Ahhhhhh yes. We dive into this fresh new NBA season with my team (San Antonio Spurs) as the defending NBA Champions for a 5th time in NBA History. Ring Night is tomorrow night, and Tim Duncan will get to see his 5th banner go up and become honored as he'll be one of the few players in this league to ever win 5 rings and one of two this entire era (Kobe Bryant being the other).
Do I think the Spurs are done? How could I? They are coming back with the same team from a year ago and if they delve the minutes out like they did all of last regular season, you can guarantee to see this team make another deep postseason run. How does the rest of the Western Conference look? Oddly enough I think the Western Conference got weaker. Not to say that the East is now the class of the NBA, but can we be honest for a minute, the Easter Conference has legitimately 5 teams that could make the NBA finals this year. The Western Conference has a lot of solid teams that can win 50+ games this season, but are many of them ready for a deep postseason run? I only see maybe 3, definitely 2 teams competing for a title shot this season in the newly sequestered NBA formation. And when I say sequestered, I'm talking where the players have shifted towards, especially in the Eastern Conference.
Don't get me wrong, I think the west is still a strong conference, the strange part is all the best players are in the Eastern Conference. LeBron, Rose, Noah, Love, Wade, Wall, Melo, Rondo, and George (who is hurt all year) are all players that could make other teams revolve an entire team around in the Western Conference. I'm not saying that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't apart of that cream of the crop because they are, but they truly are the select few in the Western Conference. Steph Curry, James Harden, and Damien Lillard are really the only ones that I can think of where you could potentially build an elite squad around. Now you're wondering how come I left Lob City (Blake Griffin & Chris Paul) out of the equation. Well, I think they are legit too, but the issue is Blake will never be good by himself and Chris Paul is starting to hit that age where I question if you should build around him anymore. It's the same thing for Duncan, Dirk, and Kobe. They are all superstars but you can't build around them today. 10 years ago, you better believe it, but today it would be a travesty.
Basketball is such a great sport to research especially when it comes to the NBA because there are not that many players to conduct how a team may perform in an entire 82 game season. The only issue is deciding how healthy, what kind of stretches will teams have, how will teams respond heading out of the All-Star break or even what will happen during the postseason 6 months from now can make it all so difficult to project. But that's what makes it fun and I'm here to give you a blurb on each team and to give you an idea of how each team will do this season, and who will make the big dance come April.
This is an odd division this year because I honestly could see it going so many different ways. The Nets improved at head coach with Lionel Hollins but lost an aging Paul Pierce who at points became the soul purpose of their late surge and playoff success last season. If you take away the early struggles of the Nets last season, they were actually the best team after the All-Star break in 2014. That doesn't take away from them still being the oldest team in the league, but let's not kid ourselves in saying this team is young. The Raptors have the same squad coming back this season with Lowry & DeRozan manning the back court. They still have an issue of size as they won't have anybody to help them out down low on the blocks, but if they can get into a battle at the guard position, they should be able to win more than most. Boston is a team that has a full year under their belt with new coach Brad Stevens and he should help them improve immensely this season, not saying they are a playoff team but they could make some noise in that division and spoil chances for other clubs by making a new name for themselves this season. The Knicks have gotten worse since last season and if they make the postseason I'll be shocked. Carmelo Anthony should be fine, but how will they operate with Felton and Chandler now in Dallas? Only time will tell with them. The 76ers have a long way to go to be relevant again and unless they can muster up some back court magic to go along with Micheal Carter Williams and the two young guys up front in Noel and Embid, then they won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
This may be the best conference in basketball by the end of the season. They now have the best player in basketball in LeBron James and two of the best teams in all of basketball duking it out for potentially the top spot. This division should take a large flip considering the injury to Paul George for the Indiana Pacers and the trade the Lance Stephenson to Charlotte, but it doesn't take away from the power that is in this conference. The Bulls are clearly the class of this division unless the Cavaliers have something to say about it. The Bulls have one of the best starting 5's in basketball while their bench is also pretty sturdy and should make a large push at a title run this spring. We all know what the Cavaliers have done with their roster in acquiring a new big 3 in Irving, Love, and James but only will time on the court will tell if they mesh together and if that bench will provide the spark that they need to carry them into a 50 win team this season. I think the Pistons have a dark horse chance this season to creep up on some teams especially with how talented their front court is and with new coach Stan Van Gundy, I could see this team making a playoff push this upcoming season as well, they will just need some serious production from their back court this season to make waves throughout the Eastern Conference. The Pacers would be fine if they were completely healthy. I just don't see how they get back to the postseason knowing that their superstar is gone for the year, but that doesn't mean they aren't a playoff contender. The Bucks might just be the worst team in the league this year, but Jabari Parker for all we know could win rookie of the year and fool us all leading Milwaukee to a solid season, but in this division? Good luck with that.
Well this division looks like the most balanced division I've seen since 2009 before LeBron James made his first decision. I forget what the landscape of this division looked like before then but all I know is that their isn't a clear cut favorite to win this season. There is one team that looks relatively stacked and could make a push at the Conference Finals and that is the Washington Wizards. This team has the best back court in basketball in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Yes, Beal is out for a while early on in the season but once he's back these two will light it up and make Gortat and Nene look awesome. Losing Ariza may not look so bad considering how good Wall and Beal are, but if this team can improve as a squad this season, they could see themselves peaking into some serious May basketball in 2015. The Heat have clearly dropped off, but they are no slouches. Yes, they lost LeBron but they still have a solid Wade and Bosh, and now with new additions in McRoberts and Deng, they'll still be playoff contending team with their experience. The Hornets are a huge wildcard to me because they could easily be a 50 win team this season or they could miss the playoffs entirely. They have the talent to compete but I just wonder if they have been making the right steps to stay relative this past off-season? They have the pieces to make a run in April but can they get over the hump of mediocrity and land themselves outside of the bottom 4 in the Eastern Conference? I don't see it yet, but they could always prove me wrong. The Atlanta Hawks overachieved last year and I don't see them getting back to the postseason. Again, with this division anything is possible and they could get back, but the likelihood of it happening is very slim considering the upgrades in throughout the East. The Magic need to stay healthy and pray they get some good players in the draft next season, outside of a that, 30 wins is their goal this season.
Eastern Conference Seed's
1. Chicago Bulls 55-27
2. Cleveland Cavaliers 53-29
3. Washington Wizards 50-32
4. Brooklyn Nets 47-35
5. Toronto Raptors 46-36
6. Miami Heat 45-37
7. Detroit Pistons 42-40
8. Charlotte Hornets 40-42
First off, this division is very top heavy. There are only two teams I could see winning 50+ games this year and potentially 3 playoff teams, but considering the movement within the division, I don't see anybody winning 50 games. I see a 60 win team and a couple teams fighting for a playoff spot. The Clippers are the most entertaining team in the league for this upcoming season and they will be the lone 60 win team especially with another full year under the belt of Doc Rivers and improving that bench to make them one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Now with Steve Ballmer at the helm and making an effort to improve this Clipper franchise, I see them improving for years to come and it starts in year one. The Warriors worry me because last year they took a huge step back from the expectations I had for them. They also let go of one of the best coaches in the NBA in Mark Jackson and added Steve Kerr who I don't know if I can trust. I think they will be scrapping to get the wins they need to be in the upper portion of the western conference teams, but I just don't see it happening and I see them hanging around to make a push. The Suns are one of those teams so close to being in the postseason they can touch it. They were very close last season and this season I don't see it being much different. In fact, I could see Phoenix jumping the Warriors this season if the circumstances play out right and allow for them to get into the postseason, but it's truly a coin toss. The other two California teams in the Kings and Lakers, they just aren't good enough. Both teams have one legitimate superstar and that's about all that is worth watching because the rest of their teams just are not worth the price of admission.
Considering the early injury to Kevin Durant, this division might be open early for the taking, but once Durant gets back, it'll be a battle till the end of the season. This division has a squad in Portland that has improved on it's bench and with another year of maturation under the belt of Damien Lillard, the Blazers could be the class of this division. The Thunder have had their team slowly stripped over the past couple of years but the main pieces stay intact to keep them competitive for a top spot in the Western Conference. I think this year hinges on the play of Russell Westbrook more than any other year because of the lack of bench depth that the Oklahoma City Thunder possess, considering the depth that the Blazers have added with Chris Kaman and and Steve Blake, they might have some championship swagger that could lead them over the top in that division and they could finally knock off the Thunder if Westbrook has to carry the load early on. Don't sleep on the Nuggets either, they are my serious dark horse for this entire NBA season. This is the one team I could see going either boom or bust with Faried as now a legitimate superstar and their goal should be to shoot for 50 wins and the could very well do it. The other two teams are not worth the time and effort to talk about. Utah will win 30 but that's the ultimate goal, and the Timberwolves are the most obvious choice at rebuilding and if they win 30 games in would be the best they could do.
Only the most glorious division in the Western Conference and the best state of basketball in all of the NBA; Texas. The Spurs are no guarantee to win this division, but for now with who they are bringing back and the formula they use to win games, you have to put them at the top especially as Leonard is only improving. Yes the other guys are getting older, but Popovich will find a way to alter their minutes to make sure the team is rested for another postseason run. The Rockets may have something to say about that as they added Ariza in the off-season to bolster their roster making them a legit contender in the Western Conference. If Dwight Howard can get back to any kind of Orlando form that he was in 3-4 years ago, this team could make a title run. The Dallas Mavericks are really old, but they now have a team that could contend for a top 5 spot in the West. Last year, they were lucky they made the postseason, but they proved that they can compete with anybody pushing the Spurs to 7 games in the first round. They also acquired Chandler Parsons from Houston giving them another option on the offensive side of the ball where they could use one more person when Dirk isn't going bananas. The Grizzlies didn't improve this off-season, and yes they have a very balanced team but they are a team I worry about when it comes to age and their bench. I feel that they will look good early and fade by the time the All-Star break comes. The Pelicans are another team I really like this season improving drastically. They could be considered my third dark horse team this year and could really sneak up on some teams and even potentially have a winning record depending upon what happens in the division. They have a scary lineup and with Anthony Davis looking meaner this year then ever before, don't be alarmed if New Orleans rings some bells this season and gets to the 40 win mark. But, this division is so rough that 40 wins might be a bit of a stretch, but it is definitely a goal they can shoot for and eventually will get someday.
Western Conference Seed's
1. Los Angeles Clippers 60-22
2. San Antonio Spurs 58-24
3. Houston Rockets 55-27
4. Portland Trialblazers 54-28
5. Oklahoma City Thunder 52-30
6. Dallas Mavericks 51-31
7. Golden State Warriors 49-33
8. Denver Nuggets 48-34
2015 NBA Playoff Predictions
Since this will all begin in April I don't anticipate to be accurate and I won't get into details about who wins. Plus, I'm kind of irritated because some other major sports magazine picked the exact same outcome as me, so I'll just give you my predictions of what happens in the postseason and run away into the night!
1st Round Predictions
1 LA Clippers over 8 Denver 4-1
5 Oklahoma City over 4 Portland 4-3
3 Houston over 6 Dallas 4-3
2 San Antonio over 7 Golden State 4-2
1 Chicago over 8 Charlotte 4-2
5 Toronto over 4 Brooklyn 4-3
3 Washington over 6 Miami 4-3
2 Cleveland over 7 Detroit 4-0
1 LA Clippers over 5 Oklahoma City 4-2
2 San Antonio over 3 Houston 4-2
1 Chicago over 5 Toronto 4-1
2 Cleveland over 3 Washington 4-3
Conference Finals Predictions
Western Conference Finals: 2 San Antonio over 1 LA Clippers 4-1
Eastern Conference Finals: 1 Chicago over 2 Cleveland 4-3
2015 NBA FINALS prediction
San Antonio Spurs over Chicago Bulls in 7 games (4-3)
MVP: Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan retires as an MVP of the NBA Finals and back-to-back champion, along with tying Micheal Jordan in championships (6) while beating the Bulls in the process.
Story book ending for the greatest Power Forward to ever play the game.
Enjoy the 2014-15 NBA Season Everybody!