The NBA follows another exciting offseason with what shapes up to be another exciting regular season.
There’s a lot of eyes on the Eastern Conference with LeBron gone to Los Angeles. Speaking of the key, can he lift a franchise that has gone dormant on the court.
The boys by the bay are trying to win one more for Oakland as they prepare to move to their new digs.
1) Golden State Warriors
2) Utah Jazz
3) Houston Rockets
4) Denver Nuggets
5) Oklahoma City Thunder
6) San Antonio Spurs
7) New Orleans Pelicans
8) Minnesota Timberwolves
The first thing that will jump out is the prediction that LeBron and the Lakers don’t make the playoffs. That’s going out on the limb but, even if they do make it, they won’t be higher than 7th. As explained a few weeks back, the Lakers don’t have enough shooting and who knows how long James can be patient with this group. Furthermore, though no one wishes injuries on anyone, how long can James stay healthy? The Cavs pushed him into playing 82 games last season on top of the grind of the playoffs. Even if James stays healthy, it’s hard to see him duplicating the numbers he put up last season in the East. A season where the Cavs finished fourth.
Denver and Oklahoma City are interchangeable. The Nuggets got the edge simply because the Thunder has health issues to start the season with Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson. San Antonio will take a significant step back. Even predicting them to finish sixth in the conference might be a stretch.
While most are jumping off the Minnesota bandwagon, I’m not. There’s still a chance for the Wolves to get a haul for Butler. If they tread water while Butler is there and they stay healthy, the Wolves could jump off to a solid start.
1) Boston Celtics
2) Indiana Pacers
3) Toronto Raptors
4) Milwaukee Bucks
5) Philadelphia 76ers
6) Washington Wizards
7) Miami Heat
8) Chicago Bulls
Seed two through four are debatable. A case can be made that the Raptors are better with Kawhi Leonard and that the Pacers will regress a bit. The change at head coach, makes the Bucks a legitimate threat even though you can argue they’re still a piece or two away.
For the first time in years, the Eastern Conference is intriguing. Going towards the bottom, the Heat could easily move in front of the Wizards. And speaking of Washington, how will Dwight Howard mesh with a team that has had locker room questions going as far back as the Gilbert Arenas years?
The eighth seed should come down to the last few days of the season. The Lebron-less Cavs could be in play for that spot along with the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls get the nod because this team could be above average defensively if they commit. Chicago’s roster is going largely unnoticed and that’s a mistake. They have just enough shooting to make them a threat on offense. If they can lock down the opponent’s wing threats, they should be able to do enough to win the West.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) – How can I not pick him? I’ve been talking about him since his FIBA days.
Coach of the Year: Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz) – He edges out Mike Budenholzer but since I like the Jazz to finish second in the Western Conference, Snyder jumps to the top.
MVP: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) – This award tends to be “whose turn is it” and it seems like it’s time for Anthony Davis to win the award. Even if the Lakers make the playoffs, James won’t get it. The loaded Warriors split votes so that takes out Kevin Durant. And I love Giannis Antetokounmpo but any improvement will be credited to Budenholzer.
Who Can Upset the Warriors?: The real answer is no one. But, I’ll go with a healthy Oklahoma City Thunder. If Roberson comes back healthy along with Westbrook and Paul George, the Thunder has good balance. They can also manage Westbrook’s regular season minutes with Dennis Schröder.
Who Can Upset the Celtics?: Two teams have a shot. The Toronto Raptors with a healthy Kawhi Leonard and the Washington Wizards with a healthy Dwight Howard. I like the Raptors shot slightly more than they Wizards but both could upset the Celtics in a seven game series.