That Time of Season When Every Team Still Thinks They've Got a Shot
With the NBA Season set to start in just over a week, here are some quick thoughts on each team (in no particular order).
Detroit Pistons If anybody with the name Van Gundy is involved in your organization, you probably won’t go far. Add in the fact that their point guard, Reggie Jackson, doesn’t really want to be there, and Andre Drummond will most likely be at home watching the playoffs again.
Denver Nuggets Adding Paul Millsap will certainly help, and Jamal Murray looks like he could be due for a big year. Oh, and then there’s the Manimal and Nikola Jokic roaming the frontcourt. Denver could easily make the playoffs this year, although winning that division…
Philadelphia 76ers This team sucked last year. And they’ll probably suck this year. But now that Ben Simmons is healthy and they’ve drafted the slippery Markelle Fultz, the Sixers should improve to at least a 30 win team.
Phoenix Suns TJ Warren will be healthy this year (presumably), so expect him to take a much bigger role on a decimated roster. Alex Lin still isn’t at his ceiling, though he may never get there. And with trade rumors constantly swirling around Eric Bledsoe, one can’t expect him to play very well. At least they have Devin Booker…
Toronto Raptors Lowry and Derozan are back together for another year up North, and with Norman Powell blossoming into a fine two-way guard off the bench, plus the somewhat recently acquired Serge Ibaka, the Raptors should finish where they did last year and have a chance in the playoffs (to win some games at home).
Memphis Grizzlies Mike Conley is finally starting to take charge, similar to what Jeff Teague did in Indiana two years ago. Marc Gasol will continue to be an All-Star big man who knocks down threes and dances, but with Tony Allen and Vince Carter gone, their rough-and-tough era seems to have drawn to a close. On the plus side, they do have a handful of intriguing youngsters, like rookies Ivan Rabb and Dillon Brooks, as well as Wade Baldwin and James Ennis. Expect Memphis to finish close to what they did last year.
Washington Wizards They still haven’t made that big play to get a third star, but behind (or should I say in front of) the amazing backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, this team can still challenge some of the premiers in the league. Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat provide a solid frontcourt, but the Wiz still lack a legit 3 (Otto Porter doesn’t count), meaning they will be stuck in that good, not great range for another year.
Sacramento Kings Many thought the Kings won the draft, and it didn’t hurt that they snagged Vince Carter and George Hill in free agency. Because they only won 32 games last year, I wouldn’t get too hyped about their odds, but they certainly have improved in the Post-Boogie Era.
Milwaukee Bucks Yes, Malcolm Brogdon won Rookie of the Year. But did he really win it, or did the rest of the talented rookies lose it? Either way, Brogdon is a solid and mature all around player who will seemingly fit well alongside MVP-hopeful Giannis Antete … Antetukom … Antetekounmpo (third time’s the charm). Add in the incumbent Greg Monroe, scoring machine Khris Middleton, and a “healthy” Jabari Parker, and the Jason Kidd-led Bucks will look to challenge the top teams in the East this year.
San Antonio Spurs I would say they won’t be good, what with Kawhi Leonard out for now and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili nearing the end. Oh, I forgot to add they also lost their most promising player, Jonathan Simmons, to the Magic. But you can never doubt Gregg Popovich. He will find a way to guide this team to 55 wins (at least), though he may not find a way through that pesky maze known as the Playoffs…
Cleveland Cavaliers After being involved in the biggest trade of the offseason, many would say the Cavs are...the same. They still have an All-Star score-first point guard (whenever he comes back), and they’ve even added a better (and more mature) shooting guard PLUS a new 4 man. You’re normally in good shape when you have to bench two of your starters for better players after making it to the Finals. I wouldn’t be surprised (nor should any of you be) if we see a repeat Finals matchup this season.
Oklahoma City Thunder Coming in at second place for biggest trade(s), the Thunder have done a good job of giving their MVP point guard Russell Westbrook some new toys to play with. As I mentioned in one of my recent posts, this team is built like the Cavs of years past, leading one to believe they may have similar success (though possibly on a lighter scale).
Chicago Bulls And rounding out the top three of trades is the Bulls (yes I feel the Thunder deals for Anthony and George were more significant than the deal for Butler because there were two of them). In return, the Bulls did net Lauri Markkanen (a Porzingod lookalike), Kris Dunn, (a high ceiling low bottom point guard), and Zach Lavine, winner of the dunk contest (what else do you need to know). Besides those players, the Bulls also got Cameron Payne from the Thunder, leaving them with a backcourt similar to that of the 2015 Suns. Left with basically Nikola Mirotic and Robin Lopez after D Wade and Rondo left, don’t expect this Bulls team to go very far.
New Orleans Pelicans I am a HUGE fan of the Boogie-Brow frontcourt, and if Jrue Holiday can stay healthy, I really feel this team can totally challenge for the eight seed. With Rondo’s “leadership” and Alexis Ajinca’s antics, plus a former Warriors coach, these NOLA youngsters may have their best team since CP3 left (which actually isn’t saying a lot I guess…).
Orlando Magic Adding Jonathan Simmons and Jonathan Isaac to a team that already features the überathletic likes of Bismack Biyombo and Aaron Gordon will certainly allow the young Magic to experiment a little more on offense after brining in the defensive-minded Frank Vogel last year. And if Elfrid Payton can learn what a jump shot is… This team could actually be a dark horse (assuming a lot of things go right) and squeak into the always tough bottom of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Minnesota Timberwolves Not as big a fan as everyone else for two reasons. One, Jimmy Butler had a career year last year after switching to Small Forward, but will now go back to Shooting Guard alongside Andrew Wiggins. And two, THEY LOST RICKY RUBIO. That little man was one of my favorite players to watch, and he’s not even the only point guard they lost (see the Chicago Bulls trade). Although I like Jeff Teague and what he’s done recently, I sense a lack of leadership on this team, which will hold them back from competing with the big dogs out west (oh and they only won 31 games last year).
Indiana Pacers They lost Paul George and Jeff Teague, they got Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Not bad, but after holding onto the seven seed last year, I would expect a missed playoffs result this season.
Golden State Warriors See how I left them until later in the list so you’d have to read (or at least scroll through) the beginning? They’re the best team in the NBA, and they didn’t lose any big pieces. Expect them to be as strong as ever and tweeting about not visiting the White House again next year.
Boston Celtics Some are skeptical of this team, citing chemistry and a lack of rebounding. But I think anytime you add two All-Stars to your team (for the price of one), you’re in pretty good shape, especially after winning the Eastern Conference last year. Brad Stevens was sent from that crazy basketball planet in a galaxy far far away to coach these Celtics to glory, and he has done a masterful job (that planet also housed such names as Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Doc Rivers, Quin Snyder, Mike Budenholzer, and Mike D’Antoni, among others). I wouldn’t be surprised to see them carry that momentum to another Eastern Conference crown, and maybe even a Finals appearance.
Los Angeles Lakers Lonzo Ball is a talented basketball player (why else would he have gone second overall?) but carrying a team from dead last to at least eighth? No way. I will say, however, that Kyle Kuzma has looked dazzling behind the line this preseason, and Ivica Zubac looked like he might be a steal from this year’s draft. With the addition of Brook Lopez, one of the best centers in the league, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, expect this developing young Lakers squad to jump to at least that 30 win mark (just like their Eastern friends the Sixers).
Brooklyn Nets This is the worst franchise in sports. Hey, at least you got D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov (but still no draft picks). I can’t stress enough how horrible everything about this organization is. I’d be shocked if they win a game this year.
Portland Trail Blazers Dame and CJ couldn’t get Carmelo to Portland, but they still have a respectable squad. Jusuf Nurkic will be up to old things, and Meyers Leonard should build off of a solid season. Oh, and I LOVE Caleb Swanigan (aka Biggie). I expect (or at least hope) he has a banger of a rookie year, just as I expect the Blazers to certainly get back to the playoffs (though their division is a lot tougher this year).
Charlotte Hornets Kemba is Kemba, but with Nick Batum out for 6-8 weeks, there’s not a lot this Hornets team can do. Malik Monk will get an expanded role, but I’m not sure what he provides other than 15 a game. MKG is continuing to grow, but you wonder when they pull the plug on him. At least they have Dwight Howard to mentor all those youngsters…Expect a similar result to last season in Charlotte.
Utah Jazz They did pick up Ricky Rubio, the funnest point guard in the league, but they lost Gordon Hayward. I do love Derrick Favors, but without Hayward (or George Hill) Quin Snyder’s team is really going to have to rely on those defensive roots. I can’t end this brief outlook before saying that Donovan Mitchell is a tantalizing rookie who will most certainly get his this year. Despite that, definitely expect a drop to the bottom of the playoffs this year
New York Knicks Porzingod is, well, a god, but who the heck else is there? They couldn’t even hold onto Derrick Rose, and their biggest signing was Tim Hardaway. Phil Jackson continues to push his outdated views of basketball on the organization, and the Manhattan Misfits will continue to make young fans cry.
Houston Rockets After calling Kevin McHale “a clown”, MVP runner up James Harden and his new friend Chris Paul are ready to rock in Houston. Clint Capela has become an above-average center, and Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson should provide some good wing action in Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced wizardry he calls offense. However, I must say I’m not a fan of moving Harden back to shooting guard after he carried his team at PG last year… Expect the hurricane to provide motivation for a team that is poised to overtake their fellow statesmen the Spurs this year in the west.
Miami Heat Many forgot that Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the league, so good that he almost won Coach of the Year even though his team missed the playoffs. Josh Richardson is good, but not $42 million good. Hassan Whiteside is a straight up beast in every part of the game, and Goran Dragic should continue to run a smooth offense (despite Dion Waiters). This is a team that could very well find themselves losing to the Celtics in the first round this year…
Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki is at the tail end of a historic career, but he can still lead a team (and put up saucy numbers). Any team Mark Cuban is involved in always has a chance, and their scary frontcourt will pose problems for some teams (they also have an ex-Warrior!) Add in probably the most exciting rookie in Dennis Smith, and you have a team that could challenge for an eight seed.
Atlanta Hawks Mike Budenholzer is a great coach, but his team just didn’t play very well last year. With Paul Millsap landing in Denver, you have to wonder what this team has left. Dennis Schroeder has turned into a fine young point guard, but still doesn’t appear capable of leading a team. John Collins should fill some of the void left by Millsap (and less recently Al Horford), but their team simply isn’t talented enough to get into the playoffs (unless you’re in the Eastern Conference, which they are. This does NOT mean I support the 1-16 system). At least we’ll see some cool dunks from Kent Bazemore…
Los Angeles Clippers They lost CP3 and J.J Redick, but they still have Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Now, Austin Rivers will get a chance to run his daddy’s offense, whatever that entails… It’s still a good team, but without their starting backcourt (plus Jamal Crawford) they simply won’t go as far this year.