Saturday, October 29, 2016
With the NBA regular season already underway, it's time for me to do my season preview. Rather than going division by division in separate articles, I will go through a rapid preview of all 30 teams by division. Enjoy!
Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics are coming off a 48-34 season in which they made the Eastern Conference Playoffs before losing to the 4th seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round. The Celtics should look to have an even better 2016-17 campaign with the additions of Al Horford and #3 overall pick Jaylen Brown. If this team stays healthy, look out.
Toronto Raptors: The Raptors are coming off a 56-26 season in which they finished second in the Eastern Conference, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors are a very dangerous team and appeared to have a breakthrough season in 2015-16. In the 2016-17 season, look for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to play with more confidence in the post season and give the Cavaliers a real run for their money.
New York Knicks: The additions of Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are nice and Kristaps Porzingis has a year under his belt. Expect the Knicks to exceed their win total of 32 from last season and find their way into the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony finally has a respectable supporting cast around him and a quality head coach in Jeff Hornacek.
Brooklyn Nets: This team is led by Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin, and Luis Scola. Very odd trio. I don't know what to expect from this Nets team, but this is definitely not a team equipped to make the playoffs.
Philadelphia 76ers: With Joel Embiid finally healthy, 76ers fans thought they were in for an exciting season. But then, Ben Simmons went down with a foot injury that will keep him out through January. The 76ers will struggle, but if Simmons can remain injury free once he comes back, the 76ers should start to see some bright light in what has been a very dark and gloomy cave for them.
Atlanta Hawks: The Atlanta Hawks project to be one of the most dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference with the addition of Dwight Howard to a lineup that already includes Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Dennis Schröder. The big question for the Hawks is whether or not the addition of Dwight Howard outweighs the loss of Al Horford to the Celtics. I personally think that Dwight Howard will be a good fit in Atlanta, giving them better rim protection than they had with Al Horford.
Washington Wizards: The John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt will prove to be very dangerous provided both guys can stay healthy. The Wizards have tons of upside. It's just matter of avoiding injuries and getting some of their role players to step it up. Definitely expect the Wizards to return to the playoffs after missing the playoffs last year with a 41-41 record.
Miami Heat: With Chris Bosh uncertain to play again and Dwyane Wade in Chicago, it really is a new era in Miami with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic as the faces of the franchise. The Heat should prove to be a very competitive team that threatens to make the playoffs. The combination of front court play with Whiteside and back court play with Dragic makes them a tough match up for anybody.
Charlotte Hornets: The Charlotte Hornets are very strange team. Kemba Walker leads the charge, but with Al Jefferson departed for Indiana, I can't help but feel like this team has taken a step back. It'll be interesting to see how this team does in 2016-17 with some new faces like Roy Hibbert and Marco Belinelli.
Orlando Magic: The additions of Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green are nice, but the loss of Victor Oladipo (trade with Thunder for Ibaka) is also significant. The Magic traded one of the best young guards in the NBA for one of the best two-way forwards in the NBA. Trading Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka could prove to be a beneficial trade for the Magic, but this is still a young team that is at least a couple of seasons away from making serious noise in the NBA playoffs.
Cleveland Cavaliers: With LeBron James at the helm, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear favorites to win the Eastern Conference title. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith proved to be a championship caliber supporting cast around LeBron James and there is no reason to not think they'll be back in the NBA Finals again.
Chicago Bulls: I'm a big believer in these Chicago Bulls with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler as the one-two punch. The addition of Rajon Rondo could bring mixed results, but overall, expect the Bulls to compete with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown.
Indiana Pacers: Al Jefferson could prove to be a very solid acquisition by the Pacers. A trio of Paul George, Monta Ellis, and Al Jefferson looks really good on paper and should prove to make the Pacers a very relevant team in the 2016-17 season.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks put all of their chips in on Giannis Antetokounmpo when they signed him to a four-year, $100M contract extension. I expect him to be worth the money. Look for the Bucks to have an improved season and make a push for the playoffs in the process.
Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Reggie Jackson is a very nice trio, but are they a good enough trio to get the Pistons back into the playoffs? We'll have to see.
San Antonio Spurs: It's truly a new era in San Antonio without Tim Duncan. The Kawhi Leonard era has officially been ushered in and it is now HIS team. Look for the Spurs to make a deep run in the playoffs and prove to be the toughest opponent for the Warriors all season with their trio of Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Their 129-100 win in Oakland on Tuesday certainly proved this.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies are all in on Mike Conley, Jr. after signing him to the richest contract in NBA history. While I wouldn't consider the Grizzlies a contender in the Western Conference, like every season in recent memory, the Grizzlies will be very dangerous and not be an easy out for anybody in the playoffs.
Dallas Mavericks: The additions of Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes (both with the Warriors last season) should prove to be very nice for the Mavericks. Bogut will give the Mavericks sound rim protection and Barnes will give them an athletic forward that can attack the basket. With Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, and Wesley Matthews still on board, these Mavericks should be a competitive team. I don't see them winning a playoff series, but they'll be a playoff team for sure.
Houston Rockets: With Dwight Howard gone, this is the now the James Harden show. Whether that will yield more fruit we'll have to wait and see.
New Orleans Pelicans: This team better start making serious strides if they want to hang on to Anthony Davis past his current contract. The supporting cast could be there in Lance Stephenson, Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway. Time will tell us if it is.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Losing Kevin Durant is definitely a blow, but now it can be the Russell Westbrook show. Trading Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis was a gutsy move, but I think it will pay off. The Thunder get a quality back court mate for Russell Westbrook and a promising young front court player. The Thunder will be the kings of the Northwest Division again and prove to be a very tough out in the playoffs. Don't rule these guys out. They'll once again be a very competitive team.
Utah Jazz: Lots of people are expecting the Utah Jazz to have a breakout season. They have a very talented roster with Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, and Alec Burks. My only concern with this team is that a lot may be expected of them too soon. I expect the Jazz to make the playoffs and threaten to win a series. But as for this talk of them being a team capable of reaching the Western Conference Finals, that's just silly. They're not there yet.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Allen Crabbe make for a very nice trio up in Rip City. The Trail Blazers didn't appear to miss LaMarcus Aldridge too much when he departed for the Spurs and I see no reason for things to be any different this season. The Trail Blazers should prove to be a playoff team again and make things difficult for whoever they face in the first round.
Minnesota Timberwolves: I don't know if this team has what it takes to make the playoffs this season, but the future is very bright with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns as their foundation. Kris Dunn should prove to be a very good rookie this year, too. The Timberwolves are building something good. It'll just take a little bit of time before we start to see the finished product.
Denver Nuggets: The big question the Denver Nuggets need to answer is whether or not they see Kenneth Faried as a permanent piece for the future. I don't see why not, but if Nikola Jokic and Juruf Nurkic live up to their billing, maybe trading away Kenneth Faried isn't such a bad idea.
Golden State Warriors: By signing Kevin Durant in free agency, the Golden State Warriors have put all the pressure on themselves to win the 2016-17 NBA title. This team is coming off of an historic 73-9 win season and they added one of the greatest pure scorers in NBA history in the off season. If the Warriors don't win the championship this season, it'll be a major disappointment. The only reason to think they won't win it all is if you argue that the loss of Bogut's rim protection will prove to be too great of a hurdle to overcome. It very well might, but even so, a lineup consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant is just too scary to not make the Warriors the favorites to win the NBA title.
Los Angeles Clippers: The Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan trio will make the Clippers a dangerous team, but they are more or less remaining the same team as last season. I have no reason to think they'll be any better than last season, which is a team that makes the playoffs and loses in the first round.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings have a new logo and a new arena. But, they still have a disgruntled DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay to worry about. What gives me hope for a better season in Sacramento is the decision to hire Dave Joerger, who did a fantastic job in Memphis. The George Karl experiment was doomed for failure from day one.
Phoenix Suns: What the Phoenix Suns should be getting excited about is the possibility of a breakout season for Devin Booker. If Devin Booker really steps up his game, the Suns could be a decent team with Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe rounding out the back court rotation. The Suns won't be a playoff team, but they could be one of the most improved teams in the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers: With Kobe Bryant retired, the Lakers can finally turn the page and start a new chapter of their history. The problem is I don't think this new chapter will be a pretty one. Brandon Ingram should be in the running for rookie of the year, but beyond that, there isn't much for Lakers fans to be pumped about.