Cleveland rocks! Cleveland rocks! The Indians are in the World Series and next door the Cavaliers are the defending NBA champions. The Cavaliers shouldn’t have to worry too much about any stiff competition from the rest of the NBA apart from the Golden State Warriors. We are on a collision course for act three of Warriors-Cavs in the NBA Finals. We’ll get to that more later on.
A lot of guys got paid money this year and I do mean a lot of money for guys that probably didn’t deserve it a whole lot like Timofey Mozgov with the Los Angeles Lakers (4 years, $64 million) and other guys of that nature. That was the narrative of this offseason. I mean, Nicolas Batum is a good player, but is he $120 million over five years worthy for the Charlotte Hornets? Jeremy Lin got 3-years for $36 million with Brooklyn and Matthew Dellavedova got 4-years, $38 million with Milwaukee. Miles Plumlee got $52 million over four years with Milwaukee and some guy named Alex Abrines got $18 million over three years with Oklahoma City. Who is Maurice Harkless? Some guy who just got $40 million over four years with the Portland Trailblazers. This is insanity!
Now some guys who deserved to get paid got paid. LeBron James signed a 3-year, $100 million deal to re-up with Cleveland. James is getting underpaid that is for sure. Russell Westbrook surprised a lot of people by signing a 3-year $85 million deal to stay in Oklahoma City. C.J. McCollum got $106 million over four years with Portland and James Harden renegotiated with the Rockets to get a 4-year, $118 million deal. Dwyane Wade left South Beach for the South Side (Is the United Center on Chicago’s south side?). Anyway, Wade is with the hometown Bulls now on a two-year $47.5 million deal and new enemy in the NBA now is Kevin Durant who has joined forces with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors on a two-year, $54.5 million deal. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Will certainly cheapen his championship total when his career is done.
There were also quite a few head coaching moves in the offseason. The most notable one was Tom Thibodeau joining the Minnesota Timberwolves. With a tremendous core of young talent on that team, a lot of coaches sought this job. Scott Brooks, former head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder was hired by the Washington Wizards in part I believe to try and lure Kevin Durant to our nation’s capital (it didn’t happen). Former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger is now in Sacramento to try and clean up that mess. Luke Walton will probably wish he is back with the Warriors now that he is the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Nate McMillan is the head coach of the Indiana Pacers. Frank Vogel, who was fired by the Pacers, is now coaching the Orlando Magic. Phil Jackson is going outside of the triangle with his next coach as Jeff Hornacek is with the New York Knicks. Mike D’Antoni surprised many by being named the head coach of the Houston Rockets. Finally, the Grizzlies tabbed David Fizdale to be their new head coach and the Brooklyn Nets went with Kenny Atkinson. Neither of those guys will be making a whole lot of noise I feel like this season. That is a lot of head coaching shifting, but that is today’s NBA for you.
We start in the eastern conference and it begins and ends with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Do you really think it would be smart to pick against LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers? I didn’t think. Boston is going to continue to get better, but they are not the Cleveland Cavaliers, not by a long stretch.
I’m very curious to see how Chicago looks like this year with Dwyane Wade joining the team. Certainly it didn’t seem like everyone was buying into head coach Fred Hoiberg’s system last year. Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are both in New York. Rajon Rondo joined the team. They still have Jimmy Butler. Is there enough ball to go around for the Bulls? Indiana is going to be better this season thanks in large part to the acquisition of Jeff Teague. He solidifies the backcourt and gives the Pacers a great one-two combo along with Paul George. Stan Van Gundy is going to continue to make Detroit better. The Pistons will be back in the postseason and don’t sleep on the Milwaukee Bucks either. They were disappointing last year, but they are very young and have the Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo). This is a team that very well could make it back to the postseason.
The Toronto Raptors have had an easy go at it in the Atlantic the past few years. That will be much different this year. The Boston Celtics have tremendous young talent in Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk and company. The addition of Al Horford makes them formidable in the middle and Brad Stevens is a fantastic young head coach. This is the team to beat in the division this year. That’s not to say that the Raptors won’t have a say in the division with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. This team will be right there in the division.
The team that is most intriguing is the New York Knicks. The additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah provide a high risk, big reward factor. If they can stay healthy, the Knicks have something here to go along with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. If not, I don’t think they make the playoffs. That is my one caveat for the eastern conference playoffs. Philadelphia will be more fun this year with Jahlil Okafor and Ben Simmons. If Joel Embiid can stay healthy they might have something going on there in Philly. The Brooklyn Nets will be the worst team in the league due to a lack of talent. When Jeremy Lin is your big free agent acquisition…yikes.
Predicted Atlantic standings
New York Knicks
The Southeast Division is a complete crapshoot. You can make an argument for just about every team as to why they will win the division. Maybe not the Miami Heat. A lot of players have left South Beach in recent years (Dwyane Wade yeah yeah). Charlotte has Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and company. Washington has Bradley Beal, John Wall and a new coach in Scott Brooks. Atlanta has Dwight Howard, but no Jeff Teague and only one point guard on their active roster. Orlando will be better this year, but after trading Victor Oladipo they need to prove something to me. I just don’t know about this division.
Predicted Southeast Division
Predicted Eastern Conference playoffs teams
Atlanta Hawks (maybe the Charlotte Hornets instead)
Chicago Bulls (New York Knicks make it if Rose and Noah stay healthy)
Listen, why are we even talking about who is going to win this division? One, outside of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, the rest of the division is crap. The Warriors will have some growing pains being able to share the ball between Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, but those are three of the best shooters in the game. Add to that Draymond Green and when he isn’t kicking players in the ding-ding, he is phenomenal. You have to factor the Clippers in this division with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the Clippers should easily make the playoffs again.
Their roommates in the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers will once again struggle, but at least the future looks a little brighter with Luke Walton at the helm. They’re still a year away at least. Phoenix and Sacramento, no thank you.
Predicted Pacific standings
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers
I may be going a little overboard with this division, but I am super stoked for the Minnesota Timberwolves this year. Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine (a pick I hated at the time, but now love), what is not to love? New head coach Tom Thibodeau will preach defense, defense and more defense. They may be one year away, but I am thinking playoffs with this team this year.
Portland surprised people with how well they played last year and Damien Lillard and C.J. McCollum are one of the best one-two young duos in the game. They’ll be back in the postseason this year. Oklahoma City may have lost Kevin Durant, but they still have Russell Westbrook and they did get Victor Oladipo from the Magic. No reason to think that the Thunder won’t compete for the division and make it to the playoffs.
The team that people really seem to like is the Utah Jazz and for good reason. George Hill, Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson are a pretty good trio. Shelvin Mack isn’t too bad. This Utah team was a game away from making the playoffs last year. They break through this year. Denver will be better, but it’s just not going to work for them this year.
Predicted Northwest Division standings
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Southwest Division seems down this year. Memphis isn’t as good (in my estimation anyway), Houston just has James Harden and they will suffer this year, Anthony Davis can’t stay healthy for a full season in New Orleans and Dallas has some older guys on their roster, but also new acquisitions in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. They will help alongside Dirk Nowitzki. The cream of the crop though in the division is still the San Antonio Spurs. It will be weird without Tim Duncan, but they did add Pau Gasol and last I checked they still have Greg Poppovich as their head coach…plus they beat the Warriors last night! They are clearly the team to beat in this division.
Predicted Southwest Division standings
San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Pelicans
Predicted Western Conference playoff teams
Golden State Warriors
San Antonio Spurs
Los Angeles Clippers
Oklahoma City Thunder
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Predicted winner: Golden State Warriors
NBA MVP: Russell Westbrook
Enjoy the NBA season everyone.
Coming up Thursday: TNF preview, World Series reaction, college football weekend forecast and more.