NBA 2016-17 Season Preview

Eastern Conference Predictions:

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics – 54 wins, 28 losses
Toronto Raptors – 53 wins, 29 losses
New York Knicks – 41 wins, 41 losses
Philadelphia 76ers – 18 wins, 64 losses
Brooklyn Nets – 17 wins, 65 losses

Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers – 56 wins, 26 losses
Indiana Pacers – 50 wins, 32 losses
Detroit Pistons – 48 wins, 34 losses
Milwaukee Bucks – 48 wins, 34 losses
Chicago Bulls – 34 wins, 48 losses

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks – 42 wins, 40 losses
Orlando Magic – 39 wins, 43 losses
Charlotte Hornets -37 wins, 45 losses
Miami Heat – 34 wins, 48 losses
Washington Wizards – 33 wins, 49 losses

Playoff Seeds

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Celtics
  3. Raptors
  4. Hawks
  5. Pacers
  6. Pistons
  7. Bucks
  8. Knicks

Playoff Matchups

Cavs vs Knicks, Cavs win 4-0
Celtics vs Bucks, Celtics win 4-3
Raptors vs Pistons, Pistons win 4-2
Hawks vs Pacers, Pacers win 4-3

Cavs vs Pacers, Cavs win 4-1
Celtics vs Pistons, Celtics win 4-2

Cavs vs Celtics, Cavs win 4-3

Western Conference Predictions:

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder – 50 wins, 32 losses
Portland Trail Blazers – 48 wins, 34 losses
Utah Jazz – 45 wins, 37 losses
Minnesota Timberwolves – 43 wins, 39 losses
Denver Nuggets – 28 wins, 54 losses

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors – 68 wins, 14 losses
Los Angeles Clippers – 53 wins, 29 losses
Phoenix Suns – 35 wins, 47 losses
Los Angeles Lakers – 22 wins, 60 losses
Sacramento Kings – 21 wins, 61 losses

Southwest Division

San Antonio Spurs – 61 wins, 21 losses
Dallas Mavericks – 41 wins, 41 losses
Memphis Grizzlies – 40 wins, 42 losses
Houston Rockets – 39 wins, 43 losses
New Orleans – 32 wins, 50 losses

Playoff Seedings

  1. Warriors
  2. Spurs
  3. Clippers
  4. Thunder
  5. Trail Blazers
  6. Jazz
  7. Timberwolves
  8. Mavericks

Playoff Matchups

Warriors vs Mavericks, Warriors win 4-0
Spurs vs Timberwolves, Spurs win 4-2
Clippers vs Jazz, Clippers win 4-3
Thunder vs Trail Blazers, Thunder win 4-3

Warriors vs Thunder, Warriors win 4-1
Spurs vs Clippers, Spurs win 4-3

Warriors vs Spurs, Warriors win 4-1

NBA Finals

Warriors vs Cavs, Warriors win 4-1
Finals MVP: Klay Thompson

Awards Predictions

MVP – Kevin Durant, Warriors F
Defensive Player of the Year – Kawhi Leonard, Spurs F
Most Improved Player of the Year – Harrison Barnes, Mavericks F
Sixth Man of the Year – Evan Turner, Trail Blazers G
Rookie of the Year – If healthy; Ben Simmons, 76ers F, if not healthy; Buddy Hield, Pelicans G

NBA First Team – G – Steph Curry;Warriors, G – Russell Westbrook;Thunder, F – Kevin Durant;Warriors, F – LeBron James;Cavaliers, C – Karl-Anthony Towns,Timberwolves

NBA Second Team – G – Damian Lillard;Trail Blazers, G – Chris Paul;Clippers, F – Kawhi Leonard;Spurs, F – Paul George;Pacers, C – Andre Drummond;Pistons

NBA Third Team – G – Klay Thompson;Warriors, G – Kyrie Irving;Cavaliers,F – LaMarcus Aldridge;Spurs, F – Giannis Antetokounmpo;Bucks, C – DeAndre Jordan;Clippers

NBA Defensive First Team – G – Avery Bradley;Celtics, G – Jimmy Butler;Bulls,F – Kawhi Leonard;Spurs, F – Paul George;Pacers, C – Hassan Whiteside;Heat

NBA Defensive Second Team – G – Chris Paul;Clippers, G – Klay Thompson;Warriors, F – Andrew Wiggins;Timberwolves, F – Draymond Green;Warriors, C – DeAndre Jordan;Clippers

NBA Rookie First Team – G – Buddy Hield;Pelicans, G – Kris Dunn;Timberwolves, F – Ben Simmons;76ers, F – Brandon Ingram;Lakers, C – Thon Maker;Bucks

NBA Rookie Second Team – G – Jamal Murray;Nuggets, G – Malachi Richardson;Kings, F – Domantas Sabonis;Thunder, F – Jaylen Brown; Celtics, C – Damian Jones;Warriors

Coach of The Year – Quin Snyder; Utah Jazz

Eastern Conference All Stars

LeBron James; Cavaliers                               Kyrie Irving; Cavaliers

Paul George; Pacers                                      Kyle Lowry; Raptors

Giannis Antetokounmpo; Bucks                     Jimmy Butler; Bulls

Paul Millsap; Hawks                                       John Wall; Wizards

Andre Drummond; Pistons                             Kemba Walker; Hornets

Carmelo Anthony; Knicks                               Isaiah Thomas; Celtics

Western Conference All Stars

Kevin Durant; Warriors                                   Steph Curry; Warriors

Kawhi Leonard; Spurs                                                Klay Thompson; Warriors

Karl-Anthony Towns; Timberwolves              Damian Lillard; Trail Blazers

LaMarcus Aldridge; Spurs                              Russell Westbrook; Thunder

Draymond Green; Warriors                            Chris Paul; Clippers

Anthony Davis; Pelicans                                 James Harden; Rockets

Stat Leaders Predictions

Points – Russell Westbrook – 29.2 ppg

Rebounds – Andre Drummond – 14.4 rpg

Assists – Steph Curry – 10.3 apg

Blocks – Hassan Whiteside – 3.1 bpg

Steals – Chris Paul – 2.1 spg

Field Goal% – DeAndre Jordan – 69%

Free Throw% – Steph Curry 91%

Free Throws Made – James Harden – 695 ftm

Worst Free Throw% – Andre Drummond – 36%

Three Point% – J.J. Redick – 48%

Three Pointers Made – Steph Curry – 392 3pm

Turnovers – James Harden – 382 turnovers

Top 10 NBA Players

  1. LeBron James – Cavaliers
  2. Steph Curry – Warriors
  3. Kevin Durant – Warriors
  4. Kawhi Leonard – Spurs
  5. Russell Westbrook – Thunder
  6. Paul George – Pacers
  7. Chris Paul – Clippers
  8. Damian Lillard – Trail Blazers
  9. Klay Thompson – Warriors
  10. Karl-Anthony Towns – Timberwolves

Top 10 Most Exciting Second Year Players

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns – Timberwolves
  2. Kristaps Porzingis – Knicks
  3. Devin Booker – Suns
  4. D’Angelo Russell – Lakers
  5. Myles Turner – Pacers
  6. Emmanuel Mudiay – Nuggets
  7. Nikola Jokic – Nuggets
  8. Jahlil Okafor – Sixers
  9. Trey Lyles – Jazz
  10. Frank Kaminsky – Hornets

Team Reports:

Boston Celtics – The Boston Celtics are one of the funnest teams to watch in the NBA. That is something I have found myself saying for the last 2 years. It’s just enjoyable to watch a team with a lot of young guys who play hard, don’t quit, and don’t have any ego problems. All of this most likely roots from their head coach, Brad Stevens, who has all the making to be the next great NBA coach. The Celtics will be an incredibly deep team like usual, but will have even more star power this year with the addition of all star center Al Horford. The team did lose key role players in the Ohio State tandem of Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner, but they do add 3rd overall draft pick Jaylen Brown, who showed great potential in the Summer League. I think the Celtics will emerge as the top competitor against the Cavs in the East, but they’re probably still a year away before they are a title favorite.

Top 5 Players – Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, Marcus Smart

Head Coach – Brad Stevens

Last Year’s Record – 48-34

Toronto Raptors – The Toronto Raptors Front Office has done a great job. After losing their superstar, Chris Bosh, the remained calm and did not fall off the edge like many franchises do. In fact, they used it to get better. They drafted well and picked up quality role players, and just six years later they had their best season in franchise history. Unfortunately for Toronto, it’s next to impossible to win a championship without an alpha dog player, and Toronto does not have that. Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan are a great backcourt, but neither of them are capable of being the first option for a champion. Both are great second and third options, but as long as they’re the best players for the Raptors, the Eastern Conference Finals is their limit. The team brings back most of last year’s roster while adding free agent Jared Sullinger.They picked up Jarrod Uthoff and Jakob Poeltl in the draft.

Top 5 Players – Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross                    Head Coach – Dwane Casey

Last Year’s Record – 56-26

New York Knicks – I hate New York. I just wanted everyone to know that because that might explain this summary of the Knicks. That said, I truly do believe that New York will be average at best and will most likely be the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. One thing I can say with confidence is that they will not to 82-0 like Derrick Rose has predicted. Speaking of Rose, he’s one of the reasons I don’t like this team. He was overrated in his prime, and he’s gotten even worse with all his injuries. At best, he might scrape together an average season and won’t be subpar like last year. Joakim Noah is a hard worker, but he isn’t meant for the new NBA that spreads the floor. Carmelo Anthony is way past his prime and will have to rest his legacy on winning Gold Medals while beating up on European athletes. I do like Porzingis, and he is this team’s best player. However, KP struggled with injuries late last year and will have trouble getting his shots off with all the selfish guns around him. This team has obviously changed a lot from last year, with additions of Rose, Noah, Brandon Jennings, and Courtney Lee. The team did pick up one of my favorite college basketball players from last year in Wichita State SG Ron Baker. The 2017 Knicks will be an improved team, but trust me, they’re nothing special.

Top 5 Players – Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Joakim Noah                 Head Coach – Jeff Hornacek

Last Year’s Record – 32-50

Philadelphia 76ers – During the 2012 NBA offseason, the 76ers traded their all star Andre Iguodala for “superstar” center Andrew Bynum, right after the Sixers had their best playoff run in a decade. Coincidentally, professional basketball was murdered in Philadelphia in that same 2012 offseason. There’s no need to go into the details now, but ever since that trade, the 76ers, my team, has been a disaster. Last year’s Sixers might go down as the worst team ever. And really, when Ish Smith was by far the best player on your team, you probably deserve to be the worst team ever. However, things are finally getting better for Philly, or at least it seems like it. The Sixers finally drafted a non-center with a top pick and got Ben Simmons, a prospect who has received a ton of hype and drawn comparisons to LeBron James himself. Of course, Simmons recently got injured and will be sidelined for a while, but his talent certainly inspires hope. In other news, the Sixers will finally get the two top players they drafted two years ago; Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. Both have shown good flashes in the Preseason, but Embiid looks especially good and is drawing attention from around the NBA. One interesting topic about the Sixers is who they’ll likely be trading; Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. It is clear Philly has too many bigs and will need to move at least one of them. I believe that they want to move Nerlens Noel, but they’ll probably end up moving whoever they can get a better package for. The Sixers roster is still lackluster but they do bring a few known guys in Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, and Sergio Rodriguez.

Top 5 Players – Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, TJ McConnell

Head Coach – Brett Brown

Last Year’s Record – 10-72

Brooklyn Nets – “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!!!!!” That is the thing that first comes to my mind when someone mentions the Brooklyn Nets. We all know the story. Traded all their assets and future picks away for Pierce and Garnett, both were washed up,  and both only stayed for one mediocre year. This last year the Nets were awful, but they can’t take advantage, and the Celtics get to cash in on their mistakes. And guess what? The Celtics get their picks again this year and the next! And with the Nets most likely being the worst team in basketball this year, well, the Celtics might be a budding dynasty. But for the Nets, their fans will have to hang in there for the next few years before the franchise can get back on track again. The Nets do have two positive things going for them. One-the always consistent Brook Lopez, who is becoming a sympathetic figure around the league as many feel bad that he’s stuck on this team.Two-Rondae Hollis-Jefferson showed the potential to be a decent player as a rookie. Besides that, the Nets are the same crappy team, except this year they added Jeremy Lin in free agency. Lin is alright, but the Nets still suck.

Top 5 Players – Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Markel Brown, Bojan Bogdanovic                 Head Coach – Kenny Atkinson

Last Year’s Record – 21-61

Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavs have finally broken the curse. Thanks to the heroics of King James, Kyrie Irving, and … some other 3rd player. This year it will be very difficult for the Cavs to defend their title due to the formation of the the new “Super Warriors.” However, the Cavs are still the Rulers of the East, and they have the best player in the league, when he chooses to be. I say that because it’s a wide known commodity that LeBron coasts during the regular season. That’s okay if he only cares about the playoffs now, but he should know that if he continues to do this, his legacy won’t be as great as the ghost from Chicago that he’s chasing. On the other hand, the Cavs will still most likely win the most games in the East and glide right through everyone to another battle with the Warriors. One thing that has been widely discussed about the Cavs is the Kevin Love situation. He’s been underwhelming on offense and a liability on defense since the day he got there. Now, after winning the title, many are wondering if they should trade Love to some team that wants him. Personally, I wouldn’t change a team too much after they just won the title. The Cavs roster lost two scrappy hard-workers in Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov, but they also gained quality veterans in Mike Dunleavy and Chris Anderson, as well as well as the exciting rookie Kay Felder.

Top 5 Players – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love

Head Coach – Tyronn Lue

Last Year’s Record – 57-25

Indiana Pacers – The Pacers have faded away after being so prevalent during the Miami Big 3 era. A tough Pacers squad emerged in those 4 years as the main challenger to the Heat out East. And they came pretty close, playing in 3 consecutive playoff series from 2012-2014 and that all went at least 6 games. The Pacers were rolling for most of 2014 and were going to be favored against the Heat in the playoffs ….. and then the wheels fell off. The Pacers struggled through the playoffs just to lose to the Heat again. There was still hope because they still had their budding superstar in Paul George, who subsequently broke his leg during Team USA basketball that summer. And now we have the 2017 Pacers, who only have Paul George remaining from the previous era. PG13 is coming off a great 2016 campaign where he averaged around 23 ppg while playing his usual great defense. Another positive note from 2016 was the flashe that rookie PF Myles Turner showed during the season. Besides that, the rest of team was pretty average for the most part. This year, the Pacers have upgraded with the additions of Thaddeus Young, Al Jefferson, and Jeff Teague, all players who have are considered to be above average level. The team did lose underrated point guard George Hill, who had the sad title of “the guy who was trade for Kawhi Leonard.” But overall, this year’s Pacers squad has improved and will be one of the few teams that can contend with LeBron and the Cavs.

Top 5 Players – Paul George, Myles Turner, Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Monta Ellis

Head Coach – Nate McMillan

Last Year’s Record – 45-37

Detroit Pistons – The Pistons won an NBA Championship in 2004 and made the Eastern Conference Finals every year from 2002-2008. Then from 2010-2015, the Pistons did not make the playoffs and were a team searching for an identity. Then in 2016, they made the playoffs and once again found their identity. They are REALLY athletic. So many combo forwards. Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson, and Marcus Morris, just to name a few. But the team’s true core is centered around the center himself, Andre Drummond, and playmaking point guard Reggie Jackson. Drummond broke out last year and became an all star behind his absurd rebounding numbers. Meanwhile, Jackson reinvented himself after leaving Oklahoma City and became the leader of the Detroit squad. In addition to this, the Pistons went out and added two free agents with a big height difference; spunky point guard Ish Smith at 6’0’’ and the lumbering Boban Marjanovic who stands at 7’3’’. Another player who interest me in this Pistons’ mix is young G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who is also apart of the hyper-athletic breed. Needless to say, this team is going to be one of the most exciting in the NBA.

Top 5 Players – Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope    Head Coach – Stan Van Gundy

Last Year’s Record – 44-38

Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks seem to have a lot in common with the previously mentioned Pistons. That being, they are both REALLY athletic. Although the Bucks’ athleticism stems from their freakish height at every position. There’s Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, playing PG at an incredible 6’11’’, SG Khris Middleton at 6’7’’, F Jabari Parker at 6’8’’, PF Greg Monroe at 6’10’’, and new rookie C Thon Maker at 7’1’’. So, the Bucks are also going to be one of the more exciting teams of 2017. In fact, had not Middleton gotten injured, I would have picked the Bucks much higher than I already have. But with Middleton gone, the team does lose one of their best scorers and will have to settle with this spot for now. The best player on this team is the Greek Freak, who broke out while playing PG during the second half of the last season. Giannis has been improving at the position, and I expect him to become an All Star this year, and may even become a solidified superstar. The only noticeable addition in free agency was the signing of G Matthew Dellavedova who is one of the scrappiest players in the NBA. However, the team recently traded underwhelming PG Michael Carter-Williams for established shooter Tony Snell. Overall, the Bucks are another one of the rising teams in the Eastern Conference, which keeps getting deeper.

Top 5 Players – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe, Thon Maker                   Head Coach – Jason Kidd

Last Year’s Record – 33-49

Chicago Bulls – To many NBA fans, the Chicago Bulls are seen as one of the best franchises in the sport, mainly because of the 90s dynasty with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. So it’s probably hard now for NBA fans to see the Bulls along the lines with the Kings, 76ers, and Nets as one of the dumbest franchises in the league. The Bulls were going to do the smart thing and rebuild, but then had their mind changed by one big name: Dwayne Wade. Wade is a future HOF SG, but he’s been overrated for the second half of his career. Not to mention, the one position the Bulls had solidified was the SG position with franchise player Jimmy Butler. Then they went out and got another name that can’t shoot in Rajon Rondo. And for the final dumb decision, the Bulls had the ingenious idea in the last week to trade for another guard who can’t shoot in MCW, while trading away one of their few shooters in Tony Snell. The Bulls might set the unofficial record for missed wide open 3s this year. In my opinion, this team is a trainwreck waiting to happen. At best, everything we know about team chemistry and positional strategy could become irrelevant and allow the Bulls to be a decent team in the East.

Top 5 Players – Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Doug McDermott, Rajon Rondo, Nikola Mirotic

Head Coach – Fred Hoiberg

Last Year’s Record – 42-40

Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks have become one of the most consistent teams in the NBA over the last decade. They are always well-coached, they shoot 3s very well, and they always get knocked out of the playoffs in the first 2 rounds by a team with too much talent for them. The Hawks had a breakout year in 2015 when they had the 2nd best record in the NBA and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Well now, the Hawks for once might be unpredictable this year. That is because the team replaced the quietest all star in the NBA, Al Horford, with the biggest drama queen in the league, Dwight Howard. Howard is a complete gamble. He could either return to his old self and make the Hawks into contenders, or he could completely destroy Mike Budenholzer’s system and cause a downward spiral. Either way, the Hawks are going to be different. Besides Dwight Howard, the Hawks did not do much else in free agency

Orlando Magic – The Magic made the “questionable” choice to shift from being a young, athletic team with exciting potential, to a team with more age, personality questions, and way too many big guys. Victor Oladipo is considered to be a near all-star level talent in the NBA and is soon to be entering his prime. And with the Magic already having a solid center in Nikola Vucevic and dunking legend in Aaron Gordon at PF, Oladipo was great to have in the backcourt with Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier. Then all of the sudden, the Magic decided to trade their young guard not only for another big guy in Serge Ibaka, but they gave up their draft pick as well. Then, they make it worse by using free agency to get another big guy in Bismack Biyombo. This isn’t the 80s Orlando. You can’t just get all the tallest players and expect to start winning. But in all seriousness, while Ibaka and Biyombo are good players, they just won’t fit in well with this team. Due to this ample amount of big guys, I expect Vucevic to get traded midseason in favor of the two newly acquired players. Orlando took a step back in my opinion, and will likely spend this next offseason figuring out how to fix the mistakes of this year.

Top 5 Players – Evan Fournier, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton

Head Coach – Frank Vogel

Last Year’s Record – 35-47

Charlotte Hornets – Charlotte, along with Portland, was one of the more pleasant surprises of last season. No one would have predicted the Hornets to make the playoffs, and then even more to push the Heat to the very brink. The Hornets owe much of this success to their head coach, Steve Clifford. Clifford is a smart coach who gets his team as a whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. The other key contributor to the success was dynamic PG Kemba Walker, who should have been an all-star in my opinion. Walker averaged around 21 ppg last year and gave a heroic effort in the playoff series against Miami. This year, however, the Hornets will most likely take a step back. It’s hard for a team that’s a little lacking in overall talent to have two good years in a row. It’s entirely possible that Charlotte will surpass my expectations and return to the playoffs, but for now, I think this team still needs to gain a little more talent. The Hornets’ roster went through some changes this offseason, losing PG Jeremy Lin and C Al Jefferson, but adding SG Marco Belinelli, C Roy Hibbert, and PG Ramon Sessions.

Top 5 Players – Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Marvin Williams

Head Coach – Steve Clifford

Last Year’s Record – 48-34

Washington Wizards – What happened to the Wizards? Not long ago, they were in the second round for consecutive years and were on the precipice of knocking out the No.1 seed Atlanta Hawks. As for last season, the Wizards were a total disapointment, that struggled for about ¾ of the year, before finally waking up near the end of the year in order to finish .500 on the season. Now the Wizards will have to slowly rebuild their team around their star, John Wall. Wall somehow played very well last year, and the Wizards still managed to be subpar. All of a sudden, their players who were good two years ago, don’t seem good anymore. This offseason, the team was able to re-sign SG Bradley Beal, who everyone is still waiting for to breakout. C Marcin Gortat is still reliable and provides some quality scoring. Besides that, the rest of the team all qualifies as roster fillers. The only noticeable pickup during free agency was C Ian Mahinmi and their only draft pick is G Tomas Satoransky. This team will go as far John Wall takes them. Unfortunately for Washington, Wall can’t take them very far without some help.

Top 5 Players – John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, Markief Morris

Head Coach – Scott Brooks

Last Year’s Record – 41-41

Miami Heat – Oh how the mighty have fallen. It’s hard to think that not long ago this franchise was the evil villain ruling the NBA. The first blow to the dynasty was back in 2015 when King James decided to return to his original realm. But that only hurt from a basketball standpoint. No one in Miami really had a deep emotional connection to LeBron. But then the killer came this summer, when the face of the franchise, D-Wade, decided to leave this summer in order to go back to his hometown in Chicago. And furthermore, Chris Bosh might never play again due to all his health conditions. And just like that, the most hyped up “Big 3” in NBA history is no more. Luckily for the Heat, they have found a new talent in Hasaan Whiteside, who has become one of the most destructive defensive forces in the NBA, and has a continually improving offensive game. The team still has solid PG Goran Dragic, but he may traded soon due to his complaints about the roster around him. Miami’s free agency was nothing to brag about, obviously losing Wade was crushing, but the only 2 they picked up were guards Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington. So yeah, Miami fans will have to endure an unfamiliar thing to them over the last decade: a rebuilding year.

Top 5 Players – Hasaan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh (if somehow healthy), Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow                                  Head Coach – Erik Spoelstra

Last Year’s Record – 48-34

Oklahoma City Thunder – Life is not fair to those in Oklahoma City. From having a potential dynasty being ruined by a bad trade, to losing chances at the title due to untimely injuries, to blowing a 3-1 series lead, and finally, losing your franchise icon and former MVP to the same team that just eliminated you in the playoffs. It just isn’t fair. Luckily for Thunder fans, they were able to keep their revenge-filled PG Russell Westbrook, who OKC fans have now named as their savior, Durant-killer, and future MVP. Not as luckily for OKC fans, I think Russ is overrated. His awful  3 point shooting percentage (.296) combined with his reckless turnovers and on top of all of it his somehow unnoted horrendous defense, he really isn’t as good as people think he is. That said, he still play’s offense with an unmatched rage and he uses his freakish athleticism to leave opponents in his dust. Apart from Westbrook, the Thunder have found a great backcourt partner in Victor Oladipo, and draft pick Domantas Sabonis will be a very interesting player to watch in how he develops. Besides obviously losing their star KD, the Thunder return most of the core of last year’s Western Conference Finals team, and this year’s team can still be very dangerous.

Top 5 Players – Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, Enes Kanter, Andre Roberson

Head Coach – Billy Donovan

Last Year’s Record – 55-27

Portland Trail Blazers – The Blazers basically became everyone in the NBA’s favorite team during the second half of last season. They surpassed all expectations and even showed that they can become serious contenders down the stretch. Damian Lillard has now become the poor man’s Steph Curry, but this guy actually isn’t that poor. Dame, along with his backcourt partner CJ McCollum, put up a ton of points with some particularly explosive outings. This year, the Blazers should keep improving, but might have more trouble in the playoffs due to opponents not overlooking them for a second time. This team is still another major piece away from becoming title contenders, but for now they’’ll be dangerous with their great all around depth. The team signed two established role players in free agency: Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli. They also picked up two players in the draft PG Tim Quarterman and F Jake Layman, both of which could turn into key contributors for the team. Overall, Portland will once again be a fun and exciting team to watch.

Top 5 Players – Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Mason Plumlee, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu

Head Coach – Terry Stotts

Last Year’s Record – 44-38

Utah Jazz – The Jazz have been one of the mysteries of the NBA for a while now. They always seem to be near playoff contention, even though they don’t seem talented enough to do so, but they can never quite get there. They did sneak into the playoffs in 2012, but only to get swept by the Spurs. But this year, I am calling for the Utah Jazz to finally emerge as playoff regulars. Why? Because all their young talent now has enough experience to finally come together. They have many near all-stars in F Gordon Hayward, F Derrick Favors, C Rudy Gobert, SG Rodney Hood, and newly acquired assets PG George Hill, PF Boris Diaw, and all-purpose Joe Johnson. This team just has too many things going for them to fail. In fact, it would not surprise me if the Jazz took a huge step forward and became one of the Warriors’ main threats out West. But for now, I’ll call for them to finish at around the 6 seed. Nevertheless, get ready for the return of the Jazz in the NBA.

Top 5 Players – Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson, George Hill, Derrick Favors

Head Coach – Quin Snyder

Last Year’s Record – 40-42

Minnesota Timberwolves – The T-Wolves are a future NBA dynasty. Original, I know. But seriously, it’s almost laughable how much riches there are in Minnesota. Karl-Anthony Towns is the consensus “Holy crap, he’s gonna rule the NBA one day” player right now, and he’ll have a great sidekick in SG Andrew Wiggins. Not to mention, PG Kris Dunn has looked phenomenal in the pre-season and will only continue to improve. Two time dunk champion G Zach Lavine is still hanging around to bring excitement and show flashes of brilliance. And now, the Wolves have an established coach in Tom Thibodeau. There are still some lingering problems however. The team still only won 29 games last year, the roster as a whole does not have much depth, and there is the seemingly eternal Ricky Rubio mystery. But those problems will be solved. Watch out NBA, the T-Wolves are coming.

Top 5 Players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, Shabazz Muhammad

Head Coach – Tom Thibodeau

Last Year’s Record – 29-53

Denver Nuggets – Good thing Denver has the Super Bowl champion Broncos, because the Nuggets certainly aren’t making it warmer in the Rockies. The Nuggets have struggled to find an identity after trading away their superstar, Carmelo Anthony, to the Knicks. They had one random year of unexplained success in 2013 where they got the 3rd seed only to be upset in the first round by the young Warriors and a hot Steph Curry. But other than that, it’s been a rebuilding process. The Nuggets have multiple assets that other teams are interested in, but those assets aren’t enough to win games. The most exciting players on this team are PG Emmanuel Mudiay, C Nikola Jokic, and rookie SG Jamal Murray. Jokic is a player that I especially like and want to see breakout into something special. Other pieces include efficient scorer Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried aka the Manimal, Wilson Chandler, and Will Barton. All four of the previously mentioned players are always being talked about in potential trades, but the Nuggets are yet to pull the trigger. Overall, it’ll most likely be another rough year in Denver basketball.

Top 5 Players – Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Will Barton

Head Coach – Michael Malone

Last Year’s Record – 33-49

Golden State Warriors – Even though the Cavs won the title, this last year still felt like the year of the Warriors. I mean starting 24-0, 73-9, unanimous MVP, coming back from down 3-1, blowing a 3-1 lead, and finally signing Durant, are all things that are associated with this team and all of them have been talked about more than the champion Cavaliers. GSW has truly formed something the NBA has never seen before. And I do believe they’ll win the NBA title this year and begin their dynasty. However, they won’t win 73 games again. Too many things have to go right. Plus, the Warriors won’t push as hard as they did last year in the regular season, seeing how it affected them in the consequently in the Playoffs. Plus, the team will have trouble getting used to a less-loaded bench. But come playoff time, it’s your stars that really matter, and this team has plenty of them. Prepare yourselves to watch some of the most explosive basketball we’ve ever seen this season in the Bay.

Top 5 Players – Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala

Head Coach – Steve Kerr

Last Year’s Record – 73-9

Los Angeles Clippers – The second round. Or as it’s known in LA, “the bane of the Clippers existence.” Soon enough, however, the Clippers will be returning to their old ways of not making the playoffs entirely. That’s because PF Blake Griffin and PG Chris Paul become free agents this summer, and after failing to win a championship for 5 years, Lob City be will closing shortly. The only thing that can save the best Clippers’ teams ever is a miraculous title this year. That likely won’t happen due to a big 3 that tends to have some lackluster moments and a surrounding cast that has always been described as subpar. CP3 is getting older and he’s beginning to decline, Blake has been overrated for his whole career, and DeAndre can be a liability at times. The Clippers will still be one of the top teams out West, but they just don’t have enough overall talent and mental strength to hang with the Warriors and the Spurs. I’m sorry LAC fans, but Los Angeles is still owned by the Lakers.

Top 5 Players – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford

Head Coach – Doc Rivers

Last Year’s Record – 53-29

Phoenix Suns – The Suns are a team that doesn’t get talked about a lot in the NBA. The most notable thing regarding them is their 3-guard compilation of Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, and Devin Booker. Knight and Bledsoe have been in the NBA for a while, and are considered to be near all-star level talents. Meanwhile, Booker burst onto the scene last year as a rookie when he had a phenomenal stretch during the second half of the season which included multiple 30 point games, as well as acclaims from SG legends Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. Other than that, however, the Suns are just seen as a weak team that can’t compete in the tough Western Conference. And I’ll admit, I don’t think they’ll be particularly good this year, but in a couple years, the Suns could return to being contenders. They’re best thing right now is the previously mentioned SG Booker, who has NBA fans drooling at the potential his game has. The Suns also had smart draft picks with the 2 PF Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. It’s smart to take the two prospects of the same position if it’s a definite team need, which it is, because it doubles the chances that you can find your future starter at that position. Another draft pick was PG Tyler Ulis, who many saw as underrated and a great steal for Phoenix. The Suns didn’t do much in free agency, but they were able to keep C Tyson Chandler, who’ll provide veteran leadership for the young team. The main objective this season for the Suns should be to either trade Bledsoe or Knight, as a team does not need 3 starting guards, and a trade will help clear space for Booker.

Top 5 Players – Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, TJ Warren

Head Coach – Earl Watson

Last Year’s Record – 23-59

Los Angeles Lakers – KOBEEEEEE …….. Thank goodness that’s finally over. Yes, Kobe is an all time great, but his last 3 years in the purple and gold were just downright painful to watch. Now that Mamba has moved on, the Lakers can finally embark on their journey back to the top. It might be a long journey, but the path is certainly there. The team has 4 young and exciting players in Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle. Unfortunately for LA, those 4 are already the best players on the team, and when your best players are all under the age of 23, it doesn’t show promise for your season. The Lakers are still an awful team, but they’ll pick up a few more wins without Kobe taking away shots from the players that are actually good. The player who ultimately controls their destiny in my opinion is D’Angelo. He caught fire during some games last year, and has looked great in the preseason. It wouldn’t shock me to see D’Angelo scrape his way to an all star appearance. Addressing the rest of the roster, it isn’t pretty. Sure, forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Luol Deng are decent, but they also have multi-millionaire C Timofey Mozgov, troubled SG Nick Young, and the hilariously bad PG Marcelo Huertas. And those are the better role players. Overall, it’ll be another long season for the NBA’s golden franchise, but they’re future is finally looking up.

Top 5 Players – D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr.                  Head Coach – Luke Walton

Last Year’s Record – 17-65

Sacramento Kings – TRADE DEMARCUS COUSINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry just doing my impersonation of all NBA fans and anyone who has any respect for the game of basketball. But truthfully, this needs to happen now. The Kings are an absolute disaster. But what’s even worse is that this shouldn’t have been a disaster. The team found an exceptional talent in C Boogie Cousins, but they have somehow managed to be in a worse position than when they started with him. Every player is a headcase, the management is incompetent, every coach is fired after one year, they waste any of the talent they’re able to require, and they make terrible draft decisions. Speaking of their draft decisions, it’s become a popular NBA joke that the Kings 3 first round picks over the last two years on 3 centers, you know, the position of their solidified superstar. Furthermore, none of these 3 big men are can’t miss talents that Sacramento had to pick. And best of all, they’ve picked a ton of centers right when the NBA has transitioned to pace and space where centers are becoming more irrelevant. Moving from the jam in the paint, the rest of the team still has major problems. Rudy Gay, as talented as he is, is always in trade talks and has openly said he won’t re-sign with the team. They added Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple in free agency, but neither of those two will make a significant impact. My favorite thing about this team is draft pick SG Malachi Richardson, who was awesome in March Madness last year. Besides that, the only reason I’d torture myself with paying attention to the Kings, is if I hear that Boogie is finally heading elsewhere.

Top 5 Players – DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Matt Barnes

Head Coach – Dave Joerger

Last Year’s Record – 33-49

San Antonio Spurs – Well many people have always described the Spurs as boring, they have been my favorite team to watch over the years. In fact, Tim Duncan was my favorite NBA player along with Iggy (Sixers Version). Sadly, Duncan has retired and the NBA’s greatest PF is gone. But Spurs fans won’t be sad, because once again they’ll be in contention for the title. Adjusting to the loss of Timmy will be hard, but the Spurs will figure it out. They even loaded up with more quality assets this summer in PF Pau Gasol and a great draft pick in PG Dejounte Murray, who is being groomed to become Popovich’s new Tony Parker. Speaking of Pop, he will always keep the Spurs in contention, because, to me, he’s the greatest NBA coach of all-time. The Spurs still have two all-stars in PF LaMarcus Aldridge and SF Kawhi Leonard, and Leonard is my sleeper MVP for this year. Kawhi has shown vast improvement since he’s arrived in San Antonio and he’ll only be getting better. The rest of the roster retains their key role players with SG Danny Green, PG Patty Mills, F Jonathan Simmons, SG Manu Ginobili, and even another new pickup in PF David Lee. Needless to say, the Spurs will always be really, really, good.

Top 5 Players – Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginobili

Head Coach – Gregg Popovich

Last Year’s Record – 67-15

Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki has had one of the more remarkable careers in NBA history. He was great in the first half of his career, but his teams were known for choking in the playoffs, most especially blowing a 2-0 lead in the finals. But then in the second half of his career, usually where a player’s legacy declines, Dirk’s legacy has grown exponentially. He had an absolutely fantastical post-season run in 2011 in which he slayed the mighty Heat in six incredible games along with the help of Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, and many others. But five years later, Dirk is the only one of that team to remain. For those 5 years, where we saw greats like Kobe, Pierce, and Garnett decline steeply, Dirk showed how amazing he is by still being a great scorer even his late 30s, and by dragging subpar teams to the playoffs in the tough Western Conf. I think the Mavs will once again find a way to scrape enough wins together to earn a playoff berth. Unfortunately, they’ll probably be knocked out in the first round yet again. They did grab less stellar starters from 73 win Golden State in F Harrison Barnes and C Andrew Bogut. Both of them will undoubtedly contribute positively to the team, but they’re just not enough. Mavs fans should just enjoy the final years the Big German has to offer.

Top 5 Players – Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams

Head Coach – Rick Carlisle

Last Year’s Record – 42-40

Memphis Grizzlies – The best era in Grizzlies’ history will soon be coming to a close. From 2012-2015 the Grizz were contenders and even made the conference finals in 2013 and gave the eventual champion Warriors one heck of a fight in 2015. But in 2016, the wheels almost came off, and they had a struggling, injury-plagued year. The biggest blow was the loss of star C Marc Gasol, who seems like he might never be the same again. In addition, his frontcourt partner PF Zach Randolph, is getting older quickly, and he’s not as strong as he used to be. PG Mike Conley, who is a very good player, was given an unexplainable 153 million dollar contract. And the rest of the team is falling down as well. The Grizzlies should try to start shopping some of their players to get some assets, because this team is starting to go in the wrong direction.

Top 5 Players – Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Vince Carter, Chandler Parsons

Head Coach – David Fizdale

Last Year’s Record – 42-40

Houston Rockets – “Well, that sucked.” – that was pretty much the summary of the 2016 Houston Rockets’ season. They started terribly, they didn’t try on defense, and SG James Harden was a turnover machine. That’s not even mentioning the Dwight Howard soap opera. And still somehow, the Rockets managed to find the 8th seed, only to get stomped by Golden State. So this offseason the front office was thinking of ways to bring back the magic of 2015. And their solution, well, it was to follow their superstar and commit to offense and fast pace all together. They hired revolutionary pace and space coach Mike D’Antoni, and bringing in free agents F Ryan Anderson and SG Eric Gordon, both of whom are known for shooting the lights out, while also being slight defensive liabilities. The team also finally got rid of Dwight, which was all for the better. This team is simply not good enough to compete with the best of the West. Their only hope is to put up an obscene number of points and to pray that Harden has a bounceback year. But neither of those seem likely for the time being.

Top 5 Players – James Harden, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Michael Beasley

Head Coach – Mike D’Antoni

Last Year’s Record – 41-41

New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans and Anthony Davis were one of the biggest disappointments of 2016. They were predicted to breakout behind everyone’s exciting MVP pick AD, but instead, they started 0-11 and were just awful. In their defense, they were bombarded with injuries, but it doesn’t justify everything that went wrong. The team is just not built to win yet. On the bright side, they still have Davis, who will most likely have a bounce back year, and my ROY pick in SG Buddy Hield, who has been drawing raving reports for his stellar shooting and playmaking ability. Nevertheless, the Pelicans will have to suffer through some rough years in order to acquire pieces that can help Hield and Davis. They took the wrong step, however, in this direction by losing key players Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in free agency. The people of New Orleans better hope that AD is as good as everyone has predicted him to be.

Top 5 Players – Anthony Davis, Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Terrence Jones

That concludes my NBA season preview. For anyone who wants to follow me, I will be putting up a new article every Saturday concerning hot topics in the NBA. Get ready for NBA basketball!!!