This is a first for me, I obsessively follow hoops and had so much fun getting this together. Hit me up with any thoughts!
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - Very deep, Mo Williams pickup fills a big hole for secondary playmaker, and the obvious, LeBron James. He has made it to the finals twice with extremely thin Cavs teams, this season coming in with so much talent and depth, no reason to doubt The King.
2) Miami Heat - Best starting 5 in East. Addition of Gerald Green off bench adding 29.3 PPG in 48 minute average last year who could contend for 6th man award. Do not trust Hasaan Whiteside after only 32 NBA starts, but imagine they have enough talent to give the league their ratings wish, a Lebron/Wade Eastern finals.
3) Chicago Bulls - New coach, new system, same old Rose. Butler takes this team over and starts the new look Bulls, which I think will thrive under Holberg. Bobby Portis is biggest rookie sleeper and will contribute big minutes right away. Too many injury concerns to contend with the top 2 though, I’m afraid.
4) Atlanta Hawks - Love their system, coach and big 3. But, they leave a big gaping hole for a wing defender with loss of Carroll, and stayed even while the East greatly improved. Should see big strides from Schroeder but can’t see them getting past the top 3 teams.
5) Milwaukee Bucks - They are long and versatile and create mismatches at 4 positions. Have the option to play small or big, and added Greg Monroe’s nightly double/double, coming off a 16PPG/10RPG off-year in Detroit. Kidd, jerk that he is, has proven he’s top 10 coach and can see this team advancing a playoff round or two.
6) Washington Wizards - One John Wall injury from disaster, but lucky for them a few solid trees in the middle and Beal on a contract year should still bring them to playoffs. Not convinced they can make any noise past first round. Whitman is a ghost in DC if they don’t.
7) Boston Celtics - Isiaah Thomas averaged 30.6 PPG per 48 minutes last season. Amir Johnson and David Lee will balance Sullinger-gate, Marcus Smart on second year, maybe best on-ball perimeter defender in East with Avery Bradley. And, in my opinion the best young coach in the league. Boston is on the rise.
8) Detroit Pistons - Greg Monroe is a good player, but the floor chemistry suffered greatly with him on roster. I expect big years from Jackson/Drummond and a full season under Van Gundy. Hopefully Marcus Morris doesn’t have another twin-loss meltdown. Think they ride high off last years strong finish and crack the Eastern playoffs.
9) Toronto Raptors- Just like Wizards, one Kyle Lowry injury away from being a 30 win team. Don’t love the makeup, and could see Casey losing his guys with a poor stretch. They could be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
10) Charlotte Hornets - Quiet additions of Batum/Lamb/Lin, don’t think they can get past MKG injury. Al Jefferson has proven to be a serviceable NBA big man/scorer, but he’s no leader.
11) Indiana Pacers - George off injury and CJ Miles/Ian Mahinmi in starting lineup. Departure of David West a big hit for locker room chemistry. Vogel is a great coach but don’t think they have the roster, especially with your big wing scorer (Monta Ellis) hitting threes at a .285% clip last season.
12) New York Knicks - Had a solid offseason and started building a real team around Carmelo. Started being the operative word. Hopefully he’s not 45 when they complete the process.
13) Brooklyn Nets - Post Deron Williams era brings life and more uptempo system. Sneaky additions of youth/speed in Larkin, T-Rob, RHJ paired with a full year from Thad Young. It will be more fun, but sadly for us BK fans, won’t translate to enough wins.
14) Orlando Magic - Love the young pieces, but until Oladipo or Harris can be someone to lean on for scoring, can’t crack the playoffs just yet. Would need huge improvement years from Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon to even sniff the 8 seed.
15) Philadelphia Sixers - You know the deal, Okafor/Noel should be fun to watch down low. Won’t result in W’s. Time for Philly fans to stop attending games and force their hand in giving fans a legitimate team, too good a basketball town to not.
1) Oklahoma City Thunder - Durant shot 60% from field in preseason, full year for DJ Augustin off bench, and fresh start with Billy Donovan. Oh yeah, and the best athlete in the game, Westbrook. With so much to lose, Spurs bound to rest down the stretch and Andrew Bogut’s inevitable injury, see them as the #1 seed.
2) Golden State Warriors - Love this team but hard not to feel they had a special year and will drop down to earth a touch. That being said, cannot devalue a dominant championship team who brings back all the pieces. Will eventually win the Western Playoffs, but might have a couple tough stretches in regular season.
3) San Antonio Spurs - The always tricky Spurs, is it the year the big 3 breaks down? Probably not. But I do think they feel the loss of Bellinelli on perimeter and have an adjustment period to get through. Will drop regular season games for rest, as we know, but be right there in the end, as always.
4) Houston Rockets - I have Houston as the 4th best team in league behind SA/CLE/GS…but sadly for them, I see a repeat of their 14/15’ season. Harden will beast, Howard will defend and kill the playoffs, but will come up just short against one of the big boys.
5) Memphis Grizzlies - Same old power basketball juggernauts who are experienced and added depth. This team could annoy the league into a frenzy, but still feel they’re one big time shooter away from cracking the West finals.
6) LA Clippers - How can you believe in this team? Even with the quality additions of Pierce/Stephenson, hard to see them putting together 4 good enough games to get through the West’s top 5 in playoffs. Rinse/Repeat for the Clippers.
7) New Orleans Pelicans - 45 wins with A. Davis putting up MVP numbers by himself, or 55-60 wins with a healthy and engaged Jrue Holiday and eventually Tyreke Evans. Eric Gordon was 3rd in NBA shooting threes at .448% clip. Inside/out game could be huge, especially if Ryan Anderson stays on floor.
8) Sacramento Kings - Of course this pick could blow up in my face. Cousins is, when engaged, the second best big man in the league (behind A.Davis) … Rondo/Collison give you different styles from the PG spot and they improved their outside shooting. If they don’t collapse horribly, watch out.
9) Phoenix Suns - Potentially dynamic backcourt of Knight/Bledsoe with addition of defensive lynchpin Chandler is strong core. Development of Len/Warren/Goodwin off bench could be sway that gets them the 7/8 spot or get left home.
10) Utah Jazz - Gave up a league best 94.9 PPG last year, and bring back core of Favors/Hayward/Gobert…worried about production from guard spots and sadly…two good teams have to be left out of playoffs in the West.
11) Dallas Mavericks - Can’t stress enough how I hate how this team looks on paper, but Carlisle is one of the best and will eek 40+ wins out of them.
12) LA Lakers - Should be fun to watch, but shocked if it comes together so fast. Clarkson/Russell/Randle should at least cushion Kobe enough to make this a watchable team.
13) Portland Trailblazers - In the West, Lillard will have to shoulder too big of a load. He will likely be top 5-10 in league in scoring, which essentially means he had to do too much with no help. Enjoy Air Plums, just hope he doesn’t get fouled.
14) Minnesota Timberwolves - Rubio/Wiggins/Towns/Dieng/Mohammed might be most fun core of youth in league next to Orlando, don’t see it turning into wins yet. But should start seeing an ascension from the cellar. RIP Flip.
15) Denver Nuggets - Love Mudiay, and that’s about it. Same old for Denver, expect high volume and low percentages from Gallo/Foye/Chandler.
Eastern Conference Finals: Cleveland vs Miami
Eastern Conference Champs: Cleveland Cavaliers
Western Conference Finals: Oklahoma City/Golden State
Western Conference Champs: Golden State Warriors
NBA Champs: Cleveland Cavaliers
MVP - Kevin Durant
6th Man of the Year - Isiaah Thomas
Coach of the Year - Brad Stevens
Finals MVP - Lebron James
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Rookie of the Year: Karl Anthony TownsExecutive of the Year: David Griffin