By: Kento Kato
With the draft and the hectic part of free agency over with, most of the teams have filled out their roster. With that in mind, I have tried to come up with a prediction of what the standings will look like when it all plays out.
1. Cavaliers (62-20)
The Cavaliers may endure a bit of a championship hang over leading to a s low start. But with LeBron James at the helm, I do not see it being a problem for too long as he will know how to click the right buttons to make sure that this team is ready to win, mentally and physically, when the season comes around. Just like they did this season, they will turn it on when they need to.
2. Pacers (58-24)
The Pacers may be the most improved team in the league besides the Warriors. They picked up Jeff Teague, an upgrade over George Hill, and also picked up Al Jefferson and Thaddeus Young. They have the ability to play big and punish smaller teams, or roll out a small line up with a combination of Paul George, Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young as their power forward and center.
3. Celtics (53-29)
The Celtics were able to sign Al Horford, which gives them another guy who can create their own shot. This is something they lacked dearly last year as Isaiah Thomas was really the only to be able to do so last year. That, along with the continued development of their young players, and the consistency that is the defense and team work that coach Brad Stevens preaches, should get them to a third seed this year.
4. Pistons (50-32)
While the Pistons didn’t make too many roster changes, I believe that they will continue to improve. With last year’s break out star, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, one of the better pick and roll players in the league, leading the team, they will be exciting to watch again. Tobias Harris, Kentavious Caldwell Pope and Marcus Morris starting alongside the two, the team will have plenty of offensive fire power. If they can match coach Stan van Gundy’s defensive intensity, then they should be able to climb the standings.
5. Raptors (49-33)
It is hard to say that the Raptors have peaked since they are still relatively young. But with Kyle Lowry a year older, coupled with the fact that the Raptors failed to make any huge additions in the off-season, I believe that a lot of what the Raptors can do will end up being placed on if DeMarre Carroll can stay healthy and if DeMar Derozan can develop a more consistent three-point shot.
6. Knicks (46-36)
Health, health, health. That is going to be the biggest key for the Knicks this season. Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Brandon Jennings have all missed a significant amount of time the last couple years. If they do manage to stay on the court, then the team should have enough offense. They will be led by Carmelo Anthony and Derrick rose’s scoring, Joakim Noah’s passing, and Brandon Jenning’s ability to pour in a good 10ppg off the bench. The defense also has seen an improvement as rookie blocks leader, Kristaps Porzingis will be joined by Courtney Lee and the aforementioned Noah. It will also be interesting to see how the rest of the bench is able to perform and if new coach, Jeff Hornacek will be able to lead team.
7. Bulls (43-39)
The Bulls lost Derrick Rose, Paul Gasol, Joakim Noah, but acquired Rajon Rondo, Robin Lopez and Dwyane Wade. It will be a completely different team and it will be interesting to see how the team will gel with a lack of outside shooting in the backcourt. The front court will also have some competition for playing time as Lopez, Taj Gibson, and Nikola Mirotic will all be fighting for time.
8. Hawks (41-41)
While Al Horford went up north to Boston, the Hawks did their best to reload by adding Dwight Howard. With the genius of coach Budenholzer and a team full of players that know their roles, the defensive minded Hawks should be able to stay in the playoff hunt. I expect Paul Milsap to have a great year but the season will depend on how Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard.
9. Wizards (39-43)
The Wizards success will depend on Bradley Beal’s health. If he can be healthy for most of the season, then the trio of him, John Wall and Marcin Gortat could be enough to get them in the playoffs. I just do not see Beal doing that given his injury history.
10. Bucks (38-44)
Shooting. One of the most important things right now for NBA teams, and the Bucks lack it, severely. They really only have one consistent 3 point threat in their starting lineup and struggle to score overall. They are elite defensively with length at almost every position and head coach Jason Kidd preaching forcing turnovers. But until they can get more shooting, this team will struggle to get over the hump.
11. Hornets (36-46)
The Hornets were one of the biggest surprises last years as they boasted one of the best records in the NBA after the All-Star break. That being said, they lost starting shooting guard, Courtney Lee, and backups Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, both of whom played pretty important parts. Courtney Lee’s absence could be filled by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but they will miss the scoring that Lin and Jefferson brought.
If Chris Bosh can play then they may be able to fight their way into the playoffs. But with nobody really knowing if he can, will, or not play, it is hard to say that they will have enough offense to get in. With Whiteside, Dragic, and some nice young pieces, they will be in most of the games they play, but they seem to lack a second scoring option on the perimeter and that should hurt them in an improving eastern conference.
13. Magic (34-48)
The Magic seem to be lacking direction as they traded away Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka and signed Bismack Biyombo. It seems as if they are trying to win now, but they also have a logjam in the frontcourt now. They may struggle with identity which may lead to them having trouble winning close games.
14. Sixers (30-52)
The Sixers will finally get to see Joel Embiid but with Jahlil Okafor, and Nerlens Noel already there, it will be interesting to see who is the odd man out. Regardless, with Ben Simmons in the mix now, they should be more fun to watch. Mix that with some of the shooters they have acquired and it should finally get them out of the last spot in the east.
15. Nets (28-54)
The Nets look to finally be in rebuild mode as they have a roster full of young guys and projects. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brook Lopez is traded before the season is over either. The only problem is, the Nets do not have many first-round picks in upcoming years so unless something surprising happens, the Nets may be in this spot for a few years.