should all handle business in 6 or less but I think that Jazz/Clippers series could go 7 and get really dicey for the Clippers. On the other side, I think Cleveland and Boston should make it through fairly easily. However, I could see Indy and Toronto really being taken to task, especially the Pacers. With Middleton hopefully back by then, the Bucks could be dangerous, but typically players missing a big chunk of the season and then coming back near the end doesn’t work out that well, and I don’t think it would here either so I think the Pacers would survive. The Hawks are a good, well-coached team but the playoffs aren’t where they shine and adding Dwight Howard certainly isn’t going to fix that. In the 2nd round, I think the the top 2 seeds in the West both win their series in 5. The Clippers don’t have anything for the Warriors and the Spurs have routinely owned Memphis over the years, with the one exception being the year Ginobili had 1 arm and Randolph got crazy hot in the playoffs. On the East side, we saw last year the Raptors can’t win a game in Cleveland and as long as that’s the case they don’t have a chance. But I do think they could win two games in Toronto again. The Pacers/Celtics series should end up being the best series of the playoffs up to this point. I think it goes 7 and ultimately, I give the edge to Paul George coming up big in a game 7 in Boston to get back to the ECF. The Western Conference Finals this year are going to be as bad as we’ve seen since the Spurs swept the Grizz a few years ago. The Spurs will likely win 1 game, but that’s about it. With the strength of their team being two big men they just aren’t equipped to take on the Warriors. Paul George and his Pacers (albeit with a completely different supporting cast and coach) have made things tough on LeBron in past playoff series back when he was with the Heat and if the two squads meet up again, I think they could make it a very interesting 6-game series. But ultimately, too much LeBron James would be the difference. It all adds up to a NBA Finals rubber match between the Cavs and Warriors.

It’s weird, because I can make the case that the winner of the past two finals really should have lost. Yeah the end result still ends up both the Cavs and Warriors 1-1, but Cleveland should’ve won in 2015 and the Warriors should’ve won last year. But enough of the coulda, woulda, shoulda. We know what happened then [Editor’s note – Kevin: The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.] let’s talk about what’s going to happen when these two teams meet in the NBA Finals for the 3rd consecutive time. I think once again, the Warriors will come in with home court advantage and be favored to win the series after another stellar regular season performance. As much respect as I have for LeBron James, he’s simply facing tremendous odds here. The Warriors will most likely be heavily favored to win this series and they should be. It took everything the Cavs had and then some to beat the Warriors last year on top of Curry not being 100%, Igoudala getting hurt, Bogut getting hurt, and Draymond Green getting suspended. Make no mistake about it, i’ll be rooting harder than any non Cavs fan for the Warriors to lose but I’m just no sure they can beat this juggernaut of a team. LeBron James is so great that even outnumbered (in terms of stars on each team) he’ll still force this to go the distance and hopefully we’ll get a legendary game 7 in which Stephen Curry finally erases his finals demons and plays well and ultimately wins Finals MVP.

Award Predictions

NBA All-Star Teams:

West Starters:

G. Stephen Curry

G. Russell Westbrook

F. Kevin Durant

F. Kawhi Leonard

F. Anthony Davis

West Bench:

G. Chris Paul

G. Klay Thompson

F. Draymond Green

F. Blake Griffin

F. Marc Gasol

F. Demarcus Cousins

G. Damian Lillard

East Starters

G. John Wall

G. Kyrie Irving

F. Lebron James

F. Carmelo Anthony

F. Paul George

East Bench

G. Kyle Lowery

G. DeMar DeRozan

F. Giannis Antetokounmpo

F. Paul Millsap

F. Al Horford

F. Andre Drummond

G. Kemba Walker

Individual Awards

MVP: Kawhi Leonard

DPOY: Kawhi Leonard

ROY: Kris Dunn

COY: Steve Clifford

6MOY: Al Jefferson

MIP: D’Angleo Russell

All-NBA Teams

1st Team

G. Stephen Curry

G. Russell Westbrook

F. Kawhi Leonard

F. Lebron James

C. Marc Gasol

2nd Team

G. Chris Paul

G. James Harden

F. Kevin Durant

F. Paul George

C. Demarcus Cousins

3rd Team

G. Kyrie Irving

G. Klay Thompson

F. Blake Griffin

F. Draymond Green

C. Al Horford

All Defensive Teams

1st Team

G. Chris Paul

G. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

F. Kawhi Leonard

F. Draymond Green

C. Deandre Jordan

2nd Team

G. Marcus Smart

G. Danny Green

F. Paul George

F. Paul Millsap

C. Rudy Gobert

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