I know the preview is a little late, but the season is still young. It’s about that time of the year, football season is nearing its halfway point, baseball season is winding down, hockey season just started, and the NBA season begins. The defending champ Warriors hope to three-peat, the 76ers’ process inspired other teams to create their own processes, Showtime is once again back in Los Angeles, and the East will finally have a Finals participant not named LeBron. I will give my predictions on how which team will do during the season.
We’ll start off with the Western Conference.
Houston Rockets (2017-2018 record: 65-17, projected: 58-24)
The Rockets were poised to go to their first Finals since 1995 with a 3-2 lead against the Warriors in the West Finals, but lost in heartbreaking fashion when Chris Paul got injured in game 5. The Rockets had an interesting offseason with departures of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, but they added Carmelo Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams, who can provide some scoring power. I believe the Rockets will not have the first seed, but they still have their core with MVP James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela.
New Orleans Pelicans (2017-2018 record: 48-34, projected: 53-28)
After getting eliminated by the Warriors, DeMarcus Cousins would join them, leaving the Pelicans are without a second-star big man. They are also without Rajon Rondo. However, they added Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor. Anthony Davis, who had monstrous performances in the playoffs, will build off of those performances, and I believe he will have his best season in his career as he carries the Pelicans to their first 50-win season since 2008. However, Davis can only do so much. I see them getting knocked in the second round.
San Antonio Spurs (2018 record: 47-35, projected: 44-38)
The Spurs had a tough year with Kawhi Leonard only playing nine games last season and the speculation of him leaving, along with being easily beat by the Warriors in the playoffs, and the official end of the Big Three Era with the departure of Parker and Ginobili’s retirement. After the Kawhi drama, the Spurs traded him and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, and they also brought back Marco Bellinelli from the 2014 championship team. However, star Dejounte Murray suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and draft pick Lonnie Walker IV will miss the beginning of the regular season due to a meniscus injury. I believe the Spurs will go on a slow start because of the injuries and DeRozan adjusting to the team, but LaMarcus Aldrige will help keep this team afloat and will hit their stride midway. However, I expect an early playoff elimination as the Spurs’ era of excellence seems to be ending.
Memphis Grizzlies (2017-2018 record: 22-60, projected: 43-39)
The Grindhouse, hoping to grind again is coming off of a tough season where they had their worst record since 2008 with Zach Randolph leaving, star Mike Conley missing 70 games, and David Fizdale fired in the beginning of the previous season. The Grizz acquired new players with 4th pick Jaren Jackson Jr., free agents Kyle Anderson and Shelvin Mack, and keep interim-head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. They will have a decent season, but the West is too stacked as they will narrowly miss playoffs. The question will be if Gasol can stay. They’re hoping to get someone in free agency in 2019.
Dallas Mavericks (2017-2018 record: 24-58, projected: 22-60)
The Mavericks were one of the NBA’s premier teams in the 2000s and early 2010s, but it is clear that era is over as the Mavs look into the future. The Mavs added top European Prospect, Luka Doncic on a draft-day trade from the Hawks. Dirk Nowitzki appears to be playing in his final season as he will be 41 when the season ends. I expect the Mavs to do worse, but Luka Doncic will keep the Mavs fans’ spirits up.
Utah Jazz (2017-2018: 48-34, projected: 50-32)
The Jazz took the league by surprise as Donovan Mitchell defied the definition of rookie on his hoodie, but got snubbed of Rookie of the Year. Inexperience and injuries were the reasons why they were soundly defeated by the Rockets in the second round. The Jazz will capitalize off of the surprise season by winning the division as Mitchell hopes to be an elite player. However, a deep run may not be this year.
Portland Trailblazers (2017-2018: 49-33, projected: 47-35)
The Blazers are one of those teams that can only be watched in the regular season because they will be inevitably be eliminated in the first round. I expect the Blazers to remain the same team as they have not made much adjustments to the roster.
Oklahoma City Thunder (2017-2018: 48-34, projected: 48-34)
The Thunder tried to create a new big three with additions of Melo and Paul George. That experiment did not end well as they only won one playoff game. Good news is that Paul George is not a one-year rental as he signed a contract to stay with OKC, got former-Hawks star, Dennis Schroeder, and Melo left. This will be a decent team, but I do not think it will be enough for a deep run. Fans are hoping KD pulls a LeBron and comes back in 2019.
Minnesota Timberwolves (2017-2018: 47-35, projected: 42-40)
Last season, the Wolves ended the league’s longest playoff drought on the last day. That was their highlight of the season as they were spanked by the Rockets in the first round. With the drama surrounding Jimmy Butler, the Wolves are in for a season of tribulations. Karl-Anthony Towns will continue to be one of the premier big men of the league, but the team will struggle as they narrowly miss playoffs. Butler and Towns are free agents after the season. Towns I can see staying, but Butler will be with another team next year.
Denver Nuggets (2017-2018: 46-36, projected: 41-41)
The Nuggets had a heartbreaking end of the season by losing on the last day of the regular season. This team has solid pieces such as Jokic, Millsap, and Thomas, but once again, the West is stacked. If they were on the East, they could reach 50 wins, but this is not the case. They will try to contend, but the conference will be too much for them. They are hoping to get somebody in the offseason.
Golden State Warriors (2017-2018: 58-24, projected: 63-19)
This team is a real-life NBA 2K MyTeam. The Warriors are officially a dynasty and have no signs of slowing down with the addition of DaMarcus Cousins. I expect the Warriors to make another Finals run, and the league is praying to whatever deity that this is the last season of their dominance. However, will they get the first three-peat since the Shaq-Kobe Lakers in 2000-2002, or will they have an unexpected stop?
Los Angeles Lakers (2017-2018: 35-47, projected: 49-33)
The Lakers are once again LA’s team as LeBron comes to the team after a successful return to Cleveland. Pundits are picking this team to take down the Warriors. I am not one of them. Sure, a team that has LeBron, a playoff appearance is guaranteed, Kuzma and Ingram are up and coming, Lonzo Ball hopes to improve, and got additions of Rondo and ear-blower, Lance Stephenson. However, this is still a younger team and there will be growing pains as LeBron will not go to the Finals for the first time since 2010.
Los Angeles Clippers (2017-2018: 42-40, projected: 38-44)
Lob City is over. The Clippers have enjoyed their time as LA’s NBA team in the mid-2010s, but the era ends with no conference finals appearances as they missed playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Clippers will try to remain relevant, but they’re looking to rebuild once the season ends.
Phoenix Suns (2017-2018: 21-61, projected: 32-50)
The Suns hope to go nowhere but up. Devin Booker will continue to improve to be one of the top players in the league and first-pick, Ayton hopes to be a future stud. The Suns acquired Ariza, which can help them on the perimeter. This team is not going to do as horrible as last season, but they need a few more pieces to contend.
Sacramento Kings (2017-2018: 27-55, projected: 17-65)
Thanks to the Timberwolves, the Kings now hold the longest playoff drought as they have not made a playoff appearance since 2006. The Kings are going to be the West’s equivalent of a guaranteed FCS team win. They hope that they will get the first pick with their process.
Boston Celtics (2017-2018: 55-27, projected: 61-21)
The Celtics had their own heartbreaking loss as they sorely missed Heyward and Irving due to injuries. This year, it’s Finals or bust for the Celtics as they are the favorites to win the East with excellent young players such as Tatum and Rozier, prime players Irving and Heyward, and veterans such as Horford. Not to mention that they have the best coach in the league in Brad Stevens who will win Coach of the Year. This team is expected to end the Warriors’ reign. Will they be able to pull it off?
Toronto Raptors (2017-2018: 59-23, projected: 55-27)
Surprises were the story of the Raptors’ offseason. They fired Dwayne Casey, who is the only coach to win Coach of the Year immediately after getting fired, and the surprise trade of DeMar Derozan. The Raptors receive an elite player in Kawhi Leonard, who may only play one season there, and sharpshooter Danny Green. This team’s championship window is closing, but I have a certain feeling that this team can pull off a deep run.
Philadelphia 76ers (2017-2018: 52-30, projected: 53-29)
The so-called “process” is complete, and by “process,” I mean putting little-to-no effort for six yeats. The 76ers are contending, and hope to make a run. If Ben Simmons gets a decent jump shot, he can be a top-10 player in the league. If Embiid stays healthy, they can be a threat in the East. The next few years are going to be interesting in the 76ers-Celtics rivalry.
New York Knicks (2017-2018: 29-53, projected: 24-58)
The Knicks are just going to wait until free agency. The ownership of this team irritates me as they seem to not care about this team. I feel bad for Porzingis because he’s one of the best European players in the past decade and he’s wasting his career there. Even when free agency comes, the Knicks are going to sign players who were great in 2013, but are no longer in the same level.
Brooklyn Nets (2017-2018: 28-54, projected: 17-65)
Good news, Nets! First-round picks are yours again! Time to start the process. This team could have Jalen Brown, Jason Tatum, and Terry Rozier. If the Nets have not thrown a desperation move to beat the Heat a few years back, this could have been a somewhat decent team. I could see this team not doing much this season. They are praying that they can get a quality free-agent along with a first-pick.
Milwaukee Bucks (2017-2018: 44-38, projected: 54-28)
With new coach, Mike Budenholzer, and a new arena, the Bucks hope to get out of the first round for the first time since 2001. The Greek Freak continues to excel, Bledsoe is a solid guard, acquired Brook Lopez, and drafted Villanova hero, DiVencenzo. They will be battling the Raptors for the number two spot in the conference. They have the pieces to make a deep run, but how will they fare?
Indiana Pacers (2017-2018: 48-34, projected: 49-33)
The Pacers surprised everyone with a solid season with Oladipo’s breakout year. Despite losing Stephenson, this is a solid team with Sabonis, and other pieces. However, this is another team that will not get past the second round.
Detroit Pistons (2017-2018: 39-43, projected: 41-41)
This season will mark fifteen years since the Pistons defeated the Lakers in one of sports’ biggest upsets. Since 2009, the Pistons have been circling in mediocrity. The positive is they got Coach of the Year, Dwayne Casey. They are hoping Blake Griffin can bounce back after his injury troubles last season. With the new coach, the Pistons hope to have a competent season.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2017-2018: 50-32, projected: 32-50)
LeBron’s gone again. After carrying the team to the point of risking injury, and J.R. Smith’s Finals gaffe, LeBron has had enough with the team and went to LA. At least they won a title in his second coming. The Cavs are going to be missing him as they will be irrelevant. The only hope Cavs fans have is Collin Sexton. I can see most of this team either be traded or sign somewhere else because they are going to have tough times ahead.
Chicago Bulls (2017-2018: 27-55, projected: 20-62)
The Bulls are going to be another team that’s hoping for a first-pick. Don’t be fooled by LaVine, Washington, and Robin Lopez on the roster, the Bulls are not going to do much. The Bulls are going to be another team who will be waiting for the 2019 free agency.
Washington Wizards (2017-2018: 43-39, projected: 45-37)
This is the team that could never get out of the hump. This can be a solid team, but are constantly a piece or two short from being a serious contender. I feel bad for Wall and Beal, they are solid players with not much help around them. They are going to win the division because nobody else wants to. If the Wiz aren’t going to get Durant to come to his hometown next summer, I expect them to blow the team up, and start from scratch.
Miami Heat (2017-2018: 44-38, projected: 43-39)
Miami, it’s time to look to the future. Dwyane Wade announced that this will be his last season. He will be remembered as a legend to the city for his hall of fame career. Haslem will tag along in the Wade retirement tour. The Heat will try to contend, but they will not be a threat. I believe the team will start from scratch at the end of the season as Whiteside is going to be a free agent, and I believe they’ll trade away Dragic. Spoelstra is a decent coach, and I can see him staying for the rebuild process.
Charlotte Hornets (2017-2018: 36-46, projected: 37-45)
The Hornets have not done much in the past few years. Sure, they lost to the Heat in seven games three years ago, but what else have they done? They acquire Spurs legend Tony Parker, but he’s now in “getting those paychecks” stage of his career. If the Hornets don’t make any noise, I expect players like Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist to be traded.
Orlando Magic (2017-2018: 25-57, projected: 29-53)
The Magic are in rebuild 2.0 after Oladipo not working out for them. Draft pick, Mo Bamba hopes to be the next elite big man for Orlando. The Magic hopes he doesn’t go to the Lakers five years from now. The Magic will improve slightly, but will still be one of the bottom teams of the league.
Atlanta Hawks (2017-2018: 24-58, projected: 19-63)
Three years ago, the Hawks surprised the league with their best season since arriving to Atlanta. Since then, the Hawks decide to rebuild by letting go most of the team that helped with the 60-win season. The first phase of the rebuild is acquiring Oklahoma standout, Trae Young in the draft after trading Luka Doncic, and acquired a first-round pick for 2019. I am having doubts about Young because he may be another victim of media hype. However, if he is good as advertised, the Hawks may have a star for the future. They are not going to do great, but with their GM helping the Warriors be a dynasty, they should not be in the basement for too long.
(1) Warriors- (8) Spurs: Warriors 4-0
(2) Rockets- (7) Blazers: Rockets 4-1
(3) Pelicans- (6) Thunder: Pelicans 4-2
(4) Jazz- (5) Lakers: Jazz 4-3
(1) Warriors- (4) Jazz: Warriors 4-0
(2)Rockets- (3) Pelicans: Rockets 4-3
(1) Warriors- (2) Rockets: Warriors 4-0
(1) Celtics- (8) Pistons: Celtics 4-0
(2) Raptors- (7) Heat: Raptors 4-1
(3) Bucks- (6) Wizards: Bucks 4-2
(4) 76ers- (5) Pacers: 76ers 4-2
(1) Celtics- (4) 76ers: Celtics 4-3
(2) Raptors- (3) Bucks: Raptors 4-3
(1) Celtics- (2) Raptors: Raptors 4-3
(1) Warriors- (2) Raptors: Raptors 4-2, Finals MVP: Kawhi Leonard
I know what you are thinking. “Why on God’s green earth are you picking the Raptors to win the championship, and beat the invincible Warriors?” Logically, the Warriors should win the title easily, but remember, they were down 3-2 against the Rockets and won because CP3 got injured, and the Rockets kept missing 3-pointers. The Warriors won the Finals because they beat a lottery team that was carried by LeBron. Another reason is rumors of internal issues in the team. Ending of dynasties usually start out with internal drama in the team, examples: Shaq-Kobe Lakers, and Bulls after second three-peat. The Raptors have a stacked team with Leonard, Lowry, VanVleet, and Ibaka. I have a feeling the Raptors will step up as Kawhi gets revenge on the Warriors, and end another dynasty.
MVP: Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
Sixth Man of the Year: Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
Most Improved Player of the Year: Blake Griffin (Pistons)
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens (Celtics)
Doc Rivers (LAC)
Kenny Atkinson (BKN)
Tom Thibodeau (MIN)
Tyronn Lue (CLE)
Scott Brooks (WAS)
Rick Carlisle (DAL)
Javier Jimenez-Abram is currently part of our team from The Wolf Sports team at the Wolf Internet Radio