Hello Again! 2019-2020 NBA Season Preview
Guess what? I’m back baby! Sure, I may have gone on a little hiatus there but it was totally intentional and had nothing to do with summer and then the start of college. My phone was kind enough to alert me the other day that the 2019-2020 NBA season is right around the corner, and I figured what better way to (try to) get back into blogging than by spewing out 2,000 words of basketball analysis! Buckle up folks, because it’s gonna be another ride. As is customary, I will be using the same order I have always used (which is scientifically proven to have a bias coefficient of .0001).
Oh, and if any of you may choose to question my credibility, I will truthfully state that I got 24 out of 30 teams’ predictions either completely or somewhat right in last year’s edition. Don’t believe me? Go look and see for yourself.
P(re).S: I am well aware that I am publishing this after the NBA season started; I can assure you the .16 percent of the season that I have watched so far (that’s four games out of 2,460 total) is not going to significantly influence my predictions. Without further adieu, here we go.
Detroit Pistons Sure, they made the Playoffs last year, but I wouldn’t say grabbing the eight seed in the East is anything to write home about. They chose to add some veteran veterans in Derrick Rose and Joe Johnson, but other than that the roster has remained eerily similar. Emphasis on the eerily: this team is in danger of dropping out of the Playoffs in favor of the Heat if they don’t noticeably improve this year.
Denver Nuggets Many are pegging the Nuggets to actually finish lower than last year due to the fortification of the L.A. duo and the mountain men in Utah, but I have a little more confidence in this team. They are retaining the same roster that pushed the Warriors all last year (which means another year of experience for their youngsters), except they’ve added Jerami Grant, and uber-athletic stretchy big. Oh, and there’s some other guy...yeah, MICHAEL PORTER JR. People forget that this guy was the number one high school prospect just three years ago. He is finally healthy and returning from a back injury, and for a Denver team that could use some wing depth he should be a big boon.
Philadelphia 76ers The Sixers have morphed into that huge team at the park who no one wants to play. They are planning on running out a lineup where the smallest guy is 6’6” Josh Richardson. Should they mesh, their team defense will be scary good. The big question on this team will be shooting of course, especially from their bench unit (which might be used very little again this year). With more stability (hopefully) and a weakened Raptors squad, Philly should finish in the top two.
Phoenix Suns Another year, another season for development. Phoenix’s core will need at least this season to get to a competitive standpoint, and they didn’t add much this offseason to force a sped-up rebuild. Expect to see them at the bottom of the West again.
Toronto Raptors They lost Kawhi Leonard, but the departure of Danny Green will sting as well. They did pick up two under-performing wings in Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the hopes that one or both can take a step forward, but without a true star the Raptors should settle into the middle portion of the East. It will be fun to see if Kyle Lowry puts up career numbers as the focal point of the offense for the first time...
Memphis Grizzlies AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO IS EXCITED FOR JA MORANT?!? Him + Jaren Jackson Jr. should be fun to watch for the next 10 years. Brandon Clarke is another rookie poised to do big things for Memphis, but the Grizz also added veterans like Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder which should help. Honestly, when you look at this starting five it’s hard to say the Grizzlies are that far from contention…
Washington Wizards Oh, how the mediocre have...gotten worse? Really, Washington is in a bind here with John Wall continuing his rehab. Him and Bradley Beal were dangerously good together but we haven’t seen that combo in awhile and the on-court product has suffered. They do have some intriguing young talent in Rui Hachimura, Admiral Schoefield and Thomas Bryant, but the Wiz are looking about as good as the Redskins right now. Expect a bottom finish (unless Wall comes back soon and returns to All-Star level, which is unlikely).
Sacramento Kings Okay, this team might be going somewhere. They were somewhat in the hunt last year for a decent portion of the season, and they look poised to take another step forward as their young core gains experience. They addressed their hole at center by signing Dewayne Dedmon, and he completes a very talented and young starting five. The bench is still a question, especially with the bigs, but Sacramento looks ready to compete in the West (for a Playoff spot).
Milwaukee Bucks This is an interesting one: they lost Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic, and in place signed Wesley Matthews and...Kyle Korver? On paper that definitely doesn’t look good, but a team with this much all-around talent and a transcendent superstar should have no trouble staying atop the lesser of the two conferences. Go Mike Budenholzer!
San Antonio Spurs Right when you cast off the Spurs, they find a way to win 48 games. DeMar Derozan fit in perfectly and LaMarcus Aldridge continues to be LaMarcus Aldridge. With Dejounte Murray finally healthy and ready to man the one (remember he was Second Team All Defense as a ROOKIE), this Spurs team should easily improve. The challenge will be scraping out wins in a conference where there aren’t a ton available.
Cleveland Cavaliers Oh yeah, they still exist...in all seriousness, the Cavs are shaping up a nice roster of young talent. Guards like Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland could all be All-Stars one day; in fact, Sexton is not that far off right now. Kevin Love continues to be a solid 20-10 guy, but I would not be surprised to see them deal him for even more young talent. Then again, we’ve been saying that for a while...either way, expect to see the Cavs toward the bottom of the East, though they should be able to crack 20 wins this year (I hope).
Oklahoma City Thunder We all know what happened here, but I am a big Thunder supporter. First of all, anytime you get that many picks it has to be seen as a win, but the actual players they acquired are not too shabby either. Chris Paul is still an elite point guard and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is working his way there. The rest of the roster is pretty legit as well: Dennis Schroeder gets buckets, Darius Bazley is looking like a great pick, Danilo Gallinari also gets buckets, and Steven Adams continues to be an underrated elite center. A Playoff spot will not be easy to come by in the crowded West but they have the talent to pull it off...now the question becomes how well do they mesh and does GM Sam Presti trade anyone away to help the rebuild.
Chicago Bulls Same story here as last year. They’re young, they’re talented, but they still need to develop. Zach Lavine has reached star status, and a frontcourt of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. should be scary good for years to come. They still have questions at the wing positions, but they’re slowly filling out the bench and they’ve continued to add promising young talent. Alas, promise doesn't equal wins, so expect another low finish for Chicago.
New Orleans Pelicans Well this team has certainly changed...everyone thinks they’re doomed after losing generational talent Anthony Davis, but I’m singing a different tune. Sure, losing a transcendent player like Davis hurts, but look at the haul they brought back! Three starter-level players and three first round picks, one which turned into Zion Williamson. Now, his 6-8 week absence definitely puts a damper on their outlook, but they have so many talented youngsters like Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart and Jaxon Hayes and Jhalil Okafor and Nickeil Alexander-Walker...you get the point. It’ll be tough to compete in this conference right now, but talk about a bright future.
Orlando Magic I have to say my hopes are high for this team, or at least higher than the average fan’s. This is the same team that made it to (and played okay in) the Playoffs last year, except they’ve added Markelle Fultz who I fully believe has a chance to be the league’s Most Improved Player. If he can solve their backcourt issues, combined with their ever-maturing frontcourt, the Magic should be able to play some solid ball this season and grab another Playoff birth.
Minnesota Timberwolves Wait a second, Andrew Wiggins actually cares now? Watch. Out. KAT is gonna be KAT, and with the Jimmy Butler cloud having cleared from over their heads this team will be able to chill and develop their guys like Josh Okogie and Jarret Culver. They missed out on the big names but have some solid guys like Robert Covington and Gorgui Dieng to round out the rotation. Still, they will likely finish low in the West.
Indiana Pacers Darn you Victor Oladipo, robbing us of one of the few exciting Eastern Conference teams! I was really looking forward to a full season from this team, especially with Malcolcm Brogdon who is literally the PERFECT fit alongside Oladipo. I don’t like that they lost Thaddeus Young and they need to figure out their big man rotation, but they still have good young talent that has meshed and can stay afloat until Oladipo returns. Might be a bottom Playoff seed though...
Golden State Warriors For the first time in years this prediction will actually take some thinking. Obviously Durant is gone and Klay Thompson might as well be as he recovers from his ACL tear. I would say their success just depends on how well D’Angelo Russell gels with Steph Curry, but the bench is no sure thing with a lot of bargain bin guys. If Willie Cauley-Stein can get healthy and provide good big man minutes and the three stars (so adding Draymond Green to the guards) play like stars, the Dubs should still make the Playoffs, albeit likely towards the middle of the pack.
Boston Celtics Kyrie is out, Kemba is in. Really though, this team’s narrative is more than that. Losing Al Horford is big, as everyone in the Celtics organization raved about him daily. They also lost Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris, both of whom were very productive bench players. So besides the bench being a big question mark, their defense does not look poised to scare anyone. Can Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Bird and Gordon Hayward all fit together? I have my doubts, though an undoubtedly-improved Hayward should ease that process. A top three seed is not impossible, but a middle seed is more likely.
Los Angeles Lakers Yes yes, they made the big splash of landing Anthony Davis, but I’m not completely sold on this team. Their bench really concerns me, and I wouldn’t blame LeBron and AD if they just go into two-man mode and ignore the rest of the guys. That being said, they do have a lot of frontline talent, and should everyone find their respective roles they could finish in the top half of the West.
Brooklyn Nets Uhh, I am not of fan, at least for this year. The team is basically just Kyrie Irving replacing D’Angelo Russell, and that is not good from a culture standpoint. This team was functioning perfectly last year as the young team with no one superstar that all played together and for each other, playing great team offense and defense. Now, Kyrie will lead the offense and bring that same culture he brought to Boston...yikes. However, the East somehow got even weaker (once again, eyeroll) so they could sniff the four seed.
Portland Trail Blazers Same story as always here. Fantastic backcourt that can win games, but a suspect frontcourt. I am still a fan of Hassan Whiteside, but in more of a backup role, not one where he is forced to play a lot of minutes because Jusuf Nurkic is hurt. We know the West is tough, but they could finish in the top half of the conference. At the very least they should avoid a bottom seed.
Charlotte Hornets Oh boy. The Hornets are an example of everything you don’t want to do as an NBA franchise: have ZERO stars, poor scouting, bloated contracts out the wazoo, turquoise jerseys...at least they are keeping their draft picks unlike the Nets teams of the past. This is gonna be a long, roughhhhhhh year for Charlotte.
Utah Jazz I really like the moves this team made. Mike Conley is the perfect complement for Donovan Mitchell: level-headed, pass-first veteran who can run the offense and take on defensive duties. Bojan Bogdanovic showed with the Pacers last year that he can ball, and he fits what this team is trying to stake its claim on: stifling defense to go with great shooting. Should they stick to that identity, they should be a top team in the West.
New York Knicks If only all their forwards could play at once...it will be a developmental year, which is why I question the moves to bring in veteran guys on short contracts. Either way, they won’t be good, though I am excited to watch R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox work together...perhaps a glimpse of a bright future, and don’t forget about block wizard Mitchell Robinson. Still, expect them to settle at the bottom of the East.
Houston Rockets The two triple-double machines will team up with Russell Westbrook coming to Houston to run downhill with James Harden. There’s no denying the talent there, but I am VERY skeptical of the fit. Both need the ball to contribute, and both can’t always have the ball. My main concern is the same as always for the Rockets: their bench and their defense suck. Maybe their starters can make up for it?...I just don’t see a complete enough team. Still, they could find a top-four seed this season.
Miami Heat I am excited for this team, but their future is what makes you the most interested. Jimmy Butler will provide an immediate boost, and with Hassan Whiteside out Bam Adebayo can finally get starting minutes at center (hint: he is a talented dude). Youngsters like Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and KZ Okpala look like good long-term investments, but they still have the talent and depth to win now. I still maintain my faith in Erik Spoelstra, and definitely expect this team to jump back into the Playoffs.
Dallas Mavericks The Dennis Smith Jr./Luka Doncic combo didn’t work out, but the Porzingis/Doncic pairing looks like straight gold. I really, REALLY believe these two are gonna be magic together. As far as the rest of the team...they’re not as shiny. They have a lot of young, imrproving guys, and it would take breakout seasons from most (if not all) of them for the Mavs to compete for a Playoff spot. They’ll move up in the standings and improve their record, but it’s not quite their time yet.
Atlanta Hawks Okay, Trae Young is starting to scare me a little...I’m proud to say I was right on the money with John Collins; he’s a beast, and the ascension of Young will only make him better. Kevin Huerter is also starting to prove himself, and I love the draft selections of Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter. They just got two great all-around players in the same year, and with their defense and suitable offense both should be good players in the NBA for years to come. Atlanta’s future is one of the brightest in the NBA, but they shouldn’t be too shabby this year either. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sniff 40 wins.
Los Angeles Clippers And look where we end up. I’ll be honest: I’m on the train, but if you read this post from last year I’ve been on the train for awhile now. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George fit this team so darn well and they should only add to what is a scary-good defense and pretty good offense. They are the best all-around team in the NBA and they play like a team, not stars and then others. They’re my pick to hoist the O’Brien come June...