It is time folks! One of the most highly-anticipated NBA seasons of all-time is upon us thanks to an offseason for the ages. Superstars moved left and right at a rapid pace, thus, bringing us to a balanced league that we have not seen in quite some time. On paper, there are multiple championship contenders in the Western and Eastern Conference, with, at least, 11 teams in the West having a viable shot at reaching the playoffs.
I am going to breakdown each division and give you my record predictions for each team. Then, I will lay out my eight playoff teams for each conference. I will make an NBA Finals prediction and I will close this preview with some individual awards. Let’s go!
- Philadelphia 76ers – 53-29
- Boston Celtics – 48-34
- Toronto Raptors – 47-35
- Brooklyn Nets – 44-38
- New York Knicks – 25-57
Poor Knicks. They could not get Zion Williamson or KD or Kyrie Irving and are stuck with the hopes that RJ Barrett will grow into a superstar. Along with that, they will have to play 16 of their games with playoff contenders in the rest of this division. Philly still lacks the perimeter shooting but they have the lineup, depth, and leadership to win the conference and reach the NBA Finals. The Celtics will be around where they finished last year but in a better place as the chemistry should be figured out with Kyrie’s replacement, Kemba Walker. The Raptors are still a contender but their faith now lies in Pascal Siakam to become the franchise player that he teased during their championship run last year. Without Kevin Durant, the Nets will not be a title contender but with the addition of Kyrie Irving and the rising stardom of a healthy Caris LeVert, look for this Brooklyn team to turn heads like they did last year.
- Milwaukee Bucks – 60-22
- Detroit Pistons – 42-40
- Indiana Pacers – 39-43
- Chicago Bulls – 27-52
- Cleveland Cavaliers – 20-62
This is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s world and we are just living in it. Milwaukee is going to cruise to the one seed in the East and they are going to go undefeated against a fairly weak division. However, do not be shocked if these Pacers can return to form with the return of Victor Oladipo and the addition of Malcolm Brogdon. If Blake Griffin can stay healthy, look for Detroit to be better than the mark I have set them at. Chicago is looking to build the next big three with Coby White, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen but they still have quite a way to go before they are a contender again. I forgot Cleveland has existed ever since LeBron abandoned them for a second time.
- Miami Heat – 46-36
- Atlanta Hawks – 41-41
- Orlando Magic – 32-50
- Charlotte Hornets – 28-54
- Washington Wizards – 26-56
Yikes, this division ain’t looking to sharp. There is a lot to be excited about in South Beach with the additions of Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard, and rising rookie, Tyler Herro. However, it is the ATL that I believe will turn heads this season. With an already exciting core in Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter, the Hawks can build something special with their latest draft picks in Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter. The Magic made the playoffs last year but come on, it is the Magic and there’s nothing to look forward to. Terry Rozier is the best player on Charlotte….. With no John Wall, all I can say is that basketball games will be played at Capital One Arena. D.C. really needs the Nats to win this World Series.
- Los Angeles Clippers – 58-24
- Los Angeles Lakers – 53-29
- Golden State Warriors – 45-37
- Sacramento Kings – 38-43
- Phoenix Suns – 21-61
In a division with LeBron, Kawhi, Paul George, Anthony Davis, and Steph Curry, good luck to both Sacramento and Phoenix on trying to stay relevant this season. The Clippers are superior to everyone in the West. There is no doubt about that. Without a star player last year, the Clippers pushed the Warriors to a six-game, first-round series and in the offseason, they practically flipped Shai Alexander and Danilo Gallinari for Leonard and George. They added more depth in Rodney MacGruder and Mo Harkless to help alongside Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell when they come off the bench. The one concern for the Clippers is their height in the post. Can Ivica Zubac hold his own against guys like Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, or Nikola Jokic? I will admit that the Lakers did show signs of “Showtime” in the preseason…BUT IT IS THE PRESEASON. I think AD and LeBron can form one of the most lethal duos in NBA history but it all comes down to their health. If one of AD or LeBron misses a significant portion of the season to injury, they are in some serious trouble. Outside of those two, this team is old and there will not be much scoring, especially if Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green fail to live up to expectations. The Warriors will have a down year because of the loss of Durant to Brooklyn and Klay Thompson will miss the entire year as he rehabilitates from a torn ACL. However, I believe Steph Curry will have a season unlike any other we have seen from him that will solidify him as one of the greatest players of all-time and a unanimous MVP to go along with it. Sacramento has a solid young core but they will not be able to hang with the big three of this division. Phoenix is a city in the state of Arizona.
- Utah Jazz – 56-26
- Denver Nuggets – 50-32
- Portland Trail Blazers – 47-35
- Minnesota Timberwolves – 34-48
- Oklahoma City Thunder – 29-53
Outside of the Clippers, the Jazz made the most impressive moves in the offseason with the acquisitions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. Conley is exactly who Donovan Mitchell needs to help him take that next step in his career. I think he can get Mitchell to relax and not take so much of the burden that he tried to take on last year against Houston. Joe Ingles is a corner shooting legend and Rudy Gobert will dominate in the post as usual(HE WILL BE AN ALL-STAR). I love what this Nuggets team COULD be. Jokic, Murray, Harris, plus a healthy Michael Porter Jr. This team has a title run written all over them. However, if the rest of the west decide to take Jokic out of the scoring factor, can Murray and Harris take over the offense to lead Denver to victory. That is where my reservations lie with the Nuggets and why I think they will be seeded lower than last year. For Portland, I think they take a step back. Hassan Whiteside is a major wild card with his health and production. I could see him getting flipped at the trade deadline when Jusuf Nurkic returns so they can get some bench scoring that they have lacked since Lillard and McCollum have been on the team together. Minnesota has something to look forward to but as I will say about numerous teams in the West, there is just too much talent for them to be competitive. OKC handed over Paul George to the Clippers and there is no destination for this franchise. They are holding Chris Paul hostage. Who knows what direction they will go in.
- Houston Rockets – 55-27
- Dallas Mavericks – 43-39
- New Orleans Pelicans – 40-42
- San Antonio Spurs – 38-44
- Memphis Grizzlies – 27-55
This is a very intriguing division because there are numerous question marks with each team, outside of Memphis. If Westbrook and Harden are able to mesh in a way that is beneficial for both of their games, then they are instant title contenders and could hang with everyone. If they start getting frustrated with each other’s constant time with the ball, then this could lead to turmoil and players forcing trades, leading to a nightmare of a collapse for H-Town. The Dallas Mavericks are back thanks to having two of the top five best foreign players on the planet in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. They are a must-watch team and should be on their way to claiming the eighth and final spot in the West. I had high hopes for New Orleans this year but their meal ticket, Zion Williamson will miss a significant portion of this season, which could easily impact his play for the remainder of his career. I do like Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball with Jrue Holiday, but can they be trusted to do the heavy lifting while Zion heals up? What a crazy world we live in where it looks like the Spurs will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Gregg Popovich is game enough to bring more action to the Alamo but will have to become a wizard to navigate his way through this rigorous conference. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. will be a fun pair to keep your eyes on for Memphis, which could lead to a competitive franchise in three-four years.
- Trail Blazers
NBA Finals Prediction
Clippers defeat 76ers in 5 games
MVP: Stephen Curry
6th Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell
Rookie of the Year: Tyler Herro
Coach of the Year: Lloyd Pierce
Defensive Player of the Year: Patrick Beverley