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NBA Preview

by Glenn Kaplan
by Glenn Kaplan

With the NBA set to tip off next Tuesday, a lot of people probably think the NBA season is already over before it begins and that could be true. What is also true is there is a reason why we play the game.

The Golden State Warriors are loaded once again this season and will they three-peat? It hasn't happened since the 2000, 2001, and the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers. Can anyone challenge the Golden State Warriors this season?

How will the Kawhi Leonard experiment work in Toronto? Will the Boston Celtics win the east or will the Philadelphia 76ers win the east? Can the Milwaukee Bucks finally break through?

How will a Lebron led Los Angeles Lakers team be? Will the Houston Rockets be even better with Carmelo Anthony around? There is much more headlines as well heading into the 2018-2019 season, but those are just some of them. Who will finish where this season?

Eastern Conference: Atlantic Division: 1. Boston Celtics: The Celtics were one win away from the NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward last season. They will be healthy this season and they have a loaded roster. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown blossomed last season. Brad Stevens is the best coach in the NBA and the Boston Celtics are also tough defensively.

2. Toronto Raptors: The Raptors will have a new coach this season in Nick Nurse. They fired Dwane Casey after another early playoff exit. Toronto traded away DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard is now a member of the Raptors. He only has one-year left on his contract and it will be interesting to see what happens. The Toronto Raptors had one of the best benches in the NBA last season.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers will have an interesting team heading into this season. If Markelle Fultz can emerge into what he could be, Philadelphia will be in good hands. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is heart and soul of this team. They are a team that also defends well. If Toronto or Boston does not represent the east in the NBA Finals, it will be this team.

4. New York Knicks: Keep an eye on rookies Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. They could be the reason why the Knicks make an improvement this season after winning 29 games last season. Kristaps Porzingis may not even play this season because of a torn ACL. David Fitzdale is the new head coach.

5. Brooklyn Nets: As long as D'Angelo Russell stays healthy, this team will be competitive but they also have decent players on the roster. They won't be a playoff team this season but in a year or two they could get there.

Central Division: 1. Milwaukee Bucks: They should be the best team in the Central Division now that Lebron James is out of the division. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak and he led the Milwaukee Bucks in every statistical category last season. They struggled to score the basketball in clutch moments, but they are going to need to do that sooner or later in order to take that next step. Drafting Donte DiVincenzo will help out this team. He can shoot from range and defend. Mike Budenholzer is the new head coach.

2. Indiana Pacers: Not many people expected the Pacers to make the playoffs last season after they decided to trade Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Indiana won 48 games and were the number five seed in the east and they took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the first-round. Oladipo had a breakout season last year and he hopes his game can keep climbing. They will be a tough out in the east this season.

3. Detroit Pistons: The Pistons have potentially a very good front court in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, but that will be something for new Head Coach Dwane Casey to figure out. Reggie Jackson is also a very good point guard, but he has the potential to lose his cool at times. Luke Kennard is an up and coming player in this league. He has potential to breakout this season.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: With Lebron James now not with the Cleveland Cavaliers anymore, they will be a boarder line playoff team. Kevin Love did sign a four-year contract extension and they also drafted point guard Collin Sexton eighth overall in the NBA. That pick was originally the Brooklyn Nets draft pick. Tyronn Lue will now have to show he can coach. Cedi Osman could be a breakout player for the Cavaliers player this season.

5. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls will be a very good team in a couple of years, but they are not ready yet. Drafting Wendell Carter Jr. seventh overall will be a good thing for this team. They will have a solid front court for the next decade with him and Lauri Markkanen, but Markkanen will miss the start of the season because of an elbow injury.

Southeast Division: 1. Washington Wizards: The Wizards upgraded the roster in the offseason by signing Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, and Austin Rivers. Washington has underachieved for several years and they have the talent to contend in the east. John Wall and Bradley Beal in the back court needs to co-exist well early and often this season.

2. Miami Heat: They will be very good defensively this season, but will they have enough offense to win games? This is Dwyane Wade's farewell tour and he would like to make it to the postseason before he retires. Erik Spolestra is a very good basketball coach. Goran Dragic continues to shine for the Miami Heat year in and year out. Dion Waiters's had a season ending injury last season and it hurt the Heat offensively.

3. Charlotte Hornets: Will the Hornets contend for a playoff spot because if not, they might have to shop Kemba Walker at the trade deadline this season. Malik Monk needs to take a big jump in his second season. James Borrego is the new head coach for this team after Steve Clifford was let go. Miles Bridges could be an interesting rookie player for the Charlotte Hornets this season. They have been drafting high in recent years, but they haven't had much success.

4. Orlando Magic: The only reason why the Magic will not finish in the bottom of the Southeast Division standings is because of how bad the Atlanta Hawks will be. Mohamed Bamba could be a beast on the defensive end as a rookie. Aaron Gordon will be a tank on the glass. They don't have a true go-two scorer on this roster.

5. Atlanta Hawks: They will most likely be the worst team in the NBA this season and the Hawks will be going through a rebuilding process for the next few years. Rookies Kevin Huerter and Trae Young will get a lot of play time as rookies, but expect a lot of growing pains. I am not sold on Young as a player because he doesn't make his teammates better, but will see as time goes on. Lloyd Pierce is new head coach for the Atlanta Hawks.

Western Conference: Pacific Division: 1. Golden State Warriors: Should it be no surprise that the Golden State Warriors will finish in first place in their own division, but possibly the conference and the league? They are loaded and they also signed DeMarcus Cousins in the offseason. The thing is he will not be ready to start the season because of a torn Achilles he suffered last January. Could be the last season that Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson all stay together?

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Lebron James will lead a young Los Angeles Lakers team to the postseason this year. This team has potential with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram. They have some interesting role players like Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Rajon Rondo. Those players are all on one year deals. The Lakers hope to sign another marquee free agent this upcoming summer.

3. Phoenix Suns: The Suns will be the most improved team in the NBA this season. They only won 21 games last season and I could see them winning 35-42 games this season. It would be a monster jump. Phoenix has not been to the postseason since the 2009-2010 season. They have been in a rebuild ever since. The Phoenix Suns drafted DeAndre Ayton number one overall and they also acquired Mikal Bridges on draft night from the Philadelphia 76ers as well. Trevor Ariza also signed a one-year deal. They also acquired Ryan Anderson in a trade from the Houston Rockets.

4. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers will be playing second fiddle once again to the Los Angeles Lakers this season. They have interesting pieces on the roster, but Los Angeles probably won't be a playoff team in a tough western conference. They some how won 42 games last season and the Clippers will take a step back this season.

5. Sacramento Kings: The Kings have not made it to the playoffs since 2005-2006. They have been one of the worst teams in the NBA for over a decade. Sacramento hasn't been very good at drafting despite picking at the top of the NBA Draft year in and year out. They hope second overall pick Marvin Bagley will pan out.

Southwest Division: 1. Houston Rockets: The Rockets had the best record in the NBA a season ago. If it wasn't for a Chris Paul hamstring injury, they would have won the west and dethroned the Golden State Warriors. The Houston Rockets now add Carmelo Anthony to the mix this season. They will be one of the three best teams in the NBA this season along with the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. Houston improved on the defensive side of the ball last season and they will need to continue to do so. Mike D'Antoni did a terrific job coaching this team last season.

2. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis will single handedly carry this team to possibly 40-45 wins. They will be battling for a playoff spot. Rajon Rondo is a huge loss for this team. Jrue Holiday will need to stay healthy this season. Julius Randle signed a two-year deal and his game has promise. Nikola Mirotic will need to be relied upon a lot to score this season. They also signed Jahlil Okafor to the roster this season.

3. San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray tearing his ACL will hurt a lot. It always seems to be a next man up mentality in San Antonio. Kawhi Leonard was traded in the offseason to the Toronto Raptors and DeMar Derozan will now be in a Spurs uniform. The Spurs still have promising pieces on the roster like Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White, and Jakob Poeltl. LaMarcus Aldridge still plays at a high level at 33 years old. Pau Gasol is also still around at 38 years old. Tony Parker left for the Charlotte Hornets and Manu Ginobili retired.

4. Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic could be the best player in this draft. Dirk Nowitzki is one of the reasons why he is on the roster. Doncic was acquired in a draft trade from the Atlanta Hawks for Trae Young. Dallas is still rebuilding and they haven't made the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season. DeAndre Jordan signed a one-year deal in the offseason. He was going to sign with the Dallas Mavericks a few offseasons ago, but he decided to return to the Los Angeles Clippers.

5. Memphis Grizzles: They are in a complete rebuild. Memphis drafted Jaren Jackson Jr. fourth overall and he will be very raw to start the season. Memphis is also one of the youngest teams in the league.

Northwest Division: 1. Oklahoma City Thunder: They will be one of the most exciting teams in the NBA this season. The Thunder will be good defensively again this season. Can they be better offensively? Russell Westbrook will bring it his all every game. Paul George decided to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason. They also traded for Dennis Schroder and he will be a big help for Westbrook.

2. Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell had a breakout rookie season and he will be the primary offensive weapon on the Jazz's roster. This team is about coaching and good defense. Quin Snyder is the head coach of this team. Rudy Gobert is the heart and soul of this team. Grayson Allen could be a key player off the bench in his rookie season.

3. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets have the potential to surprise people this season. Isaiah Thomas was signed to a one-year deal. Rookie Michael Porter Jr. slipped to them 14th overall in the draft and the Denver Nuggets hope he will contribute at some point this season. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray is one of the most underrated back courts in the NBA.

4. Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers did nothing to improve the roster this past offseason. They were the third seed last season and they were swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first-round. This was the second straight season Portland was swept in the postseason.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves have the talent to be a playoff team, but they have many internal problems right now. Jimmy Butler wants to be traded and he is on the final year of his contract. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins don't seem to meet Butler's standards. Head Coach Tom Thibodeau is running his players into the ground again. The Minnesota Timberwolves made it to the playoffs for the first time last year since the 2003-2004 season.

First Round: Western Conference: (1) Golden State Warriors over (8) San Antonio Spurs, (2) Houston Rockets over (7) New Orleans Pelicans, (3) Oklahoma City Thunder over (6) Denver Nuggets, and (5) Los Angeles Lakers over (4) Utah Jazz.

First Round: Eastern Conference: (1) Boston Celtics over (8) Miami Heat, (2) Toronto Raptors over (7) Detroit Pistons, (3) Philadelphia 76ers over (6) Indiana Pacers, (4) Milwaukee Bucks over (5) Washington Wizards.

Second Round: Western Conference: (1) Golden State Warriors over (5) Los Angeles Lakers and (2) Houston Rockets over (3) Oklahoma City Thunder.

Second Round: Eastern Conference: (1) Boston Celtics over (4) Milwaukee Bucks and (3) Philadelphia 76ers over (2) Toronto Raptors.

Third Round: Western Conference: (1) Golden State Warriors over (2) Houston Rockets.

Third Round: Eastern Conference: (1) Boston Celtics over (3) Philadelphia 76ers.

NBA Finals: (1) Golden State Warriors over (1) Boston Celtics.

This article was originally published on @gk18