October 22, 2019 ☼ 🏀
As fun as the past few off-seasons have been, I really miss watching teams build and grow organically. It’s funny because one of the best examples of organic team building, has also been smack dab in the middle of the noise. In general the basketball community seems to be okay with teams going into free agency adding role players around existing core, but as soon as you start star collecting it’s an issue. And I get it, I pretty much feel the same way. The Warriors drafting Curry, Green, and Thompson, and then adding Iguadola and Livingston through free agency was fun team building. But then adding Kevin Durant after losing in the Finals was considered blasphemy by some. One might even say adding Iguadola and Livingston was actually more impactful, when looking at the overall results from season to season. But I digress…
This season, we once again have tons of player movement and excitement. From Kawhi and PG joining the already deep Clippers, to AD joining LeBron on the Lakers, Westbrook and Harden reuniting in Houston, to Satoransky and Thad Young joining the Bulls1. And don’t forget Horford to Philly, Conley to Utah, Kemba to Boston, Jimmy Buckets to the Heat, Porzingas to the Mavs2, DeAngelo to the Warriors, and last possibly least, Kyrie and the out-for-the-season KD to Brooklyn3.
But to be honest, a lot of my excitement comes from some of the young stars and rookies currently in the league. Zion Williamson has come into the league like a bulldozer, although a bulldozer with a torn meniscus sentenced to the bench for 6-8 weeks, Ja Morant has provided much needed excitement as he joins JJJ in Memphis, which could be a superstar pairing in four years if the stars are aligned. Then there are the Kings as Fox and Bagley go into their third and second years, respectively (along with my guy Harry Giles Jr.), attempting a run at the playoffs in a super dooper competive Western Conference. These are teams that seem to have a bit of that organic building happening, which I love so much. The Pelicans went from losing a top five player, to having one of the most exciting young cores, if not the most, in the league. Memphis and Sacramento are right there behind New Orleans with PG/PF pairings that are marvelous to watch.
Now let’s get into the real reason I do these previews, and that’s rankings and predictions!
Below is my prediction for where the teams will land in the standings at the end of the season.
Bucks over Celtics in 5
76ers over Heat in 7
Nuggets over Warriors in 7
Clippers over Lakers in 6
76ers over Bucks in 6
Clippers over Nuggets in 6
Clippers over 76ers in 5
and Kawhi becomes the most hated person in Philadelphia sports history.
Finals MVP: Kawhi Leonard
Regular Season MVP: James Harden
DPY: Giannis Antetekoumpo
ROY: Zion Williamson
COY: Mike D’Antoni
6MOY: Lou Williams
MIP: Gary Harris
You may have figured from the above, but I think the Rockets will dominate regular season. Harden will play better than ever, Westbrook will play harder than ever, and they are going to win a lot of games in the regular season. Ultimately, they will meet their fate in the first round against the Warriors. 🤣
I really wanted to put someone new in the playoff mix in the Western Conference, but I just can’t realistically see it happening. The Spurs are going to surprise the pundits with how consistent they will continue to be. DeRozan and Aldridge will continue to knock down midrange shots, Murray and Carroll will give them the added boost and intensity they were missing last season, White and Forbes will hopefully continue where they left off in the playoffs, and if we are lucky, we will get a little Lonnie Walker IV action.
And while it will be a tough season, I truly believe Curry is enough to get the Warriors into the playoffs. Even in the tough Western Conference. Although without Klay requiring a man to stick to him like glue, things will get tougher for him, but Russell will provide enough of a threat that Curry will still have the freedom to go to town during the regular season (and in the first round.)
Looking at the East, the Heat will surprise a lot of people. Jimmy Butler is enough to get a team into the playoffs by himself in this weak Eastern Conference. Add in Justice Winslow and Bam Adebayo, they are a top six team. Get anything from Dion Waiters and the rookie phenom through preseason, Tyler Herro, and they will get that third seed, pretty easily at that.
Lastly, I have to talk about my Bulls. I still don’t like LaVine, but the guy can score. If he can make better decisions (and mid-range jumpers are okay in my book, it’s just a matter of situation), the Bulls will make a jump into the playoffs. The reason I have them at the 6th(!) seed is my hope that Lauri can make a big jump4, Coby White and Satoransky make an immediate impact, and Carter Jr. shows us a little something, anything…5. I don’t expect White to start, but he will essentially be your first guard off the bench, playing either PG or SG, depending on situation.
Ultimately, it will probably be a year too soon for Chicago. I would’ve liked one more lottery pick on the wing, but maybe Hutchison will surprise us, because if not, the Bulls don’t have a backup wing6.
It should be a fun season despite a league already being hampered with injuries. And now the countdown begins until tip-off, Pelicans (without Zion; for 6-8 weeks) at Raptors (without you-know-who; forever…) 7 CST.