AB’S 2018-2019 NBA SEASON PREVIEW, PART 1- THE EAST.
For this season’s NBA season preview, I tried to make it a LOT more concise & a much quicker read for you. After 138 days away, basketball is back on Tuesday night! Here’s my condensed version of 2018-19 Association preview:
***Note: Next to each team will be my projected win total (+/- 4) & in parenthesis where they will finish in their conference (1-15) overall***
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
BOSTON CELTICS: Projection: 54-58 wins. (1)
By far, my favorite team to watch in the East. This team is absolutely STACKED. Last year the Celtics won 55 games with losing Gordon Hayward 5 minutes into the opener & Kyrie having more knee issues. The young kids were forced to grow up & grow up they did! Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum provide an electric pair of young, talented, future stars. The quality of depth of this team is unmatched. “Quality of depth” is a term i use when you see guys who could start on other NBA teams but have to come off the bench. They’ll run a lot of 4-out & 5-out sets with Al Horford still being a key contributor on the team both in the box score & out of it. Celtics will win the East, no doubt.
PHILADELPHIA 76ers: Projection: 51-55 wins. (2)
One of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA, the 76ers are officially post-process. A 16-game winning streak at the end of the season last year, against a majority of average teams, may skew the mind a bit, but this team (if healthy) has the size, the shooting, & the guard play to once again bring the noise in the playoffs. It takes time to learn how to win & manage the 82-game NBA schedule, let’s see how these young guys now handle the expectation of being a contender in the Eastern Conference.
TORONTO RAPTORS: Projection: 50-54 wins. (3)
How will Kawhi Leonard & Dannys Green fit with their new team? Will Kyle Lowry be able to mesh with them & a brand new coach in Nick Nurse after firing the Coach of the Year Dwane Casey. I’m a BIG fan of the starting 4 of Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, & Jonas Valanciunas… But, Lowry is my question mark when the post-season comes & his shooting goes.
BROOKLYN NETS: Projection: 36-40 wins. (9)
Just shy of being .500 on the year, the Nets will begin the year in the months of October & November with 15 of their 23 games against playoff teams from a year ago. They have a very intriguing roster with former Buckeyes’ guard D’Angelo Russell at the point & Michigan Alum Caris LeVert coming off the bench. Intriguing, but an uphill climb for sure after last year’s 28-54 record.
NEW YORK KNICKS: Projection: 25-29 wins. (13)
New Head Coach David Fizdale will force the Knicks to play a brand of defense that throw-back fans haven't seen in the Garden since the 90s. His Memphis teams were always gritty. No Kristaps Porzingis for the foreseeable future will hurt this team immensely & the Knicks have said that there is no standard/protocol to rehab an ACL injury for a guy of his height. Wouldn’t expect to see him until (maybe) March, if at all. PLUS, a couple of Michigan Men worth watching in Trey Burke & Tim Hardaway Jr.
INDIANA PACERS: Projection: 46-50 wins. (4)
I’m all-in on the Indiana pacers. This team has a makeup that reminds me of the ’04 Pistons. 5 guys who play together & defend will always beat teams that rely too heavily on 1 man carrying the load. That’s this Indiana team. A great back-court with Collison & Oladipo + the addition of 19ppg shooting guard Tyreke Evans & a tough front-court led by Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young & Domantas Sabonis, this is a TEAM. Indiana basketball is back & this is a team that Pacers fans will compare to the late 90s Reggie Miller glory days. Buckle up NBA fans, Hoosier State hoops is back in full force.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Projection: 46-50 wins. (5)
Please, for the love of God, stop the LeBron James comparisons. Look, I like Giannis as much as the next guy, but he has to be able to prove he is the guy we all want him to be. He should be a triple-double threat every night & new Head Coach Mike Budenholzer will sure them up defensively. Khris Middleton is one of the more underrated players in the league (because it’s Milwaukee). I’m an Eric Bledsoe fan, but he has to become a Chauncey Billups PG instead of trying to be a Westbrook. Will Michigan alum DJ Wilson finally see some decent playing time? And, don’t forget that guy from Villanova who wrecked Michigan in the National Title game last year, Donte DiVincenzo, coming off the bench. Prove it time, Milwaukee.
DETROIT PISTONS: Projection: 39-43 wins. (7)
New Coach, new year? Maybe or maybe not. The Detroit Pistons mortgaged a LOT to acquire Blake Griffin last season & between Griffin & Center, Andre Drummond, the Pistons have a formidable front court…. in a back court driven league. Stanley Johnson is on the clock for his NBA future, Luke Kennard could be an impact guy in Dwane Casey’s new offensive system & the addition of Michigan alum Glenn Robinson III gives the locals a real rooting interest. Reggie Bullock will also be a guy that has a responsibility to shoot the 3-ball well.The addition of Zaza Pachulia gives the Pistons some experience to back-up Drummond & Ish Smith is a great fit as a back-up to Jackson for 15-20 minutes/game. For Detroit, it’s time to end the futility & enter the post-season, as a bubble team.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Projection: 29-33 wins. (11)
Apocalypse part 2 in Cleveland. LeBron James has left, again, but the Cavaliers are already in better position now then before his departure to Miami. Collin Sexton showed some really nice play during the summer league & if Kevin Love remains in Cleveland post-deadline, they can be one of those teams that is a wrench in the engines of many teams down the stretch. I love the re-signing of Larry nance Jr for 4-years at $44 million. George Hill & Rodney Hood have a clean slate to showcase their skill sets, plus Jordan Clarkson & Kyle Korver are nice additions off the bench. Cleveland, be good or be bad, but the worst thing you can be in sports is mediocre…
CHICAGO BULLS: Projection: 26-30 wins. (12)
Chicago fans look fondly back on the past, the future may be brighter than in recent years, but the present is going to be a struggle. Lauri Markkanen could have a breakout year this season & the addition of Jabari Parker should compliment the team nicely. Zach LaVine shows the promise of a 20ppg scorer but that knee has to stay healthy. Depth as well as overall talent is an issue, good lucks Bulls fans. Hey, at least you had the “Jordan Era”.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Projection: 45-49 wins. (6)
The Wiz are a team that I just cant wrap my head around. In a league driven by guard play, the Washington pair of John Wall & Bradley Beal should lights-out every night… but that rarely seems to happen. JohnWall got injured last season & the team seemed to have taken some strides & it does look like he’s added some weight (not the good kind). A dynamic pair of wings in Kelly Oubre & Otto Porter need to continue their growth & they added Dwight Howard in the summer, replacing the displaced Marcin Gortat (now with the Clippers). Washington/Milwaukee/indiana/Philly could all see their playoff positing rotate in the last 2 months of the season as they’ll be jockeying all year long. Bradley Beal mentioned it last season “everybody eats”, and if you want to win in this league, you can’t do it alone… looking at you John Wall.
MIAMI HEAT: Projections: 39-43 wins. (8)
Wade County is open for business for one last hurrah. Dwayne Wade will play his final NBA season this year on a squad that has remained fun to watch led by the Slav Goran Dragic (yes, he was born in Yugoslavia, which is now 6 different countries). Will Justise Winslow become the player Miami had hoped for when drafted? Hassan Whiteside is a big time defender in the paint & Kelly Olynyk + Tyler Johnson are a couple of complimentary pieces off the bench. Miami is a team in my eyes that could explode & be a real surprise. I love South Beach, I think the fans will too.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Projection: 34-38 wins. (10)
Damn it Charlotte. Every season I want to believe in the Hornets & every year they seem to let me down. I think they’ll hover close to .500 for most of the season but fall just shy of the playoffs. Kemba Walker is one of the best guards in the league but he needs some help! Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Mailk Monk, Nicolas Batum, & the Michigan State grad Miles Bridges will be called upon to be the help Kemba has needed. Charlotte, don’t do it to me, again!
ORLANDO MAGIC: Projection:27-31 wins. (14)
Mickey Mouse Club is BACK! What will draft pick Mo Bamba offer? Can Aaron Gordon be a legit #1? Will Nikola Vucevic ever become a Nikola Jokic? Too many questions & no real clear answers in sight. I love the Orlando Magic organization (that comes from the Shaq & Penny Era) but this team is a bottom 5 NBA team. Hello lottery, again.
ATLANTA HAWKS: Projection: 23-27 wins. (15)
My how the Hawks have fallen. Speaking of bottom 5 teams from that last team in Orlando, the Atlanta Hawks will be making the reservations at that table. Outside of sharpshooter Trae Young, this team offers really nothing appealing for the fans outside of Atlanta, or hell, even in the A. Good luck Hawks fans, my projection is probably a little too high…