2018/19 NBA Preview
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Boston Celtics 4 Charlotte Hornets 1; Toronto Raptors 4 Miami Heat 2
Milwaukee Bucks 4 Indiana Pacers 3; Washington Wizards 4 Philadelphia 76ers 3
Boston Celtics 4 Washington Wizards 2; Milwaukee Bucks 4 Toronto Raptors 3
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Boston Celtics 4 Milwaukee Bucks 3
Golden State Warriors 4 Boston Celtics 3
Charlotte Hornets 40-42 (8)
The Charlotte Hornets are a team that should be better than it is, but it seems they suffer a major let down every season. Last year they were the worst team in the NBA in games decided by five runs or less. A major factor in the disappointing Hornets, is Nicolas Batum, who has yet to live up to the expectations of his big contract. In the Southeast Division, if the Hornets live up to expectations they can make a run at winning the division title, but more than likely they will again hover near the playoff bubble, with one or two games being the difference between being cannon fodder and going home after 82 games.
Atlanta Hawks 14-68 (15)
There is only one thing fans of the Atlanta Hawks can do and that is be patient. The Hawks likely are the worst team in the NBA as they are starting from the ground up. They have some talented young players, but none of them are ready to be anywhere close to being NBA stars. The Hawks have a new General Manager and a new coach, the new GM Travis Schlenk is from Golden State and has the blueprint, but with the focus being on stockpiling draft picks for the future, fans in Atlanta just have to trust the process and hope that is not a long process.
Cleveland Cavaliers 29-53 (12)
The Cleveland Cavaliers are like the depressed divorced guy at the bar. He had the greatest wife of all-time, but she was a two-timer. She left him before, and the guy was never able to get out of bed when they were apart, wallowing in misery. When she returned it was better than ever, as they went to paradise once and were at all the elite parties every other year, but the call of Hollywood was too much, and she is gone again, but at least you have a trophy that nobody can takeaway. Drink up remember the good times as you endure a season of losing and irrelevance.
Detroit Pistons 37-45 (9)
What will Blake break this season? When it comes to Blake Griffin it never is, if he gets hurt it’s a matter of when and what will muscle he tear or bone he will break. The Pistons hope Dwayne Casey can do what he did for the Raptors as he will replaces Stan Van Gundy as coach, but the problem was never Van Gundy it is a bad mix of good players who just can’t seem to gel right. The Pistons always seem to be one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA, and with Griffin’s injury history its hard to see that changing.
Philadelphia 76ers 49-33 (4)
Trust the process, the Philadelphia 76ers asked their fans for years. Their patience finally paid off last season, as the Sixers were one of the best teams in the East at 52-30 as their top-level draft picks began to emerge as stars. The key is the health of Joel Embiid, who missed 19 games last season and has a history of injuries. When Embiid is healthy, he is one of the best players in the league, while Ben Simmons should be even better after winning Rookie of the Year. The one letdown is the failure to add anyone, as the Bryan Colangelo Twitter scandal likely hurt their pursuit of free agents.
Washington Wizards 45-37 (5)
Any team that has John Wall and Bradley Beal should be a contender, but the Washington Wizards often underachieve and fail to meet expectations. Playing in what may be the worst division in NBA history, the Wizards should make the playoffs and be the top team in the Southeast that can win 50, but if the bad Wizards show up they could just as easily crash and burn and lose 50. Making matters worse they added Dwight Howard, who nearly a decade after being the top center in the NBA has bounced around with a new team every year leaving a mess behind everywhere he goes.
Miami Heat 42-40 (7)
Dwayne Wade returned to the Miami Heat last year and has signed up for another year along with Undonis Haslem. It’s appropriate that this team plays in Miami Heat, because they are closing in on being eligible to sign up for AARP. I mean I think Wade and Haslem should room together this year, and they should use “Thank You Being a Friend” as their theme song. Wade can still show flashes, but over an 82-game season he dose not have the stamina to carry the Heat far, though in that terrible division they should contend with the Wizards and win just enough to make the playoffs with Goran Dragic leading the way.
Toronto Raptors 57-25 (2)
On paper, the Toronto Raptors look like they could be something special. They added Kawhi Leonard one of the best defensive players in the NBA to go along with Kyle Lowry. The only question is will they get a motivated focused Leonard or the one who quit on the Spurs. Toronto has historically been like ice-station zero for some NBA stars, especially those who are California Dreamin’. If the Raptors can make Kawhi happy, the sky is the limit. If they cannot and Leonard wants out he can get “hurt” again and bide his time until he can join LeBron in LA LA Land.
Milwaukee Bucks 52-30 (3)
There is a buzz surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks, as there fans believe they can take the next step as they move into a new state of the art arena. Giannis Antetkoumpo has been one of the most popular players steadily improving over the last few seasons. The addition of Brook Lopez should open some space in the paint for the Greek Freak, who is also expected to benefit from the hiring of Mike Budenholzer, who has done a good job of getting the best out of teams in the past. With all these factors coming together expect big things as the league has even more to fear with the deer this year.
Boston Celtics 61-21 (1)
With the LeBron James going west, the Boston Celtics are now clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference. Last season the Celtics fell one win short of m (1aking the NBA Finals, with a roster that was hobbled most of the year. Brad Stevens has proven himself the best coach in the NBA. If they can keep Kyrie Irving healthy all year there is no telling what the Celtics can do as Jalen Brown and Jayson Tatum should be even better the second time around. The only question left is can the Celtics play enough defense to upset the Warriors in the NBA Finals; they have historically given them a fight.
Brooklyn Nets 30-52 (11)
Aimless and hopeless, the Brooklyn Nets are still wandering the desert of despair. Though there could be some relief in sight, General Manager Sean Marks has cleared the decks and the Nets could be big movers and shakers next offseason, with an ocean of cap room. Not only that they have their own draft pick for the first time in eons. The Nets will still be terrible in 2019, but finally the mess left by Billy King is gone and the Nets can be a real NBA team again after one more season of utter futility and irrelevance.
Los Angeles Lakers 52-30 (3)
King James goes Hollywood, was the story of the off-season, as LeBron James left Cleveland for the second time, signing of a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James should bring relevance back to the Lakers, who have not made the playoffs since 2013. They could even make a serious playoff run as LeBron James has carried dead weight to great heights in the past, taking the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals last year, but with the Warriors in the way the Finals streak of LeBron James will come to an end, though the Lakers have just begun as they will become a super team thanks to the King in the near future.
San Antonio Spurs 38-44 (10)
All good things must come to an end, and for the San Antonio Spurs that end will come this year as they will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997. The entire Kawhi Leonard affair last season, revolving around whether or not he faked an injury last season seemed to be the stone in the road that would eventually up end the Spurs wagon. Add in the departure of Tony Parker, the retirement of Manu Ginobili and the Spurs core is gone. They got DeMar DeRozan in exchange for Leonard, but do not have the pieces to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.
Phoenix Suns 34-48 (12)
After a dreadful year last season, the Phoenix Suns can only go up. The Suns made wholesale changes in the off-season, starting with number one overall pick Deandre Ayton, who stays in Arizona and should help boost attendance in Phoenix which had slumped with the Suns fortunes. In addition, the Suns added Trevor Ariza, who should provide veteran guidance for Ayton along with Mikali Bridges and Elie Okobo. The Suns should at the very least be exciting led by the play of Devin Booker who could have a big season with the new playmakers around him. The Suns will not be a factor in the playoffs, but they should make a
Oklahoma City Thunder 51-31 (4)
One of the big surprises of the off-season was the re-signing of Paul George who was expected to tag along with LeBron and start the super team in Los Angeles. Not only have the Thunder kept George they got rid of the big minus, Carmelo Anthony and added Dennis Schroeder an excellent three-point shooter who should be able to help Russell Westbrook in the backcourt in the process. In addition, Nerlens Noel picked up from the Pelicans should help on the boards. OKC were one of the stronger home teams last year, if they get a high enough seed, the Thunder could make a serious run at making the Conference Finals.
Sacramento Kings 22-60 (15)
Are the Sacramento Kings still in the NBA, after having not sniffed the postseason since 2006, it feels almost like they have been relegated to the G-League. They spin their wheels year in year out and when they begin to find talent, they are forced to trade him as nobody wants to stay in Sacramento a desolate locale, that must feel like Siberia to the rest of the league. The hope is players like De’Andre Fox and Marvin Bagley can become their foundation, though they may have the worst defense in the NBA and will top 60 losses.
Memphis Grizzlies 33-49 (13)
Mike Conley Jr. is healthy as the season begins, but how long will he stay that way. It always seems that the Memphis Grizzlies star guard will eventually go down, and when he does he will take the fortunes of the Griz with him. Marc Gasol also had the same problems with health, though the former defensive player of the year is likely more valuable as a potential trade piece, as Memphis looks toward the future with players like Jaren Jackson, whom they picked with the fourth overall pick. The Grizzlies won’t win a lot of games, but Jackson should provide some excitement.
Minnesota Timberwolves 45-37 (8)
Why can’t the Minnesota Timberwolves win more games? Why do they always seem to underachieve and underperform despite talented players like Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins? Why does Jimmy Butler want out of the Twin Cities so bad? Are the Timberwolves capable of getting anything right? If Butler is able to put his desire to GTFO Minnesota and have a strong season, the Timberwolves should be a playoff team. However, if Butler sulks while Towns continues lollygag, the Timberwolves could be a candidate to implode under Coach Tom Thibodeau. Meaning it could be back to the drawing board for a franchise that seems to write everything with crayons.
Houston Rockets 50-32 (5)
The Houston Rockets gave the Warriors all they could handle last season as they took them to Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. This is with James Harden leading the way with a MVP season. Hoping to take the next step, the Rockets made the biggest mistake of the off-season by signing the big negative Carmelo Anthony. Melo never makes the teams he is on better, and always ends up creating problems in the locker. When Melo was with the Knicks, he feuded with Mike D’Antoni. They may be smiling now, but come February they will be fighting again as the Rockets suffer a letdown season.
Portland Trailblazers 39-43 (9)
The Portland Trailblazers often run hot and cold. They have a solid backcourt led by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but they struggle to get enough consistency in the frontcourt and often go into prolonged slumps. With hardly any financial flexibility, the Trailblazers were unable to make any significant improvements in the off-season. In addition, they lost some of the bench depth, as they were unable to re-sign Shabazz Napier. With other teams around them improving, it will take a super effort just to stay in the race, in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture.
Golden State Warriors 63-19 (1)
The Golden State Warriors are without a doubt the class of the NBA. Winners of two straight and three of the last four NBA Championships, it is difficult to see how they don’t add another championship this year, as they have two of the top five players in Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. The Warriors also have Klay Thompson and one of the top defensive players in Draymond Green, add to this the signing of DeMarcus Cousins, who will join the season down the stretch as he recovers from an Achilles injury. If Cousins is healthy come playoff time the Warriors could go 16-0 in the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans 46-36 (7)
I wonder if Anthony Davis knows the word to “Along Again, Naturally”. After teaming so well with DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans star is once again looking for help on the New Orleans Pelicans roster. Davis excelled once Cousins went down, last season but expected it over an 82-game schedule is too much to ask, though the Unibrow is one of the top players in the NBA and a MVP candidate. The only problem is he will likely need to leave New Orleans, which he can do after the 2020 season, so the Pelicans better find a way to keep him happy or lose him and become irrelevant.
Utah Jazz 53-29 (2)
Ben Simmons may have won the Rookie of the Year, but as the season was coming to a close, Donovan Mitchell was becoming the better overall player thanks to a strong second half. Let the rest of the Utah Jazz roster, Mitchell benefited greatly from the return of Rudy Gobert. The Jazz also got a boost from Jae Crowder who was acquired at the trade deadline. With both in Utah for the full season, the season begins with great expectations for the Jazz. This is a young team that quietly has been on the rise; look for them to make some more noise as they could make a run for the Conference Finals.
Rookie of the Year: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Most Improved Player: Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Sixth Man: Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
NBA MVP: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Fred Hoiberg, Chicago Bulls
Dave Joerger, Sacramento Kings
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers
Chicago Bulls 31-51 (10)
The Chicago Bulls have a dozen fine pieces but not enough to be a serious contender. The addition of Jabari Parker should help the Bulls offensive and make them competitive, but they possess one of the league worst defenses. Parker and Zach Levine are exciting players but their flaws on defense will result in far more losses than wins. One player who could have an impact is rookie Wendell Carter Jr., but its more than likely it will take him more than a year to develop into a reliable center after leaving Duke after his freshman year.
Los Angeles Clippers 31-51 (14)
It seems if order has been restored at Staples Center, as the Lakers are again an elite team with the best player in the NBA, and the Los Angeles Clippers are back adrift in the sea of irrelevance. Gone are all the stars that made Lob City exciting, and with them is a sense of foreboding as the Clippers never advance past the second round. The Clippers have several small pieces that could help contenders, don’t be shocked if you see more changes throughout the season as they look to start from scratch and get back into the playoff picture again.
Dallas Mavericks 37-45 (11)
The Dirk Nowitzki farewell season begins, with him serving as a mentor to another potential star from Europe in Luka Donci, while they hope to see improvement out of second year player Dennis Smith Jr. The Mavericks should be better defensively with the addition of DeAndre Jordan, who finally lands in Dallas, after flirting for several years, and once being lured back to the Clippers at the last minute. However, the Mavericks will have a tough time remaining in playoff contention as they lack depth and the scoring touch to keep up in the highly competitive Western Conference.
New York Knicks 20-62 (14)
This year will mark 20 years since the New York Knicks surprise run to the NBA Finals as an eight seed. In the two decades since, the Knicks have made one bad move after another; making them the league’s laughing stock. The Knicks of 2019 will once again be terrible, as they may find ways to lose to get a good spot in the lottery, especial with Kristaps Prozingis out at least half a year recovering from knee surgery. They may as well shut him down now, and start looking at what they can do next summer because free agency is the only season Knicks fans really care about this season.
Orlando Magic 25-57 (13)
In the world of magicians, the Orlando Magic would be the Gob Bluth of the NBA. The Magic have been stuck in rut, losing more than 50 games in five of their last six years. They have also drafted high every year but have yet to have anyone come forth and turn them into contenders. The Magic seem more interested in drafting big named players but can’t seem to find the right mix as their draft picks only seem to find success after leaving Orlando. Mo Bamba fits this role perfectly but once again it will not lead to more success as the Magic endure another long losing season or irrelevance.
Denver Nuggets 48-34 (6)
The Denver Nuggets were the last team out last season, finishing ninth overall in the West, with a record that was better than three Eastern Conference Playoff teams. With the addition of Isaiah Thomas, things are looking up in Denver. Last season, they got a big year from Nikola Jokic who averaged a career-best 21.0 points per game. The Nuggets made sure to keep Jokic happy, signing him to a new five-year deal to make him the face of the franchise. Thomas should help set up the seven-foot center to have a monster season. If they can get a healthy season out of Paul Millsap, Denver can make a serious run at winning 50 games.
Indiana Pacers 44-38 (6)
After losing Paul George, the expectations for the Indiana Pacers were low at the start of last season, but the team proved many experts wrong and had a successful season thanks to the breakout of Victor Oladipo who was the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Look for another strong year out of Oladipo as he seems to have found his comfort level in Indiana after struggling in Orlando and OKC. The addition of Tyreke Evans should help the Pacers off the bench as the departure of LeBron James has opened the Central Division for a new contender, if they can beat out Milwaukee, the Pacers could make some noise in the postseason.
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Predictions made October 20, 2018 at 11:45 pm, ET
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Golden State Warriors 4 Minnesota Timberwolves 0; Utah Jazz 4 New Orleans Pelicans 2
Los Angeles Lakers 4 Denver Nuggets 3; Houston Rockets 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 3
Golden State Warriors 4 Houston Rockets 0; Los Angeles Lakers 4 Utah Jazz3
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Golden State Warriors 4 Los Angeles Lakers 1