2017/18 NBA PREVIEW
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Cleveland Cavaliers  4 Detroit Pistons 0; Washington Wizards 4 Philadelphia 76ers 2
Boston Celtics 4
Toronto Raptors 3; Milwaukee Bucks 4 Charlotte Hornets 2

Cleveland Cavalies 4 Milwaukee Bucks 2; Washington Wizards 4 Boston Celtics 3

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Cleveland Cavaliers 4 Washington Wizards 3
NBA FINALS:
Golden State Warriors 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 1
2. Charlotte Hornets 48-34 (5)
The Charlotte Hornets might be the most Helter Skelter team in the NBA, as they are playoff contenders one year and a massive disappointment the next. With that trend continuing the Hornets should be a playoff team again in 2018. The addition of Dwight Howard in the middle should give them one of the strongest teams in the front court, who should be able to open shooting lanes for Kemba Walker, who is one of the league's most underappreciated players, coming off a season in which he averaged 23.2 points per game.
5. Atlanta Hawks 31-51 (12)
With the departure of Paul Millsap, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha the Atlanta Hawks have clearly decided to back the truck up and start from scratch. I would not be shocked if there are more departures from the Hawks nest, as there is little a rebuilding team can do with Dennis Schroder who is the last of the core players that led Atlanta to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015. Expect the Hawks to be down for a few years as they start telling fans to trust the process.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers 53-29 (1)
It last chance and the last dance for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, as LeBron James has already made his plans of becoming a Los Angeles Laker next year quite clear. The loss of Kyrie Irving takes quite a bit of luster off the Cavaliers, that can't be replaced by an old broken down Dwyane Wade that is only good in flashes these days. The same is true for Derrick Rose, who was clearly a shell of his former self last year in New York. Still, in the weak East, they will reign supreme again Yawn.


3. Detroit Pistons 42-40 (8)
The Detroit Pistons have constantly been one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA, as they have the talent to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but always seems to suffer a letdown. Perhaps with a move back to Detroit in their new downtown arena and the acquisition of Avery Bradley, could help the Pistons rise to the level they should have been at all along. Andre Drummond is one of the league's best pure centers, but in the new NBA, their style of play seems to not result in a lot of success.
3. Philadelphia 76ers 44-38 (7)
For years, the Philadelphia 76ers have been telling their fans to trust the process, as they tanked several seasons to build a core of talented high first-round draft picks. This is the year that process begins to bear fruit as the Sixers return to the postseason. When he Joel Embiid was healthy, Philadelphia was competitive last year, add the last two first overall picks Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz and the Sixers have perhaps the most exciting team in the league.

1. Washington Wizards 51-31 (2)
The Washington Wizards are the Wild Card in the Eastern Conference mix. Last season, with a fully healthy team they came within one game of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1979. With the Celtics injury issues and the Cavaliers showing some vulnerability, the Wizards could have extra motivation this season. Add in Otto Porter and the Wizards have one of the more physical teams in the NBA. They could provide quite a problematic matchup problem for teams that rely on a lot of older players.
3. Miami Heat 41-41 (9)
After a slow start, the Miami Heat went 30-11 in the second half, to finish 41-41. The Heat looking to carry that momentum into this season and become a legitimate playoff threat in the Eastern Conference. The problem is most of Miami's roster is built around inconsistent players like Dion Watters and Kelly Olynk. If the Heat play at their top level, they will make it into the postseason, if they struggle the will be a disappointment, which likely spells out another .500 season for the Heat.
2. Toronto Raptors 46-36 (6)
The Toronto Raptors had to break the bank to keep Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka as the team's core but lost much of their depth as they lost several key contributors including DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, and P.J. Tucker. They should remain a solid playoff contender. However, they will have trouble getting far in the postseason unless they can add some more depth and other scoring options that the elite in the Eastern Conference have.
2. Milwaukee Bucks 49-33 (4)
Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo the Milwaukee Bucks are clearly a team on the rise. If they can get a full season of health from Khris Middleton they Bucks can take a big leap forward. They should also get a boost in the second half if Jabari Parker is able to return off his second knee injury. The better the supporting players are in Milwaukee, the more dangerous Antetokounmpo could be. If all the pieces come together the Greek Freak could become a MVP candidate as the Bucks challenge the Cavaliers atop the Central Division.

1. Boston Celtics 50-32 (3)
The Boston Celtics had the best record in the East a year ago during the regular season but were exposed in the Conference Finals against the Cavaliers. This year they had hope with new additions s to take the next step with the addition of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. However, with Hayward's injury, before the preview is finished, the Celtics hopes are in danger. Kyrie Irving should keep Boston in contention but without Hayward, he can't do it alone. However, with a cache of draft picks expect Boston to make another blockbuster at the deadline.

4. Brooklyn Nets 28-54 (13)
The darkest days are over for the Brooklyn Nets, who are finally beginning the long climb out of the deep hole created when General Manager mortgaged the future in that foolhardy trade with the Celtics. They still don't own their own draft pick, which has since been sent to Cleveland, but with the addition of D' Angelo Russell at least they have pieces they can start to build around. In addition, when Jeremy Lin is healthy the team is at least entertaining and can put a few wins together.
3. Los Angeles Lakers 35-47 (12)
The rumble can be heard a mile away, if you want to beat the Los Angeles Lakers you better do it now. The messy situation left behind by the death of Jerry Buss appears to be working itself out as Jeanie Buss is clearly in charge now with Magic Johnson running the basketball operations. Rookie Lonzo Ball should provide some excitement, but the money cleared for next season and LeBron James and pals are what really makes Lakers fans smile.

2. San Antonio Spurs 49-33 (5)
The San Antonio Spurs are the most consistent team in the NBA, as they look to make it 20 straight playoff appearances this year. Most of those years the Spurs were among the top teams in the Western Conference making long runs into the Conference Finals and beyond. However, there are some cracks showing as the veteran-laden team is already dealing with lingering injuries to MVP candidate Kawahi Leonard and Tony Parker. Eventually, the Spurs will begin to fade, this could be the start.
5. Phoenix Suns 19-63 (15)
The Phoenix Suns had a very quiet off-season, making no notable additions to a team that was one of the worst in the Western Conference last season. Rookie Josh Jackson should provide some excitement, but the rest of the team is rather hopeless as Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker are more likely to be trade chips than to be a real factor for Phoenix who is clearly in a rebuild state of mind.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder 58-24 (3)
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have just had their best offseason in franchise history. With MVP Russell Westbrook averaging a Triple Double last season, the Thunder added two more franchise players in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The only question is can these three big stars share the ball. Melo should be ready to be unselfish after his miserable years in New York, while George still needs to be sold on OKC to avoid his eye wandering to L.A. If all goes well the Thunder can make a run at Golden State in the West.
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3. Sacramento Kings 25-57 (14)
You would think getting a new arena and securing the future in Sacramento would help the Kings begin to turn things around, but nope. Continuous poor drafting, instability in coaching and bad trades have contributed to the Sacramento Kings becoming a laughing stock in the NBA once again. The Maloof Brothers may be gone, but the stench has yet to be cleared out of the building and the Kings remain a non-factor irrelevant team with no signs of improving.
4. Memphis Grizzlies 38-44 (11)
It was a good run, but the Memphis Grizzlies are no longer a playoff team with the departure of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph. With several teams on the rise and the Grizzlies holding some easily tradable pieces like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, don't be shocked if the Grizzlies become the biggest sellers in the NBA at the trade deadline, as the team is clearly in need of a rebuild.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves 53-29 (4)
The time is now for the Minnesota Timberwolves, after missing the playoffs every season since 2004 they appear to have a team that is ready to complete. With Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins two of the best young talented players in the frontcourt, the Timberwolves acquired some major backcourt help in Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague who should open lanes for Towns who is on the verge of becoming the best traditional man in the middle in the NBA.


1. Houston Rockets 61-21 (2)
If there is any team that could make a move on the Warriors in the Western Conference it is the Houston Rockets. Along with James Harden, who nearly matched Russell Westbrook's Triple-Double average, the Rockets have added Chris Paul, who should help them pick up the pace and open up, even more, scoring opportunities for Harden. The only thing lacking in Houston is a big physical body in the middle, if they can somehow make a deal in the season they could be the best hope for a new champion.
3. Portland Trail Blazers 46-36 (6)
The Portland Trail Blazers are that quiet team that always seems to stretch the most of their talent. While they are not among the elite teams in the Western Conference they have a nice solid team, that seems to make a run every year before they run into the Warriors that is. Look for that trend to continue was Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum continues to form one of the best backcourt combos in the NBA.

1. Golden State Warriors 65-17 (1)
The thing that makes the Golden State Warriors is that they do not just have some of the best players in the NBA, but they have a deep bench and an unselfish, and smart team that knows how to play together. The only thing that prevented them from winning three straight titles was the quest for 73 wins which led to them running out of gas in the finals. Like last year they save it for the postseason and dominate again as there is no team that can beat them in seven when they are 100%.
3. New Orleans Pelicans 45-37 (7)
This is put up or shut up time for DeMarcus Cousins, as he must find a way to mesh with Anthony Davis if he wants to be considered a top-level player in the NBA. The Pelicans acquired Cousins at the All-Star Break from Sacramento last season and never quite found the groove with the Unibrow as New Orleans never made the expected playoff push. With a full off-season program and training camp, things should be better for the Pelicans who get into the postseason as Rajon Rondo's addition will be a big help. A strong start is a must for New Orleans, as a poor start could lead to a fire sale with Anthony Davis on the market.
5. Utah Jazz 40-42 (10)
The loss of Gordon Hayward turns the Utah Jazz into Rudy Gobert's team. Gobert is one of the top defensive players in the league but does not provide much of an offensive punch. Looking up and down this roster it is hard to find any player who can become the big scorer, one player they are banking on is Ricky Rubio. A big loss for the Jazz is Dante Exum who will miss a big chunk of the season after a separating his shoulder in the preseason.
NBA AWARDS
Rookie of the Year:
Ben Simmons 76ers
Most Improved Player:
D'Angelo Russell Nets
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau Minnesota Timberwolves
Sixth Man:
Andre Iguodala Golden State Warriors
Defensive Player of the Year:
Draymond Green Warriors
NBA MVP:
James Harden Rockets
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Mike Budenholzer Atlanta Hawks
Rick Carlisle Dallas Mavericks

David Fizdale Memphis Grizzlies
Fred Hoiberg Chicago Bulls
Jeff Hornacek New York Knicks
Doc Rivers Los Angeles Clippers
Luke Walton Los Angeles Lakers
5. Chicago Bulls 26-56 (14)
It is going to be a long cold winter for the Chicago Bulls, who will be among the worst teams in the NBA. The decision to fire Coach Tom Thibodeau has really backfired on the Bulls as it has been straight downhill ever since. The breakdown of Derrick Rose did not help, while the signing of Dwyane Wade was a disaster last season. The only thing left was to tear it down and start from scratch and that's what the Bulls have decided to do.


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2. Los Angeles Clippers 42-40 (9)
It was fun while it lasted, but Los Angeles is about to become Lakers town again, as the Clippers are heading back into that realm as the sideshow. The loss of Chris Paul means no more Lob City as the Clippers never could quite take that next step. The Clippers still have Blake Griffin, but who will carry the team when he suffers his annual injury? This means no playoffs in L.A. as the Clippers begin to fade away.


5. Dallas Mavericks 33-49 (13)
This could be the end of the road for Dirk Nowitzki, who has to be considered one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA at Forward position. The all-time leading foreign-born player has been an NBA MVP and has led the Mavericks to an NBA Championship. However, he is now a shell of his former self and the Mavericks are a shell of a team. Expect the losses to rack up as the story becomes the farewell tour of Dirk in Dallas. Expect good things from rookie Dennis Smith Jr. as the Mavs turn to the future.
5. New York Knicks 20-62 (15)
Did the New York Knicks really give Tim Hardaway Jr. $71 million? Want to know why this team has not been relevant in 20 years, its contracts like that one. Hardaway is a good second level player but does not deserve top level money. The Knicks were finally able to dump off Carmelo Anthony but all they got back were a pair of stiffs in Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott. Kristaps Porzingis is going to do a lot of heavy lifting, and he has yet to show he can last a full 82-game season.

4. Orlando Magic 35-47 (11)
The Orlando Magic seem to be running in place, as they have not made the playoffs since 2012. The Magic is unlikely to return to the postseason this season as they don't have a lot of reliable scoring options as Evan Fournier was their top scorer at 17.2 points per game. Elfrid Payton showed some ability late last season, but he has often been too streaky to count on every game. The only way Orlando become a factor is if they decide to start selling off players to other teams who need a player to get over the top, as this team is not close to becoming a contender.
4. Denver Nuggets 44-38 (8)
The Denver Nuggets narrowly missed returning to the playoffs last season, with the addition of Paul Millsap, the hope is for some postseason basketball in the Mile-High City. Combined with Nikola Jokic, Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris the Nuggets should have one of the more balanced offensive attacks in the league. While they won't make much noise in the playoffs, Denver should at least be able to snatch that eighth seed for a sparring round with the Warriors.
4. Indiana Pacers 36-46 (10)
With the departure of Paul George there is not an awful lot to like about the Indiana Pacers, who have a few pieces, but nothing significant that can be put together to make this team a contender. The hope in Indiana is that Myles Turner can begin to develop into a player they can build around, but other than Turner they have a bunch of nice players that will likely help the Pacers more if they can trade them for future assets as they begin the process of rebuilding.

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Predictions made October 18, 2016 at 11:45 pm, ET
ATLANTIC DIVISION
CENTRAL DIVISION
SOUTHEAST DIVISION
NORTHWEST DIVISION
SOUTHWEST DIVISION
PACIFIC DIVISION
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Golden State Warriors 4 Denver Nuggets 0; Houston Rockets 4 New Orleans Pelicans 1
Oklahoma City Thunder 4 Portland Trail Blazers 3; San Antontio Spurs 4 Minnesota Timberwolves 3

Golden State Warriors 4 San Antonio Spurs 0; Houston Rockets 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 3

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Golden State Warriors 4 Houston Rockets 2