It's finally here. No more waiting. The NBA season officially starts tonight!
So here's some reading material for the commercial breaks.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (Projected record 60-22)
The reigning MVP has never stopped improving from season too season. And after losing Malcolm Brogdon, Giannis is going to have shoulder even more of the load for his team.
But that is going to be no problem for him and the Bucks. If they stick to the same strategy of spacing the floor and letting shooters shoot, they will replicate their 60 win season.
They also united Brook and Robin Lopez together for the first time in their NBA careers, so that's gotta be some good karma.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (56-26)
In Ben Simmons first two seasons, the 76ers entered the playoffs as a 3 seed. But now with a reloaded roster, they look like the best team on paper in the Eastern Conference.
The addition of Al Horford will be the veteran presence and defensive mind they needed in the front court. Joel Embiid has been one of the top ten players in the league, but the 76ers lack of depth with big men in the past has made his job all too difficult.
The trade for Josh Richardson gives them another shooter who can defend just about anyone in the league at the guard position, similar to what they have in Tobias Harris. Their size and overall defensive dominance will carry them to a lot of victories this season.
3. Brooklyn Nets (50-32)
Even without Kevin Durant this season, the Nets still have the third best roster in the East. Replacing D'Angelo Russel with Kyrie Irving now gives them the best point guard in the conference. And putting him alongside Caris LeVert gives them a dangerous set backcourt that only a couple of teams will be able to defend.
It'll be interesting to see who they decide to start on a night-to-night basis. Rodions Kurucs, Joe Harris, Jarret Allen, and newly acquired Taurean Prince will all be fighting for minutes on a team with plenty of options.
And if all else fails, they can turn to Spencer Dinwiddie to score for them in bunches off the bench. Watch for Head Coach Kenny Atkinson to get some attention for the Coach of the Year award.
4. Miami Heat (48-34)
Pat Riley really pulled this roster together in unbelievable fashion this summer. They were capped out on a roster that was constantly going to be a .500 team. But due to Jimmy Butler's desire to play there, and Portland's desire for a big man, they were able to swing a couple moves to put themselves right back into the playoff conversation.
They gave Jimmy the max contract and shipped Hassan Whiteside off to the Pacific Northwest. And the fact that they were able to get Meyers Leonard back in that trade just made it all that much sweeter.
Goran Dragic still has a lot left in the tank, even if he hasn't lived up to his price tag. And rookie Tyler Herro is the exact kind of scorer they needed to fit their ongoing puzzle. I wouldn't be surprised if they continued to make moves as the season progresses.
5. Indiana Pacers (46-36)
Last year the Indiana Pacers were the 5 seed even though they only had Victor Oladipo for about half of the season. This season will be the same, but they will have him for the second half of the season. Which could possibly make them the most dangerous team come playoff time.
They made some sneaky good moves that may not impress the casual fan, but basketball nerds love this team. The additions of T.J. Warren and T.J. McConnell give them the two best T.J.'s in the NBA. But the addition of Malcolm Brogdon is the move that really gave them a successful summer.
A one-two punch in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis will give the opposing team no breaks as these two go hard every minute they're on the court. Another brother duo in Aaron and Justin Holiday will help build a family relationship in the locker room. And scorers Doug McDermott and Jeremy Lamb will make life easier for Oladipo when he finally does return with a vengeance.
6. Boston Celtics (46-36)
This Celtics team lost a lot more than they gained this summer. Losing Kyrie, Horford, and Aaron Baynes took a lot of the heart and soul out of their roster. They replaced that heart and soul with Kemba Walker, who has yet to prove himself as a consistent winner in the NBA.
Their only addition to their front court was Enes Kanter, who looked amazing in his time with Portland. But after him, their depth in big men is alarming. Best case scenario is that Daniel Theis is their second best big man, which isn't a recipe for a championship.
But their best move came just one day before the season, when they gave Jaylen Brown a four year extension. Out of all the young talent they have on their roster, I believe that he is the one guy with the potential to be an All-Star caliber player for years to come.
7. Toronto Raptors (43-39)
The reigning NBA Champions haven't lost all hope after losing the best player in franchise history. This team still has talent and has one of the best coaches in the NBA in Nick Nurse.
Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka all exorcised some demons of past failures when they finally achieved the championship they've been longing for. Their veteran leadership is going to carry this team with their positive mindset.
And while the old guys will be leading by example, young guys in Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam will take on a bigger challenge on both sides of the court. This may end up being the most carefree team in the NBA because nobody will expect them to be successful without that guy who moved out West.
8. Detroit Pistons (42-40)
Blake Griffin's second full season with the Pistons should be a fun one. Last year, he made the All-Star game and was on the All-NBA team. He has refined his game and become a guy who can shoot the ball from any spot on the court and can guard any position. He seems to be doing just fine without the spotlight of LA.
There's nothing anyone loves more than a story of the resiliency of the human spirit. And Derrick Rose embodies every part of that. His ability to continue to fight every single year to play in this league is unbelievable. The people of Detroit are going to love his tenacity and work ethic, if they don't already.
A possible breakout season for Luke Kennard is going to be the difference between them being or not being a playoff team.
- Atlanta Hawks
The depth of young talent on this team should have any Hawks fan excited. Trae Young is already the leader of this squad. And adding rookies Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter should help them get on House of Highlights more than a few times. Look for John Collins and Kevin Huerter to have breakout seasons.
- Orlando Magic
The Magic are like that fly in your house that you can't seem to get rid of. You can hear them fly by you, and everytime you get ready to kill it, it somehow gets out of your reach. They're annoying as hell and I have no idea how they're still here, but they'll be in the mix for the playoffs all the way up until the final game of the season.
Middle of the Pack
- Washington Wizards
This team would be in the "Hopeless Teams" section if it wasn't for Bradley Beal. That guy is an unbelievable talent. And if you're a Wizards fan, you better cherish every second you have with him.
- Chicago Bulls
This roster is actually very heavy with talent at the top end. Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. are a good young trio to build your franchise around. But head coach Jim Boylen is more of an authoritative figure than a great basketball mind. So expect them to be very disciplined on the court, but all the wind sprints in the world won't help get them to the playoffs.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
I have no idea what this team is doing. One year later they drafted Colin Sexton, they draft Darrius Garland. They're stuck with Tristan Thompson forever. And they won't free JR Smith. But at least they have Cedi Osman. Hopefully they trade Kevin Love to a good team so he doesn't have to rot there forever.
- New York Knicks
The Knicks haven't been relevant since Carmelo's first couple seasons with them. And they haven't been good since they made the Finals as an 8 seed. Don't expect them to be good anytime soon. But watching RJ Barret shoot the ball 25 times a game should be fun.
- Charlotte Hornets
I should've created an entire category for them called "The Worst Team of All-Time." This team has the potential to lose 60+ games. It'll be like watching a little kid hurt themselves. You won't be able to stop laughing, no matter how mean it actually may be.
The Eastern Conference may not have the depth of superstar talent like the Western Conference. But those playoff teams will make the conference worth watching.
However, I do highly recommend that when the Cavaliers play the Hornets we should all get together and watch what I am dubbing The Worst Game of Basketball Ever Played. I may even write a screenplay about it.
NBA season is back!
It never really ends, but regular season basketball is back. This offseason shook up the landscape of who could be representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals next June.
It's time for our Western Conference team rankings!
1. Portland Trail Blazers (Projected Record 58-24)
We're very high on the Blazers this season. So high in fact that we think they'll be the best team in the Western Conference.
Damian Lillard finally got a taste of a Conference Finals last year, but he couldn't lead his team to a single victory in that series. The constant hunger for more will drive him and the Blazers to give it everything they got for 82 games.
Barring any setbacks in the Jusuf Nurkic recovery process, the Blazers will return with stability and a chance to solidify themselves as a consistent winner in the Western Conference.
2. Denver Nuggets (56-22)
Nikola Jokic was in the MVP conversation last season, but was still not quite on the level of the highest individual honor in the NBA. His constant improvement will only continue to trend upwards. Especially with this roster.
Their depth at every position is all a matter of whether or not this young squad can continue to live up to their potential. The team will only go as far as Jamal Murray and Jokic take them. But guys like Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Torey Craig, Jerami Grant and Monte Morris make them the team with the most options.
And everyone is waiting to see what they can get from rookies Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol. *Insert Mile High expectations pun here*
3. Los Angeles Clippers (55-27)
The Clippers have easily put themselves in position to be the NBA Champions after its all said and done. However, the Paul George shoulder injury still leaves us questioning when he'll return. And will they use load management on both him and Kawhi even when they're healthy?
Even if both of those guys only play 60 games together, that'll still be enough to put them in the top half of the Western Conference.
4. Utah Jazz (54-28)
The Jazz have been on the brink of a breakthrough in the last couple of seasons, but there has been something they've been lacking. It turns out that Mike Conley was exactly what they were missing.
Donovan Mitchell successfully avoided a sophomore slump. If the Jazz want to advance in the playoffs, he will have to live up to his constant comparison to Dwyane Wade.
5. Houston Rockets (51-31)
Daryl Morey said that he wasn't going to trade Chris Paul, and then exactly one week later he did just that. So maybe don't take this guy's words so seriously.
The backcourt of Russel Westbrook and James Harden is probably the most passionate duo in the NBA. A lot of swagger, a lot of dancing, and a lot of forceful offense. This is either going to be a reunion for the ages, or it's going to blow up in their face like a bad tweet.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (51-31)
The addition of Anthony Davis will lift the Lakers to their first playoff berth in the Lebron James era. But it may take them a while to find their stride.
Their lack of depth at the point guard and center positions are going to make it a tough task for new head coach Frank Vogel. But their top end talent alone will help them get to the playoffs.
7. Golden State Warriors (48-34)
Losing Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson is definitely going to make Steph Curry and Draymond Green's job a lot more difficult. But if there's any franchise in the NBA that can win in any situation, it's the Warriors.
The addition of D'Angelo Russel is somehow an underrated move. They were able to salvage losing Durant by replacing him with an All-Star caliber shooting guard, who should fit right into the Warriors fast pace of play.
8. San Antonio Spurs (46-36)
Until Greg Poppovich and the Spurs don't make the playoffs, I am just going to automatically assume they will make the playoffs every year.
They will bring back a healthy Lamarcus Aldridge and Demar Derozan as their leaders. Plus, they will be getting big minutes from Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker. This team will bore the hell out of you and mid-range their opponents to death. But they will find a way to make it into the playoffs once again.
- New Orleans Pelicans
JJ Redick has never missed the playoffs in his entire career, so adding him should be a good omen for the Pelicans. With so much youth, it is going to be tough for them to make such a huge leap in Zion's first season. However, this may be the best team to watch on League Pass.
- Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are a match made in overseas basketball heaven. As long as Kristaps can stay healthy, they will be a team with a winning record. But without a third guy to lean on, this duo will have far too much weight on their shoulders.
Middle of the Pack
- Oklahoma City Thunder
Regardless of how his contract is structured, Chris Paul is still a very good basketball player. In the Eastern Conference, he would be the third best point guard. Unfortunately for him and the Thunder, they are in a loaded Western Conference. Going .500 would be a successful season and would keep them in the playoff hunt for most of it.
- Sacramento Kings
We are big believers in Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Luke Walton may not be the guy for the job, but just a big name they felt they needed. The Kings front office will find a way to screw this roster up halfway through the season. Buddy Hield has already said if he doesn't get his contract extension soon, he's gone.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Not only have they had the worst attendance in the league for the past two seasons, but they've been quite possibly the most disappointing. They've wasted Karl-Anthony Towns' prime years by trying to make Andrew Wiggins his sidekick. Here's to another losing record.
- Memphis Grizzlies
A young team with a seemingly bright future. Jaren Jackson Jr. has already shown that he can play, but we'll still have to wait and see with Ja Morant. With the flattened odds in the Lottery, they will be able to play hard all season, and still have a chance to land a top pick.
- Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns will be the worst team in the Western Conference, what else is new?
This loaded Western Conference is going to be a fun watch all season. Teams will be moving up and down drastically with every win and loss because of how tight the race will be at the top.
If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that no matter how much basketball we watch, we'll probably still be wrong.
Getting swept out of the playoffs for three consecutive seasons has got to be a tough thing to bounce back from. But if any team can do it, it’s the boys from the Pacific Northwest.
Every year, the Portland Trail Blazers are met with doubt from the mainstream media. But just like they’re city, they keep progressing forward with positivity.
As we approach this new season, many teams have question marks. But the Portland Trail Blazers are the one rare case of sustained stability.
The Portland Trail Blazers have taken the gradual approach to success. They didn’t tank to draft superstars. They took what was given to them and have cherished the guys who have put everything on the line for them.
Damian Lillard was rewarded with the Super Max contract, while CJ McCollum got a hefty extension of his own. As failure to reach the NBA Finals has fell upon them, everyone from the outside continued to ask if these two were going to remain paired with each other.
As a pair, they have reached the playoffs every single season. And in a loaded Western Conference, that is no small feat for a small market team who was supposed to be going through a transition phase when they drafted these guys. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
While many teams have made huge moves to bring in superstars for a chance at just one title, the Blazers have chosen to build stability in hopes to maintain a winning culture for the next 5-10 years.
Growth isn’t always surface level. Sure, we can say that the Blazers reaching the Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years shows great growth. But it goes deeper than that.
Building a roster to fit the two stars they have has changed drastically over these last few years. And the moves they have made since the 2018 Draft shows promise for their best season yet.
Anfernee Simons didn’t play much in his rookie season, but his potential is what makes this kid an intriguing piece to their puzzle. Deciding to forgo college and play an extra year of Prep School basketball with IMG Academy shows how invested this kid is. It’s always been just about basketball for him, and a leap in his sophomore season could help incredibly to their guard depth with the loss of Seth Curry.
But waiting around for Simons to develop isn’t the only basket their putting their eggs into. Rodney Hood had flashes of massive improvement over the course of the postseason. Including a huge performance in the final overtime of pivotal game against the Denver Nuggets. His talent was never in question wherever he went, it was just a matter of a team finding a way to utilize his skill set as a guy who can shoot off the catch or create his own shot when the time is winding down.
The Blazers love running the pick and roll with their two stars and big men who can get to the basket, or shoot 20 foot jump shots. They are nearly impossible to guard when their wings are hitting their shots.
They came up on possibly the biggest steak in the draft with Nassir Little. He didn’t hav the luxury of having the offense run through him at UNC because of all the talent they had on that roster. But his skill set fits perfectly with what the Blazers need. A guy with a high motor, who can defend, run the pick and roll, and shoots nearly 80% from the free throw line.
As they are still waiting to see what they will ultimately get out of Zach Collins and Skal Labissière, they decided to make a move and pick up Hassan Whiteside for next to nothing. Besides his overpriced contract of course. But as a small market team that rarely signs free agents to big contracts, this contract isn’t much of a risk. Anything positive from Whiteside is a win.
Their move to replace Evan Turner with Kent Bazmore seems like a lateral move. He does almost everything Turner does to a T, except for the fact that he can shoot three’s from time to time. Him and Mario Hezonja will eat up minutes off the bench, but they have the luxury of not asking much from these guys.
With this immense amount of youth, they took a flyer on Pau Gasol. If not for his play, then strictly for his veteran leadership and championship pedigree. They desperately needed a locker room presence with someone who has done it at the highest level before. He will make an impact even if he doesn’t play a second for them all season.
The biggest question mark they have is when Jusuf Nurkic will be ready. He is the key to them reaching their highest potential. This team is built for him to be successful alongside their two stars. When he was healthy last season, he had flashes where he looked unstoppable.
Including his historic 5x5 game in Sacramento where he was the first player ever to record at least five steal, blocks, points, rebounds, and assists in a single game. His health could make them the best team in the Western Conference.
Stability is what separates the Portland Trail Blazers from the rest of the league. While many of the top teams such as the Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, and Sixers all will have to figure out their new rosters as the season progresses, the Blazers will be a smooth sailing ship from the jump.
With all the hoopla going around in the league, it’s easy to forget about this team. But chances are that they’re stable culture is going to carry them throughout the season. And it won’t just be another good year.
The Portland Trail Blazers will be the one seed in the Western Conference.