With the tipoff of the 2017 NBA season just over a month away, it’s time to start my series of prediction posts; beginning with my thoughts on how the Eastern Conference standings will pan out come April. Following this post will be my Western Conference standings prediction, and then subsequently my awards predictions. With these standings predictions, I have formatted them to start out at the bottom of the standings, and working up to the top of the conference.
There are lots of exciting content ideas, and some surprises coming to the Hoops Banter Blog for this upcoming season, so once again I’d like to thank everyone who reads my work, I appreciate it immensely, and stay tuned to the blog!
15. Brooklyn Nets
Rejoice Celtics fans; this Nets team is going to be awful again. For Nets fans; at least the front office appears to be figuring it out. They are getting younger, but in my eyes they are the worst team in the league. Unless Lin-sanity returns to the Big Apple, don’t expect much more than 15 wins.
- Philadelphia 76ers
This 76ers team still has a trade to make, either by the deadline or before the season starts, but once they figure out their big man logjam, this team can start looking toward the future. Ben Simmons appears to be ready to go, if Joel Embiid shows the footwork that he did in Kansas he could put up a lot of points for this team. I like this team to get about 20 wins.
- Miami Heat
Uncertainty surrounding Chris Bosh’s health, along with how the front office is dealing with the situation, it doesn’t look good for South Beach. Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside will have increased offensive roles, and that 1-2 punch doesn’t strike fear in me, and it shouldn’t to the rest of the league. Barring a breakout sophomore season from Justice Winslow, Miami reaching even 35 wins would be a surprise to me.
- Washington Wizards
The Wizards were supposed to be the up-and-coming team, but now after further failure, it appears to have gotten tense in their locker room. With John Wall and Bradley Beal apparently having beef, this situation doesn’t seem like a winning one. Couple that with Beal’s injury history, a thin bench, and a non-defensive minded Scott Brooks at the helm, getting back to .500 ball seems incredibly unlikely.
- Orlando Magic
The Magic are one of the exciting young teams in the NBA, and with Frank Vogel leading the charge they should be playoff bound in the near future. However, that near future isn’t this year. Improving the team defense, gaining another year of experience, and learning a new system should be the focus. And if that can be done while getting 40 wins, then that’s cool.
- Chicago Bulls
Ten seconds left, and the Bulls need 3 points to tie the game. Who takes the shot? Jimmy Butler is okay from deep, but definitely not a great option. Rondo and Wade, no thank you. Going into the year, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, and rookie Denzel Valentine are probably their best outside threats. I think this will lead to many low scoring, 2 or 3 point losses for the Windy City. Rondo isn’t the same defender he once was, but the overall team defense should be decent enough. The lack of shooting, along with the time it’ll take for their new “Big 3” to learn to co-exist, I see this team battling for the final seed in the playoffs, but just falling short.
- New York Knicks
Speaking of falling short, we come to the New York Knickerbockers. If this were 2011, on paper this team would be contending for a Championship. And apparently, Derrick Rose is still stuck in the past because he thinks this team is a “super-team”; much like the Warriors this year. And while I say that is an insane notion, I am slightly higher on this team then most. If both Rose and Noah are fully healthy for the season, I think they’ll come in with a chip on their shoulders; they’ll want to prove to the entire league that they are still relevant. Most years, I would have them in the playoff picture, but with the East getting stronger I think it could come down to the last game. And as the Knicks are the Knicks, I foresee them losing that decisive game and finishing 9th in the conference.
- Milwaukee Bucks
Point guard Giannis, A.K.A. Magic Johnson 2.0? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but allowing the Greek Freak to control the offense is a great gamble. He’s shown flashes of brilliance, plus Jason Kidd and co. brought in Matthew Dellavedova in case Giannis isn’t fully ready in all situations. Greg Monroe being on this team definitely is weighing them down, but I’m hoping that John Henson can finally make the leap and become this team’s starting center. If that can happen, the defensive length this team would be starting would be absolutely terrifying. Khris Middleton is one of the best two-way players the NBA has to offer, and another year of growth from Jabari Parker should be enough to propel this Bucks team back into the postseason.
- Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte has been one of the best home-court teams in the past few years, and with Steve Clifford on the bench they should finish around the same as last year. Losing Lin as their 6th man will hurt, but having Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back for a full season should soften that pain. Kemba Walker is one of the most underrated players in the league, if he puts up similar stats to last year expect him to garner All Star attention.
- Indiana Pacers
Even with the Al Jefferson signing, this team is going to run. The defense might not always be there, save for a jump in Myles Turner’s rim-protection skills, but the offensive output should be near the top of the NBA. Paul George is a top-10 talent, and at 26 is just reaching his prime; and just went through summer training with U.S.A. Basketball. It wouldn’t surprise me if PG13 cracked the top-5 in MVP voting.
- Atlanta Hawks
Dwight Howard has been on the decline ever since his days in Orlando, however I think that him returning to his hometown Atlanta could rejuvenate his career. With the departure of Teague and Horford, Howard should get a lot of touches; second to Paul Millsap. I don’t fully believe in Dennis Schröder as a starting-caliber floor general, but he has the tools to be an incredible pick-and-roll component to Dwight Howard. Last year Kyle Korver’s 3-point shooting took a 10% dip, so expect that to climb back up to his higher standard, and if Taurean Prince is physically ready to guard NBA small forwards, this Hawks team could garner home court advantage in the first round.
- Detroit Pistons
Detroit is the team that I expect to make a major jump this season. Reggie Jackson played at an All-Star level last season, Andre Drummond is still only 23 years old, and I really enjoy their three-forward rotation of Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, and Stanley Johnson. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has shown that he is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, and he’s given Stephen Curry a ton of trouble. Stan Van Gundy finally has the Magic-esque team that he thrives with, and I could see him getting Coach of the Year consideration.
- Toronto Raptors
The only change in this Raptors team is gaining Jared Sullinger, and losing Luis Scola; I see this as a major victory. Not that Sullinger moves the needle for them, but maintaining continuity with a team that made it’s furthest postseason run in it’s franchise’s history is incredibly positive. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan should continue to be All Star-level players, and a healthy DeMarre Carroll provides Coach Casey a lot more lineup variations. If I wasn’t so high on this next team, the squad from “the 6” would be my 2nd overall team, but they should still accrue close to 60 wins.
- Boston Celtics
Al Horford, while not a top superstar, was the perfect type of player to bring into this Celtics team this season. Danny Ainge still holds a massive war chest of assets, including a bunch of young players, and draft picks (courtesy of the terrible Brooklyn Nets), and if there is a disgruntled star looking to find a new home by the trade deadline, the Celtics could make a major splash. However, even without such a major move, this Celtics team should soar up the East standings and end up near the top. Disregarding the presumptive conference winning Cavaliers, and after considering all the factors, (squad on paper, coaching, environment, etc.), I think the Boston Celtics are the next best team in the East.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
Did you really think it could have been anyone else? (I mean, I know I gave it away in the previous paragraph, but I only did that because it was pretty obvious; with them being the only ones left.) Even though they have yet to re-sign J.R. Smith, the reigning champions should be at the top of the conference at season’s end. Even if this team decides to pump the brakes throughout the season and minimize injury risk, they will still rack up wins. I’m not stoked on Tristan Thompson dating Khloe Kardashian, I mean, look at what she did to James Harden after his MVP-caliber season, but he isn’t their franchise player. If it came out that LeBron was cheating on his wife with Kim Kardashian, I’d knock them down this list, but Thompson’s inevitable step-back in productivity due to the Kardashian-curse shouldn’t sway them from the number 1 overall seed.