NBA Teams Season Preview
10/25/2016 by Dominic Hebert & Dylan James Harper
The Warriors finished last season with more threes than any team in history, a historically efficient MVP, a G.O.A.T. 73-9 record, and an unprecedented finals loss. It was disappointing to say the least, but they still had high expectations for the foreseeable future. Then, they went out and acquired 2014 MVP Kevin Durant. There is virtually zero chance of this team repeating or besting that 73-9 record, but with this wealth of talent they can come close and perhaps be even more dominant. The preseason gave us a glimpse into the strange lineups Steve Kerr will be experimenting with, however, statistics at this point before the season officially begins are meaningless because the actual minutes will be very different. What is certain, however, is that the new (Mega?)Death Lineup will be the most potent of all time. The deficiencies of Harrison Barnes were glaring in the playoffs and his lack of a refined offensive game was exploited to the point that it was one of the biggest reasons the Warriors gave up a 3-1 Finals lead (you can watch a breakdown of how here). With this roster and the stinging loss of the Finals fresh in mind, anything short of a championship will be disappointing.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Will the Clippers finally get clipped in summer 2017? Could it happen sooner than that? There is but the tiniest sliver of championship hope left for this team. Every year has gone basically the same: exciting regular season, stellar first round play from CP3 and Blake, no conference finals. It was my belief that the 2015-16 season would be their last gasp, but the injury to BG gave the front office pause when deciding whether or not to blow it up. Griffin will not likely improve upon what we’ve already seen from him. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is amazing, but he runs out of gas every post-season and his ugly yet miraculously consistent jumper stops falling. DeAndre’s nightly stat lines are marred by poor free throw shooting and, if his confidence doesn’t improve, teams will continue to use the ‘hack-a’ strategy. Then there’s Paul who is 31 and has yet to reach the conference finals. I’m sure he’s glancing at his BFF LeBron who has gone to every finals since 2011 and thinking about how he can change his situation. This isn’t just a contract year for him, it’s time for him to decide on what contending team he join and lead during the ‘17-’18 season or perhaps even this one if the wheels come off early. As important as this year is to them, Blake, CP3, and Doc might be too distracted on looking to the future to achieve their true goal.
Another year, another Sacramento Kings disaster. Israel Gutierrez of ESPN made the observation that basketball seems to be second in this organization. They simply cannot have a year where basketball is the focus and can’t seem to escape the ignorant grip of ownership and mismanagement when it comes to player acquisitions and personalities. Cousins trade rumors will swirl nonstop and Rudy Gay reportedly wants out. The only way to create comparable discord would be to give eighty toddlers amped keyboards and listen to the ear-bleeding cacophony that would ensue.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Fun. We haven’t been able to describe the Lakers that way in several years. They won’t win many games, but once again they will be exciting to watch play. This young team with their speed, Walton’s free flow coaching, and flashes of brilliance from their core will make for some 2011 Warriors-like frenetic play. The possession-slowing ways of Kobe are gone and now the young talent will be free to make and learn from their mistakes with the smooth voice of Luke Walton to coach them through.
The Cleveland Cavaliers finally got their championship thanks to LeBron going full god mode to save the rest of the abysmal roster. While it’s surreal to imagine another Golden State vs. Cleveland Finals matchup in 2017, no one in the East has done anything to make themselves a credible threat. This roster suffered no notable losses because it doesn’t matter who comes and goes as long as LeBron is on the team and playing well. Unless LeBron slows way down, or something drastic and unexpected occurs, the Eastern Conference is the Cavs to lose.
If it were 2010 this would be a hell of a team. Unfortunately, Dwight Howard isn’t what he once was, and it’s hard to imagine this roster doing much damage, even in the East. That said, I’m still eager to see if Dennis Schroder develops. He’s improved in first three seasons, and last season had career highs in points averaged and games played. They aren’t going to win a title absent a drastic shift in reality, but if they can get some perimeter offense going they might cause some matchup problems in the playoffs and go a round deeper than expected.
Before Durant went to try and create a super team in the Bay Area, there was some talk that he might try and go join the up and coming Boston Celtics. These rumors proved false of course, but it’s hard not wonder what that team would have been capable of. Boston is young, Durant is young, and even their coach is young. Without Durant, Boston is still competitive, and proved in some tough games against Golden State last year that they can hang with anyone. Getting deep in the playoffs is all going to come down to how their young players perform when out matched.
Jeremy Lin is their starting point guard and Dominic is still making me do this. Brook Lopez is that team, and he's not the type of guy who is going to bring them to a championship. Booker is regressing , Bojan has been getting a little betting at scoring, but still can’t pass the ball, and Rondae can’t really have much of a sophomore slump after his boring rookie season. It wouldn’t shock me if Lopez wasn't on the team by the trade deadline. They’re the thinnest team in the East, and their goal should be to try to grow some depth for a proper rebuild.
Michael Jordan will get a seventh ring one day probably, but not this year. That said, the solution of Kemba Walker remains an exciting storyline that makes this team worth keeping track of. With the hot shooting Batun flanking him, Walker’s numbers might see another uptick. It wouldn’t surprise me if he lead Eastern Point Guards in double doubles next season. They’re the type of team that isn’t going to make a deep run but will likely sneak in and give a better team trouble.
The question for Detroit, who finished second in rebounding last season, is whether they’re going to be able to give Drummond some help. Other than Jackson, not a single member of their current starting roster averaged more than three assists, which is a pretty clear sign of a stagnant offense. Their success is likely predicated on their ability to get their offense in a rhythm. Stan Van has had a great center before, so he should know how to accomplish just that.
This team, which has plenty of talent starting with Paul George, didn’t finish in the top ten of a single relevant statistical category, ending the season right in the middle for points scored, and below average in shooting and three point percentage. This still should be a playoff team, and one that could be competitive, but they’re certainly looking for more success than last season.
Chris Bosh really wants to compete, but he’s just not going to be able to. It’s really unfortunate, because he’s helped take this team to two championships. Waiter and Whiteside should help this team reach the post season, but it’s hard to imagine them getting to the Eastern Conference Finals. Winslow should improve a bit this season, and the team on the floor should be a fun one to watch, but it’s not to feel for Bosh.
The Magic are still a few season away from being truly competitive, but they’ve been showing flashes, and might improve a bit. In a top heavy East, it’s hard to tell how they’ll finish. They certainly won’t be competitive, but I’m sure they could be one of those teams that plays tough. Vucevic has been really effective lately and might be in for a peak year going into his sixth season.
The twenty year rebuilding plan is underway. The team finished last in most major statistical categories, has no depth, and doesn’t look to finish higher than the bottom five. It’s unclear when they’re going to be competitive. The real question is whether this team is going to get double digit wins, and how long their fans are going to tolerate them tanking for the draft.
With Beal heading into his third year flanking John Wall, a Wizards team that finished at or near the top ten in many offensive categories looks to improve and really compete in the post-season. There was some talk of Durant going to them, and although he would have made them a Finals favorite, they still should compete regardless. They might even be an Eastern Finals contender.
Devin Booker will be a star in this league. Teams didn’t have to worry about the Suns in games last season, but when they did the focal point of their defensive plan was to stop Booker. He doesn’t have the court awareness yet to make the best decisions with the ball, but his attack game is strong. The Suns shouldn’t have any expectations this year so really the most important thing is to do is develop their young players. Booker, Ulis, Bledsoe, and Tucker need to just focus on building their skillsets and staying healthy.
The Jazz finished last season just below .500, but this may be the year that they take a big step forward and break 50. The push could result from the development of at least one of their key players. Gobert is still far from his ceiling, Exum is quite young yet has shown flashes of star-caliber play, and Hayward has been on the cusp of stardom for the past couple seasons. Quin Snyder is a passionate coach who will bring out the best in them this coming year.
The Knicks will not be nearly as good as Derrick Rose believes they will be, but they will improve as the season moves along. Porziņģis will have the biggest improvement under new coach Jeff Hornacek and the offense will run much smoother without Phil Jackson trying desperately to use the coaches as puppets.
Fred Hoiberg is in for a frustrating year as he attempts to construct an effective offense that utilizes Rondo, Wade, and Butler effectively. They have no chance of challenging the Cavaliers so Bulls fans should be prepared for a 2nd or 3rd round tap-out.
Duncan’s new replacement, Pau Gasol, is not nearly the rim protector that he was. That leaves Aldridge without a Center to hide behind on defense. Leonard’s defensive prowess will be relied on more than ever and Gregg Popovich is sitting in his office dreading their matchups against the Warriors who could them out of the building tonight.
This team will improve marginally with Sullinger sliding into the Center spot and Carroll hopefully having a healthy season. He missed 56 games last season and was ineffective against LeBron in their series. Will a healthy year, perhaps he can return to his 3 & D ways. Raptors fans can only hope.
Durant’s departure from OKC weakened the Thunder perhaps more than it strengthened the Warriors. This team won’t be bad unless Westbrook’s health is an issue, but it won’t be great either. They’ll be middling and making a late push for the 7th or 8th seeds.
There really isn’t much to say about this team any longer. Ryan Anderson brings some floor spacing, but that was never the issue. Defense was. James Harden has given up on that end and Nenê doesn’t have the timing or strength of Dwight Howard. Eric Gordon could be useful, but he can’t seem to stay on the floor. He has missed an average of 30 games since his rookie season and 34 since his second.
Rick Carlisle has a very talented seven-man rotation to work with. The new additions could be very helpful or this could be a bust. Either way, this isn’t a team ready to compete for a title. If healthy, Bogut can hide the defensive deficiencies of Nowitzki and if allowed free reign, Seth Curry can be a major asset for the second unit.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a superstar in the making. He has yet to turn 21, yet has plenty of savvy on the court. His diverse skillset makes him undeniably a huge piece for any team and Coach Thibodeau has to be excited working with a young, remarkably-talented roster and low expectations.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (yes, I was able to write that all out without looking it up… OK I might have glanced for .02 seconds) has a ceiling I cannot fathom. With his height and passing ability, he is a player we’ve never seen before. The only glaring issue in his game is the lack of a 3pt shot. They will not contend, but they will scare elite teams during the regular season. Coach Kidd has them playing a lot of halfcourt offense which actually limits their capabilities. This was most evident in their first matchup against the then 24-0 Warriors last season. Golden State likely prepared for them to attempt a slow pace and instead run them out of the building. The shocker was that this Bucks team is built to run. They blew the doors off and routinely scored in transition. With Antetokounmpo at the helm, they’ll be even more deadly in those games.
This is a mess of a roster with one superstar that can’t last a full season. Alvin Gentry was excited to inherit this team, but has to be scratching his head wondering how to best utilize Anthony Davis so he’ll stay healthy.
The Trail Blazers shocked the league by reaching the 5th seed, ousting the Clips in six, and proceeding to have a short yet exciting series against the Warriors. Dame Dolla doesn’t like the comparisons to Steph Curry, but he really is Curry-lite with his off-the-dribble range and ball-handling. He will once again be in the MVP conversation, but he won’t win it. They won’t go any further than they did last year. The West is the Dubs and everyone else.
Dave Joerger couldn’t get this team over the hump, but ownership hopes that new coach David Fizdale will. The only changes are the addition of Chandler Parsons and Z-Bo shifting to the bench, but maybe a new style will reinvigorate this roster and lead to a relatively successful year.
The Nuggets have been pretty meh since Iguodala bolted for Golden State and that will not change within the next couple seasons, but they have a nice blend of young talent and smart veterans to nurture it. Fans will be pleased in watching the developments of Mudiay and Nurkić.
The 2016-17 NBA season kicks off tonite at 4:30pm Pacific with the Knicks facing the Cavs in Cleveland.