2018-2019 NBA Season Preview
With the 2018-2019 NBA Season set to tip off this Tuesday, let’s take a look at each team’s prospect for the coming year. And for fun, let’s do them in the same order as my predictions from last year.
Detroit Pistons Wait, Van Gundy is gone? For real? Praise Jesus hallelujah! They lost Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley who I thought were big pieces of their future, but they managed to pair Andre Drummond with Blake Griffin, so buckle-up poster makers. If Reggie Jackson can finally take some responsibility and lead this team, the Pistons have a good enough bench to crack the lower bracket of the Playoffs.
Denver Nuggets They didn’t make the Playoffs last year but they proved they were for real, especially in basketball’s toughest division. With the same starting lineup and some intriguing new bench pieces (Isaiah Thomas, Monte Morris, MICHAEL PORTER JR.) the Nuggs should find their way past the Timberwolves and into the Playoffs.
Philadelphia 76ers Simmons and Embiid took huge steps last year, but Markelle Fultz and the whole “true point guard” thing remains a mystery in Philly. They kept all their starters (even J.J Redick) and traded for Dennis Smith 2.0 in Zhaire Smith, so expect the youngsters to bound into the top three in the East yet again.
Phoenix Suns Well, they definitely got better, but how? DeAndre Ayton will surely prove to be a legit NBA big man, but are Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza really capable of being starting wings on a team of kids half their age? Devin Booker has continued to rise through the stratosphere and Josh Jackson looks ready to take the next step, but the bench remains a huge question mark. Can new head coach Igor Kokoskov bring the offense back to Arizona? Maybe, but don’t expect a sparkling record just yet.
Toronto Raptors I always tell myself they’re not the best team in the East and then they grab the one seed...Things will certainly be interesting with Derozan out and Kawhi in, and with Nick Nurse replacing the ever-successful Dwane Casey expect Toronto to look a lot different out there. They managed to keep a good chunk of their now-famous depth, but with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy in Boston I think we finally might see Toronto in the two-hole.
Memphis Grizzlies What happened to the Grizz? Conley and Gasol are still there, but the team feel so far-removed from their glory days that I wonder if they’ll ever find success again. The majority of the team is composed of young cast-offs not good enough to play anywhere else and J.B Bickerstaff looks like he’s staying around… at least they drafted Jaren Jackson Jr.
Washington Wizards I tried to get this message across last year, but the Wizards obviously didn’t listen: GET A THIRD STAR. Dwight Howard replacing Marcin Gortat is subtraction by addition, and their frontcourt has proven it can’t win in the Playoffs. With a similar team, a similar culture and a similar lackadaisical stance on winning, expect the Wizards to limp into the Playoffs (if not drop out entirely).
Sacramento Kings The next young superteam? Yeah, definitely not yet....even by Preseason standards the Kings have looked bad. They didn’t do a whole lot to improve their team besides drafting Marvin Bagley and their big men remain a mashup of talented youngsters who still haven’t (and may never) put it together. Maybe De'Aaron Fox will develop into an elite point guard...barring a miracle, the Kings are gonna slip even further down the standings than last year.
Milwaukee Bucks Is this finally the year Giannis wins MVP? Even if he doesn’t, he’ll certainly be one of the most valuable players around. I love the addition of Eric Bledsoe, and with a full offseason for this slightly-new team to bond, expect much better chemistry en route to a top-four finish (oh and Mike Budenholzer was the perfect hire).
San Antonio Spurs The era is finally over. Ginobili retired, Tony Parker went to the Hornets, and Kawhi was obviously traded to Toronto. Derozan is a fine player but he really doesn’t fit with San Antonio. I would’ve loved to watch Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker form something special in the backcourt, but with both out indefinitely the Spurs might actually struggle for the first time in...forever. Get ready for LaMarcus Aldridge to lead the league in usage rating!
Cleveland Cavaliers No more LeBron, no more Kyrie...no more success. I will say I am genuinely interested to see how some of the youngins on this team develop. Collin Sexton can become a Kyrie-type player, Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson are scoring machines (especially now that they’re out of LeBron’s shadow) and Sam Dekker is crossing everybody up. Looks like Kevin Love finally has his own non-Playoff team again.
Oklahoma City Thunder They pulled off the improbable by resigning Paul George, and with the toxic Melo finally out, the Thunder look like a serious top-three team in the West. They still need to figure out how to get a legit shooting guard and the bench is a little skimpy, but Westbrook plus George with Steven Adams in tow looks awfully similar to the KD days...
Chicago Bulls They’re young and they’re raw. I still believe in Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine, and Lauri Markkanen (when he gets healthy) should pick up right where he left off. With Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr., the Bulls have one of the scariest young frontcourts in the game, so if the rest of the bench can figure it out....all that being said, they are still bottom feeders in the East, and that’s not going to change in one season (though they’re going in the right direction).
New Orleans Pelicans Anthony Davis is amazing. Jrue Holiday is amazing at getting him the ball. The rest of the team...I do love me some Nikola Mirotic, but we all know the Pelicans are going to feed Davis for 46 minutes a game and ride their horse to a low Playoff seed (as usual). Maybe someone from Elfrid Payton’s home state can finally teach him a jump shot.
Orlando Magic They didn’t change from last year beside adding Mo Bamba, who literally fits perfectly into their team identity (uber-long, freakishly athletic, great at defense and shaky on offense, young). It’ll be another developmental year for Orlando’s talented kiddos, and the record will reflect that.
Minnesota Timberwolves This could get ugly. Andrew Wiggins has no drive and Towns and Butler clearly clash when it comes to leadership. Somehow Jimmy is still in Minnesota, but with all this turmoil and a continually-depleting bench it’s almost a surefire thing that Minnesota will miss out on the Playoffs.
Indiana Pacers Umm I think I know who won the Paul George trade...This team was scary good last year, and they’re only gonna get better. Throw in the most versatile player in the league in Tyreke Evans and you have a young, athletic Pacers squad that could seriously challenge anyone in the East (except for the amazing Celtics).
Golden State Warriors They won last year, they’ll win this year. See you in June.
Boston Celtics Kyrie is healthy. Gordon Hayward is back. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier all have another year of experience under their belts. I know Al Horford is aging quick and they still haven’t solved their big man/rebounding problem, but C’MON. They are truly, finally the Warriors of the East.
Los Angeles Lakers I can’t spend too long here or I’ll puke. Yes, they added LeBron and their rookies will be more polished, but c’mon guys. They won 35 games last year, so LeBron will probably have to add close to 15 wins all by himself to carry L.A into the Playoffs.
Brooklyn Nets Last year, I said this was the worst franchise in sports. I think I’m going to stick by that claim.
Portland Trail Blazers Their backcourt managed to carry them to the three seed last year, proving that Dame and C.J don’t actually need anyone else (at least to win in the regular season). They so closely mirror the Wizards in the East, and the solution is the same for both. Barring jumps from some of their young players this year, expect the Blazers to slide a little in the standings.
Charlotte Hornets Finally, a new coach. Kemba Walker is still an electrifying point guard and scorer, and Nicolas Batum is still a do-it all wing. Malik Monk showed he can score at the NBA level, and Miles Bridges looked like a man on fire during the Preseason. But if they can’t find any reliable, long-term big men then they won’t find reliable, long-term success. I’m just not feeling Playoffs for a team that finished 10th in the East last season.
Utah Jazz One of the more surprising teams in the NBA last year, the Jazz have clearly moved on from Hayward. Donovan Mitchell is already a star in his second year and they managed to keep Derrick Favors around. With basically the same team, expect basically the same results.
New York Knicks Without Porzingis this team is nothing. Kevin Knox will get his chance to silence the booers in New York, but with a team quite similar to last year’s, there’s no way New York digs themselves out of the cellar.
Houston Rockets Harden and CP3 will pair up again, but after losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, their defense will continue to drag them down. We all know Melo is a team-killer, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Houston slip from atop their Western Conference throne.
Miami Heat D-Wade is back, Erik Spoelstra is a genius, and the rest of the team remains. With the Cavs now a thing of the past, expect the Heat to jump a spot in the Conference standings and continue to build on their impressive young roster that fights so darn hard.
Dallas Mavericks Doncic + Smith Jr. = WHOA. Dirk is nearing the end, but his leadership and jovial attitude (plus the addition of DeAndre Jordan) should help foster a winning culture for these Texas Tots. The bench is still a cause for concern, but their starting five is legit. They should make at least a 10-win jump.
Atlanta Hawks TRAE YOUNG IS THE NEXT STEPH CURRY! Yeah, not quite, but I will say Young has been impressive in the Preseason. With Dennis Schroeder finally out of Hotlanta, this will be Young’s team to lead. John Collins has a chance to develop into one of the league’s most technically-sound big men and the bench is stacked with high-upside youngsters. The Hawks aren’t fully fledgling yet and they’ll nest near the bottom of the Eastern Conference again, but watch out for the future...
Los Angeles Clippers They honestly aren’t as lost as people think, though a lot of their success this season most likely hinges on how legit rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson are. Marcin Gortat is a solid center who plays both ends (sometimes) and Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley have constantly proven themselves throughout their young careers. They might have the deepest backcourt in the league, and with an intriguing mix of old and new, Doc might be able to turn this team from mediocre back into Playoff contenders.