The NBA season is now upon us, so it’s time to start making predictions. The BS writers confided to predict what the playoff picture will look like once the regular season is over.
1. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets were a surprise to many last year as they finished second in the west. As a young team which showed their depth and cohesion while having so many injuries. It is with confidence to say that this team will only improve going forward. Last season, their biggest weakness was at power forward with a declining Paul Millsap. Knowing this, the Nuggets made a trade to acquire Jerami Grant who is a long and athletic forward who fits well with their fast pace offense and will also provide versatility on defense. The one wild card is Michael Porter Jr. It is hard to predict what his on-court production will be since this will be his first season coming off a serious back injury as well as it is “technically” his first NBA season. The Nuggets will have a successful regular season. With Jamal Murray’s game improving year after year, and with one of the most skilled big men the game has to offer in Nikola Jokic should mark for a great season.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
Coming off a 48 win season, the Clippers managed to add two superstars to their already talented core of players. With the addition of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, they are sure to take this team to another level. With many “super teams,” it takes time to develop a well-functioning team. Since these additions play their role well and do their jobs it won’t be long before the Clippers will be a super team. The two low ego superstars will be a great fit amongst the team which already operates under the philosophy that no one player is greater than the team. Doc Rivers’s coaching will ensure a strong defensive mindset along with a deep bench.
3. Utah Jazz
Finally, the Utah Jazz has its point guard as Mike Conley was traded there from Memphis over the off-season. Finishing the season 50-32, the jazz look to go up the standing by this trade and with the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic. Utah’s big three in Mitchell, Gobert, and Conley are all great defenders. These are all players who don’t take nights off and have all proven to be grinders. I don’t know how they would do in a postseason, although as far as the regular season goes, this team will take zero nights off. I believe at least one, maybe both, Mitchell and Gobert have all-star in the back of his mind and will look to make a jump into that category through their team’s success.
4. Houston Rockets
Adding Russell Westbrook along with the departure of the aging Chris Paul will certainly help this team to win games. Will Westbrook be able to play off the play? Having some doubts considering last season shooting a horrific 29.0% from 3. This team is aware that their window of opportunity is closing so expect everyone to be on their best behavior during the regular season as their egos and dignities are on the line. Expect this to have short term success but once playoffs arrive so will their egos and tendencies.
5. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are limited on depth but they still have Steph. Having a luxury like Steph on your team bringing great leadership is a plus. For the past 5 years, the Warriors have been lead by an unselfish and selfless leader this is their strength. Steph and Draymond will continue to lead, and newcomer D’Angelo Russell should be able to score and fill in for Thompson during the regular season. Expecting with the return of Thompson late in the season Russell may no longer be a Warrior. The team could benefit from a 3 and D SF as well as add depth to strengthen its bench. The Warriors are no team to sleep on despite their setbacks; they will still be a challenge to defeat once the playoffs come around.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
Will the Trail Blazers be a blazing this season? This team is determined to be a major contender. They have taken some risk this offseason and are not being shy about it. Hassan Whiteside was one of the best rim protectors in the NBA but could never find a consistent roll the past 2 seasons with the Heat. Portland noticed that and added Whiteside, who will provide the much-needed defense behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. With all the pieces being added, which are great moves but will take some time before this team reaps the rewards. Expect growing pains. Anfernee Simmons and Nassir Little will have to gain the trust of the coach and the veterans. This team will have some ups and downs over the regular season but the changes could very well be worth it. The Blazers are no longer playing it safe they are taking the necessary risks to become a true contender in the West.
7. Sacramento Kings
Like many other teams in the West, the team has had an aggressive offseason. Last year they were the 9th seed in the Western Conference. They showed a lot of growth last year. Particularly, De’Aaron Fox showing a lot of potential. The franchise has been waiting for a player like him. The offseason was surrounded by obtaining players that would support his playing style. The Kings made it their goal to provide shooters to space the floor opening up driving lanes allowing Fox to do what he does best – drive to the rim. Expect the emergence of the 2nd year player Marvin Bagley who was the number 2 overall pick in last year’s draft. While he suffered some injuries last season; he should be able to take a major leap forward helping the Kings reach the playoffs if he remains healthy. The biggest question is having to compete against terrific coaches in the West and with an unproven coach, we will have to wait to see.
8. Los Angeles Lakers
I think it’s obvious to many that the Lakers will be better this season with the addition of Anthony Davis. The Lakers did whatever it took this off Season to be a win-now team. The Lakers finished 10th in the west at 37-45. Trading away many pieces of their young core and firing Luke Walton will hopefully bring this team into the realization that the culture needs to change and I believe it will. The Lakers added many veterans such as Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Quin Cook, Troy Daniels, etc. They also signed Dwight Howard after DeMarcus Cousins tore his ACL. These moves were specific moves that have worked in the past with bringing in veterans to play alongside LeBron. Kyle Kuzma is still on the roster after all the rumors and will most likely be a candidate for 6th man of the year. The King and Davis are arguably the most talented duo in the NBA, and why I don’t see them higher is since Anthony Davis hasn’t proven to stay healthy. Anthony Davis has suffered more than 25 injuries in the NBA (BasketballForever). This is a concern as Lakers Depth only goes so far in a very competitive western conference.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were 1st seed last year in the Eastern Conference still containing the same core from last season they should be the favorite for the number 1 seed in the East. The Bucks starting line up will be the same this season as last season. They will be without their 6th man Malcolm Brogdon which will hurt but with some veteran signings like Kyle Korver and Robin Lopez the Bucks are still going to be one of the best defense as well as 3 point shooting teams in the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the MVP last year without a jump shot. With another offseason to only get better, we can expect great things. As long as he is leading the way the Bucks are in good hands.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers lost Jimmy Butler this offseason but still managed to improve their team. Underrated guard Josh Richardson will be a great complementary player for them. As an all-around player, he can bring versatility to the team by fitting in well amongst their existing players. Signing Al Horford who is a selfless two-way player is another great addition. It will be interesting to see how Horford and Embiid coexist next to each other, both being bigs in a fast pace era. The 76ers will need to address their lack of shooting off their bench sometime this season, but during the buy out process and the trading deadline, they should be able to fulfill those needs.
3. Indiana Pacers
This team has always had a good organization, with a good head coach which seems to instill buy-in with the players. These players will play hard throughout the 82 game season. This offseason the Pacers retooled with their biggest position being point guard Malcolm Brogdon who will fit flawlessly into their system and culture. Until Oladipo is healthy the Pacers did a great job of adding depth and scoring with players like Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, and T.J. Warren. Having 2 young big men, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner will provide scoring as well as rim protection. Once healthy, the return of Victor Oladipo is sure to give them a go-to scorer who will help them at crunch time.
4. Boston Celtics
The departure of Kyrie Irving could very well reshape the culture of the Celtics. Adding Kemba Walker will be their go-to scorer as well as a veteran leader for their young players. It appears the Celtics will be going back to a time before Irving and giving Tatum and Brown and other younger players back the confidence and freedom to reach their potential. It will be difficult to make up for the departure of Al Horford as his multiple talents are hard to replace.
5. Brooklyn Nets
Although, a playoff contender last season the Nets this season will look very different. With the addition of Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, and eventually Kevin Durant the key to this season will see how these veterans make it to the playoffs with the young players who made it their last season. Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen should both still be key contributors this year. The Nets are talented team however, it seems this is a building year for the Nets with sights set on a championship in the next season.
6. Miami Heat
With the arrival of Jimmy Butler, the Heat can somewhat remain relevant in the Eastern Conference Playoff race. With Bam Adebayo getting an increasing role and Tyler Herro’s ability to space the floor will help this team. Despite this, the Heat are primarily a veteran-laden team while outside of Butler they may have some middling talent. The coaching abilities of Erik Spoelstra seem to somehow always keeps this team afloat.
7. Orlando Magic
The Magic largely bringing back the same team from last year’s season. Don’t expect to see too much-playing action from their young players. Which may be unfortunate in the development of these individuals. With so many redundancies throughout their roster, their ceiling is limited to be a lower level playoff team.
8. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors still possess many of the same veterans that lead them to the championship last season. With the loss of Kawhi Leonard, the remaining wing players will struggle to fill his shoes. The Raptors are a well-coached team that will have to rely more heavily on winning games defensively. With Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, they should be able to remain competitive and clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Article Written by Bradley and Sean Patten
Statistics on Anthony Davis injury history https://basketballforever.com/2017/10/25/anthony-davis-added-injury-history-needs-seen-believed
Team Rosters http://www.espn.com/nba/players
NBA 2018-2019 standings https://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2019_standings.html
All player stats found on Basketball Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com/)
Image Credits to NBA.com (https://store.nba.com/nba-224-x-34-teams-poster/p-25932361724577+z-9481-1808535814)