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Legend Grows 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

Three of the seven All-Stars to change teams this off-season.

Soon the wildest off-season in NBA history will come to an end. Seven All-Stars switched teams including Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, and Chris Paul (I realize Paul was snubbed last year, but I’m counting him as an All-Star) and that doesn’t count former MVP, Derrick Rose, or Carmelo who could still be moved before the season starts. To put that in perspective, last season only three All-Stars changed teams, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, and Dwyane Wade. With all of this shifting around, multiple teams revamped their rosters to either contend at a higher level or to commit to a youthful rebuild. Either way, the NBA has undergone a huge transformation, but at the same time how is it that not much has changed? The East team with last year’s best record landed two all-stars and returns only four players from last year’s team, but didn’t lose or gain any ground. The East Champs lost a 25 point-per-game scorer and didn’t lose ground. A contender in the West landed one of the top 10 point guards of all-time and didn’t come any closer to a title. The NBA Champs didn’t have to make any moves to stay exactly where they will be for the next couple of years, on top. So, the more things change the more they stay the same. Nevertheless, here is the NBA 2017-18 season preview by division with an outlook for every team for the upcoming season.

 

Atlantic Division Preview

1-Boston Celtics ↔

2-Toronto Raptors ↔

3-Philadelphia 76ers ↑

4-New York  Knicks ↓

5-Brooklyn Nets ↔

 

Boston Celtics

Last Year’s Record: 53-29

Key Additions: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris

Key Losses: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley

The New-Look Celtics still have Lebron to get past.

2017-18 Outlook:

Danny Ainge finally got his man. Then he got his man again. And he picked up an extra draft pick in the process. Then, he landed Kyrie Irving in a blockbuster trade centered around Isaiah Thomas. Yes, it has been quite the summer for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics. With the additions of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum and a slew of other new faces, the Celtics look poised to contend in the East for the foreseeable future. With Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap all heading West, the relatively easy road in the East got even easier for the Celtics and the Cavs to meet in the East Finals again. It was tough for the Celtics to see Thomas, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and Jae Crowder go, but the opportunity to bring in two all-stars and to continue to bring along some of the young talent they have been accumulating lately, it was necessary to upgrade the roster. With a starting line-up of Irving, Jaylen Brown, Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford, with Tatum, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart coming off the bench, the C’s will be able to play small and fast. Look for the Celtics to send two or three players to the All-Star Game and give Lebron a run for his money in Cleveland in the race to see who gets to lose to Golden State in the Finals.

Toronto Raptors

Last Year’s Record: 51-31

Key Additions: C.J. Miles

Key Losses: Cory Joseph, Pattrick Patterson

2017-18 Outlook:

The Raptors have retained their core including their dynamic backcourt by resigning Lowry. The Raps will push the revamped Celtics who will likely take some time creating a new identity and will need to stay sharp to stay a step the Sixers. A full season with Ibaka should help the Raps figure out the best way of using his unique ability to defend the rim on one side of the ball and stretch the defense on the other. And DeRozan may be the league’s best kept secret. Would it surprise you to hear that last year’s scoring leaders were Westbrook, Harden, Thomas, Davis, and then DeRozan?!? What kind of pub would he be getting if he didn’t play in Canada? Still, the Raptors have stayed the same when other teams have upgraded their rosters. As a result, the Raps will be competitive and end the season with another postseason disappointment.

Philadelphia 76ers

Last Year’s Record: 28-54

Key Additions: J.J. Reddick, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Amir Johnson

Key Losses: None

2017-18 Outlook:

My pick for the most improved team in the East is the Sixers. I expect them to make the Playoffs. The Sixers were 13-18 with Embiid in the line-up last season (and 15-36 without him) and added sharp shooter J.J. Reddick, last year’s number one pick, Ben Simmons, and this year’s number one pick, Markell Fultz. Yes, they are young and will take some time to develop, but this team will turn some heads in the mediocre East. Look for Simmons and Fultz to both finish in the top five in the Rookie of the Year race and look for Embiid to be in the All-Star game and get some love in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion (yeah, he’s that good). The future is bright in Philly. #trusttheprocess.

New York Knicks

Last Year’s Record: 31-51

Key Additions: Frank Ntilikina

Key Losses: Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose

2017-18 Outlook:

The Knicks have been a train-wreck for years and this off-season has been no different. Finally ditching Phil Jackson who will make a lot of buyout money as he retires in Montana was a good first move to get the franchise pointed back in the right direction. Questions still remain whether Carmelo will play another game in a Knicks uniform, but it is good news that Porzingis wants to stay and wants Carmelo to stay (if we believe what he says). That said a recently revealed ad for Knicks season tickets included three Knicks players, none of whom were Carmelo Anthony. That seems like a sign. The Knicks should try to get the Brooklyn pick from the Cavs for Melo. It would motivate Melo to waive his no-trade clause and it would help the Knicks in their never-ending rebuild.

Brooklyn Nets

Last Year’s Record: 20-62

Key Additions: D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mosgov

Key Losses: Brook Lopez

2017-18 Outlook:

What can I say about Brooklyn? I feel like Harry on Dumb and Dumber, “Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this…and totally redeem yourself!” Trading Brook Lopez and your 27th pick for castoff D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov? Lopez was one of the few players you had that helped you to be competitive. Is this just another tank year for the Nets? When will the pain stop for Nets fans. Hopefully now that Ainge has traded the last of the Nets’ picks included in the Kevin Garnett trade, maybe Nets fans can move on with their lives and start to build something better. Too bad this year’s losing will benefit the Cavs now and not the Nets. Russell is still young. Hopefully for all Nets fans, he will turn into something more than I saw in LA.

 

Central Division Preview

1-Cleveland Cavaliers ↑

2-Milwaukee Bucks ↑

3-Detroit Pistons ↔

4-Chicago Bulls ↓

5-Indiana Pacers ↓

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last Year’s Record: 51-31

Key Additions: Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder

Key Losses: Kyrie Irving

Thomas will come in handy in Lebron’s next shot at the Warriors.

2017-18 Outlook:

The Cavs’ off season really couldn’t have been much worse…until the Kyrie trade. Attempts to trade for Jimmy Butler were stalled by instability in the front-office and attempts to land Paul George failed. The Cavs have yet to find a taker for Kevin Love, so the Cavs roster looked like it would remain virtually unchanged…until Kyrie demanded a trade and said he didn’t want to play with Lebron anymore. Despite the history of trade demands diminishing the trade value of stars, somehow new GM, Koby Altman, scored Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick, and a second-rounder in 2020, the clouds lifted and the optimism has returned to Cleveland. Sure the Cavs will miss Kyrie’s shot-making in late game situations, but the additions of Thomas and Derrick Rose leaves the Cavs with two playmakers when Lebron is on the bench. The underrated piece of this trade is Crowder. He will take pressure off Lebron on the defense end and provide quality shooting and spacing on the other side. Despite a strong ending to the off-season for the Cavs, look for constant drama in Cleveland this season with Lebron’s and Thomas’s looming free agency at the center of it. If the Cavs can bring on Wade after a Chicago buyout and land one more piece (perhaps by trading their new prized lottery pick), then the Cavs could have a real chance at challenging the Warriors. Without additional moves, we will still likely see the Warriors beat the Cavs in the Finals for an unprecedented third time in four seasons.

Milwaukee Bucks

Last Year’s Record: 42-40

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: Jason Terry

2017-18 Outlook:

With the recent trend of All-Stars leaving small market teams via free agency or trade, will the Bucks gamble on its ability to bring Giannis back or will he be shopped so he doesn’t walk for nothing? Giannis and the Bucks have some fun pieces to move around, but only time can tell if that group is developing into a winner. Last year, the Bucks got Kris Middleton back around the same time they lost Jabari Parker to a torn ACL for the second straight season. Malcom Brogdon stepped in to earn the surprise Rookie of the Year Award, but can this group stay healthy and gel or will it get blown up before it gets off the ground? As a borderline Playoff team last year, the Bucks have a lot to prove.

Detroit Pistons

Last Year’s Record: 37-45

Key Additions: Avery Bradley, Henry Ellenson

Key Losses: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris

2017-18 Outlook:

Meh. The Pistons were unspectacular last season and have followed that up with a meh off-season. The Pistons are the definition of mediocre and in mediocre land you don’t get much better and you don’t get worse. At least some of the other terrible teams, know they are terrible and are trying to build for the future. It’s tough to tell if the Pistons think they can compete in a meaningful way with their current roster or if they are trying to rebuild. As far as I can tell, the Pistons are happy in mediocre land and it’s easy to stay there.

Chicago Bulls

Last Year’s Record: 41-41

Key Additions: Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn

Key Losses: Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo

2017-18 Outlook:

After trading away their best player, the Bulls are in rebuild mode. With Dwyane Wade, Zach Lavine, and Robin Lopez the Bulls will be good enough to win 20-25 games, but not more. That is why we should expect a buyout of Wade’s contract. Wade, Lopez, and Justin Holiday are the only players on the roster with more than four seasons under their belt. Other than the Bulls trying to get younger, it’s tough to see exactly what the Bulls are going for. Are they a defensive team, an offensive team, a tough team, a talented team? One thing is for sure, the Bulls are not a good team, at least for now, and they have no identity. A youth movement is great, but it usually doesn’t translate into wins right away and to dramatically improve, the Bulls will need high draft picks. Expect the Bulls to be bad, really bad.

Indiana Pacers

Last Year’s Record: 42-40

Key Additions: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Cory Joseph

Key Losses: Paul George, Jeff Teague, C.J. Miles, Monta Ellis

2017-18 Outlook:

The new-look Pacers have turned-over much of its roster, including its two best players in Paul George and Jeff Teague. Myles Turner will likely continue to improve and hopefully Oladipo will be able to develop into the player we thought he would. The Pacers are in re-build mode and need to lose games to get a better lottery pick. This is one of the easier strategies to pull off. The tougher part? Spending those draft picks on the players who can turn your franchise around.

 

Southeast Division Preview

1-Washington Wizards ↔

2-Charlotte Hornets ↑

3-Miami Heat ↔

4-Orlando Magic ↑

5-Atlanta Hawks ↓

 

Washington Wizards

Last Year’s Record: 49-33

Key Additions: Tim Frazier

Key Losses: None

The Wizards Big 3 will do their best to challenge the East heavyweights.

2017-18 Outlook:

The Wizards and the Raptors took largely the same approach to this off-season and in returning virtually the same team as last year, are hoping it will pay off in a conference full of teams that made roster overhauls. Wall, Beal, and Porter create a strong perimeter game that few teams can compete with. Gortat is solid in the middle, but whether he and Markief Morris can be enough of a compliment to the young perimeter trio will be a key to the Wizards’ success. Look for the Wiz to win the division and challenge the Cavs or the Celtics in the second round of the East Playoffs.

Charlotte Hornets

Last Year’s Record: 36-46

Key Additions: Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Michael Carter-Williams, Frank Jackson

Key Losses: Miles Plumlee

2017-18 Outlook:

The departure of Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, and Paul George from the East weakens three teams ahead of the Hornets in the standings and the addition of Dwight Howard improves the Hornets. This is all good news for Hornets fans and that means that the Hornets stand to be one of the more improved teams in the East. Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminski, and newcomers Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, and Michael Carter-Williams make for a strong rotation that could make a push for the wide-open fourth seed in the East Playoffs.

Miami Heat

Last Year’s Record: 41-41

Key Additions: Bam Adebayo

Key Losses: Chris Bosh (officially)

2017-18 Outlook:

Since watching Lebron walk, the Heat have lost Bosh and Wade, and missed out on every big name free agent it has targeted. Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are nice pieces, but this team lacks star power and a closer. When your big off-season signing is resigning Dion Waiters, you know it was a disappointing summer. They were a borderline Playoff team last year, which is where they will find themselves again this year.

Orlando Magic

Last Year’s Record: 29-53

Key Additions: Jonathan Isaac

Key Losses: None

2017-18 Outlook:

A young core of Mario Hezonia, Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic complimented by veterans Terrance Ross, Maurice Speights, and Arron Afflalo doesn’t look bad on paper. It’s been a long slow rebuild in Orlando and this season will be telling as to whether the Magic are on the right track.  With 25, 35, and 29 wins the last three seasons, if the Magic can’t get over the hill and into the Playoffs this season, they may be stuck in mediocre land, where they miss the Playoffs and miss the best talent in the lottery. If they want to push for the Playoffs, Gordon, Payton, and Hezonia will need to make a leap.

Atlanta Hawks

Last Year’s Record: 43-39

Key Additions: John Collins, Tyler Dorsey

Key Losses: Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard, Thabo Sefalosha

2017-18 Outlook:

Atlanta is going to be really bad this season. Losing Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard off a team that has been fading the last three seasons, threw the Hawks into a full rebuild. Look for the Hawks to challenge Brooklyn and Chicago for the worst record in the East and for their 10 season playoff streak to come to an end.

EAST PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

1-Cleveland Cavaliers

2-Boston Celtics

3-Toronto Raptors

4-Washington Wizards

5-Philadelphia 76ers

6-Milwaukee Bucks

7-Charlotte Hornets

8-Miami Heat

 

Pacific Division Preview

1-Golden State Warriors ↑

2-Los Angeles Clippers ↓

3-Los Angeles Lakers ↑

4-Sacramento Kings ↑

5-Phoenix Suns ↔

 

Golden State Warriors

Last Year’s Record: 67-15

Key Additions: Nick Young

Key Losses: None

No current team on Earth will beat this team.

2017-18 Outlook:

The Warriors haven’t changed a bit and that is exactly what they wanted. They paid Curry, Durant, Iguodala, and McGee and locked up the core for at least a couple more seasons. While lots of teams have made moves to try to catch up, the Warriors are still the unquestioned team to beat and everyone will be chasing them for the next few years. I see the Warriors winning their third title in four years and cementing their place as one of the all-time greatest teams in league history. Major injuries to key players and major infighting are the only things that could derail this train. Don’t be surprised if this team wins 70.

Los Angeles Clippers

Last Year’s Record: 51-31

Key Additions: Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Sam Dekker

Key Losses: Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Reddick, Raymond Felton

2017-18 Outlook:

The Clippers will have one of the tougher front-courts to match-up against in Gallinari, Griffin, and Jordan, but losing Paul, Crawford, and Reddick on the guard-line is going to be tough to replace. It’ll be interesting to see how the Clippers respond to losing its captain, especially with all of the rumors about Doc and his special treatment of his son. I’m guessing those whispers will grow if Austin is left as Doc’s best option at two-guard. Doc will be on the hot seat if he can’t find a new leader for the team and he realizes that all of his point guards with NBA experience play better off-the-ball or setting up themselves. Teodosic has been praised in the international game, but replacing an all-time great with a Euro-league player is not a position any franchise wants to be in. Should Blake play the point as the team’s best passer?

Los Angeles Lakers

Last Year’s Record: 26-56

Key Additions: Lonzo Ball, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma

Key Losses: Timofey Mozgov, Lou Williams, Jose Calderon, Nick Young,

2017-18 Outlook:

Laker-land has not had this much buzz since Kobe was good. Lonzo Ball appears to be the perfect fit to revitalize the Laker fan base. Reports are that the Lakers’ season tickets have already sold out and Lonzo is proving why he was taken so high despite his father’s antics. The Lakers’ promising core will lose a lot of game again this year, but they are sure to be more exciting this year than last. With Ball, Ingram, Nance Jr., Clarkson, Randall, Kuzma, and Zubac the Lakers will make an attractive destination for big name free agents next summer (Lebron, Paul George, Russell Westbrook). How is it that everything Magic touches turns to gold? This Lakers team looks poised to make a big leap next year, but this year will be one of growth (aka losing).

Sacramento Kings

Last Year’s Record: 33-49

Key Additions: George Hill, Zach Randolph, De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason III, Vince Carter

Key Losses: Rudy Gay

2017-18 Outlook:

Good things started to happen to the Kings once DeMarcus Cousins left town and dare I say that the Kings were among the league’s winners on draft night. The Kings are no going to make the Playoffs, but they are making progress in rebuilding the roster the right way. Fox will show us his speed that few in the league possess.

Phoenix Suns

Last Year’s Record:  24-58

Key Additions: Josh Jackson

Key Losses: Ronnie Price

2017-18 Outlook:

The Suns really like Josh Jackson to refuse to include him in trade packages for Kyrie Irving. At the end of the day, the Suns keep their young, athletic wing and will hope to see him grow next to rising star Devin Booker, and promising big men, Marquese Criss and Dragan Bender. The Suns still have questions at point guard. After losing Brandon Knight to a knee injury will an in-and-out of the line-up Eric Bledsoe or the surprising Tyler Ulis take the reins. Am I the only one that feels like Bledsoe has gotten the raw end of the deal in Phoenix?  He’s played pretty well to be constantly on the trading block.  Regardless, the Suns are tracking for another rough season when it comes to the win-loss column.

Southwest Division Preview

1-Houston Rockets ↑

2-San Antonio Spurs ↔

3-New Orleans Pelicans ↔

4-Memphis Grizzlies ↓

5-Dallas Mavericks ↓

 

Houston Rockets

Last Year’s Record: 55-27

Key Additions: Chris Paul

Key Losses: Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker

The Rockets are dangerous with two of the best playmakers in the land.

2017-18 Outlook:

Upgrading the point guard position from Patrick Beverley to Chris Paul is significant and can’t be understated for a team that won 55 games last year. That said, they won those 55 games with the ball in James Harden’s hands most of the time. Now you are adding another player that needs the ball in his hands all the time too. Paul is one of the best half-court players and he’s been added to a team that runs and guns under Coach of the Year, Mike D’Antoni. How will the pieces fit and more importantly, how long will it take for Paul and Harden to adjust to one another? My bet is, not long and Paul will have Harden committed on the defensive side of the ball.

San Antonio Spurs

Last Year’s Record: 61-21

Key Additions: Rudy Gay

Key Losses: Manu Ginobili

2017-18 Outlook:

The Spurs retained Patty Mills on a four-year 50 million dollar deal, but landed only Rudy Gay in free agency. With so many of the other top Western teams making upgrades to their talent, by adding only a post-achilles surgery 31-year old Gay, and potentially losing Ginobili and Parker to retirement and injury, the Spurs may find themselves outside of the top 3 in the West for the first time in a long time. Gay doesn’t seem to be a Spurs kind of guy. He’s an inefficient volume shooter that is not known for his defense. That said, you can never underestimate the Spurs and don’t be surprised if they are once again overlooked and still end up winning 60 games.

 

New Orleans Pelicans

Last Year’s Record: 34-48

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: None

2017-18 Outlook:

Word in New Orleans is that Davis and Cousins have been working out together working on chemistry and “gelling.” Time will tell if they can put it all together this season. Davis is the Tracy McGrady of his generation, great individual talent that can’t seem to stay healthy or win at a high level. Will that continue or will Davis break through? Will Boogie be traded in a contract year or will the Pels feel confident that he will resign? Is there any truth to the rumors that Boston is making offers for Davis? With Holiday, Rondo, Davis, and Cousins, this team easily has the talent to make the Playoffs, but I will believe it when I see it. After the Cousins trade last season, the Pelicans were 7-10 with Cousins in the line-up and 4-4 when he didn’t play. That’s concerning.

Memphis Grizzlies

Last Year’s Record: 43-39

Key Additions: Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore

Key Losses: Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Tony Allen

2017-18 Outlook:

The Grizzlies continue to be that team that hangs around in the Playoffs every year in the least exciting way possible. They have no stars, they change coaches, they change roles of key players, but they still play team defense and they continue to win. So why should I predict anything else? It looks like the Grizzlies are looking to change up their style of play by letting Zach Randolph and Tony Allen walk in free agency. I look at a solid roster with Conley, Gasol, Parsons, Evans, and McLemore and I am underwhelmed. The margin for error is smaller this year and I’d be willing to bet that the Grizzlies will be on the outside looking in on the Playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks

Last Year’s Record: 33-49

Key Additions: Dennis Smith Jr.,

Key Losses: None

2017-18 Outlook:

The Mavs are in full-on tank mode and even Mark Cuban admits that. The Mavs need to lose lots of games to find a replacement face of the franchise. Actually, the Mavs may have already found that in Dennis Smith Jr., many experts’ favorite for Rookie of the Year. I like Smith, but don’t think he will win ROY in a crazy deep class. Expect the Mavs to look like the Lakers in Kobe’s final seasons, as is the pattern for teams that remain dedicated to aging stars. Dirk will take a step backwards as he continues to slow down (is it possible for Dirk to get any slower?), but he will play a support role as Barnes continues to take on more of the role of lead dog on offense, complimented by Dennis Smith Jr. Look for the Mavs to finish at or near the bottom of the West.

 

Northwest Preview

1-Oklahoma City Thunder ↑

2-Minnesota Timberwolves ↑

3-Utah Jazz ↓

4-Denver Nuggets ↑

5-Portland Trailblazers ↔

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last Year’s Record: 47-35

Key Additions: Paul George, Patrick Patterson, Jerami Grant

Key Losses: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Taj Gibson

Westbrook didn’t need to wait long to get another elite running mate.

2017-18 Outlook:

Looks like OKC needed to endure just one season with Westbrook as the lone-star on this team. By adding Paul George, the Thunder made the West that much more competitive and the Thunder’s trio of Westbrook, George, and Adams form a tough and explosive two-way team. This will be an exciting team to watch and will be the favorites to win the Midwest Division Title. Westbrook’s individual numbers might come back to earth with George at his side, but the Thunder will be a better, more-balanced team this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last Year’s Record: 33-49

Key Additions: Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford

Key Losses: Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn

2017-18 Outlook:

No team in the West experienced as large of an overhaul to its core as the Timberwolves. Once loaded at point guard with Rubio, Lavine, and Dunn, the Wolves traded them all and brought in Jeff Teague to run the point. Jimmy Butler becomes the veteran leader for this team after being reunited with Coach Thibbs and with Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford the Wolves added just the right blend of veterans with its young core to lead the Wolves to their first Playoff appearance since 2004. In the process they will be snapping the league’s longest playoff drought and pushing the Thunder for a Division title.

Utah Jazz

Last Year’s Record: 51-31

Key Additions: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Thabo Sefalosha

Key Losses: Gordon Hayward, George Hill, Boris Diaw

2017-18 Outlook:

The losses of Gordon Hayward and George Hill hurt most on the offensive side of the ball as they combined for 38.8 points per game. That is a lot of offense to replace with a pass-first point guard (Ricky Rubio), a defensive specialist (Thabo Sefalosha), and a rookie (Donovan Mitchell). That said, Mitchell looks like he is ready to contribute on Day 1 and with Rudy Gobert is the middle, this Jazz team still figures to be a top two or three defensive team. The question for the Jazz will be can they score enough to make the Playoffs? It’ll be up to Hood, Favors, and Burks to stay healthy and put the ball in the basket for the Jazz to score enough to win consistently. Last year’s projected starting line-up played less than 200 minutes together. The Jazz will need better luck this year if they want to stay in the Playoffs.

Denver Nuggets

Last Year’s Record: 40-42

Key Additions: Paul Millsap

Key Losses: Dalino Gallinari

2017-18 Outlook:

Gallinari for Millsap? Is that enough to move the needle in Denver? Jokic and Millsap form a strong frontcourt and Jamal Murray seems to be coming along. I still don’t know what to think of Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s looking like a bust with his 42.8 percent effective field goal percentage (37.7 from the floor) and his assist down to 3.9 per game in 25 minutes per game. The Nuggets still have some young talent on the roster and if they continue developing, the Nuggets will challenge for a Playoff spot, though ultimately I don’t see them having enough this season in a crowded race.

Portland Trailblazers

Last Year’s Record: 41-41

Key Additions: Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan

Key Losses: None

2017-18 Outlook:

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are bonafide stars and have created the most potent scoring backcourt in the NBA outside of Golden State. The Blazers stood pat this off-season, keeping its current roster in tact and adding a couple of quality rookies. Swanigan was one of the stars of summer league and time will tell if he can contribute right away. The question is with so many teams in the West improving, what does that mean for a fringe Playoff team when the Timberwolves and Pelicans look to be better this year and only maybe the Jazz and Grizzlies taking a step backward. It seems unlikely that the Blazers will move much in either direction and .500 seems about right again for this season.

WEST PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

1-Golden State Warriors

2-Houston Rockets

3-San Antonio Spurs

4-Oklahoma City Thunder

5-Minnesota Timberwolves

6-New Orleans Pelicans

7-Los Angeles Clippers

8-Utah Jazz

 

The Golden State Warriors will once again face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and the Warriors will be crowned champs once again. There is currently no team on the planet more talented with complimentary parts than the Warriors. As long as Steph Curry leads an offense with Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant on the wings, while Draymond Green spear-heads the defense, this team will win the championship every year until this core is broken up.

 

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