NBA Conference Finals Predictions

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Photo by Ken Blaze/USA Today

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

I’m gonna take a detour. It’s pretty cool for the Celtics that they’ve been able to get this far without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. That might speak to how weak the Eastern Conference is, but still, great for them. That being said, I’m actually pretty bummed that the Bucks fired Jason Kidd now. I don’t think Kidd was an unbelievable coach or anything, but he was better than Joe Prunty, and considering that the Bucks took the Celtics to 7, I wonder if with halfway decent coaching, they might’ve been here in the Conference Finals and we’d get to see Giannis and LeBron in this series.

Alright, about the actual series: all I can say is that I don’t think the Celtics will get swept. The Cavs are doing their thing and crushing these weaker Eastern Conference teams. It helps that the Celtics, much like the Pacers, seem like a team that doesn’t get rattled easily. The Cavs will win and will win convincingly, but I don’t think it’ll be a humiliating sweep.

Cavs in 5

 

Western Conference

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

I’m probably a little too confident for the Warriors, but I really feel like this might be similar to the last two Raptors/Cavs series. The Rockets had a great regular season, Chris Paul has had some great playoff games. Harden hasn’t looked great when things get tight. On the other hand, we don’t really know how well Curry’s knee is, so he may be more limited than we know. Either way, I don’t see the Rockets winning more than one, if the Warriors do their usual thing where the take their foot off the gas in Game 3 or 4. But, considering the fact that they’ll be playing Games 3 and 4 on the road, I think they’ll be ready to play.

Warriors in 4

 

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NBA Western Conference Semifinals Predictions

Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz
Photo by Jeff Swinger/USA Today

It was already going to be a tough series for the Jazz, but now it sounds like Ricky Rubio may not be able to play in this series, and that’s going to make it even tougher for Utah. I still don’t think it’s impossible that they pull off an upset, their defense is good enough to totally mess up the Rockets, it’s just that the Jazz offense may not be able to score enough points to compete.

Rockets in 6

 

Golden State Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans

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Photo by Michael DeMocker/NOLA.com

There are so many variables to consider with this series. Is Rondo really this good in the playoffs? How about Mirotic? Or were they just up against a bad Blazers defense? When will Steph be back? How good will he be? It’s tough to judge how either of these teams played in the last series both because of opponent and circumstance, but I think the Warriors will win it handily. Bringing Steph back may prove to be a challenge. I could actually see them only losing the first game he plays (or first game he starts) just because of the readjustment for him and for the rest of the team. The Pelicans might be for real, but I don’t think they’re beating the Warriors.

Warriors in 5

NBA Playoffs 2018 – Round 1 Predictions

Eastern Conference

 

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Photo by Nick Turchiaro/USA Today

Toronto Raptors (1) vs. Washington Wizards (8)

The Raptors might lose game 1, they might lose the series. But, despite the fact that I originally predicted the Wizards could be the best team in the East (before the season started), I think the Raptors have proven they can beat ALMOST anybody, and I think they’ll at least be confident in this first round. The Wizards are good enough to win a couple, and should make it a competitive series, but the Raptors should win this one.

Raptors in 6

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
Photo by Bob DiChiara/USA Today

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (7)

The Celtics have a lot of injuries to deal with, and I’m not one of these people that worships at the church of Brad Stevens. But, after seeing how they won the series against the Bulls and Wizards last year (with a much different roster), I think they’ll be able to beat a team at a serious coaching disadvantage, even if that team has the best player on the floor in Giannis Antetokounmpo. This could be the year the Bucks get past the first round, but I think the Celtics will grind through it.

Celtics in 7

Ben Simmons, James Johnson, Goran Dragic
Photo by Lynne Sladkey/AP

Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Miami Heat (6)

The 6ers are clearly the more talented team, but inexperience will cause them to drop a few games they should win. I anticipate at least one vintage Dwyane Wade game and an inexplicable Kelly Olynyk game. I also think Spoelstra will out-coach Brett Brown (who I also think has done a fantastic job this year). If Embiid comes back, the 6ers might pull it off, but despite the fact that the 76ers have the clearly superior roster, it will be tough to be so dependent Ben Simmons and his poor shooting (again, despite the fact that he’s unbelievable in just about every other facet of the game). Embiid is the wildcard here, but I trust the Heat to pull this off.

Heat in 7

 

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Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs. Indiana Pacers (5)

We’ve seen this before. The Pacers had an awesome season and won twice as many games as most expected. But LeBron James is here to annihilate the Eastern Conference again and the Pacers will be his first victim.

Cavs in 4

Western Conference

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Photo by Andy Clayton-King/AP

Houston Rockets (1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8)

The Rockets were clearly the better regular season team, but if Jimmy Butler can handle the minutes Thibs will give him and KAT and Wiggins aren’t afraid of the moment, I think they’ll at least put up a fight. The Rockets shouldn’t lose this one, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Rockets in 6

 

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Photo by Ben Margot/AP

Golden State Warriors (2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)

They might come out stale in Game 1 or Game 3. I expect them to drop one, but ultimately, I don’t really think the Spurs even want to be there. They might want to win one for Pop, or win one for Aldridge, but that might be it.

Warriors in 5

 

Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (6)

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Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

The Pelicans will have the most talented player on the floor, and that counts for a lot. But Dame and CJ have won playoff games and Davis hasn’t, that might count for a lot too. Nurkic is the big wild card in this series. If he’s awesome, the Blazers should have a good chance of winning; and the same could be said fo Amini. But, the Blazers might be in trouble if they’re fully dependent on their backcourt.

Blazers in 6

 

Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

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Photo by Sue Ogrocki

The Jazz are an unbelievable story this year and it’s been awesome to watch. The Jazz have the better coach (I know, I know, but for the NBA), but the Thunder definitely have the two most talented players in Westbrook and Paul George. Rudy Gobert is awesome, Donovan Mitchell has been unbelievable, Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles have been great too. But, I don’t know if that’s enough against Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and whatever Melo has left. I think the Jazz could definitely win, but the Thunder should.

Thunder in 6

NBA 2017-2018 Regular Season Predictions

Full Standings

17-18

 

Western Conference

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1. Golden State Warriors – 70-12

They probably won’t have the same slow-ish start that they did last year, and if there’s no long-time Durant injury, 70 actually seems reasonable, even with rest at the end of the season.

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2. Oklahoma City Thunder – 58-24

They might have a slow start, but this team could be great, and likely would be a championship contender under almost any other circumstance. It could also totally fall apart because their three best players need the ball a lot. But, all of these guys have played with other great players and I think this will work out.

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3. Houston Rockets – 55-27

Similar to the Thunder, the Rockets might need some time to get their game worked out, but should be great. The “one ball” thing, as much as it’s really just a joke, may apply to this team more than the Thunder. CP3 is certainly better than Dwight, but we have seen what happens when Harden tries to run the offense and someone else needs the ball. I think they’ll win a lot of games because they have to with this talent, but I’m not sold on them as a potential threat to the Warriors even as much as I barely am with the Thunder.

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4. San Antonio Spurs – 52-30

I don’t know how, but the Spurs will figure out a way to get 50+ wins. Kawhi will be great. Maybe LaMarcus Aldridge will snap out of it. Rudy Gay will probably be decent. I can’t expect Manu, Tony, and Pau to do much, but they’ll help win a few along the way.

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5. Utah Jazz – 46-36

I’m not saying anything totally controversial when I say that the Jazz haven’t lost their best player, because that’s Rudy Gobert. That’s not to say that Gordon Hayward isn’t a great player and they won’t take a step back without him. But, their identity is defensive, and Gobert is a top 3 defensive player in the league. They should be in the playoffs again.

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6. New Orleans Pelicans – 45-37

We can’t take much from the few games Anthony Davis and Boogie actually got to play together. But, I realize this is a big if, IF those two and Jrue Holiday can stay on the court, they’ll be a mid-40 win team, at least.

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7. Portland Trailblazers 43-39

I’m guessing the Blazers have a funky start and some time after Christmas have an unbelievable run to put themselves back in the playoff race. Just seems to be their thing.

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8. Minnesota Timberwolves – 41-41

I keep mentioning rough starts because we have so many teams without real continuity. The Wolves are no exception. They’ve added some great players, but I don’t think it all works out so quick. Hopefully it will in time to get this team out of the lottery.

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9. Denver Nuggets 39-43

This could totally be a breakout year, and I honestly hope it is. But, I worry this is another “almost” year. I think Mike Malone is a great coach, but there’s always something weird going on, whether it’s with Nurkic, Faried, or whoever. I just think that kind of dysfunction derails another season with potential.

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10. Los Angeles Clippers – 38-44

Blake Griffin is still pretty good. But, he’s going to miss time this season. Probably a couple different stretches, and this time, Chris Paul won’t be there to hold the team together. If DeAndre, Blake, and Patrick Beverley stay healthy for 82 games, they have a shot at mid to high 40’s wins, but, I think high 30’s is more likely with the injury history.

 

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11. Dallas Mavericks – 36-46

I know Mark Cuban has said the Mavs might tank seasons in the past, but I just don’t believe Rick Carlisle and Dirk are capable of doing that. They’ll be a mediocre team and it’ll be too bad because it could very well be Dirk’s last season.

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12. Los Angeles Lakers – 33-49

They’re not making the playoffs, but if they’re not actively trying to lose, this team will be decent and actually entertaining. It’s a tough league for young guys so their core will make mistakes that cost them games, but it won’t be a recurring nightmare to watch.

 

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13. Memphis Grizzlies – 30-52

It’s going to be rough to see this team lose a lot more than we’ve become accustomed do over the last few years. But I don’t see many of their guys being able to stay on the court much. Conley and Gasol will have nights where they find a way to beat the best teams in the league, and those will certainly be fun. But, unfortunately, those won’t be the norm.

 

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14. Sacramento Kings – 28-54

This team should be fun to watch. No expectations, a good mix of solid young talent and great vets.

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15. Phoenix Suns – 25-57

I feel like this team SHOULD improve, but for some reason I think they’ve got at least another season at the bottom before their breakout. Booker will put together a few great games though.

Eastern Conference

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1. Washington Wizards – 56-26

Continuity definitely matters in the regular season. This team has that more than any of the other top Eastern Conference teams. I don’t know if that means they’re a real challenger to the Cavs in the post-season, but it’ll definitely give them a head start in the regular season.

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2. Cleveland Cavaliers – 54-28

Their regular season was truly bizarre last year. This will be another slow start team because they have so many additions and Isaiah Thomas won’t be back until Christmas or later. But, it might be easier to click without Kyrie and this team should run through a terrible Eastern Conference.

 

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3. Boston Celtics – 52-30

They have the talent of a 60+ win team, but it’ll take some time to make it work. They’ve got a great coach, so it might not take long at all though.

 

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4. Toronto Raptors – 49-33

The Raptors can be one of the most confusing teams in the NBA. But they usually do well in the regular season. They may end up a top 3 seed, but it’s hard to predict that with the talent on the Wizards’, Celtics’, and Cavs’ rosters.

 

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5. Miami Heat – 47-35

 They had a terrible start last year but ended the season 30-11. I don’t think they’ll be a 60 win team this year, but they’ll be decent team in a terrible Eastern Conference.

 

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6. Milwaukee Bucks – 46-36

 I feel like this team should make a leap to a top 4 seed, but it feels like, despite their talent, it’s been such a slow process. An injury to one of the top 5 teams may boost the Bucks, but I think they’re headed for another 6th seed.

 

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7. Charlotte Hornets – 40-42

 They had a chance to be a mid-40’s team. Without Batum, they might barely win 40. In the Eastern Conference, that will still get you a 7th seed.

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8. Detroit Pistons – 38-44

 They lost KCP, who knows if Andre Drummond will finish the season there. They did add Avery Bradley. I think they’ll be bad but not terrible, again.

 

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9. Philadelphia 76ers – 36-46

 This is more a prediction about how long it takes for this team to click, and then how long Embiid stays on the court. If it takes them 20 games to find their footing and then Embiid only plays 50, they have 30 games as a great cohesive unit. They win a lot of those, lose some. They win a few on either side of that, you’re looking at mid-30’s wins.

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10. New York Knicks – 35-47

 Time to see if Kristaps can start to flourish on his own. Kanter will help them offensively, Michael Beasley might too. Considering how many bad teams there are in the East, and that getting the Phil-Melo drama out might be great for morale, this team might do fine. They still won’t make the playoffs, but it’ll be less depressing.

 

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11. Brooklyn Nets – 34-48

It’s another season with no reason to tank and D’Angelo Russell might be good. I think mid-30’s is totally possible.

 

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12. Atlanta Hawks – 32-50

 Hard to know where everything went wrong, but Kent Bazemore might be their best player (don’t get me wrong, I love Baze). I don’t know if this team can bottom out on purpose, but they definitely won’t be good.

 

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13. Indiana Pacers – 29-53

 Another team with no expectations and decent young talent. I think Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner will be pretty good. But the lack of outside shooting will make it tough to win many games.

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14. Orlando Magic – 24-58

 It’s depressing that this team just can’t climb out of the lottery, but they might just try to bottom out this year and make another go at a top pick while they still can. I will be delighted to watch Maureese Speights on this team either way.

 

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15. Chicago Bulls – 19-63

With Jimmy gone, I think management finally understands that this team is rebuilding. Maybe. Even though they’re trading picks for cash. But, even if they don’t, this team is going to be rough. I like Justin Holiday. I’m rooting for David Nwaba. Robin Lopez is still pretty good. I don’t know what else to say.

2017 NBA Finals Prediction

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Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

I don’t think there’s a single outcome that would really surprise me in this Finals. Warriors could sweep, Cavs could win in 6, and anything in between seems plausible. Things would have to really go the Cavs way again for them to pull this off, but it’s certainly possible. Two key Warriors would have to sustain an injuries that limited their play, another would have to be suspended (possibly based on fouls being retroactively upgraded to flagrants between games), another would have to go through an unbelievable cold streak, forcing rotations to go seriously out of whack in a Game 7. But that all happened last year.

One thing that would surprise me would be another suspension to a key contributor on either team. The NBA doesn’t totally shy away from things that fuel conspiracy theories, but it would be an unbelievably bad look to have that potentially determine the Finals two years in a row.

Unless things align in a way that is truly awful for the Warriors, I think they win this one convincingly, but LeBron James singlehandedly saves the team from total embarrassment by winning one or two on his own.

Warriors in 5

NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Finals Prediction

LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry
Photo by Darran Abate/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs

I’d love to see the Warriors sweep another round, but I just don’t see anyway the Spurs get swept. If Kawhi is still out or having trouble staying on the court, it might turn out that way. But, my guess is this team makes it another challenge Western Conference Finals for the Warriors, but don’t quite pull it off.

Warriors in 6

NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Semifinals Predictions

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Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz

It’s weird that the Jazz lost two at home in the last series and still managed to win.  They had to win Game 1 in LA after Rudy Gobert went down in the opening seconds and then Game 7 with Gobert in foul trouble (he played only 13 minutes). But, they lost 2 games at home, one of which Blake Griffin didn’t play at all, and the other being the game he went down in. But, while playing in their arena might not be a huge advantage to the Jazz, they’re certainly mentally tough enough to step up to a challenge and won’t be scared, even when the Warriors go on big runs. The talent gap is too wide for the Jazz to have any real shot at the series, but I won’t be surprised if they’re able to take one, which is more than I could have said for the Clippers.

Warriors in 5

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Photo by Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

There are so many X factors in this series, it’s hard to say how the Rockets as a team will shoot, how James Harden, specifically will play after not being great in the last series against the Thunder, despite beating them in 5. On the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard has been the only reliably great player so far. Tony Parker has had flashes of his previous greatness and LaMarcus Aldridge has been good at times. I think Kawhi Leonard has another great series the Spurs dominate Rockets unless Harden comes back into his early-mid season form.

Spurs in 5

NBA Playoff Predictions – Round 1

Eastern Conference

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics
Photo by David Butler II/USA Today

Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

I think the Celtics will struggle out of the gate. They’ve had poor playoff showings, and the Bulls can be good with enough rest, which the first round provides. I do think they eventually pull it off because they’re definitely the better team. But, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the Bulls pull off the upset.

Celtics in 7

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Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA Today

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indian Pacers

It’s that time of year, LeBron will go supernova and make everyone feel silly for doubting they could turn it up in the playoffs. This might end up being a sweep, but I think Paul George wills his team to win at least one at home.

Cavaliers in 5

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Photo by Jeff Hanisch/USA Today

Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are great, and just having Giannis Antetokounmpo means they have a chance to win every game. In fact, the Bucks winning the series is totally plausible. But, I think the Raptors getting deep into the playoffs last year puts them in a better space and will give them the mental edge they’ll need to win a tough series.

Raptors in 7

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Photo by Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks

It’s tough to trust either of these teams in a playoff series, but I think the Wizards have shown they’re the more consistent of these two. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been incredible this year and the Hawks have had great flashes, but I don’t think they can win four against this Wizards team.

Wizards in 5

 

Western Conference

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers kept the series somewhat competitive last year, and I think it’s possible they might’ve won one in Portland if Jusuf Nurkic was healthy, but without him, the Warriors biggest weakness isn’t much of a weakness at all against this Blazers team. The Blazers might get hot at the same time the Warriors go cold, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Warriors in 4

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Photo by Antonio Morano

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Spurs and Grizzlies split the regular season series 2-2 this year. The Spurs are definitely the better team, but I think the mostly-healthy Grizzlies will make it a competitive series this year.

Spurs in 6

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Photo by Nate Billings/The Oklahoman

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Rockets are the better team, but the “clutch” stats are where the Thunder have a major edge. Also, a lot of Harden’s game is getting to the line for fouls that get called less often during the playoffs. The Rockets could end up blowing out the Thunder and sweeping, but I think the Thunder take this series.

Thunder in 6

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Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz

I so badly want to pick the Jazz, but they seem to beat up on bad teams and rarely beat good teams. The Clippers can always find a way to blow it, but I think they’ll wait till the 2nd round to do that. I just hope the Jazz put up a fight.

Clippers in 6

NBA 2016-2017 Season Predictions

(most stats from Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted)

NBA 2016-2017 Regular Season Predictions

Full Standings:

standings

Western Conference

gsw-2017

1 – Golden State Warriors – 67-15

So much has been written about this Warriors team, so I’ll keep it brief. This team probably COULD win 73 (or more), but I feel like they will be resting a lot, especially down the stretch. I assume they’ll make sure they lock up the #1 seed, but I don’t anticipate them chasing 70+ to break their own record.

lac-2017

2 – Los Angeles Clippers – 56-26

I couldn’t decide if this team was better than the Spurs, but age and continuity are on the Clippers‘ side. I think this team will be lights out when they keep Blake, CP3, DeAndre, and JJ on the court, and probably still pretty good if (when) Blake has to miss some time. But they will probably be a (distant) second in the West.

sas-2017

3 – San Antonio Spurs – 53-29

The Spurs should round out the obvious top 3 in the West. I might’ve had them 2nd, but with Danny Green starting the season injured, and many of their most important players aging, I see them coasting to just over 50 wins because they will still be an excellent team with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

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4 – Memphis Grizzlies – 47-35

Health will need to be on the Grizzlies‘ side, which certainly isn’t a given. But, I think this team will be pretty good. Chandler Parsons can help bring this team some shooting in their starting lineup, and as much as it pains me to see Z-Bo on the bench, I think it might be for the best. I do think Dave Joerger is a great coach, but a change might be what this team needed and having a new leader in Dave Fizdale help give this team a boost.

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5 – Portland Trail Blazers – 45-37

The Blazers‘ defense concerns me, but Terry Stotts is such a great coach that I think he’ll find a way to keep this team from giving games away and leaning on their offense to get the job done. Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were great last year, and will probably improve even more this year. If this team can be halfway decent on defense, they’ll definitely be in the playoff mix.

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6 – Utah Jazz – 44-38

I’d have the Jazz a little higher if it weren’t for the Gordon Hayward injury. Adding great players and smart veterans Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw should take this team to the next level. They’ll be great defensively and when Hayward gets back, they should have a great offense. If they can stay around .500 by the time Hayward gets back, they may even be playing for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

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7 – Dallas Mavericks – 42-40

I thought the Mavericks might miss the playoffs last year, but I learned not to doubt the duo of Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. Having Andrew Bogut at center makes this team even better than last year and I think Harrison Barnes might have a better year than people expect now that he won’t be a 4th option on offense. This team will at least be good enough to make the playoffs, and could possibly win in the high 40’s, but I don’t expect that just yet.

okc-2017

8 – Oklahoma City Thunder – 41-41

Despite losing KD, the Thunder still might make the playoffs with the West being so top-heavy now. Steven Adams was great last year and will likely improve. Victor Oladipo might prove to be a much better scorer with Westbrook as his point guard and Billy Donovan as his coach. I’m expecting wins in the low 40’s and a playoff spot as long as the Rockets don’t figure out how to defend and the Pelicans have their usual health issues.

hou-2017

9 – Houston Rockets – 40-42

The Rockets, much like the Blazers, should be a top team on offense, but I think the Rockets’ defense will be bad enough that they’ll only be able to win against bad teams. The team is pairing infamous non-defender, James Harden, with Mike D’Antoni, also infamous for de-valuing defense. This team will have no problem scoring, but unless they can stop other teams from getting easy buckets, they’ll have a tough time beating any good teams.

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10 – New Orleans Pelicans – 39-43

The Pelicans have so much talent, it just hurts to see them have so many injury troubles. I’m hopeful Anthony Davis can play most of the season healthy. If he can, they might be able to make the playoffs. The other major questions are whether or not Alvin Gentry can be an effective coach, especially on defense, when Jrue Holiday will be able to return, and if rookie, Buddy Hield can be as great an NBA player as he was in college. If things break right, they can make their return to the playoffs and Anthony Davis might even be an MVP candidate.

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11 – Minnesota Timberwolves – 37-45

I think the Timberwolves will be much better this year than they were last year, and I think they do have a chance to go to the playoffs. But, I think it’s more likely they make a great, not an unbelievable improvement in Thibs‘ first year as their coach.

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12 – Denver Nuggets – 34-48

The Nuggets won’t be great, but they should be decent. Jokic and Mudiay will hopefully improve and another season under Mike Malone might make this team more comfortable as a whole.

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13 – Sacramento Kings – 31-51

I would love to see the Kings improve, especially because I do think their new coach, Dave Joerger can help manage the personalities on this team. But, they have major problems at point guard with Darren Collison suspended 8 games for domestic abuse and Ty Lawson already having issues showing up. Unless they figure out what they’re doing at that position, they find some stability at that position, I do not anticipate them making the leap this year, which sucks, because Boogie deserves better.

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14 – Los Angeles Lakers – 29-53

The Lakers will be better under Luke Walton than they were under Byron Scott/Kobe, but they’ll need some time to figure out how to play with such a young team. Hopefully (for Lakers fans) Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell can take the reigns and get this team headed in the right direction.

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15 – Phoenix Suns – 26-56

The Suns are going to be very bad (probably by design). But, Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe will be fun to watch.

Eastern Conference

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1 – Cleveland Cavaliers – 56-26

The Cavs probably could win 60+ games, but I expect them to mostly coast through the regular season and make some effort to get the #1 seed. The only caveat here is if LBJ decides he does want to go all out and get another MVP. But, I think he knows he’d rather save himself for the playoffs again.

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2 – Boston Celtics – 55-27

The Celtics made a big leap last year and adding Horford should put them into the mid-50’s this season and probably right between the Cavs and Raptors. I’m not sure if Jaylen Brown will be able to contribute right away, but if he does, this team could make a run for the #1 seed if the Cavs let them.

tor-2017

3 – Toronto Raptors – 52-30

The Raptors should be about the same last year, I think they win a few less games due to some of the other teams getting a little bit better and Jared Sullinger‘s injury. I would be surprised if they’re not a top 4 East team.

ind-2017

4 – Indiana Pacers- 47-35

Part of me wants to say the Pacers will be worse without Frank Vogel, but having Nate McMillan will keep continuity. Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson could be great new contributors for this team and Myles Turner will probably improve. This team could end up a anywhere in the 40-50 win range, but upper 40’s seems likely.

cho-2017

5 – Charlotte Hornets – 45-37

The Hornets might miss Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson, but I think Roy Hibbert might still have something left in the tank and hope he can contribute. I’m not so sure about Marco Belinelli, but I trust Steve Clifford to find a way to make him effective. This (along with a lot of other East teams) is another team that could be anywhere in the 40-50 win rage.

atl-2017

6 – Atlanta Hawks – 44-38

I don’t think the Hawks be quite as good without Al Horford and Jeff Teague, but I really hope it works with Dwight at center and Dennis Schröder as their starting point guard. This team has a high ceiling, but I’m not totally confident they’ll reach that.

was-2017

7 – Washington Wizards – 43-39

I think the Wizards will make it back to the playoffs. Adding Ian Mahinmi feels like a step in the right direction. Hopefully Bradley Beal can stay on the court for most of the season. If not, they may end up back in the lottery.

det-2017

8 – Detroit Pistons – 41-41

The Reggie Jackson injury will hurt the Pistons. I don’t think it will knock them out of the playoffs, but it’s possible. Hopefully Drummond can keep up the great play he started off with last year and make it last throughout the season this time.

nyk-2017

9 – New York Knicks – 38-44

It is so hard to know how the Knicks will do. Not just with injuries, but general cohesiveness. While some of these teams are in 30-40 and 40-50 win ranges, this team is in a 25-50 win range.

orl-2017

10 – Orlando Magic – 37-45

The Magic have a bizarre too-big lineup that might keep them ultra slow. But, it might also work best for Frank Vogel. Serge Ibaka had a weird last year with the Thunder, but he might thrive being a top 2 option on offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the playoff mix, but don’t expect them to.

chi-2017

11 – Chicago Bulls – 35-47

The Bulls and Knicks are in similar positions, both have a weird mix of over-the-hill stars with injury history and some young talent. The Knicks at least have some guys who can shoot. The Bulls will have a really tough time with perimeter scoring and don’t have guys that will be durable enough to make it through the season if they have to attack the rim on every possession. This team has the talent to be around .500, but probably won’t be due to injuries.

mil-2017

12 – Milwaukee Bucks – 33-49

I would love to see the Bucks back in the playoffs, but I think the Khris Middleton injury is going to put them too far behind. Giannis will be a whole lot of fun and I hope Jabari makes a big leap this year. But, I would be surprised if this team makes it to .500.

mia-2017

13 – Miami Heat – 27-55

This is going to be a very weird Heat team. No Wade/no Bosh is one thing, having Hassan Whiteside as your franchise player is… dangerous, to say the least. Whiteside, Dragic, and Winslow might all be good. But, I would not be surprised if Riley punts on this season if things aren’t going well.

phi-2017

14 – Philadelphia 76ers – 25-57

Even if Ben Simmons‘ injury keeps him out all season, the 6ers should still be fun (and a whole lot better than last year). Dario Saric and Joel Embiid will be fun to watch, I just hope Embiid can stay on the court for most of the season.

brk-2017

15 – Brooklyn Nets – 21-61

I hope Nets fans will enjoy the wins when they come. This team won’t be as exciting as some younger teams, but at least their fans know they aren’t TRYING to lose.

2016 NBA Finals Prediction

TonyDejak
Photo by Tony Dejak/AP

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – Warriors in 5

Both of these teams are better than they were this time last year. The Warriors are better prepared for the Finals due to experience, especially after coming back from 3-1 against the Thunder in their last series. While there are questions about Curry‘s health, it seems he can be the player he needs to be when the time comes. The Cavs have Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving this time (hopefully for the full series) and a head coach that doesn’t seem to be getting in the team’s way in Tyronn Lue.

While the Cavs are definitely scarier this year than they were last year, and the Warriors showed some vulnerabilities in their 7-games against the Thunder, I just do not think the Cavs will be able to match-up well with this Warriors team. Last year the Cavs went big and slow to mess with the Warriors quick-paced game and take a 2-1 series lead. In the last series, the Warriors were forced to alternate between their smaller/quicker lineups and bigger/slower lineups to defeat the Thunder, making it a lot more difficult for the Cavs to find a style that will work.

One caveat here is Draymond Green‘s foul trouble. He’s two technical fouls from a one-game suspension and one Flagrant 1 foul away from a one-game suspension, a Flagrant 2 foul would mean a 2-game suspension. Any suspension would mean a much great chance of a loss for the Warriors and that could mean a lot in a 7-game series.

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)