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 – Eastern Conference Finals Prediction

Isaiah Thomas, LeBron James
Photo by Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are on a mission and I don’t think they slow down and drop a couple like they did in Toronto last year. The Celtics are a good team, but I have a feeling they’ll get steamrolled 4 times in a row. Isaiah Thomas might just pull one out, but I’d be very surprised.

Cavs in 4

NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semifinals Predictions

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Photo by Greg M. Cooper/USA Today

Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

The Celtics seemed to have found their groove after stumbling through the first couple games against the Bulls. It’s hard to know if they dropped those first two games because of the circumstances Isaiah Thomas was in or if the Bulls won those games because of Rondo’s play. It feels like the Wizards are the better team, but their struggles against the Hawks make them look more vulnerable and their bench is dismal. Despite their bench, I still think the Wizards are the better team and will pull this one off.

Wizards in 6

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Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors seemed like they might be better this year than they were last year, and the Cavs seemed like they were worse this year (especially on defense) than they were last year. But despite each game being close, the Cavs still swept the Pacers and the Raptors struggled against the Bucks. It’s certainly possible that the Raptors could beat the Cavs 4 times in a 7-game series. But, the Raptors just seem to tighten and lose games and the Cavs tend to find a way to win, even when it looks like they’ve given a lead away. My guess is the Raptors find a way to win a couple, but the Cavs will definitely take the series.

Cavaliers in 6

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 – Eastern Conference

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks – Cavs in 6

I feel like my prediction makes no sense. When the Cavs swept the  Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving was injured, only playing 2 games. This year, the Cavs are as healthy as a team can be by May. The Hawks on the other hand were a 60-win team last year and had DeMarre Carrol, albeit injured, who left in free agency for the Raptors last summer. That said, this Hawks team seems better prepared for the post-season. They’ve had success striking early and staying in close games. Paul Millsap and Al Horford have been incredible this season, and Jeff Teague has been great as well. Kyle Korver is certainly on the decline, but he was injured last post-season anyway. I could be wrong and this could just be another sweep. The King is in total playoff-mode and Kevin Love has certainly shown he can be effective on this team. Kyrie Irving was streaky in the last series and may struggle against the Hawks’ defense. But, overall, I don’t see any way the Hawks take this series, regardless of how many games it goes.

 

FrankGunn-AP
Photo by Frank Gunn/Associated Press

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat – Heat in 6

There’s a lot to suggest that the Raptors should win this series. They had a better regular season record (56-26) than the Heat (48-34) and a much better point differential (Raptors +4.5, Heat +1.6). Both teams had 1st round series that went to 7 games. The Raptors may have exorcised their lemon booty and might be relaxed enough to not get stunned early or lose leads like they have in past postseasons. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng might break down towards the end of the series. But, I’m going with my gut after seeing both of these teams play in the their 1st round series, and I trust the Heat to get it done. The Raptors shot poorly in the 1st round and that may have been a nerves issue that has since been solved, or it could be that Kyle Lowry‘s elbow is hurt and that won’t improve this series. However, their other all-star, DeMar DeRozan, struggled with shooting in every game except for Game 5, but doesn’t appear to have an injury that would’ve made an impact. The Heat are obviously experienced in playing further into the post-season, and even their less-experienced players like Hassan Whiteside and, rookie, Justise Winslow contributed in the first round. I think it’s certainly possible the Raptors can win, but I trust the Heat more.

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

ChuckBurtonAP
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

MaddieMeyer
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.