It only took 6 minutes for the entire landscape of the NBA to change. The defending champions Golden State Warriors continue to look strong while their biggest threats shake things up to take their throne. For those out of contention, the rebuild is underway… but who has what it takes to make moves in the playoffs, and who’s staying in the basement? Let’s take a look at what we can expect this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves- Minnesota was a big buyer in the offseason, and they hit the jackpot with Jimmy Butler. I’ve always loved the Timberwolves’ roster, but they never seem to get wins. Well, now the Big 3 of Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are sure to make waves in the Western Conference. I’m very high on the Timberwolves this year.
Denver Nuggets- I think people are going to underestimate the effect Paul Millsap will have in Denver. He was a key piece in getting the Hawks to a 5th seed in the East last year, and he can put the Nuggets into the playoffs as well. While Denver doesn’t have the best backcourt, Millsap and Nikola Jokic are both dynamic big men that can dominate similarly to the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Sacramento Kings- Okay, the Kings may be trending up, but that’s not saying much. Coming off of a year in which they sold the face of the franchise to New Orleans for pennies, they picked up a really good draft class headlined by De’Aaron Fox. Sacramento won’t be in the playoffs or anything, but Fox is one of my favorites to win ROY.
Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers have a bright future with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle. They are still extremely young, but full of potential. While I have them narrowly missing the playoffs, I believe L.A. has plans to grab some major talent this offseason and make a big leap up the standings in 2018. You know who I’m talking about.
Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks are one of the most underrated teams in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak of nature who hasn’t yet gotten the hardware he deserves. He’s definitely a preseason MVP candidate and a top 3 talent in the entire Eastern Conference behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. I’m tagging Milwaukee to move up from 2016-2017.
Philadelphia 76ers- The Sixers are stacked with draft picks, it just hasn’t come together yet. Well, I’m calling it: this is the year; Ben Simmons’ de facto rookie campaign begins and Philadelphia will exploit a bad Eastern Conference. Joel Embiid will have a career year despite a couple of minor injuries and the 76ers will be back in the playoffs. Trust the Process.
Golden State Warriors- Everyone’s pick to repeat is as strong as ever. They lost to the Rockets last night by 0.1 seconds, but that’s not changing anyone’s opinion. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all All-stars, and there isn’t a chance they don’t finish as the best in the West.
Cleveland Cavaliers- Helped out by yesterday’s gruesome injury to Boston’s Gordon Hayward, the Cavs are now the clear favorite to win the East. Despite trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, Cleveland hauled in the likes of Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, and eventually, Isaiah Thomas. This is the last gasp for the Cavs as James’ and Thomas’ contracts expire in June, and I’m not exactly expecting them to stay put.
Boston Celtics- Six minutes and Boston’s future has changed. After claiming the hottest free agent of the 2017 offseason, Celtics fans see him literally crumble to the ground after going up for a rebound in last night’s game. While the world waits for the severity of Gordon Hayward’s injury, I’m fearing the worst. However, it’s important to remember that they were the #1 seed last year without Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and my ROY Jayson Tatum. The season is far from over.
San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs are probably trending in the wrong direction, but never underestimate Gregg Popovich. Kawhi Leonard is my NBA MVP as I look for him to lead the charge in San Antonio. Veterans Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and LaMarcus Aldridge are ageless as they continue to churn out wins. If not for the improvements in the rest of Texas, San Antonio would be just behind Golden State in the West.
Washington Wizards- Living near Washington D.C. is just heartbreaking. The Capitals always dominate the Metropolitan Division before losing in 6 or 7 to the Rangers or the Penguins in Round 1. The Nationals continue to destroy the NL East just to lose in 5 in the NLDS to the Dodgers or Cubs. The Redskins will make the playoffs just to lose in the Wild Card Round. Finally, the Wizards can win the Southeast all they want with John Wall and Bradley Beal, but they can never make it to the Conference Finals. So please, please, win a playoff series for D.C. They need you.
Houston Rockets- The Rockets are going to be my favorite team to watch this year. I LOVE Chris Paul, and I think he’s the perfect fit in Houston for James Harden. Paul loves to win and has his own playoff woes, and the Rockets look destined to make something happen this year. I’m pegging the Rockets to be Golden State’s biggest threat this year, and last night’s win solidified that.
Bold Prediction: The Thunder do NOT get home court advantage in the playoffs. That’s right, I have Oklahoma City as a 5 seed or below, and here’s why. Russell Westbrook was good with Kevin Durant. OKC was a 3 seed and nearly knocked off GSW before blowing a 3-1 lead in 2016. Then Durant left and Westbrook exploded to one of the most dominating MVP performances in history (not even close, Harden).
So the Thunder pick up Paul George. That’s fine. Whatever. I don’t like taking touches away from Westbrook, but the Thunder dropped to a 6 seed without Durant, so Westbrook needed the help. Cool. Here’s where I draw the line- Carmelo Anthony makes it worse. I’m willing to bet that not a single Thunder fan will prefer to let Anthony shoot when George or Westbrook has a shot of his own. In other words, every touch Anthony has is one taken away from a better George and Westbrook.
Instead of empowering Westbrook with George (who by the way is a free agent after this year and will probably leave after the disappointing season), the Thunder dilutes the two stars by trading for a ball hawk in Anthony. I’m in no way believing that Anthony is willing to take a step back from his controlling tendencies for the good of the team.
Even if Anthony has changed, the chemistry isn’t there because Westbrook isn’t a pure point guard like Chris Paul. Westbrook is a spot-up shooter that attacks first and passes second. That is what the game has evolved into, and that’s fine. However, in this big 3 format, it doesn’t work. Mario Chalmers led the Heat, Rajon Rondo led the Celtics, and Chris Paul leads the Rockets; all of them pass first and score second. Westbrook is best at attacking, and there is no way these personalities mesh in Oklahoma City. I’m sorry.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Boston Celtics
- Washington Wizards
- Toronto Raptors
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Charlotte Hornets
- Miami Heat
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Golden State Warriors
- Houston Rockets
- San Antonio Spurs
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Portland Trailblazers
- Denver Nuggets
- New Orleans Pelicans
Cavaliers beat 76ers in 4
Celtics beat Heat in 5
Wizards beat Hornets in 5
Raptors beat Bucks in 7
Warriors beat Pelicans in 4
Rockets beat Nuggets in 4
Spurs beat Trailblazers in 6
Thunder beat Timberwolves in 6
Cavaliers beat Raptors in 5
Celtics beat Wizards in 6
Warriors beat Thunder in 4
Rockets beat Spurs in 5
Celtics beat Cavaliers in 7
Warriors beat Rockets in 7