2019/20 NBA Preview
EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Milwaukee Bucks 4 Toronto Raptors 1; Philadelphia 76ers 4 Orlando Magic 1
Boston Celtics 4 Miami Heat 2; Brooklyn Nets 4 Indiana Pacers 3
Milwaukee Bucks 4 Brooklyn Nets 1; Philadelphia 76ers 4 Boston Celtics 3
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Milwaukee Bucks 4 Philadelphia 76ers 3
Milwaukee Bucks 4 Los Angeles Clippers 3
Charlotte Hornets 21-61 (14)
The Charlotte Hornets had been a playoff contender that just could not find a way to get over the hump in the past few seasons, thanks to the play of Kemba Walker. However, after losing Walker to the Hornets that supporting cast that could not get Walker past, the bubble is tasked with doing it on their own. In other words, this team could not make the playoffs with Kemba Walker, and now they have nothing mediocre players. Maybe their owner can lace up the sneakers again, what you say MJ? He may be the only thing to bring some buzz to this mess of a situation.
Atlanta Hawks 29-53 (11)
With players like Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter, there is hope that the Atlanta Hawks can begin to take a step forward. All three are young and talented but not ready to win on a nightly basis. The Hawks are heading in the right direction and can be a playoff contender within the next year or two, as their core stars grow into maturity. If the Hawks could land a veteran star, they could make a run at the playoffs.
Cleveland Cavaliers 18-64 (15)
It is the 50th Anniversary season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they have one shiny banner to stare at again and again as LeBron James begins his second season in Los Angeles. Not many players are left from the team that won the championship in 2016 and went to the NBA Finals four straight season as they quickly blew things up. Kevin Love hut last season is the only piece left, and more than likely, he too will be leaving Cleveland behind as its back to square one for the Cavaliers in 2020.
Detroit Pistons 39-43 (9)
Stagnation is the address at which the Detroit Pistons live. A team that has seemingly lived on the NBA Playoff bubble for a decade, usually ending up on the wrong side of it. Last year they finished 41-41 as Blake Griffin played 76 games. Griffin usually does not play that many games, and if he gets that annual injury bug, the Pistons offense will be compromised. While Detroit has been stagnated, several teams have improved, meaning they likely will be in the race but fall just short of the postseason again.
Philadelphia 76ers 56-36 (2)
Spirits are high in the City of Brotherly Love, as the Philadelphia 76ers have completed the process and appear to be ready to make a run at NBA Championship. The addition of Al Horford should improve some of the Sixers' shortcomings on defense. The key once again will be health, as the 76ers will go only as far as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can carry them. If either misses significant time or are slowed, the 76ers could have a difficult time reaching their goals of being one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Washington Wizards 27-55 (12)
There is not a whole lot to look forward to this season if you are a fan of the Washington Wizards, as John Wall is expected to miss the entire season. Making matters worse, the team is heavily burdened with large contracts like the one given to Bradley Beal, that has them pressed against the salary cap. More than likely, the Wizards will find themselves as sellers this season as the team is clearly facing a rebuild going forward, with Wall himself expected to be moved once he is healthy.
Miami Heat 44-38 (6)
The Miami Heat are looking to become a factor in the postseason as they have added Jimmy Butler and began making plans to build around him. Butler will not be able to do it alone, but no team is in a better position to add players during the season. With Pat Riley's ability to swing a deal, expect the Heat to be among the more active teams at the trade deadline. If Miami can land a second big name, the Heat could make a serious run in the East.
Toronto Raptors 40-42 (8)
Where will the defending champions land without Kawhi Leonard? The Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi, knowing he could leave after one season. The deal was worth it as Toronto captured their first NBA Championship. Sadly, repeating is not in the cards, as the Raptors will find themselves on the playoff bubble as the l lengthy decision process made replacing Kawhi impossible. Do not be shocked if the Raptors end up becoming sellers if they are on the wrong side of that bubble in February as Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Kyle Lowry are all nearing the end of their contracts.
Milwaukee Bucks 58-24 (1)
The Milwaukee Bucks had the best record in the regular season last season thanks to an MVP season from Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak may be just scratching the surface of how great he can be. No team may stand taller this year than the Bucks, as they have brought together the Lopez Twins, standing at seven feet tall in the middle. The loss of Malcolm Brogdon could be a concern for Milwaukee, but with Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe, and Khris Middleton leading the way the NBA needs to Fear the Deer more than ever.
Boston Celtics 53-29 (3)
At a certain point last season, it became obvious that the Boston Celtics were better without Kyrie Irving. While Irving is one of the NBA's top players, it was like fitting a round peg in a square hole under Brad Stevens' system. The Celtics hope that Kemba Walker could find a place to shine in Boston, while Gordon Hayward, a year removed from a knee injury, can regain his All-Star form. Besides, with more playing time, there is hope Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can both become All-Stars if all those pieces fall in place Boston could be lining up the Duck Boats.
Brooklyn Nets 46-36 (4)
Hope has arrived in the Big Apple as NBA Basketball is back in New York, with the Brooklyn Nets lading Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant as the other team shot an airball. Durant will need the full season to heal, but after being restricted in Boston, Irving can spread his wings and reach his full potential in Brooklyn. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are NBA Champions. The Nets still have their holes, but a good season and a second-round playoff appearance are not impossible, setting the stage for Durant to ride in and take them to new heights in the future.
Los Angeles Lakers 47-35 (5)
The Los Angeles Lakers hope the additions of Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, and Anthony Davis can bring them back to the elite level. Year one of LeBron James in Los Angeles was a box office flop, as the Lakers missed the playoffs last season, with James coming off a petty as he often separated himself from team huddles. It is assumed with a better cast around him, LeBron can make magic again, but they are forgetting Chairman LeBron will be turning 35 in December. He may no longer be that player he was in Cleveland and Miami as the grind of Western Conference can take a toll on an older player.
San Antonio Spurs 44-38 (8)
Somehow and someway, the San Antonio Spurs will find their way into the NBA postseason. Their best days are behind them, and they can no longer be considered NBA elite team, yet they Gregg Popovich knows how to maximize his talent. Look for the Spurs to continue to win those close games that come down to a play at the end of the game due to Popovich's ability to put the right players in the game at key situations as DeMar DeRozan will shine in his second season in San Antonio.
Phoenix Suns 32-50 (13)
Although the Phoenix Suns are likely a year or two from being a playoff contender, there is a sense that things are turning around in the desert. After being the worst team in the NBA in 2018, and the worst team in the West, Phoenix hired Mont Williams as their new coach. He should help Deandre Ayton's development. They also signed Ricky Rubio, who should open things up for Devin Booker. If they can land a big in next year's draft, they could begin taking big strides in 2020 and beyond.
Oklahoma City Thunder 34-48 (12)
It is rebuilding time for the Oklahoma City Thunder as they made the hard choice to part with Russell Westbrook in the offseason. The Thunder also said good-bye to Paul George and Jerami Grant. The Westbrook trade saw OKC land, Chris Paul. Still, when the season gets into the meat of the schedule, Paul will likely be also leaving OKC as the Thunder are better off starting over and picking up as many draft picks as possible to make the turnaround as quick as possible.
Sacramento Kings 35-47 (11)
If there is a bright center to the NBA universe, Sacramento Kings are the team that is farthest from it. The Kings have not been to the playoffs since 2006, and it does not appear they will be going to the playoffs anytime soon. Perhaps if they played in the East, they would have a better chance, but they do not have the players to make run in the highly stacked Western Conference.
Memphis Grizzlies 25-57 (14)
The Memphis Grizzlies start a rebuild project. Gone are the players that once had the Grizzlies in contention for the playoffs. Now the roster is full of reserves and bad contracts that can be disposed of quickly as the Grizzlies look to begin building a new nucleus. It is never pretty when a team begins a rebuild, so watch for falling objects as the Grizzlies will be among the worst teams in the West.
Minnesota Timberwolves 45-37 (10)
One of these days, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be able to put it all together and make a run deep into the playoffs. Karl Anthony Towns can be one of the best players in the league, but the Wolves cannot seem to get the formula right as his time in the Twin Cities is starting to resemble that of Kevin Garnett. Andrew Wiggins, also a #1 pick, has yet to reach his full potential and is likely to be traded as he does mesh in Ryan Saunders' system, as the Wolves will continue to disappoint.
Houston Rockets 60-22 (1)
The Houston Rockets are going to be a fun team to watch as James Harden, and Russell Westbrook tries to put up Triple Doubles every night. The two should also be among the NBA's leading scorers making the Rockets a sure bet to be among the NBA's best teams in the regular season. However, come playoff time can the Rockets play enough defense to win a championship? That is the true test for Houston, as the season will likely be spoiled if they Rockets fizzle in May.
Portland Trailblazers 42-40 (9)
The Portland Trail Blazers were a big surprise in the Western Conference Finals as they overcame the injury to Jusuf Nurkic thanks to the addition of Enes Kanter. However, with Kanter in Boston Nurkic out until February, the Blazers will be in danger of being destroyed on the glass on a nightly basis. Portland has built their team around their backcourt with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum leading the way, but if they cannot get reliable play in the frontcourt, it will not matter, as they will fall just short of the postseason in the stacked Western Conference.
Golden State Warriors 50-32 (4)
The Golden State Warriors are now back in the City of San Francisco as they finally get to open the Chase Center. After five straight appearances in the NBA Finals, the Warriors come in hobbled as Kevin Durant is gone, and Klay Thompson is out at least until February with a knee injury. This will be a test for Stephen Curry to show just how much he can carry the team. While the body may be exhausted, the mind is strong, and that muscle memory for winning should at least lift the Warriors to another 50-win season.
New Orleans Pelicans 22-60 (15)
The New Orleans Pelicans hit the jackpot when the landed the #1 pick and drafted Zion Williamson from Duke. However, before the season started, Williamson suffered a knee injury that will cost him at least the first two months of the season. Injury concerns were the only thing that gave NBA GMs a pause when looking at the former Duke star. Without Zion, the Pelicans are likely to suffer greatly and could be the worst team in the NBA.
Utah Jazz 49-33 (5)
With Rudy Gobert in the middle and Donovan Mitchell at shooting guard, the Utah Jazz only needed a catalyst to take the next step. With the acquisition of Mike Conley, the Jazz believe they found that missing piece. They also added Bojan Bogdanovic to create even more physicality under the rim. The Jazz may be the best defensive team in the NBA, which could make them a dark horse candidate to make a run at an NBA Championship, especially if Conley frees up Mitchell to score more points.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Most Improved Player: Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic
Coach of the Year: Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
Sixth Man: Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
NBA MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Coaches Who Will be Fired
James Borrego, Charlotte Hornets
Scott Brooks, Wahington Wizards
Dwane Casey, Detroit Pistons
Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans
Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers
Chicago Bulls 32-50 (10)
After suffering a 60-loss season, the Chicago Bulls have begun to make small noticeable improvements that should help them be somewhat more competitive such as the addition of Thaddeus Young. It is hard seeing the Bulls make a run at the playoffs, but they have begun to make the climb back to respectability. Perhaps a big-name free agent or a prized prospect can make the Bulls into winners again in a year or two as this year's team, though likely losing 50 games, will be a real bear on most nights.
Los Angeles Clippers 58-24 (2)
As 2020 arrives, we could be on the brink of the accomplice. It was written once by Nostraltankmush if the Los Angeles Clippers ever win an NBA Championship, the earth will be turned upside down and go bouncing into the sun. With the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers may have a legitimate shot to win an NBA Championship, as they are stacked and have a team of experienced winners in the postseason. The Clippers are also blessed with depth, which should get them past mundane part of the season in February, as they are poised for a long playoff run.
Dallas Mavericks 45-37 (7)
It is a new day for the Dallas Mavericks as Dirk Nowitzki has retired, paving the way for Luka Doncic to take over as the face of the franchise. Doncic is expected to be the next big star for Europe who could be poised by a breakout season as he gets help from Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis, who missed all of last season, will be making his Dallas debut. If he can get back to full health, he too could be in for a breakout season, lifting the Mavericks back into the playoffs.
New York Knicks 23-59 (13)
With the Nets landing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the New York Knicks are not officially second banana in the Big Apple. Add to the Knicks missing out on a marque star in the draft lottery, and you have another year of hopeless suffering at the Garden of whoa. While the Knicks won't be as bad as they were last year as tanking in the NBA just brings more sadness, they will again find them in last place and will be in the running for a high lottery pick.
Orlando Magic 43-39 (7)
Brighter days are arriving in Central Florida as the Orlando Magic look to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The Magic have assured themselves of being a contender again by keeping Nikola Vucevic with a new four-year contract. The Magic are a team that would drown in the rough seas of the West but should be good enough to again make the postseason in the East. One big wild card is former #1 pick Markelle Fultz, who was written off as a bust in Philadelphia. If he can find his game in Orlando, the Magic could make a run at being a top contender.
Denver Nuggets 55-27 (3)
As Nikolai Jokic gets better, the Denver Nuggets become a more realistic title contender. Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson are the only players that have had more points, rebounds, and assists in their first four seasons. All Jokic needs now is someone to rise and become the second option for Denver. Jamal Murray should be that player with Paul Millsap providing support. The only question for the Nuggets is their depth, which is not great and can be exploited come the playoffs.
Indiana Pacers 45-37 (5)
The Indiana Pacers are almost the forgotten team in the East. The Pacers won 48 games and appeared to be a contender before Victor Oladipo suffered a knee injury. Oladipo is still recovering and could miss the first half of the season, but upon his return, Indiana should become a live dog. The addition of Malcolm Brogdon should also help improve the backcourt, which was lacking in Oladipo's absence. Look for Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis to have a big season as the Pacers rise as a dark horse.
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Predictions written October 24, 2019 at 11:45 pm, ET
WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS:
Houston Rockets 4 San Antonio Spurs 2; Los Angeles Clippers 4 Dallas Mavericks 1
Los Angeles Lakers 4 Denver Nuggets 3; Utah Jazz 4 Golden State Warriors 2
Utah Jazz 4 Houston Rockets 3; Los Angeles Clippers 4 Los Angeles Lakers 3
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS:
Los Angeles Clippers 4 Utah Jazz 2