Monday, October 24, 2016

2016-2017 NBA Preview: Eastern Conference Western Conference Predictions

Will King James and the Cavs Be Able to Pull Out Back-To-Back Championships?

So next week begins a brand new NBA season! The defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers begin their championship defense by taking on MY beloved New York Knickerbockers on Tuesday night live from The Q Arena. They definitely would like nothing more but to win the title again. However, their opponent from last year, the Golden State Warriors have reloaded like nobody's business adding the mighty Kevin Durant to an already stacked roster. Who will win the championship this year? Here is my breakdown.

Eastern Conference Lottery Teams

1. Brooklyn Nets - Where Brooklyn at? The bottom of the standings. And what makes it even WORST is they traded away all their first round picks so they aren't even going to be able to benefit from the ineptitude that they will demonstrate this season. Poor Nets fans. All 6 of you.

2. Philadelphia 76ers - Well at least Joel Embiid will actually be able to do more than post on Twitter this year. The problem is their other rookie star Ben Simmons broke his foot. Maybe one year the 76ers will be able to put it together. This year is not it.

3. Miami Heat - The Heat are going to be AWFUL this year. They were able to resign Hassan Whiteside, but they lost their franchise player Dwayne Wade to free agency AND they lost their franchise power forward Chris Bosh to blood clots in what may very well be a career ending situation. This year definitely looks bleak for "The Magic City."

4. Orlando Magic - They have a nice young team, but nice young teams usually lose and the Magic will be no exception. Serge Ibaka will be a nice addition to add some veteran leadership but I don't expect this team to win more than 35 games this year.

5. Milwaukee Bucks - I think they could have been a playoff team this year. However, Khris Middleton being out 7 months is going to hurt them bad. Plus they can't shoot. That's a recipe for the lottery in a league where shooting has become more and more important.

6. Chicago Bulls - They lost Pau Gasol to free agency They have three ball dominate guys in Rondo, Wade and Butler and they are weaker defensively. Their bench is weaker. This is not going to go well for Chicago at all.

7. Washington Wizards - I thought the Wizards were going to make the next leap last year, but they disappointed and didn't make the playoffs. Plus you know that Wall or Beal are almost guaranteed to miss some time to injury. I think they will be close but they will just miss out on the playoffs once again.

Eastern Conference Playoff Teams

8. Charlotte Hornets - Kemba Walker is one of the top point guards in the Eastern Conference and he can flat out BALL! The problem with the Hornets is they are just short on the talent department. A lot of the other teams in the Eastern Conference just have more talent than they do. Somehow, someway, they always seem to make it to the playoffs so until they don't, I'm not going to predict otherwise.

7. Atlanta Hawks - Dwight Howard is overrated in my opinion and quite frankly is a downgrade to me to Al Horford. And the problem is this team still doesn't have a go to scorer. This team will be good enough to make the playoffs mainly because Mike Budenholzer can coach. However, I don't expect much beyond that.

6. Detroit Pistons - I think the Pistons have a good future. Stan Van Gundy knows what he is doing and they have a decent squad with Andre Drummond being the centerpoint. Ish Smith is a good pickup, however the jury is still out on whether he is what this team needs.

5. Indiana Pacers - Paul George is one of the best two way players in the NBA and one season under his belt after that horrific injury, I am expecting him to go bonkers. I love pickups of Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson and Thaddus Young. This team is good enough to make the playoffs and is probably the team nobody is going to want to face in the first round.

4. New York Knicks - Yup, I am biased but so what! Jeff Hornacek is arguably the best head coach talent-wise we've had since Lenny Wilkins. Melo is still a superstar. Porzingis has Superstar written all over him. He is just such a fundamentally sound player. The big questions are Rose and Noah. If they can get just CLOSE to old form, the Knicks can be one of the top teams in the East.

3. Boston Celtics - This team has a lot of young depth and talent and is going to be a force to reckon with. Isaiah Thomas is a fantastic player and the addition of Al Horford to an already talented team is HUGE! Plus what's even more scary is this team has so much talent and draft picks that they can easily trade for a superstar around the trade deadline. As is, I put them at #3, but there's nothing stopping them from making a trade that can put them at #2.

2. Toronto Raptors - The Raptors were pretty good last year and it all starts with the 1-2 punch of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If DeMarre Carroll can remain healthy and with the addition of Jared Sullinger, I see no reason why they can't take the 2nd seed and make a bunch of noise in the playoffs once again.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavs are the defending champions and they have the best player in the World in LeBron James (sorry Steph fans). They are bringing back almost their entire squad from last year, except for Dellavedova, PLUS they added Mike Dunleavy and Chris Andersen. They are still significantly better than everyone else in the East and I see no reason why they will not get the #1 seed once again.

Western Conference Lottery Teams

1. Los Angeles Lakers - This team is horrible! Timofey Mozgov who couldn't get off the bench in Cleveland is their starting center. And we still don't know if Luke Walton can actually coach or if he was just a beneficiary of Steve Kerr's system. I suspect the latter and I suspect the Lakers to battle the Nets for worse team in the league.

2. Phoenix Suns - They are going to stink. However, at least they are going to stink with a lot of young talent. I actually like a lot of their young guys that they have on the bench along with Devin Booker who is going to be VERY good if last year was any indication.

3. Denver Nuggets - They are probably better than this, but I don't think they are going to be good enough to compete for a playoff spot and when they realize that, if they are smart they are going to trade their veteran talent and let the kids play. They will lose as a result of it. However, that will help them get a better draft pick and let the kids get an opportunity to develop.

4. New Orleans Pelicans - It's a shame that this team has arguably the future of the NBA but they can't seem to do anything with him. Part of the problem of course is that he keeps getting injured. If Davis can stay healthy (BIG IF) and if Solomon Hill can really assert himself as a scoring threat, this team can be a lot better than where I have them. I'm not banking on that though.

5. Sacramento Kings - The Kings are still going to be a losing team but I believe they will do less losing than they did last year. I believe the Olympics will help Demarcus Cousins mature as a basketball player. I like the Affalo pickup and I like another year for Willie Cauley-Stein to develop. Still not enough to compete in the ultra stacked Western Conference, but it's a start.

6. Dallas Mavericks - They gave Harrison Barnes a max deal!!! So dumb! They mind as well given that money to Chandler Parsons instead! Stupidity won't send them to the bottom of the Western Conference. However, it will most certainly keep them from making the playoffs.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves - I really like this team! There is only ONE player right now that I am more excited about than Porzingis and that is Karl-Anthony Towns. My GOODNESS this kid can play BALL! The scary thing is he is only going to get BETTER! Andrew Wiggins should take the next step up and I like their backcourt of Rubio and LaVine. I think they barely miss the playoffs but I would not be surprised to be wrong here and have them make it.

Western Conference Playoff Teams

8. Houston Rockets - The good news is they got rid of Dwight Howard. The bad news is they got Mike Antoni instead. I don't put the D in front of his name because his teams NEVER play ANY defense! Getting Anderson and Gordon is good for this team and they will be great fits for the run and gun system they are sure to implement.

7. Memphis Grizzlies - This team is getting older and older and they had to pay Mike Conley a LOT of money. They are not moving in the right direction. However, they still have enough talent with Conley, Parsons and Gasol to make the playoffs.

6. Utah Jazz - This team is going to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Rudy Gobert is a monster in the paint. They also aren't bad offensively as well even though they play at one of the slowest paces in the NBA. The big question with this team of course is injuries.

5. Portland Trailblazers - Damian Lillard is a superstar! It's a shame he can't make the All Star team in the ultra stacked western conference when you have Curry, Westbrook and Paul. They spent a LOT of money this offseason. However, I don't know if it's going to be enough to help them take the next step.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder - With Kevin Durant gone, now we get to see the Russell Westbrook show! As a daily fantasy basketball player you better believe I'm going to be having a LOT of Westbrook in my lineups! He is a triple double machine! They are going to miss Durant, but at least Oladipo gives Westbrook another player who can create his own shot.

3. Los Angeles Clippers - You can make a legitimate argument that the Clippers are the 2nd best team in the Western Conference. At least talent-wise they are. With Chris Paul, a healthy Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, they should be the team to challenge the Warriors. The problem is Doc Rivers isn't as good of a coach as Pop and that's why I can't see them finishing any higher than 3.

2. San Antonio Spurs - No more Tim Duncan, but they signed Pau Gasol, so I really don't see this team missing a beat. My only concern with this team is Aldridge. There have been rumors that he hasn't been happy and they are really going to need the Portland Aldridge in order to challenge in the west.

1. Golden State Warriors - Talk about the rich getting richer! Sheesh! This team goes out and wins 73 games last year. They almost win the championship. Then they go out and get easily at LEAST the #3 player in the NBA to go with arguably the #2 player in the NBA. They won't win 73 wins again. However, they will win a LOT of games and should have no problems locking up the #1 seed again.

NBA Playoff Predictions

1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 8. Charlotte Hornets
2. Toronto Raptors over 7. Atlanta Hawks
3. Boston Celtics over 6. Detroit Pistons
4. New York Knicks over 5. Indiana Pacers

1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 4. New York Knicks
2. Toronto Raptors over 3. Boston Celtics

1. Cleveland Cavaliers over 2. Toronto Raptors

Note - If Boston trades for a big superstar, they could beat the Raptors and then lose to the Cavaliers instead.

1. Golden State Warriors over 8. Houston Rockets
2. San Antonio Spurs over 7. Memphis Grizzlies
3. Los Angeles Clippers over 6. Utah Jazz
4. Oklahoma City Thunder over 5. Portland Trailblazers

1. Golden State Warriors over 4. Oklahoma City Thunder (Please Lord Jesus give us this series!!!)
3. Los Angeles Clippers over 2. San Antonio Spurs

1. Golden State Warriors over 3. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA Finals Predictions

1. Golden State Warriors over 1. Cleveland Cavaliers 4 games to 2.

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