Everyone who’s been aimlessly wandering around, scared and confused since last June it’s time to buck up, NBA season is back!! Well not yet the season starts Tuesday. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
For this year’s NBA preview I’m doing a blog vs. blog challenge. The winning contestant will be Me and youshouldthinkthis and the loser will be my friend Rio and his blog ThreeSixMario. Check it out. Great reviews on new hip hop, rap, and good sports takes. Here’s a link.
And on to the predictions.
Recently the first ever youshouldthinkthis podcast was released where a friend Drew and I gave our scoops on the Eastern Conference. Go listen to it!!!! Here’s a link to Part 1 where we rule out the crappy teams and Part 2 where we talk about who will make the playoffs. After that podcast, where we discussed the hell out of the entire conference, I settled on this.
- Miami Heat
- Chicago Bulls
- Indiana Pacers
- Brooklyn Nets
- New York Knicks
- Detroit Pistons
- Washington Wizards
- Milwaukee Bucks
Bulls over Heat….yeah I’m doing it. They’re too hungry. And the Heat didn’t get any better in my opinion. They won’t survive the physicality of the Bulls AND Pacers/Nets in consecutive series. Greg Oden will get slapped to the side like the china doll he is and Chris Bosh can’t handle it anymore.
Although the contest is only about the playoffs here’s how the rest of the conference will play out:
9. Atlanta Hawks
10. Cleveland Cavaliers
11. Boston Celtics
12. Charlotte Bobcats
13. Toronto Raptors
14. Orlando Magic
15. Philadelphia 76ers
As for the West, it’s going to be an absolute bloodbath. So many teams got better whether it was through big signings (Houston, Golden State), sneaky trades and player development (Portland, New Orleans) or the loss of Vinny Del Negro as your coach (LA Clippers) that the chase for top spot in the West is going to look like an old school WWE battle royal.
Here’s how I have them falling plus a little on each team.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
BIG QUESTION: Will Doc be enough to put them over the edge?
The ultimate case of addition by subtraction. Replacing Vinny D with Doc will push this team to the next level. The inability to play the same front court in the last 5 minutes that they do in the first 43 will be troublesome though. I know I’m not the first to say it but they will NOT win a championship with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Their FT%, untrustworthy D, and, more importantly, their attitudes don’t lead to rings. Stop making prank videos DeAndre and study team defensive tactics. Or read a book. Quick Note: How many first and second round exits will it take before we openly start blaming it on Chris Paul instead of everyone around him? Just sayin’
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
BIG QUESTION: Who will step up to replace Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook’s scoring?
Without Westbrook their offense stagnated (pass to KD, watch with open drooling mouths, repeat) but I can’t imagine it being that bad with a full offseason of preparation. Jeremy Lamb and/or Perry Jones need to fill the void left by Kevin Martin and score double digit per game. Quietly I think Reggie Jackson blossomed into a legitimate backup point guard. I love his aggressive style and scoring ability. He will fill in nicely while RW is out and also hopefully allow RW to east back in when that time comes. Quick Note: Will Derek Fisher just retire already. Unless you’re into ill opportune rainbow jumpers, he’s the least entertaining guard in the league.
3. San Antonio Spurs
BIG QUESTION: How little is too little?
Tim Duncan has been on a games and minutes limit for a couple years now and Ginobili is a shell of himself at this point. Since I know better than to count them out, I’m still picking them to win the division but the conference is deadly this year. Can they make it deep if they don’t have home court advantage? Can they get HCA playing Duncan even less than they did last year? Pop will figure out a way. And I know it will involve a lot of Kawhi Leonard. Quick Note: The Bellinelli signing was quietly a perfect fit for them. He openly admitted to being lost at the beginning of last season in Chicago’s complicated defense but also said he learned a ton. His intelligence, spot on shooting, and clutch performances will earn him big minutes in big situations.
BIG QUESTION: Will Andre Iguodala stunt Harrison Barnes’ growth?
AI is a true professional who is smart enough to know this team needs Barnes to win a championship. I almost picked the Warriors as one of my League Pass teams this year just so I could see a possible Curry-Iguodala-Thompson-Barnes-Bogut small ball lineup. The only reason I didn’t was their late home starts. Boo time zones! The only thing that makes me nervous is that at any moment they could sprain their way out of championship contention. Yeah I’m talking to you Steph Curry’s ankle. Quick Note: Draymond Green’s development might be the thing to worry about here. His ceiling isn’t half as high as Barnes is, but he’s an NBA caliber player who might drown on their bench, especially in tight games.
BIG QUESTION: Is Dwight Howard elite anymore?
He was the third best player in the NBA prior to his back injuries but hasn’t looked the same since. The rebounding is there, the size and strength will always be there, but his lateral quickness and athletic explosion has lessened. That’s concerning considering he will be the lone elite defender on the court at any given time for Houston. Quick Note: I’m very curious as to where Asik will go. He provides a ton of effort, rebounding and defense to any team but it will be impossible for him and D12 to coexist given their overlapping skill set and court niche.
BIG QUESTION: Will they be able to score enough to keep up in the West?
After the Gay trade, they put the clamps on the league. But San Antonio exposed them for the shooterless, spacing challenged team they are. Mike Miller embodies the term “broken down” so I don’t see him being an 82 game solution. In fact, he didn’t need to step up for the Heat until the Finals, but the Grizzlies will need him earlier. Is he even a multi-round solution at this time? The dude winces after each jump shot. And I’ve taken a lot of jump shots in my life, they are not inherently painful. Quick Note: The 5 teams above them all have room to grow (except maybe the Spurs but they are just better) but the Grizzlies pretty much max out their talent on any given night. A team that forces their opponent to play worse rather than rise above to play better always worries me in the long run.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves
BIG QUESTION: Of course, can they stay healthy?
That’s not something we can predict. But I feel like another injury plagued season is impossible. Right? They can’t keep getting away with this. We need to see Rubio and Love play together. That’s final. Quick Note: What if they all played together but had zero chemistry? Everyone assumes the team would play great together (not a long shot considering Rubio’s unselfish style) but isn’t there a chance they don’t mesh. Just something else for T-Wolves fans to worry about.
8. Portland Trailblazers
BIG QUESTION: Did they fix their bench enough to compete?
They had the league’s worst bench last year by far (18.5 ppg when 29th place had 24.1). But they someone weaseled their way into Robin Lopez and Thomas Robinson, drafted C.J. MCCollum (who looked like a super sleeper before getting injured), and signed veterans Dorell Wright and Mo Williams. GENIUS! Those are five quality players, one for each position nonetheless. Quick Note: Thomas Robinson was drafted 5th overall last year. I feel like people aren’t giving this the attention it deserves. He’s basically starting his NBA career this year after being developmentally “redshirted” through two shitty situations last year. Fantastic low risk, high reward move by Portland management.
OKC over San Antonio. Same reason as above. These guys are just too hungry. KD can’t continue coming up that close and failing any longer.
OKC over Bulls. Once the playoffs come around I think one of the following three will have stepped up huge; Lamb, Jones and Jackson. My pick is Reggie Jackson pushing them over the edge. He looked very confident in the playoffs last year.
9. Denver Nuggets
Looking at their current roster I ask 3 questions? Without Iguodala, who’s going to defend the other team’s top scorer? Who’s going to responsibly and reliably defend the basket? What’s up with Andre Miller’s hair?
10. New Orleans Hornets
I almost selected the Hornets for League Pass. I’m that excited about Unibrow’s growth. I also like Tyreke Evans in a new situation. Though they would be an easy playoff team in the East (6th in my mind) it just won’t be enough in the West.
11. Dallas Mavericks
The NBA is loaded with dominant ball handling guards. With that being said, how on Earth is Calderon-Ellis going to stop James Harden, Tony Parker, Mike Conley Jr? And that’s just in their division. With all of that penetration they would need an elite rim protector to make up for it. I have a weird feeling Samuel Dalembert is not that guy anymore.
12. Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe I’m underestimating Pau Gasol and what’s left of Steve Nash but this team will struggle without Kobe. He’s an AMAZING competitor, but I don’t think he’ll be able to bring them back from the dead. And that’s assuming he comes back 100%.
13. Sacramento Kings
Boogie Cousins is being leaned on to lead this team. Moving on.
14. Utah Jazz
I see a big season for Derrick Favors and Enas Kanter in their new starting roles but not much else.
15. Phoenix Suns
Without Gortat, Hope Level: 76ers.
ROY-I want to take McClemore but Mike Malone said he will start the season coming off the bench. I have to go with Victor Oladipo. I’ll quietly be rooting for McClemore though since I bet on him when he was 10-1 odds to win it.
6th man- Jarret Jack. His playoff performance will carry over and into a solid season behind Uncle Drew and Dion Waiters. He provides a much needed veteran touch to their back court.
DYOP- Roy Hibbert. See a trend here. Another phenomenal playoff performance that I’m predicting will carry over into this season. He’s the best defender on one of the league’s best defenses.
MVP- I’m going for the bonus points and picking Kevin Durant. He put up insane numbers after Westbrook’s injury and I feel like those will continue to start the year. This will give him a headstart on Lebron for the award. Plus the voters have to be getting sick of Lebron by now right?
 It’s scored like so…4 points for every correct playoff team, -1 for every playoff seed you’re off by (so if I say the Heat will be 1st and they finish 3rd that’s +4 points for making the playoffs then -2 for being off two seeds). We also have 5 points for each conference finals team correct, 8 for each finals and 10 for the correct champs. As for player awards, we’re picking the MVP, 6th man, ROY, and DPOY. Each correct prediction earns 5 points (10 if you pick someone other than Lebron and get it right. This isn’t ESPN. We have self-respect).
 Yes we started the podcast by listing Milwaukee as one of the teams that would, under no circumstances, make the playoffs. But by the end I had convinced myself the bottom half of the East is more terrible than I originally thought and that they were better than the others. It’s that simple.