How exciting is it for us basketball fans that the 2016 NBA season will be upon us in a little more than 24 hours?
With the Cleveland Cavaliers being the defending champions, all 29 teams will be gunning to beat the champs. I feel there is a lot about which to be intrigued this upcoming season. It starts with Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors and it ends with my favorite team — the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Warriors should have little trouble claiming the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. I think the San Antonio Spurs will be solid, again, with the addition of Pau Gasol. But some funky rumors of the Spurs possibly looking to trade LaMarcus Aldridge is something that is un-Spurs. All of their experiments turn out for the best. They still have Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Who could forget Gregg Popovich?
The Warriors have a three-point shooting spree in their starting lineup. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant love to chuck up threes. However, I feel the lost of Harrison Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Andrew Bogut and Marreese Speights will hurt the Warriors. That’s a lot of depth to lose. Still, it’s going to be tough to beat a team with four outstanding players.
James Harden was named the point guard of the Houston Rockets, and it only makes sense. He is a triple-double threat and was the main ball-handler for the Rockets since he arrived in 2012. If Houston earns a top four seed in the West, expect him to receive a significant amount of MVP votes.
Will this be the last run for the Los Angeles Clippers? This team always seems to under-perform in the playoffs. Injuries and limited capacity on offense has hurt this team in the past. The Clippers don’t have as much depth as people would like to think. Also, the duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin isn’t what it used to be anymore. Both players are older, and Paul looks like he is starting to decline, despite his style of play being rather grounded and traditional of a point guard. Griffin is clearly the best player on the Clippers, but can he avoid injury and keep his head above the fray? That question will remain unanswered until the playoffs roll around.
Russell Westbrook is my early favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award. He will go off this season. Oklahoma City had one of the league’s top rosters last season and its roster is still good, even with the loss of Serge Ibaka and Durant. With the addition of Victor Oladipo — along with Steven Adams and Enes Kanter — led by Westbrook, I think the Thunder has a chance to be the second best team in the West.
I think the Minnesota Timberwolves make the playoffs. Karl-Anthony Towns will be a candidate for MVP and Andrew Wiggins will reach star-status. Zach LaVine will be one of the most improved in the entire league, and Tom Thibodeau will get the most out of point guards Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn. Gorgui Dieng is a viable NBA player and one the more efficient big men in the game. This Minnesota roster is set, but it will need contributions from its bench to make some noise in the playoffs. I think the T-wolves have enough to sneak into the playoffs, though.
In the Eastern Conference, I expect teams like the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks challenge the Cavaliers. I really like what the Pacers did in the offseason by adding Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, and what the Hawks did with Dwight Howard. With Howard being at home in Atlanta, I think he rediscovers his younger days and turns back into a solid offensive player and a force on defense.
With Paul George leading the Pacers, I like what this team did. George is one the NBA’s best players, and Larry Bird surrounded him with solid offensive options. Young talent Myles Turner should see his playing time increase, despite the addition of Al Jefferson. I think the Pacers will use Jefferson in short spurts where he can be effective and efficient on offense, but Turner will close most games. Turner could turn into a star.
I think the Chicago Bulls will underachieve, along with the New York Knicks. Second-year head coach Fred Hoirberg might have a headache 10 games in for the Bulls. The Bulls have two viable three-point threats — Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic — but the roster is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. Dwyane Wade returns to Chicago and the Bulls shipped Derrick Rose to New York and signed Rajon Rondo, a former shell of himself from his days in Boston. Chicago will be lucky to win 35 games in the Eastern Conference. This roster is not good and it might turn dysfunctional, and might lead to the demise of Hoiberg.
The Knicks are far from a “super team,” like Rose said. This team has Kristaps Porzingis, who might be the best player on the team, and Carmelo Anthony. If Rose returns to his MVP-level of play, then the Knicks will get into the playoffs, but I don’t see this team going anywhere, especially anywhere near the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Too much competition stands in their way.
The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors will have nice regular seasons, but both teams will not challenge the Cavaliers in the playoffs.
Here are my rankings about how I think each conference with shake out.
- Golden State Warriors
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- San Antonio Spurs
- Los Angles Clippers
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Houston Rockets
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Utah Jazz
- Dallas Mavericks
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Denver Nuggets
- Sacramento Kings
- New Orléans Pelicans
- Phoenix Suns
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Boston Celtics
- Toronto Raptors
- Atlanta Hawks
- Charlotte Hornets
- Indiana Pacers
- Detroit Pistons
- Washington Wizards
- Miami Heat
- Chicago Bulls
- New York Knicks
- Orlando Magic
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Brooklyn Nets
It should be an exciting season, and I can’t wait for all 2,460 games.