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.

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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

2016 NBA Finals Prediction

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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)

Conference Finals Predictions

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

Western Conference Finals

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – Warriors in 6

I was wrong about the Thunder losing to the Spurs and very happy to see them advance. They definitely have decent chance to beat the Warriors here, but I still think the Warriors win this series. Andrew Bogut‘s health is a mystery right now, but I think we see the Warriors go small anyway and maybe need Festus Ezeli more any way because of his speed. Speed is something the Warriors have that the Spurs didn’t and will be something they’ll need to win this. Where the Spurs win with suffocating defense, the Warriors will have to keep the pace fast and keep it a high scoring game, forcing Russell Westbrook, Dion Waiters, and Andre Roberson to keep shooting. They all made crucial shots in the last series, but if they’re forced to shoot significantly more in this series, I don’t think as many shots are going to fall. Kevin Durant, on the other hand, rarely has trouble himself against the Warriors, and this series may end up similar to last year’s Finals against the Cavaliers, where the Warriors simply have to accept that one play (in that case, LeBron James) is going to score 30-50 points a game and try to keep everyone else on the team from making other shots.

 

Eastern Conference Finals

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Photo by Frank Gunn/AP

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors – Cavs in 4

I feel like the Raptors really have a chance to win one game, but I just don’t see it actually happening. The Raptors beat the Cavs both times the teams played in Toronto by less than 5 points and got blown out in Cleveland the one time they played there. But, the Raptors have struggled in both rounds and the Cavs have swept both. If Jonas Valanciunas makes it back for some games, DeMarre Carroll can be effective against LeBron, and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan return to their regular season levels, the Raptors have a chance at one or two. But I think the Cavs start the post-season winning 12 straight.

NBA Playoffs Round 2 Predictions – Western Conference

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
Photo by Mark D. Smith/USA Today

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – Spurs in 6

I want to pick the Thunder to win this, so bad. The WestbrookDurant duo are so much fun to watch, and, as much as a SpursWarriors (or Spurs-Blazers?) Conference Finals should be enjoyable, watching the Thunder is just so entertaining, that I would much rather see them advance.

All that aside, this series is interesting because it’s another study in coaching talent and depth vs. superstar player talent. The Spurs obviously have incredible talent in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Danny Green, and David West still play at an extremely high level when needed; and, the rest of their roster can always compete. But, Kawhi is the only player on that team that (in 2016) can hold a candle to Durant and Westbrook. The problem for the Thunder is, the rest of the guys on the floor, including their coach, can be inconsistent. Serge Ibaka, usually the obvious 3rd best on the team, hasn’t been as good this year. Enes Kanter has had some great moments this season and post-season. But, he his defense is usually weak and his offense only makes up for it on his best nights. The biggest mismatch with the Spurs is the coaching. While not many coaches can compare to Gregg Popovich, Billy Donovan has really struggled adapting to the NBA, and now he’s headed to a playoff series against one of the best coaches in the league (many would argue, THE best). My hope is that Donovan can make the right adjustments and avoid 4th-quarter meltdowns, but I’m not optimistic for the Thunder.

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Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers – Warriors in 5

It’s tough to say how this series goes without knowing when Stephen Curry comes back from injury and how he’ll play upon his return. That said, I think this is a great matchup for the Curry-less Warriors. Klay Thompson can be inconsistent without Steph to draw the attention of the best defenders on each team. But, the Blazers rely so much on their offense, that Klay (and others on the team) will likely do well against their weaker defense. The Blazers had such a bizarre season that it’s tough to say how good they really are. But, seeing as the Blazers were able to win one against a fully healthy Warriors in the regular season and one against a (reasonably) healthy Clippers team, I think the Blazers take at least one game in Portland, likely charged by a mega-game from CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. But, ultimately, with Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, and Shaun Livingston on the floor, the Warriors defense can do a lot to contain the Blazers most nights. The Blazers will get one, but definitely not 4, even without Curry.

NBA Playoffs – 1st Round Predictions

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

NBA Playoffs – Round 1 Predictions

Eastern Conference

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
Photo by David Richard/USA Today

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons – Cavs in 5

This is similar to last year’s matchup with the Celtics, which resulted in a sweep. A young team with a great coach (Brad Stevens) facing LeBron James and two (previous) all-star caliber players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. This year, the Cavs‘ younger players have playoff experience too. But, the Pistons have Reggie Jackson, who has been to the NBA Finals and played in the Western Conference Finals. The Pistons also have Andre Drummond, an NBA Allstar this year. But, a major difference between Brad Stevens and Pistons’ coach, Stan Van Gundy, is his playoff experience. He’s taken teams to the Finals and is no stranger to the first round. Tyronn Lue, on the other hand, has only coached half a a regular NBA Season; but is no stranger to Championship runs as a player (much like Steve Kerr last year). The Pistons are good enough to make this a competitive series. But, the Cavs know their best chance to beat the Warriors down the road is to be less  banged-up and better rested. They will be motivated to end this quickly. Also, if the Cavs can get this done in 4, Justin Bieber won’t have to move his Cleveland performance.

Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers – Raptors in 5

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Photo by Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

The Raptors last 2 playoff appearances ended in first round exits. In 2014 they lost in 7 games to the Brooklyn Nets, then got swept in 2015 by the Wizards. They’re a better team this year, and they know they have to advance this year. They were in striking distance of the 1st seed for most of the season and have been great against the leagues best teams. The Pacers, however, will have the best player on the floor in Paul George. The Pacers had a great start this year but started declining as the season went on. I think Paul George will takeover a game in Naptown and win one of these by himself, but the Raptors will make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets – Hornets in 7

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Photo by Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Heat have the talent and the experience to win this series. Their problem is age. Dwyane Wade has been incredible in so many games this season. But, they’ll likely need to lean on the inexperienced players (in the playoffs) on this team to win 4 our of 7. Goran Dragic has been on and off this season. Hassan Whiteside has barely played a full NBA season before and Justise Winslow is a rookie. Luol Deng is in a similar situation to Wade, he’s been great, but it’s unclear how tired he’ll be a few games in. I have to assume Bosh won’t be playing, but if he is, he’ll still need time to get back into rhythm. The days off between games may give Deng and Wade enough rest time to stay fresh for this series, but I think the Hornets are good enough to keep it competitive long enough for those guys to wear down. Steve Clifford has done an incredible coaching job this year, but Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, and Jeremy Lin have all been great this season and propelled the Hornets to the playoffs when many assumed they’d be awful without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This series could swing either way, but I think the Hornets can pull it off and avenge their 2014 sweep (as the Bobcats).

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics – Hawks in 7

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Photo by Maddie Meyer

These teams are evenly matched in being well-coached units with no single player required to make it work. Both teams certainly have all-star caliber players, but no one that specifically makes either the offense or defense work. While the Celtics have the better coach, Brad Stevens, I think the Hawks have big enough edge talent wise with the duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford on both offense and defense to win this. But it’s entirely possible the Celtics survive and advance.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets  – Warriors in 4

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Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I know the Rockets won one against he Warriors last year by sleepwalking through the first half. But, if Trevor Ariza doesn’t knee Steph Curry in the head, the Rockets would’ve gotten swept. The Rockets are a mess and there’s not much else to say about that. They backed into the playoffs by beating the Lakers and the Kingsbench. Against any other team, I would count on James Harden taking over a game and the Rockets winning one, but the Warriors have at least three guys who can take over in response. Assuming the Rockets don’t resort to reckless fouls (they probably will), there’s no way this is competitive.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies – Spurs in 4

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Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is just going to be sad. Dave Joerger has done an awesome job with the Grizz-zombies. But the Grizzlies have a tough enough time getting their offense going against most teams, there’s no way they’ll be able to make it work against one of the most suffocating defenses ever in the Spurs. This one will be tough to watch and a bummer considering what the Grizzlies have accomplished short-handed.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks- Thunder in 6

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Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is similar to the Cavs-Pistons series. A much more talented team with a (so-far) not-great coach against an incredible coach. The difference here is that the Mavericks have playoff experience and Rick Carlisle isn’t just a great coach, but one of the greatest of all time. The Mavericks do not have the talent or the legs to win this, but Dirk and Rick will take advantage of the Thunder‘s 4th quarter woes and win a couple.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers – Blazers in 7

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Photo by Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Since returning from injury and suspension, Blake Griffin only got 5 games in before the post-season. But the Clippers won all of them. Only two were against playoff teams (the Mavericks and Grizzlies), but it’d be surprising if he’s fully ready for the playoffs and the team as a whole might be in a weird place. These teams seem to be on opposite trajectories. The Blazers surpassed all expectations and went from an 11-20 start to get the 5th seed with a 44-38 record. Damian Lillard is as determined as ever to prove he’s one of the best players in the league, and CJ McCollum has taken an incredible leap this year. The Clippers on the other hand went from briefly being title favorites in 2015 to having just a truly bizarre season. The Clippers obviously CAN win this. But, I predict an earlier implosion than last year’s.