POCKET GUIDE NBA SEASON PREVIEW

Welcome to the next eight months of your life. The 2019-2020 NBA season is upon as. The battle for L.A. is the featured match up on night one of the NBA season, and many expect the Western Conference Finals to be the finale of the match up of superstar duos. Lebron and The Brow vs. Kawhi and Paul George.

Unibrow

But lets slow down. That’s a late May/June event. Lets deal in the here and now for a moment. This is being billed as one of the most exciting seasons in NBA history with no overwhelming favorite, and by my count, as many as 9 viable championship contenders.

We’ll give a little snippet on each of the leagues 30 teams. But lets for a moment toss out the idea that the time is upon us for the league to expand. Its been 15 years since the league added the then Charlotte Bobcats into the mix, and the time is right to expand to 32 teams.

The talent pool has increased, with the global basketball market expanding even more. Its been 27 years since the original Dream Team set the world on fire, planting the seeds for a wave of foreign born talent that hasn’t dissipated. Add in the advances in medical science and training, and player’s careers are able to last longer, guys that normally would be retiring at 32 or 33 are now playing until they’re 35 or 36, thus hoarding a roster spot from a younger player. Speaking of younger players, with the rule changes that have been implemented, it is now easier than ever for an 18 or 19 year old to step into the league and make an immediate impact. The physical rigors that would have at one point made that extremely difficult have been alleviated.

So not only is the talent pool from which to draw from expanded, so has the ability to expand the career length viability of the talent to stick around once drawn. That all leads to the need to expand the league.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the NBAPA runs through the 2023-2024 season. But either side can opt out earlier, after the 2022-2023 season. Certainly the players are all for expansion. More roster spots mean more opportunity. For the league, the ability to expand into new markets in the U.S. may off set some potential losses in the Chinese market following the Darryl Morey tweet debacle. Plus that expansion buy in check never hurts.

As put forth here before, IS THE TIME RIGHT FOR NBA EXPANSION the 2 cities that need to come into the league are Seattle and Las Vegas. Two new teams for the West, resulting in Memphis and New Orleans being sent to the East. I say Memphis and New Orleans mostly because I’ve actually seen a map of the United States and know that Memphis should be no stretch of the imagination be in the western conference.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what can we expect from the league this year?

MAvs duo

WESTERN CONFERENCE: SOUTHWEST DIVISION

  1. Houston Rockets
  2. Dallas Mavericks
  3. San Antonio Spurs
  4. New Orleans Pelicans
  5. Memphis Grizzlies

The Rockets remain the class of the division, and a strong contender for a NBA Finals run. It’ll be interesting to see if the Russell Westbrook/James Harden pairing can succeed where Harden and Chris Paul failed. Its been pointed out excessively that Westbrook and Harden co-existed together in Oklahoma City, but a lot has changed since then as each has gone from super talented side kick for Kevin Durant to uber ball dominant superstar. The role players around for this run make this an interesting team, and a not so dark dark-horse contender.

This season feels like the year where the league returns to star duos instead of the threesome motif that has been popular the last decade. And there may be no duo with more international interest than the Mavericks Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. As high as the expectations were for Doncic his rookie year, he seemingly exceeded them. Now we add in the Latvian Unicorn, more than a year removed from his injury? I expect Rick Carlisle to usher in the post-Nowitzki years with a playoff appearance. Especially if Max Kleber and Seth Curry step up as I expect, providing the Mavs big 2 a tough supporting cast.

Its an interesting mix of young developing talent, and vets on the downswing of their careers in San Antonio. Coach Popovich will always have the Spurs competing. But I’m not sure there will be enough. Another team with a Big 2, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are two stars in this league. But neither is a superstar. Can Derrick White and Dejounte Murray continue their ascension from late first round picks into borderline star players? How far along is Lonnie Walker IV in his development? The Spurs will be fighting with Dallas, Sacramento, and OKC for that final playoff spot. Ultimately though I think the Spurs dip into the lotto this year.

This Pelicans squad is loaded with young talent. Zion Williamson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes could and should all be considered “hits” in this year’s draft. Toss in the haul from Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade (Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart), and some veteran leadership in the form of Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, and Derrick Favors and there are gonna be nights where this Pelicans team is tough to beat. As with any team this young though, there are going to be nights where they look lost. This is a team on the rise, but the balloon is still be inflated.

The smash mouth, grind it out, bare knuckle brawler Grizzlies are officially dead. Gone are Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph. This is officially the Jaren Jackson Jr/Ja Morant era. Certainly they have a few other nice young pieces to take a look at in recent former first round picks Josh Jackson (Suns), Tyus Jones (T-Wolves), and Grayson Allen (Jazz), along with their own late first Brandon Clarke. But this will likely be a year of looking to see what they’ve got, and attempt to build up the trade value for deadline deal trade bait vets such as Kyle Anderson, Jae Crowder, and Andre Igoudala.

Jazz

WESTERN CONFERENCE: NORTHWEST DIVISION

  1. Denver Nuggets
  2. Utah Jazz
  3. Portland Trailblazers
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Probably the most overlooked team when I see discussions of contenders is the Denver Nuggets. Its always analysts talking about the Lakers, and the Clippers, 76ers, and Rockets, and then an “oh yeah, and don’t forget about the Nuggets”. This is a team with one superstar in Nikola Jokic and then a plethora of talent all over the roster. This is the likely number one seed in the west simply because they’re built to withstand injuries, and travel, and back to backs. Every night they’ll be able to throw enough bodies at you capable of doing some very good things in this league. And keep an eye out for Michael Porter Jr. if he can maintain his health (a big if with him), his development could provide Jokic with a worthy sidekick, making Gary Harris and Jamal Murray spectacular 3rd/4th options.

Possibly the three deepest teams in the league all reside in the same division. The Utah Jazz are talented and deep. The addition of perennially underrated Mike Conley could make Donovan Mitchell even better as he’s able to play off the ball more. Rudy Gobert is a stud in the middle. The supporting cast that they’re surrounded with now is talented and versatile. Bojan Bogdanovic is a better version of Joe Ingles, and Ingles is still around. Jeff Green is a solid bench addition, and Emmanuel Mudiay is a nice bench piece for the back court. Ed Davis’ addition and the development of Tony Bradley should offset the loss of Derrick Favors on the block. Quinn Snyder will have this team competing at levels they haven’t seen since the Karl Malone/John Stockon era.

Its tough being a Portland Trailblazer as no matter how well they play, its always just slightly not enough. A dynamic backcourt with Damien Lilliard and CJ McCollum is back to give it another try. Some slight alterations were made, adding Hassan Whiteside from Miami, along with Kent Bazemore from Atlanta will be ultimately fruitless. The biggest question will be can Anfernee Simons develop enough that the Blazers feel tempted to send out McCollum and others for a front court/wing piece the push Portland into the stratosphere of actual contenders? This will be another season filled with abundant regular season success, followed by post season heart ache.

Purgatory, thy name is Thunder. Oklahoma City is now stuck in the no man’s land of being pretty good, but not really good. In the not as deep eastern conference the Thunder would be a playoff squad. But here in the west they’ll be battling teams like the Spurs, Kings, and Mavs for a playoff spot, and they’re likely the worst of those 4. The reports of Chris Paul’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Shai Gilegeous Alexander is an interesting young NBA talent. Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, and Dennis Schroder are all very capable NBA starters. But this team just feels like it lacks direction. I don’t put anything past Sam Presti, but it feels like its time for a full on re-boot. Look to move Adams, Gallinari, Schroder, and Paul for young assets and picks and look to the future.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Wolves felt like a team that was on the rise. And yet it feels like a lifetime ago. This team is bad. Karl Anthony Towns is a fantastic NBA talent, and is likely the heir to the Anthony Davis throne of most talked about inevitable trade candidate out there. It was even tossed out on TopDucker’s twitter account that Jaylen Brown’s extension was made with KAT’s contract in mind, and having a player on the books that would be enticing to Minnesota in terms of upside, and matching contract. To that end, so wouldn’t Dejounte Murray, Buddy Hield, and Dom Sabonis’ extensions. At this point Andrew Wiggins is what he is. A decent volume scorer who won’t defend (I won’t say can’t, because he has all the tools to be an outstanding defender, with the exception of not having any heart. If he had a tenth of what guys like Marcus Smart or Patrick Beverly had, he’d be an all NBA player). Jeff Teague and Robert Covington are quality NBA players who deserve better, and likely will be elsewhere come the spring.

Lake show

WESTERN CONFERENCE: PACIFIC DIVISION

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Golden State Warriors
  4. Sacramento Kings
  5. Phoenix Suns

Doc Rivers has a squad to play with. A deep, talented roster with two headliners. The Clippers additions of Kawhi Leonard AND Paul George sent shockwaves throughout the league. That they then managed to surround that pair with the talent they did shows once again that Jerry West is likely the best to ever do it (as a HUGE Red Auerbach fan it pains me to say it, but its true). The Clippers are tough, gritty, and talented. Patrick Beverly and Montrezl Harrell provide the soul for the team. Lou Williams is still around as a super 6th man. Three tough versatile forwards in Maurice Harkless, Patrick Petterson, and JaMychel Green are around so the responsibility of guarding the likes of Lebron James doesn’t fall exclusively upon Kawhi’s shoulders. And not to be forgotten is the outside shooting provided by Landry Shamet. This is a deep, well balanced, hungry team.

Sharing a building with the Clippers are the glitz and glamour kings of the city, the Los Angeles Lakers. Lebron James has his most talented running mate yet. Sorry Dwyane Wade fans, but Anthony Davis is the best running mate King James has had. Will it be enough is the question? The supporting cast provided to Lebron and Davis is no where near as good as the support given to Kawhi and George. Its essentially Kyle Kuzma and a group of guys who are shells of their former selves: Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo. Truth be told, the best non-Davis addition they may have made in the offseason was point guard Quinn Cook, a former undrafted player who came on with the Warriors last year.

Speaking of the Warriors, it was mentioned by Steve Kerr this morning that Klay Thompson is likely out for the season, which makes all the sense in the world to give him a full year to recover from a torn ACL. It does beg the question of can Steph Curry and D’Angelo Russell, along with Draymond Green replicate or even come close to re-creating the pre-Durant success the Warriors had? It’ll be tough. Russell is certainly a capable scorer, but is not near the shooter Klay is, and isn’t even in the same solar system as Klay when it comes to defense. That’s before you even consider that those pre-Durant Warriors had bench pieces like Andre Igoudala, Shaun Livingston, and David West. It think this is a year where the Warriors sort through the pieces they do have to see who can contribute in 2020-2021 when the Splash Brothers are back? It wouldn’t shock to see guys like Glenn Robinson III and Marquese Chriss excel in Golden State when they’ve struggled elsewhere.

One of, if not THE surprise team of last season, the Kings, seem poised to make the leap into the playoff picture, on paper anyways. An incredibly talented young nucleus of De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield, and Harry Giles. Now adding some capable vets in Harrison Barnes, Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon, and Cory Joseph. It all seems to line up that the Kings will move into the West’s top 8. I suspect they’ll be competing for a playoff berth, but ultimately will fall just short. The future seems bright, but the jettisoning of Dave Joeger only to replace him with Luke Walton feels like it could stall the momentum built last year. And with so many other playoff capable teams in the west, if you’re not going full throttle out of the gate, it may be enough to keep you from reaching the finish line.

Another team with a bright future, on paper anyways, are the Phoenix Suns. A young core of DeAndre Ayton, Devon Booker, Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre, and Dario Saric sure looks good. Toss in solid vets like Ricky Rubio, and Aaron Baynes and you’d think this would be a team on the rise. Unfortunately there are so many teams above them in the west, including other young up and comers like the Kings, and Mavericks. It’ll be that roadblock that will ultimately result in another premature reboot in Phoenix. This team will be exciting, but because of the competition faced, will appear to be under achieving. It really is an interesting rebuild though as they’ve seemingly identified that they have their star duo in Ayton/Booker and now are looking to augment with niche players like Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome who they nabbed in the draft. Solid upperclassmen draftees with a slightly lower ceiling than those drafted after them, but a slightly higher floor as well. Guys more likely to step in an willingly accept supporting roles.

ATL

EASTERN CONFERENCE: SOUTHEAST DIVSION

  1. Atlanta Hawks
  2. Orlando Magic
  3. Miami Heat
  4. Charlotte Hornets
  5. Washington Wizards

Lets talk about who will be THE surprise team of the 2019-2020 season, the Atlanta Hawks. A team loaded with young talent. A young dynamic duo in Trae Young/John Collins. A team that added some vets to their young core in Evan Turner, Chandler Parsons, Jabari Parker, and Allen Crabbe. A team with young shooters in Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish. What makes this aspiring young team different than the Kings who are anticipated to just miss the playoffs? Opportunity. Where as the Kings are looking up at the two Los Angeles goliaths and the Warriors, the Hawks need only sneak past the Magic and Heat to take their division crown.

Atlanta may be excited about their prospects, but Orlando has some Magic of their own. The team bringing back free agents Nic Vucevic and Terrence Ross, along with inking former Trailblazer Al-Farouq Aminu signals that they believe the rebuild is over and that they’re ready to compete in the Eastern Conference. Much like Milwaukee last year the Magic possess the ability to put length all over the floor. The big difference is that they don’t have a Greek Freak. This team knows what they have in Aaron Gordon, Vucevic, Ross, Augustin, and Fournier. How far they can go depends upon the development of Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. The guess here is that Isaac makes a nice leap forward, becoming a real difference maker on defense, and a passable offensive threat. As a result I see the Magic sliding into the #2 spot in their division.

The popular, seeming consensus pick to win the division by pundits are the Miami Heat. The addition of Jimmy Butler was a nice pick up by Pat Riley. Butler would have fit in well with Riley’s Knicks squads, or his early Alonzo Mourning Heat teams. As it stands it appears, at least partially, that Riley would like to bring that style back as Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo play with a bit of toughness. Its the rest of the squad that lacks it (all due respect to Udonis Haslem who does possess that mentality, but is far too advanced in age to provide any real meaningful contributions on the court). Dion Waiters has already been suspended by the team for comments made about coach Erik Spoelstra. Kelly Olynyk thought he was headed out of town to Dallas at one point. Meyers Leonard is just biding time until he begins his second career as a male model. Poor Goran Dragic is perpetually underrated, and should be traded to the Lakers. The wild card will be rookie Tyler Herro who could be counted on to provide 90% of the team’s outside shooting. It all adds up to an experiment that seems destined to fail.

And if we’re talking about failing, then we’ve got to talk about the Charlotte Hornets. This is a rudderless team. Their lone star walked, and in return they replaced him with Terry Rozier. Now don’t get me wrong, given his own team to run, with no other legitimate threat to his dominance, Terry Rozier is going to put up some nice numbers. But this is a team of Scary Terry, and then a bunch of mediocre versatile forwards in the form of Marvin Williams, Nic Batum, and now PJ Washington. The only thing saving the Hornets from rock bottom is that there is currently someone inhabiting rock bottom.

Well, hello there Wizards, fancy seeing you here at rock bottom. This is just a bad team. John Wall is now officially injury prone, and cannot be counted on now, or anytime in the future. Especially for a guy so dependent upon his athletic ability. If that ability is impeded even a smidge, he’ll be a shell of his former self. Which is all a mute point as I wouldn’t expect to see Wall this season. His running mate, Bradley Beal just inked an extension. Beal is a star that is just wasting away. The only, and I mean ONLY bright spot about the Wizards current situation is that they have plenty of minutes available to see what they have in recent late lotto picks, Troy Brown Jr. and Rui Hachimura.

EASTERN CONFERENCE: CENTRAL DIVISION

Its been lamented what a loss Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic were for the Bucks. And certainly you won’t see any Brogdon slander here. But Mirotic’s impact on Milwaukee feels a bit overblown. This team still has the reigning league MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. It still has all star Khris Middleton. It returns solid rotation pieces Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, George Hill, Ersan Ilyasova, and Pat Connaughton. Its looking at a sophomore in Donte DiVencenzo ready to contribute if given the chance, and then also added numerous veterans ready to make a playoff run in Robin Lopez, Wes Mathews, and Kyle Korver. They even took a flyer on former lotto pick Dragan Bender a former #4 overall pick who is still just 21 years old. The 76ers may have a TOUGH starting 5. But they can’t hold a candle to the Bucks depth. This is still the team to beat in the East.

Coming up just behind them in the division is the team that did obtain the services of Malcolm Brogdon. The Pacers didn’t stop with Brogdon as they also improved their depth. Certainly see Thaddeus Young walk hurt a little, but the development of TJ Leaf, and rookie Goga Bitadze (whom I’m high on) to augment the potent post duo of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis will alleviate some of that pain. So should the addition of TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, and Justin Holiday. Three guys who can put points on the board. Warren especially blossomed last year in Phoenix. If that group can hold the fort until Victor Oladipo returns (and the latest reports have Oladipo back sometime around Thanksgiving), then they’ll be positioned to make noise in the playoffs.

In Chicago the rebuild continues. The young Bulls squad has some nice young pieces. Though none seem to be the alpha an NBA team needs. A handful of nice Robin pieces with no Batman. Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. are skilled NBA players, but none have the feel of being “the guy”. No guy has turned me around more than Coby White. The rookie out of UNC looked just okay to me at Chapel Hill, but from draft night through pre-season he’s made me a fan. Even though they don’t have a lead actor, this ensemble cast has the makings of a team competing for one of the last playoff berths. I suspect they’ll fall short, but they’ll be in that 9/10 mix in the East.

Conversely, the Pistons do have a Batman in Blake Griffin. They even have a Robin in Andre Drummond, but for some reason the whole team just feels like a joker. I even think that ultimately rookie Sekou Doumbouya will look like one of the steals of this summer’s draft. But this team is just put together poorly for the modern NBA. Two very good post players and a bunch of very mediocre wings and guards. It should come as no surprise if come late January Blake Griffin’s name is being floated around as a trade candidate. Someone a team like the Nuggets would covet (A Paul Millsap, Malik Beasley, Bol Bol package is something Detroit would need to look at).

Luckily for the Pistons, there is a team currently worse than them just south of the border. The Cavs do have some nice young pieces in Collin Sexton, and Darius Garland. I’m not certain how well they’ll fit together. But we’re certainly going to find out. I think we’ll see a resurgence of Kevin Love under the tutelage of new coach Jim Beilein. If you can imagine giving former West Virginia Mountaineer Kevin Pittsnoggle the Captain America drugs, that’s what you’ll have in Kevin Love. If Love can show he can be and stay healthy, he’ll be a very valuable trade chip come summer, or sooner. The youngins will be given every opportunity to show what they got. That usually leads to losses and lottery picks. This won’t be any different.

Celts

EASTERN CONFERENCE: ATLANTIC DIVISION

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. New Jersey Nets
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. New York Knicks

I REALLY really want to say that the improved chemistry in Boston will be enough to supplement the sixers at the top of the standings, but I’m not foolish. The 76ers have an outstanding starting five. They can play defense. They can shoot just enough. They can score. They have youth, they have vets. And the divison is theirs to lose. That being said, they are not infallible. Their bench has some potential, but an awful lot of question marks. The starters, if healthy of Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Ben Simmons look awfully good. But lets not forget that Embiid has a tendency to miss games. Horford needs to rest his knees from time to time. Harris seemed to bust out the last year or so, but that was after having bounced around from the Bucks to the Magic, to the Pistons, before reaching his potential in Los Angles with the Clippers under Doc Rivers. Its always concerning when a guy as seemingly as talented as Harris moves around that much, and Brett Brown is NOT Doc Rivers. Then you have former 2nd rounder Josh Richardson, a guy who has seemingly had to fight for everything he’s gotten in the league, and finally you have Ben Simmons. Ben Simmons, the point guard who still has never hit a three pointer in an NBA game that counts. Which is all to say, that the line up is formidable, but no above concern. The key to season hinges upon what they can get out of their bench. Rookie first rounder Matisse Thybulle is a defensive stud. Trey Burke, Mike Scott, James Ennis, and Kyle O’Quinn are decent NBA players. But if neither Zaire Smith or Jonah Bolden steps up the bench will be the team’s downfall.

In Boston the question will be can they sustain their defense with Al Horford gone. Make no mistake, Kyrie Irving is a better player than Kemba Walker. But the Celtics will not miss a beat plugging in Walker for Irving. The real issue will be replacing Horford. Enes Kanter is a decent big, and a double double machine, but he doesn’t provide anywhere near the defensive presence that Horford did, nor his offensive versatility. I may be (and in fact AM) in the minority, but I think the loss of Marcus Morris is a plus. As much as blame was laid upon Kyrie’s feet for chemistry issues, I suspect losing Morris will be an overall plus. His indiscriminate shot selection, along with his absence providing more clearly defined minutes/roles for the remaining wings (Tatum/Brown/Hayward) will result in improved chemistry. The wild cards for the C’s are a couple of young players: Robert Williams and Carsen Edwards. If Edwards can produce in regular season games in similar fashion to what he has done in NBA summer league and pre-season games, then he’ll provide a real scoring boost off the bench. And if Williams can continue his development as predicted it won’t be too long until he can provide a Clint Capela like impact (as discussed here previously: CLINT CAPELA AND THE BOSTON CELTICS)

After the Celtics is where the real question marks begin in the division. Next year will be a different story when Kyrie will have his running mate in Kevin Durant. But until then, how will the Nets perform? If the last year’s Celtics team taught us anything is that when a young upstart team has great chemistry the prior year, that guarantees you nothing the next season. And that’s not even a shot at adding Kyrie to the equation in each case, that’s just how it works. Ultimately Kyrie, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen will be good enough to get this team into the playoffs, but they’ll need Durant before they can be considered legit threats to make the conference finals.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks like they’re here to stay. The theme song of the Toronto Raptors. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol are another year older, and seem like an old 33 and 34 respectively. Pascal Siakam just got paid like he is a #1 option, when really is a really really good #3 guy. The Raptors have some decent supporting cast members in Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Norm Powell, OG Anunoby, and Rondae Hollis Jefferson. It all adds up to a lot of mediocrity without a focal point star to carry them. The Raptors will have some good nights, just not nearly enough. The real difference between the Nets getting into the playoffs and the Raptors being a lotto team? Kyrie is THAT much better than Kyle Lowry.

I am almost… ALMOST tempted to put the Knicks ahead of the Raptors. That’s how far I think Toronto falls this year. It was a running joke I made all spring that Knicks fans were going to bed dreaming of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and would be waking up to Nic Vucevic and Jeremy Lamb. Who knew that I was giving the Knicks too much credit? The Knicks brought in a slew of retread veterans. I’m not certain how they’re approaching the season. If they’re looking to improve the value of some of these guys, then flip them for picks/assets from contenders at the deadline, then I love it. If they think they’re actually going to compete, then they’re crazy. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt in saying that they drastically improved the depth of their team, and that they hope competition breads improvement. And to their credit they didn’t overspend on one or two players when they missed out on their plan A. They went and spread the money around hoping to hit on one or two young vets. A group that includes: Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, and Julius Randle. That group should allow them some opportunity to obtain assets at the trade deadline, while also giving the young group of RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier, and Dennis Smith Jr time to develop with less pressure. And pressure is always a concern when you’re trying to group up in front of the fans at Madison Square Garden.

Projected Final Standings By Conference:

West

  1. Denver Nuggets
  2. Houston Rockets
  3. Los Angeles Clippers
  4. Utah Jazz
  5. Los Angeles Lakers
  6. Portland Trailblazers
  7. Golden State Warriors
  8. Dallas Mavericks
  9. Sacramento Kings
  10. San Antonio Spurs
  11. Oklahoma City Thunder
  12. New Orleans Pelicans
  13. Phoenix Suns
  14. Minnesota Timberwolves
  15. Memphis Grizzlies

East

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Atlanta Hawks
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Indiana Pacers
  6. Orlando Magic
  7. Miami Heat
  8. Brooklyn Nets
  9. Toronto Raptors
  10. Chicago Bulls
  11. Detroit Pistons
  12. New York Knicks
  13. Cleveland Cavaliers
  14. Charlotte Hornets
  15. Washington Wizards

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Clippers over the Lakers

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Bucks over the 76ers

Los Angeles Clippers

NBA FINALS: CLIPPERS in 6 games

ALL NBA TEAMS:

FIRST TEAM

F- Lebron James – Los Angeles Lakers

F- Kawhi Leonard – Los Angeles Clippers

C- Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets

G- Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors

G- James Harden – Houston Rockets

SECOND TEAM

F- Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

F- Paul George – Los Angeles Clippers

C- Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers

G – Damien Lilliard – Portland Trailblazers

G – Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

THIRD TEAM

F – John Collins – Atlanta Hawks

F – Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers

C – Kristaps Porzingis – Dallas Mavericks

G – Russell Westbrook – Houston Rockets

G – Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Steph Curry

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: RJ Barrett – New York Knicks

COACH OF THE YEAR: Rick Carlisle – Dallas Mavericks

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Lonzo Ball – New Orleans Pelicans

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Steph Curry – Golden State Warriors

 

  • Written by Jason Sullivan
  • Find us and follow on Twitter @TopDucker or on Facebook at You’re Ducking Right

 

 

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