2018-19 NBA Preview!!!

Will the Warriors win their third consecutive NBA championship? Find out here!

 

Favorite

Golden State Warriors– The Warriors are so far ahead of the competition that the season may not even be much of a contest, especially with the addition of the NBA’s best center, DeMarcus Cousins. But was last year’s seven-game Western Conference Finals bout against Houston a sign of decline?

 

Challengers

Boston Celtics– The most talented team in the East, combined with the debut of All Star Gordon Hayward and the best coach in the NBA in Brad Stevens. The C’s are in great position to reach the Finals in a LeBron-less East.

Houston Rockets– If they can build off last season’s success and avoid a slump, the Rockets will be Golden State’s toughest challenger in the West.

Toronto Raptors- Toronto has underperformed in the playoffs perennially, but adding Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard could give the Raptors a playoff boost. But with free agency looming, it may be Toronto’s last good chance.

Contenders

Utah Jazz– With Donovan Mitchell as an offensive force and Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert holding down the defensive end, the Jazz are sparkling with young talent and could add onto last year’s first round victory.

Philadelphia 76ers– Behind Atlantic Division rivals Boston and Toronto, the 76ers have a talented and young lineup that will need another step in development, especially for guard Markelle Fultz, to emerge as a serious threat to the Celtics.

Los Angeles Lakers– LeBron! Other than the King, the Lakers do not have the pieces to run to the Finals, though young stars Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram are intriguing.

Milwaukee Bucks- Giannis is great, but it is the hiring of coach Mike Budenholzer, a former Coach of the Year in Atlanta, that will elevate the Bucks to the next level. Whether the Bucks can challenge the East powers will depend on the supporting cast.

Pretenders

Oklahoma City Thunder- The Thunder are not giving up on the Russell Westbrook era, and All Star Paul George’s return bodes well for OKC’s chances. But the upside of this team is slim, short and long term.

Denver Nuggets– The forgotten team in the Western Conference could make noise in the spring, as point guard Jamal Murray and center Nikola Jokic make for a powerful 1-2 punch.

Indiana Pacers– Indiana surprised in 2017 behind Most Improved Player Victor Oladipo, and additions like Tyreke Evans could help the Pacers contend once again.

Minnesota Timberwolves– With Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler, the T-Wolves have the talent to contend, but a lack of cohesion and Butler’s public disapproval of the team could waste a promising season.

Playoff Fringe

Washington Wizards– The duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal has elevated the Wizards to relevance in recent seasons, but the team could come crumbling down in 2018. Washington will need to improve by leaps and bounds for any of the East teams to take them seriously.

San Antonio Spurs- With Kawhi Leonard out of town, the Spurs are in danger of losing their 21-season playoff streak. But if new guard DeMar DeRozan can find a groove in San Antonio and big man LaMarcus Aldridge can build off last year’s surprising breakout performance, the Spurs could sneak in.

Miami Heat- Miami could win the Southeast Division, but that says more about the dearth of talent in the division than the Heat’s own prowess. The roster is filled with solid players such as Goran Dragic, but the team lacks identity and direction.

Portland Trail Blazers– In a contested Western Conference, the Trail Blazers may be left behind.

Detroit Pistons- Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond make for one of the best big men duos in the NBA, but the Pistons’ ceiling is probably a quick first round playoff exit.

Charlotte Hornets– With Kemba Walker at point, the Hornets are still contenders for a playoff spot, but a rebuild should be coming soon.

No Man’s Land

Brooklyn Nets- Though they aren’t out of rebuilding mode yet, the Nets have made strides in past seasons and could take the eight seed.

Los Angeles Clippers- Without Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clips are nearly unrecognizable. And with LeBron in L.A., they can’t stake a claim as the best team in La La Land, either.

Dallas Mavericks- Dirk is nearing the end of his career, but with young talents including Dennis Smith Jr. and Rookie of the Year candidate Luka Doncic plus one of the association’s brightest coaches in Rick Carlisle, the Mavs are good for a bad team.

Orlando Magic- An eight seed in the East isn’t unfathomable, but this season should really be about the Magic deciding who their franchise players are. And if none of the big man trio of Mo Bamba, Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac are that guy, then Orlando better hope for a high pick in the draft.

Memphis Grizzlies- Mike Conley and Marc Gasol still hold starting spots, but Memphis’s days as a playoff regular are gone.

Tank Territory

Chicago Bulls– Chicago is in desperate need of a franchise player, and that player is definitely not on the current roster.

New York Knicks- Kristaps Porzingis will miss significant portions of what looks to be a dreary season in the Big Apple, but the next class of free agents could bring the Knicks back to relevance.

Phoenix Suns- Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton are excellent long-term pieces, but this Suns team won’t win many games in the short term.

Cleveland Cavaliers– The LeBron-less Cavs are going to be simply depressing to watch in 2018, but hey, they had a good run.

Sacramento Kings- Sacramento is in a state of disarray, so simply identifying any stars on the roster would be a victory for the team.

Atlanta Hawks- Rookie Trae Young could make the Hawks fun to watch, but the current roster won’t produce many W’s.

 

Awards

MVP: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers- James’s value in his first year in L.A. will extend even beyond statistical measures, as his leadership of one of the league’s youngest rosters will require all of his patience.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors- Kawhi is healthy and out to prove himself to the league, making the two-time DPOY a favorite to win this award.

Most Improved Player: Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic- I want the Magic to win something for the first time in half a decade.

Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks- The difference between this year’s Milwaukee team and those of the past will be night and day, and Budenholzer’s system could transform the Bucks into a serious contender.

Sixth Man of the Year: Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans

 

Playoff Projections

Eastern Conference Finals: Boston Celtics over Milwaukee Bucks, 4-2

Western Conference Finals: Golden State Warriors over Houston Rockets, 4-1

NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors over Boston Celtics, 4-3

NBA Finals MVP: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors

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