As you might have heard, NBA players are getting PAID. So many players signed and there are a few juicy rumors as well that have yet to play out. What are we to make of this? In some markets, free agency has backfired and when you couple that with bad drafting strategies there are some teams that will find themselves in unfamiliar territory very soon. Being in the lottery in itself is not a bad thing, but when you have a fanbase expecting more it can be difficult to say the least. So who’s headed into the darkness, who’s headed out of the darkness? Team by team we will predict their future.
If, and it is a big if, they can retain Al Horford to go along with the Dwight Howard signing, then they will have as good a chance as anyone in the Eastern Conference of challenging Cleveland. To retain Horford, Paul Millsap would have to be moved and depending on the rumor you read Phoenix and Toronto seem the most likely destination if/when that happens. Turning over the keys to Dennis Schroder seems like a good move and after a good draft these birds are going to continue to fly for the foreseeable future.
Swinging and missing in the NBA Draft, the Celtics still have yet to sign anyone of consequence so far in free agency. However the main core was good enough for the 3rd best record in the East. The problem here is that they do not have the go to guy. They remind me of those Blazer teams that never got over the hump against the Lakers in the early 2000s. Without a bonafide alpha go to option these Celtics will never do much more than be an early playoff tuneup for the East’s elite.
Oh where do we start, I actually really like signing Jeremy Lin. If Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can stay healthy he is a good asset. Getting Caris LaVert healthy is another thing on the to-do list as well. Here is about where the feel good ends. Brooklyn mortgaged their future by taking on Joe Johnson’s contract and trading every pick they owned for two aging vets in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Until that runs its course and they keep some stability on the bench in the form of keeping a coach longer than a few years, the Nets will remain one of the worst teams record wise in the Association.
Keeping Nic Batum was huge, especially because of how coveted he would have been on the open market. Beyond that Jefferson and Lin have left and it seems Charlotte has a void in the middle. After sacrificing a first round pick on Marco Belinelli, I am having a difficult time seeing the direction of the franchise. Are Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky going to grab enough rebounds? Unless proven otherwise I think the Hornets are again headed down into late lottery selections.
Trading Derrick Rose HAD to be done. It was past time for that. Letting Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah go had to be done as well. Chicago is now Jimmy Butler’s team. He should be his usual solid self and I expect Bobby Portis to make a bigger impact now that the frontcourt rotation has opened. If the flirting with Rajon Rondo ends up with him in the Windy City that would also be a good thing. As much trouble as he has had in the last few years, he still led the NBA in assists. The contract should not break the bank but be incentive laden over a few years. I think they can return to the Playoffs with that group.
Once LeBron re-signs they are the title favorite. I feel like they will repeat. The monkey off the back will revitalize this team and they will coast to the East 1 seed and into the Finals. Until further notice the center of the basketball world is Cleveland, Ohio. They will probably let Dellevedova go, but they drafted his replacement. Plus now that they have won it all, the ring chasers will come calling. One thing that should be monitored is Kevin Love, they should trade him I feel. It is hard to be the 3rd fiddle, just ask Chris Bosh. Other than that the Cavs are set to defend their title.
Oh here comes some bad news. Dallas was left at the altar again in free agency. There were reports of a Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside partnering in Dallas but not only was that false but Chandler Parsons pulled a Vince Carter and went to Graceland. Suddenly Dallas has a collection of players that do not resemble a playoff roster. This is bad new for Mavs fans, after breaking up the 2011 Championship roster they have downward spiraled into a tough but beatable first and second round playoff team. They may still have a shot at the playoffs, but their margin for error is as thin as it’s ever been. Unless something changes Dallas will slip into a lottery franchise soon.
This roster, if they ever get fully healthy, should make the playoffs. Even in the West. That should be the expectation of this team this year. Could it be too much to ask? Sure some of the younger players could crack under the pressure. This roster is too deep for that though, again when healthy. Denver should put fear into the upper echelon of the West for the foreseeable future. Or they could be in that upper echelon if things break their way. There is even a chance of them taking some of their young assets and turning it into a superstar. If that ever comes to fruition then the Nuggets will challenge for the West throne.
The playoff berth was no fluke. The Pistons are back and in Stan I trust. Shooters galore and a manchild in the middle to clean everything up. Sound familiar? He took Orlando to the Finals with this exact same recipe. They have even sewn up the second unit by getting Ish Smith in free agency. Detroit should challenge for a top 4 seed next season. Detroit should challenge for the title within the next 5 years maximum. It is time for the Pistons to be back among the NBA’s elite.
Golden State Warriors
Yeah Splash Bros, we get it they are good. The Death Lineup, yeah it is pretty damn good. Draymond likes to put hands and feet on manparts, but he happens to be a spectacular player too. There are serious buts starting to creep in. What if Durant comes, what if he doesn’t? What are they going to do with Bogut? Has the rest of the NBA caught up to them by watching how OKC and Cleveland basically rendered Curry useless for the majority of 14 games. They have a lot of smart people pulling the strings and I think they are going to be just fine. If Durant does come they could challenge their own 73 games won record. I still expect this to be a 60-70 win team for the next few years. We get to see how much resolve they have now after losing the title after having a 3-1 lead.
Well one thing is for certain, James Harden will score many points. They have not had a good start to free agency. With Harden and this uptempo system Coach D’Antoni is sure to install, they could be a very fun team to watch. If you aren’t going to be good you might as well be entertaining or interesting and Houston will definitely be entertaining. Harden should lead the league in scoring and Houston should challenge team scoring records. I doubt this translates into anything more than the 8 seed they lucked into this last season though.
It seems a lot of gas bags are jumping on the Pacer bandwagon. Well as Lee Corso says “Not so fast my friend!” No one is talking about the possibility of this experiment blowing up in their faces. Sure Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson seem like good additions. How are they going to mesh? Nate McMillan is not a rookie coach and has put together some good seasons but they may not even be the 3rd best team in their own DIVISION. After Cleveland I expect Detroit to be very solid and Milwaukee is not a bad team either. The Pacers may be playing in the NBA’s toughest division and getting a host of new parts is not exactly the way I would go about it. Good luck
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers “blew away” Kevin Durant in their meeting, but after the feel good about that is over you realize that to get him they would only have 4 players under contract and have to fill out their roster with minimum salary players. The best scenario for them was the banana boat scenario LeBatard outlined on his show a week or so ago. Yes they are the best act going in LA now but that has not translated into anything really. They have all the parts, they have the right coach, the right market, right everything but they are trying to break through against teams that right now are flat out better than they are. They could remain a 4-6 seed with no major roster tweaking but we know that Ballmer and Rivers, Inc. are trying to hit home runs. They are walking the really thin line of keeping it together too long and completely blowing it up and starting over.
Los Angeles Lakers
Brian Windhorst articulated it perfectly. The Los Angeles Lakers have hit ROCK BOTTOM, think about that. They went from the Logo to Magic to Kobe to squat. Well there is only one way to go from where they are, and they have been having really good drafts lately. What in the bleep with Mozgov and Deng though? I know you need a center, and someone to be a mentor, but these guys still expect a lot of minutes I presume and the only way to dig yourself out of the hole is getting these young players game action to work out the growing pains. I don’t expect the Lakers to return to glory for a very long time.
Now they have the NBA’s largest contract under their watch and added Chandler Parsons. I think it is safe to say that Memphis has the biggest range on a win-loss spectrum than any other team in the NBA. If they are all running smoothly they have shown they can compete for supremacy in the West. The grit and grind brand of basketball is a full 180 from the pace and space the rest of the NBA is in love with. Going against the grain can lead to being very successful, but it can also get you blown out consistently as was shown in the sweep against the Spurs. Until this core gets too old to do it I’m going to bet on Memphis remaining very good. When healthy they challenged Golden State for the most wins in 2015 for the majority of the season. They can get back to that level with health but the window is rapidly closing.
They had to get Whiteside back, it sacrificed players that led them to within a game of a conference showdown with LeBron though. Wade is doing this waffle thing for the second consecutive summer and honestly if I’m Riley I tell him adios. We should trust Riley, after all he has delivered 3 times in the last decade. This may be too much though. If Wade goes elsewhere, expect the Heat out of the playoffs. Atlanta should reign supreme in the division for the next few years and although we know Riley is more into “retooling” rather than “rebuilding” he may have to accept the latter sooner.
I think that the Greg Monroe experiment should be deemed a failure. Find a trade partner and cut the ties. The young core is brimming with upside that should have the Bucks back in the playoffs next season. Once Monroe is gone you should see that young, enthusiastic, athletic roster take over and smother teams defensively like what we saw 2 years ago. They are in what I refer to as the toughest division in basketball though. This should harden this diamond in the rough roster and make them even more of a challenger for many years moving forward.
Quick find something not to love about this situation. You can’t. Yeah they may be young, but wow are they loaded with potential. Back to back rookies of the year!! Kris Dunn is the perfect defensive point guard, they could have ⅗ of the first team all Defense team within the next 5 years. I expect them to become the best defensive team we’ve seen in a long time. Plus with Wiggins and Towns they have two possible first team all nba guys. If they are not in the playoffs within 2 years something will have went terribly wrong. The sky is not the limit, Minnesota is primed to rule the NBA soon.
New Orleans Pelicans
They had an outstanding draft, they should be better than they were last season. Another roster full of young talent that is brimming with potential. Can you see Minnesota-New Orleans conference finals in the near future? That thought is not as crazy as it may sound. There are still some big boys ahead of them in their own division such as San Antonio and Memphis, but New Orleans has more long term stability in my opinion. Expect this team to compete after 1 more great draft. They may not completely figure everything out next season but the year after is when I believe they will arrive as a player for the division crown.
New York Knicks
Well they will compete for the 2011 NBA Championship, there is no disputing that statement as fact and I shall have words with anyone who disagrees. In all seriousness there is so much drama that could derail this that it is comical. You thought they have been terrible the last few years? What happens if they sign Wade and 3 players average 60 shots a game. They would have to play at the old 7 seconds or less pace to have any chance of efficiently pulling that off. We can now throw in that playing that pace would be detrimental to the health of those 3 players that it would flame out by January and the losing streak to follow could reach records. I hope they have a starting lineup of Rose-Wade-Melo-Porzingis-Noah. Please let them be healthy too, if healthy they can be a thorn in the side of Cleveland and that is a Conference Finals I’d be glued to.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin freaking Durant. Russell freaking Westbrook. No one else matters. When those two are on your roster you are in the top 4 teams in the league. But if one(both) leaves after next year then the Thunder will see this run of awesomeness come to a crashing halt. They have drafted well, and have pulled off some trades to get better. There is nothing more important to this well being of the franchise than Durant and Westbrook. It is really that simple. I do not feel it is about money to both of these guys either. The one rumor that quite possibly saves them if Durant leaves is a straight up trade with he and Blake Griffin. Can you imagine Westbrook and Griffin on the same team attacking the basket with the ferocity? That is the only way they can save themselves if Durant were to go.
What in the bleep are the Magic doing? Signing Fournier was good, trading for Ibaka was flat out dumb and when you add on top of that they basically wound up with Jodie Meeks for Tobias Harris then you can start to pull your hair out if you are a Magic fan. Sure they should be better, but they won’t make the playoffs until they stick with the patience that had them as one of the young and upcoming teams in all of the nba. Barring collapses from half the East, the Magic are not going to sniff the postseason for a long time.
I LOVE this team. I may like it more than everyone else on the Earth, combined. With the drafts and everyone seeming to be ready to play they could bludgeon teams with their size and length. What the “process” yields will be found out as the years progress, but they have an opportunity to be the Eastern conference supreme team for many many years. We all will watch how they plan to sort out the logjam in the frontcourt, but having 5 studs 6’10” is a problem I would really like to have if I were a GM. I may be wrong but I am going to credit David Aldridge by tweeting that the Celtics have an abundance of small players and the Sixers have an abundance of big players and calls should be made. There is serious history in Philly, and they have the means to add to to that history now.
I have no idea what is going on here. They go through point guards like the rest of America goes through Big Macs. They wheeled and dealed on draft night, struck out last year in free agency and have a surplus of talented players. Their front office operates like a NYSE pit of doom. The good news is they should have plenty of contracts to make the salary floor, the bad news is they are in the same division with Golden State and the Clippers. On this flip side of that the Kings and Lakers both are still spinning their wheels in lottery mud so there is a place to compete for the lowest rung of the playoff ladder. The question is will they ever show the patience to chase it?
A pleasant surprise to the playoff party, the Blazers gave Golden State a run for their money for a few games. This is a good team, possibly can get to that great level. It will be a cloudy journey into greatness if they can get it. They have added Jake Laymon and Evan Turner this offseason and if they want they can match offers that Allen Crabbe will undoubtedly get once the first few days are over. Damian Lillard is a stud and will keep this franchise in contention year in and year out. One rumor to watch is the possibility of Pau Gasol coming to the Rose City. That could accelerate them into a top 3 team and very serious contender for the next few years.
Someone has to challenge for worst overall franchise in the NBA. I believe they may take that title and run with. They just can not seem to get out of their own way. Have one of if not the best centers in the league, draft 4 more dudes to back him up. Maybe it is preparation for the inevitable trade of Boogie but for the time being this is the most dysfunctional franchise and shall remain lottery bound for a very long time.
San Antonio Spurs
We go from worst to first. This is the best ran franchise in the NBA and quite possibly the best ran organization in professional sports. We should know by now that they will plug and play anyone, if you are in a bad situation and seem to be washed up they will make you look like an all star. Somehow they draft in the late 20s all the time and find perfect fits for their system. They have a meeting with Durant and adding him would be downright scary for the league. Even if they don’t they are still downright scary. I will admit they need to be a tad younger on the inside because OKC exploited them with a Kanter-Adams combo but it still took superhuman efforts by Westbrook to slay this giant. No more writing this franchise off, ever.
Were they really that close? Two games from the Finals? Technically yes, but was anyone putting real money on that happening? A reported rumor is the Raptors acquiring Paul Millsap and honestly that will only solidify their place as Cleveland’s dance partner in the conference finals. They have to keep Biyombo (think about that statement) and I think they will. Keeping Derozan was almost a foregone conclusion. The junkyard dog was a bit nicked up, okay we are rambling. Toronto has the legit chance to challenge Cleveland next season. Drake sit down, we didn’t say they would win.
Added a possible 6th man of the year in Joe Johnson. Now they have that end of the game guy they can give the ball to and he get them a bucket. Health and that will allow Utah to challenge Golden State and San Antonio NEXT season. The Jazz are ready to put the Stockton-Malone demons behind them. That was as high as the franchise has ever been and this fanbase is ready to surpass that. If healthy they should challenge if not overtake OKC and Portland in the division and if you do that you will almost assure yourself a top 3 seed in the West. The metrics showed that when this group was all on the floor they were between GS and SA in overall efficiency, let’s watch that play out all season.
They kept Bradley Beal, he has not been fully healthy for an extended period his entire career it seems. They lost out on even getting a meeting with hometown hero Kevin Durant. Early last season I thought that he would consider this but there is no chance of it now. It is being reported that Al Horford is on the table for them, but he’s also being courted by many teams. Last season was a total disaster and you can add on to that they had no draft picks to build with. If Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter can make some serious strides they can contend for a playoff spot. How about the try to get Greg Monroe, just occurred to me. New Coach Scott Brooks could mask his defensive liabilities and he could be the younger frontcourt option they need to challenge for a good playoff seed.