The NBA season is almost underway, and throughout all the turmoil that occurred over the offseason, the front-runners are pretty much the same couple of squads. However, there are certainly still some questions, can Lebron lead the Lakers to a deep playoff run? Will Derozan continue the Spurs legacy? Will a Kawhi-led Raptors finally find playoff success? Here’s my predictions for how the NBA postseason bracket will turn out.
1.Golden State Warriors
2017-18 Record: 58-24, 2nd in West
MVP: PG Stephen Curry
Key Add: C Demarcus Cousins
Key Loss: C Javale McGee
X-Factor: C Demarcus Cousins
Overview: No surprise here. The Warriors are still the only team in the NBA that have been able to obtain 4 stars that are unselfish enough to spread the ball and disregard individual achievement. I still believe that Stephen Curry is the most valuable player on this team, as their best season to date was without SF Kevin Durant. Demarcus Cousins has never been a winner, so I’m curious to see how he mends with this squad this season. Regardless, they’re by far the best team in the NBA
2017-18 Record: 65-17, 1st in West
MVP: SG James Harden
Key Add: SF Carmelo Anthony, kinda
Key Loss: SF Trevor Ariza
X-Factor: PG Chris Paul
Overview: The Rockets are still incredibly talented, and the trio of James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela still rank among the best trios in the NBA. However, with the losses of defensive star Trevor Ariza and the addition of cancerous Carmelo Anthony, I do think they fall short of competing with the Warriors. However, if Melo can become more unselfish, and Paul can stay healthy, they’ll be a threat.
3. Utah Jazz
2017-18 Record: 48-34, 5th in West
MVP: SG Donovan Mitchell
Key Add: SG Grayson Allen
Key Loss: None
X-Factor: PG Ricky Rubio
Overview: The Jazz exploded last season, after many expected a dip in production following the departure of Gordon Hayward. Donovan Mitchell proved himself as a legitimate two-way star, posting 20.5 ppg in his rookie season. Paired with DPOY Rudy Gobert, along with SF Joe Ingles and PG Ricky Rubio, they’re the best defensive team in the NBA. If Rubio can distribute and score like he did last season, this underrated team can easily take the West by surprise.
Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 Record: 35-47, 11th in West
MVP: Lebron James, SF
Key Add: Lebron James, SF
Key Loss: Julius Randle, PF
X-Factor: Brandon Ingram, SF
Overview: There’s been a lot of debate about how the new Lebron-led Lakers will fare this season. Some sites, (*cough cough* ESPN) even have the Lakers missing the playoffs. While the three-point shooting and defense on the team is a little iffy, any team with Lebron James is going to end up in the playoffs. If Lonzo Ball can play at a slightly elevated level than he did last season, and continue to spread the ball efficiently, and Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma can take the role of Lebron’s secondary scorer, the Lakers will have a successful season.
5. San Antonio Spurs
2017-18 Record: 47-35, 7th in West
MVP: Demar Derozan, SG
Key Add: Demar Derozan, SG
Key Loss: Kawhi Leonard, SF
X-Factor: Demar Derozan, SG
Overview: This is Derozan’s team now. For the first time in 20 years, it’s up to someone other than Kawhi Leonard or Tim Duncan to lead the Spurs. The Spurs are set to improve on last season, as they fared pretty well without Leonard, and have basically the same team as last year, (well… minus their two 40-year-old franchise cornerstones). I think Derozan has elite talent, and as the only player left who truly thrives on the mid-range, I think Pop will turn Derozan, into a superstar that, with the help of Lamarcus Aldridge, could pull off some postseason upsets.
6. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 Record: 46-36, 9th in West
MVP: Nikola Jokic, C
Key Add: Isaiah Thomas, PG
Key Loss: Wilson Chandler, SF
X-Factor: Paul Millsap, PF
Overview: The Nuggets are easily one of the most exciting squads in the NBA this season, with the young trio of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris emerging as one of the best young cores in the league. Center Nikola Jokic has been on an upward trend his whole career, and after averaging 6.1apg last season, he’s already solidified himself as one of the best passing big men of all time, along with one of the most unique talents in the league. If Paul Millsap, the former all star PF who missed 43 games due to a wrist injury last season, can establish a solid defensive presence this season, the Nuggets are destined for a playoff spot.
7. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 Record: 48-34, 6th in West
MVP: Anthony Davis, PF/C
Key Add: Julius Randle, PF
Key Loss: Demarcus Cousins, C
X-Factor: Jrue Holiday, SF
Overview: If the season were to turn out the way I predicted, the Pelicans would be one of the best 7th seeds of all time. Led by two-way superstar Anthony Davis, the Pelicans pulled of a 4-0 upset against the Blazers last year and proved the true potential the duo of Holiday and Davis. The frontcourt is ridiculous, with the addition of Julius Randle, and the acquisition of PF Nikola Mirotic last season. If Holiday can play like he did during the postseason, the Pelicans can make a splash this season, however they’re lacking the depth to slip in to the top 6.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
2017-18 Record: 49-33, 4th in West
MVP: CJ McCollum, SG
Key Add: Gary Trent Jr, SG
Key Loss: Shabazz Napier, PG
X-Factor: Damian Lillard, PG
Overview: The Blazers went on an incredible run during the second half of the 2018 NBA season, and ended up as the 4th best team in the West, a spot which they promptly proved they didn’t deserve. McCollum is an incredible talent and a future superstar, and while Lillard and Nurkic are both very good players, there’s too much ego on this team to play unselfish basketball. If they can pick up momentum like they did last year, their talent can propel them past their chemistry, but I think this is the year where NBA fans find out the McCollum-Lillard duo is soon to be over.
1. Boston Celtics
2017-18 Record: 55-27, 2nd in East
MVP: Kyrie Irving, PG
Key Add: Gordon Hayward, SF (I’m counting it)
Key Loss: None
X-Factor: Gordon Hayward, SF
Overview: The Celtics are obviously the team to beat in the East this year, with a starting five that outmatches everyone other than Golden State in talent. Even with injuries to stars, SF Gordon Hayward and PG Kyrie Irving, the Celtics were able to make a deep playoff run and give Lebron a run for his money. If Tatum and Brown can keep improving, and Irving plays at the MVP level he did last season, the Celtics could maybe stand a chance against Golden State.
2. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 Record: 48-34, 5th in East
MVP: Victor Oladipo, SG
Key Add: Tyreke Evans, SG
Key Loss: None
X-Factor: Myles Turner, C
Overview: The Pacers have a ridiculous amount of talent. Victor Oladipo is quietly emerging as one of the best players in the NBA, averaging 24.0ppg in a breakout season last year, along with 2.4 steals per game. Myles Turner will need to solidify himself as an elite rim protector and efficient scorer, but with Domantas Sabonis and Tyreke Evans off of the bench, the Pacers are incredibly deep.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 Record: 52-30, 3rd in East
MVP: Joel Embiid, C
Key Add: Wilson Chandler, SF
Key Loss: None
X-Factor: Markelle Fultz, PG
Overview: The 76ers gained a ton of media attention last season, with the Egos of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons appearing everywhere on social media. Unlike many NBA players, they do back it up with their play. Embiid and Simmons emerged as an elite duo, and they are both young and entering their primes. If 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz can break out, they’ll be an elite team in the East.
4. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 Record: 59-23, 1st in East
MVP: Kawhi Leonard, SF
Key Add: Kawhi Leonard, SF
Key Loss: Demar Derozan, SG
X-Factor: Kawhi Leonard, SF
Overview: The Raptors are a pretty tough team to guage this year. Although there is some auxiliary talent with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas, it will be up to Kawhi Leonard to prove he’s the same player as he was before his injury. The Raptors gave up their franchise all-time scorer Demar Derozan for Leonard, so it will be interesting to see if he will be able to improve on Derozan’s work in Toronto.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
2017-18 Record: 44-38, 7th in East
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF
Key Add: Brook Lopez, C
Key Loss: Jabari Parker, PF
X-Factor: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF
Overview: Giannis Giannis Giannis Giannis Giannis. The success of this squad is 100% up to Giannis Antetokounmpo, and that might not be a bad thing. The “Greek Freak” along with some scoring help from Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will need to take it up even another notch, (if that’s possible), to make this team a legit playoff contender. If Giannis can improve on his shooting and his defense, the Bucks will be an incredible one-man team.
6. Detroit Pistons
2017-18 Record: 39-43, 9th in East
MVP: Blake Griffin, PF
Key Add: Glenn Robinson III, SF
Key Loss: Anthony Tolliver, SF
X-Factor: Stanley Johnson, SF
Overview: The Pistons are a pretty confusing and, along with any Eastern team not listed in the top 5, a pretty irrelevant one as well. There’s certainly a lot of question marks, such as the lack of improvement of Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson. However, problems aside, the talent of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin alone should lead them to a playoff spot. Maybe if one of the younger guys breaks out they’ll be able to break through, but realistically, they’re just a place-filler.
7. Washington Wizards
2017-18 Record: 43-39, 8th in East
MVP: Bradley Beal, SG
Key Add: Dwight Howard, C
Key Loss: Chris McCullough, PG
X-Factor: Dwight Howard, C
Overview: Time has proven that the duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall is not enough to make a solid playoff push. Beal has been excellent, but frankly Wall will need to tackle his ego in order to become a more efficient teammate. Dwight Howard has never been the answer to a team’s ego problem, but if Howard and Wall can both just play their roles and allow Beal to blossom, D.C. has a pretty talented squad.
8. Miami Heat
2017-18 Record: 44-38, 6th in East
MVP: Josh Richardson, SF
Key Add: None
Key Loss: None
X-Factor: Hassan Whiteside, C
Overview: I’d guess that the average NBA fan can name maybe four players on this Miami Heat team. It’s an odd group, with Goran Dragic leading the scoring barrage, and Josh Richardson emerging as one of the league’s elite defenders. They’re not a ridiculously talented team, but they’re incredibly balanced and with the great coaching Spoelstra offers they’ll probably end up with a playoff seed.