The Mavericks are in the rebuilding stages. After failing to sign Dwight Howard this off-season the Mavs acquired Monta Ellis and point-guard Jose Calderon. Outside of that there’s veteran Dirk Nowitzki and ageing players such as Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Samuel Dalembert. It’ll be a disappointing season for Mavs fans as making the playoffs seems unlikely. Hopefully Mark Cuban can build on this roster for the future and with one of the most talented drafts in recent times approaching, the future can certainly change for the Mavs.
Big things are expected of Dwight Howard now that he’s in Houston with James Harden. Many argue that Harden will be the best shooting-guard in the NBA this season when taking into consideration that Wade has been on the decline and Kobe is unlikely to start the season due to his Achilles injury, and they have a legitimate argument. Howard, when healthy, is undisputedly the best big man in the NBA and this 1-2 partnership is expected to produce big things. The biggest criticism with Howard as of late has been his “lack” of post-moves however with Kevin McHale as the head-coach and Hakeem Olajuwon working closley with the Rockets there are literally no two better people on the planet to help him. Outside of Harden and Howard there’s defensive first SG Ronnie Brewer, center Ömer Asik (who I hope they don’t play at PF), Chandler Parsons and aging Marcus Camby. While there’s no doubt that the Rockets definitely have a much improved squad, I think it’s a bit too early to be crowning them the champions.
The Grizzlies arguably have the best defensive back-court in the NBA with Mike Conley (who is severely underrated in my opinion) and Tony Allen. Mike Miller, who won 6th man of the year in 2006 with the Grizzlies, returns back to Memphis and Kosta Koufus joins a back-court of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Memphis are one of the better defensive teams in the league however their main concern for this season will be their lack of offence and it will be interesting to see what new head-coach David Joerger does to remedy this.
New Orleans Pelicans
The newly named “Pelicans” have an improved roster to go along with their new name. Jrue Holiday joins a guard rotation of Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers. Evans was the rookie of the year a few years ago, however it seems likely that he’ll be coming off the bench for the Pelicans, which is a disappointment to say the least. Many tip Anthony Davis to be the most improved player of the year this year and the ‘monobrow’ definitely has the potential to be a potent force in this league with his athleticism and long wingspan. While I don’t see the Pelicans making the playoffs this year they have definitely improved, the future is bright.
San Antoni Spurs
Despite the fact that the Spurs were one missed free-throw and one rebound away from winning it all last season there’s no doubt that they’ll be back this season and strong as ever. Kawhi Leonard averaged 14.6ppg and 11.1rpg on 51.3% FG in the NBA Finals while guarding LeBron James extremely well and many tip him to win most improved player of the year this season. Parker was a top 3 MVP candidate for the large majority of the season and Duncan was also a top 3 DPOY candidate in my opinion. The Spurs core of Parker, Manu and Duncan continues to age however with age comes experience, I see the Spurs being a top 3 seed in the West this year.
The Nuggets had a disastarous off-season; losing long-time head coach George Karl, GM Masai Ujiri , assistant coach John Welch and their best player; Andre Iguodala. To add to the misery Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL days before the post season. On the bright side the Nuggets have added Nate Robinson, Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye and JJ Hickson to name a few to the roster. Hickson will certainly be a force whether he starts of comes off the bench and with the continued improvement of both JaVale McGee and Kenneth “Manimal” Faried the Nuggets backcourt is quietly strong. I see the Nuggets sneaking into the playoffs.
The return of Kevin Love is certainly exciting for Minnesota fans as, when healthy, Love is in the conversation for best rebounder in the league. Outside of Love the Timberwolves have added Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin. Derrick William’s NBA career has been some-what of a disappointment in the NBA so far. I think the Timberwolves have a chance to make the playoffs and will finish around the 8/9 seed.
Portland Trail Blazers
Rookie of the year Damian Lillard will improve upon his solid rookie season. There have been rumours that LaMarcus Aldridge has been un-happy in Portland, however, with the new season ahead he’ll have to put that behind him (if they’re true). Batum has proved to be a great fit in Portland when he can play consistently. With the additions of Robin Lopez and Mo Williams I think the Blazers will have a much improved season.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The big news surrounding the Thunder is the absence of Westbrook for what is reported to be up to 6 weeks. Scott Brooks has announced that Durant will take up more of a playmaking role this season due to the absence of Westbrook and if the pre-season is anything to go by then we are certainly in for something spectacular.
Along with the expected increase of production by Durant, many tip him to win MVP this season due to voter fatigue of voting for LeBron. While I believe that the most deserving player should always win the award, it would be nice to see Durant win the award which has eluded him for so long.
Whether the Thunder are deep enough to return to the NBA finals is a glooming question that is yet to be answered. With Westbrook out in last years playoffs we saw potential from guard Reggie Jackson, however the Thunder’s big men must play better if they hope to compete for a championship this season.
Things aren’t looking bright in Utah. After competing for the 8th seed last season it seems like the Jazz will be destined for a lottery pick this season. Trey Burke, Marvin Williams, Derrick Favours, Jeremy Evans and Andris Biedrins are the most noticeable names on the roster; you’re not going to go very far with those pieces to put it kindly.
Golden State Warriors
Things are certainly looking positive in Warrior land! After breaking Ray Allen’s regular season 3pt made record, Curry will no doubt look to continue his hot shooting from downtown. The main addition this season is defensive minded swing-man Andre Iguodala. In my opinion Iguodala was the best perimeter defender in the NBA last season and his defensive tenacity is something that Golden State needed!
The Warriors are an up-tempo team and while this can be effective in the regular season, history shows that the pace slows down in the post-season and often these types of teams are eliminated quickly. It will definitely be interesting to see how the Warriors season pans out this year.
Los Angeles Clippers
The biggest addition for the Clippers this season isn’t a player, but rather head-coach Doc Rivers. Many feel that the Clippers had to get rid of Vinny Del-Negro in order to move forward and win a championship and they’ve done just that. It will be interesting to see what offensive sets Rivers introduces as the Clippers offence was very stationary at times last season and many felt that Chris Paul was being asked to do too much for the Clippers. Rivers has also been in the news recently for deciding to cover up the Los Angeles Lakers banners with Clipper banners, this new culture, along with Rivers’ track record is a reason why many tip him to win coach of the year this season. The big question though is how far will this Clippers team go.
Los Angeles Lakers
The might Lakers have fallen. Kobe is out with a torn Achilles injury, Dwight has taken his talents to the Rockets and the Lakers have replaced Bryant and Howard with Nick Young and Chris Kaman. Bar Dwight Howard, the Lakers were terrible on defence last season, especially in transition and with Howard gone things are only going to get worse. On the bright side though it will be interesting to see how Pau Gasol plays with the absence of Kobe. Nash is finally healthy and the Lakers have a lot of youth on their roster from Nick Young to Xavier Henry to Wesley Johnson. The rebuilding stage has eluded the Lakers for a long time, they’ve been one of, if not, the most dominant team in NBA history. That being said I don’t see them making the playoffs this year.
The Suns have added athletic 6″1 guard Eric Bledsoe, who I predict will have his best season of his career. Goran Dragic continues to be a solid point guard, and, with the addition of big man Emaka Okafor, it will be interesting to see how these three (Bledsoe, Dragic and Okafor) play together. The Suns are in their rebuilding stages and are far from a playoff team in my opinion.
Although I don’t see the Kings making the playoffs this year, they are no doubt much improved from last season. DeMarcus Cousins is expected to have a big season this year (I see him averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds a game) and with the addition of point-guard Greivis Vasquez along with players such as Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jimmer Fredette the future is certainly looking brighter for the Kings.
My prediction for the top 8 seeds
1. San Antoni Spurs
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Houston Rockets
5. Portland Trail Blazers
6. Golden State Warriors
7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. Denver Nuggets