By Tej Singh
Welcome to Swaggy T’s annual NBA Preview. To start off, here are my predictions for the top eight teams in each conference.
- Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are the defending champs and they should lock up the top seed again this season.
- LA Clippers: The Clippers are arguably the deepest team in the West and they should finish near the top.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook are amazing, but whether they can stay healthy remains a question.
- San Antonio Spurs: The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge is huge, but their backcourt needs help.
- Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard can’t stay healthy, the Rockets lost some depth on the bench, but they should still finish in the top six.
- Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies added some good pieces and will probably make the playoffs again.
- Los Angeles Lakers: I can’t bet against Kobe Bryant, and Julius Randle looks like a beast. If Kobe stays healthy, they will make the playoffs. I guarantee it.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis is an MVP candidate, he can carry his team to the postseason, but getting past the first round he can’t do all by himself.
Notes: Portland Trailblazers (lack of depth), Dallas Mavericks (injury concerns), Utah Jazz (still too young), and the Sacramento Kings (too immature) were left off the top 8. The West is always crazy and unpredictable. Outside of the top five teams, the last three seed should be really competitive.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James + Easy East = top seed.
- Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks lost some depth, but they play such good team basketball.
- Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry looks fresh and should have a great year leading this team to a top three seed.
- Washington Wizards: John Wall and Bradley Beal seem to be focused on getting better and winning.
- Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose barely plays anymore, the front court is getting older, but just having Jimmy Butler is enough to make the playoffs.
- Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks made some noise in the playoffs last year and their roster is full of the longest, and some of the most athletic players, at each position, they’ll be fun to watch.
- Charlotte Hornets: Nicolas Batum is a great addition to the team and should help them make the playoffs this year – which also shows how bad the East Conference really is.
- New York Knicks: That’s right! They added some good players and Carmelo Anthony should have a bounce back year to beat out the Magic, the Celtics, and other younger teams.
Western Conference Finals: Golden State Warriors over Oklahoma City Thunder
Eastern Conference Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers over Atlanta Hawks
Finals: Warriors win over Cavaliers again this year
Interesting Storylines Heading into the Season:
My favorite story, as a loyal Los Angeles Lakers fan, is whether this is going to be Kobe Bryant’s last year. Or will he prove that he can beat father time for yet another year? I love Kobe, and never bet against him, but the last few years have been difficult to watch. The Lakers have decent depth and are fully capable of winning games and making a push for the playoffs – if they play defense, and if Kobe stays healthy. Check out that Larry Nance dunk on Festus Ezeli in the exhibition game played here in San Diego. Oh my God! I’m in the background during the highlights of that dunk; I’m basically a celebrity now!
Another interesting storyline heading into the season, is the return the Oklahoma City Thunder’s full starting lineup. This team has the best starting lineup in the league. Durant and Westbrook are both top-five players in the league. If they can manage to stay healthy, the sky is the limit for the Thunder. Durant was averaging nearly 30 points per game, while Westbrook was getting triple doubles this preseason. Watch out for the Thunder.
While the Golden State Warriors are the defending champions, and are still my favorites to win the NBA title, I question whether they can stay humble and continue to work hard without getting complacent. Coach Steve Kerr is great a managing the team, but he is not on the sidelines for the start of the season, which could be an issue. They are still my favorites to win, but they’ll be tested.
Another interesting story in the Western Conference is the Sacramento Kings. Rajon Rondo, Demarcus Cousins, and Coach George Karl could all star in their own sitcom. The team has talent, but I predict the Kings lead the league in technical fouls. Watch out for implosions.
The most interesting storyline, is whether LeBron can finally win a championship in Cleveland. While ESPN thinks the Cavaliers will win, they love brown-nosing LeBron. In order to win, the Cavaliers must stay healthy. LeBron is hobbling into the preseason with back issues, Kevin Love is coming off of a shoulder injury, and Kyrie Irving still does not have a time table for return. Injuries may doom the Cavaliers.
For Fantasy Basketball followers, and I realize people may use this information against me, here are my fantasy basketball sleepers and draft night waiver wire pickups.
- Nate Robinson
- Mo Williams
- Marco Belinelli
- J. Warren
- Anthony Morrow
- Tony Parker
- Otto Porter
- Patrick Patterson
- Gerald Green
I am excited for this season and can’t wait for opening night! Thanks for reading and have fun watching the NBA this season.