The Season is off and running, and I love it. Even with the Sixers getting embarrassed on opening night, it’s great to watch real basketball again. As promised in my 2018-19 Ultimate Season Preview, here is my full opinion on each Eastern Conference team. (Going in Alphabetical Order)
Atlanta Hawks – Things are so different now. For most of my adolescent NBA fandom, I thought of the Hawks as an above average NBA franchise that was always a lock for the playoffs and maybe even a second round appearance. Just four years ago the Hawks were a 60 win team that thrived off of Al Horford’s defense, Paul Milsap’s consistency, and Korver’s lights out shooting. But what I remember most about that 2015 Hawks team was the playoffs, specifically, their struggles in the playoffs. They somehow needed six games to beat a Nets team led by washed up Joe Johnaon, would’ve lost to the Wizards had the officials not missed the over-the-back foul on Horford on his game 5 winner, and were then promptly swept by the Cavs in the Conference Finals. The Hawks realized that team would never be good enough, and have now settled into their role as an awful franchise that is looking to rebuild in a small market. And to make things worse, I personally think they made a horrible decision in the draft. I ranted and raved about how great Luka Doncic was going to be, and after the Kings stupidly passed on him, I figured that the Hawks would pick the perfect Hawks culture guy in Luka: an unselfish creator that can be comfortable in a small market. Instead, they traded the European sensation for Trae Young, whose college team was downright horrible towards the end of the year, and brings the Hawks a culture of jacking dumb threes and sucking up to LeBron and Nike so that he can move to a better, big market team. But it gets worse, because I think they screwed up their second pick as well! Kevin Huerter??? Are you kidding me? That guy was getting schooled by the crappy Ohio State guards left and right, and trust me I watched. I know he’s tall and can allegedly shoot, but come on. If you’re going to pick your white guy shooter, why not take Grayson Allen, a college legend who wins games and has already looked great in preseason. The only thing I liked about the Hawks draft was their pick of Villanova big man Omari Spellman, who is strong, quick, and a deceptively good shooter. But as much as I love Omari, he’s not enough. Get ready Hawks fans, all 26 of you, because you’re going to lose as often as the Falcons blow leads.
Record Prediction – 15-67, no playoff appearance
Boston Celtics – Five minutes and eleven seconds. That’s how long it took for us to count Boston out of championship contention last year. We all assumed that with Gordon Hayward’s tragic injury, that the Celtics would not be the same team and leave the Raptors and the Cavs as the only teams in the Eastern Conference capable of winning a title. Well they sure proved us wrong. The Celtics were outstanding all year, especially with the emergence of young superstar Jayson Tatum, the growth of Jaylen Brown, and the rebirth of Al Horford as a top tier Center. At the head of the regular season was Kyrie, who no longer played like the scoring-obsessed shot jacker he was in Cleveland, but as a calm and composed point guard who controlled the game and made everyone on his team better. But alas, even he fell to a knee injury that would keep him out of the post season, and people (myself included) once again said that the Celtics were done. Once again, they proved us wrong. Behind the coaching of Brad Stevens, physical defense, and Jayson Tatum playing up to a level beyond his year, the Celtics survived the Bucks, stumped and frustrated the Sixers, and were a few swing plays away from dethroning the King of the East. I’m really high on the Celtics, even as a Sixers fan who hated them for the entirety of that playoff series. You have to respect them for how intelligent they are and what they mean to the sport of basketball as a historical franchise. After the Warriors start with a healthy Boogie Cousins, the Celtics will trot out the best starting lineup in the NBA. Kyrie is a top three point guard in the league, Jaylen Brown is a borderline all-star, Jayson Tatum will probably be First Team All-NBA within three years, and Al Horford is the league’s best defensive center. Not to mention that they feature a deep bench with a phenomenal defender in Marcus Smart, a productive scorer in Scary Terry Rozier, and a reliable wing in Marcus Morris. The only concern I have for the Celtics is Gordon Hayward. I loved him in Utah and I thought he would elevate Boston to an unbelievable level. But after watching him in preseason, I’m a little worried. He doesn’t seem as dynamic or mobile. Remember, Utah Hayward wasn’t just a smart white guy who could shoot, he was an elite athlete who could defend multiple positions and dunk on about anyone in sight. But whether or not Hayward returns to his full form should not determine whether or not the Celtics are title contenders. They are undeniably the favorite to be the first team without LeBron to win the Eastern Conference since they did so back in 2010.
Record Prediction – 61-21, 1st Seed and NBA Finals Runner Up
Brooklyn Nets – I guess the Nets are kind of heading in the right direction. They finally escaped NBA pergatory, being freed from the imprisonment Danny Ainge put on them by swindling the incompetent Billy King into giving away a king’s ransom of unprotected picks. The Nets really have become the blacksheep of the NBA. They had no top draft picks to bring in exciting rookies, they get dwarfed in the New York market by the Knicks, and they even have some of the worst uniforms in the league, sporting an ugly black and white that lacks flavor and innovation. The only bright spots on the roster are Spencer Dinwiddie for his quirky but effective game, and Jarrett Allen, who showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie. And no, D’Angelo is not a bright spot. When you are consistently injured, get beat on defense, and are known around the league as a horrible teammate, then there’s a problem. This might be D-Lo’s last year to prove that he can be as good as we all thought he would be. But after all this, there is (finally) a light at the end of the tunnel. The Nets have been so devoid of talent that they have more cap space than anyone, roughly enough for two max players. Who will they get with those slots? Jimmy Butler? Kawhi Leonard? Maybe even a one-in-a-million shot at Anthony Davis? Okay probably not that last one, but the other two are definitely possible. The Nets should experiment with all their fun pieces, from sharpshooter Joe Harris to the dependable Caris LaVert and even to their wacky upside European draft picks Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa. Experiment this year, lose a bunch of games, and finally get that high draft pick you’ve been missing. That’s my message to you Brooklyn.
Record Prediction – 28-54, No Playoffs
Charlotte Hornets – I know that very few people read my blog, but I wonder if any of you remember one of the very first pieces I ever published. The 2017 NBA season had just started, and as I dipped my toes into the pool of sports writing, I was eager to write a huge, outlandish take that would establish myself as a writer. The Charlotte Hornets, coming off a playoff appearance in which they barely missed the second, had started the season 7-2 and had earned my respect. I wrote a piece titled “Why the Charlotte Hornets are Becoming Legitimate Title Contenders.” The Hornets would follow that 7-2 start by going 29-44 the rest of the season, and making me a good candidate to appear on the infamous IG page FreezingColdTakes. The Hornets have very little to be excited about. Kemba is really good but nowhere near the Franchise player that they treat him as. Malik Monk was one of the biggest disappointments of the draft, and Marvin Williams completely disappeared after his mini resurgence. The only notable thing about them this year is rookie forward Miles Bridges, who I didn’t like as a prospect going into the draft, but I’ve admittedly been very impressed with his athletic displays in the preseason. My concern with Bridges was that he shot far too many threes at Michigan State than he should have considering his shooting ability, and he seemed somewhat lost in how to use his athleticism when handling the ball. He’s the key to the Hornets’ season, as an emergent Miles will give them a real chance at stealing a playoff spot, while a flat season from the rookie could make Buzz City a sad city.
Record Prediction – 33-49, No Playoffs
Chicago Bulls – The Bulls are finally likable again. They are far removed from the crotchety old guys who refused to update to new NBA trends, but are now a collection of young, offensive-minded guys. A starting lineup of LaVine, Dunn, Jabari, Markannen, and Carter? That would be fun. They’d score around 110, probably give up 120, and give us a great show each night. Unfortunately, Lauri Markannen recently got injured, and we will have to survive a couple of months without “The Finnisher”. LaVine and Dunn are an interesting back-court, with the Lavine being defensively inept, and Dunn struggling to make jump shots on a consistent basis, but they cover each other’s weaknesses. Then we have Wendell Carter, the Duke center who some have called the next Al Horford. The potential is there as he already has superb defensive timing and passing ability. The main question will be whether or not Carter is skilled enough to dominate guys on offense, and whether or not he has the alpha dog mentality required to dominate guys. But regardless of what they get from Carter, the Bulls will be better than last year, they simply have too many talented guys. Even their bench is loaded with high energy, high upside guys like Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, and Justin Holiday (however their bench also has the league’s worst backup point guard in Cameron Payne). I almost picked them to make the playoffs, but I came to the conclusion that they’re still probably a year away. Oh and Jabari Parker has a reputation for making teams worse because he is that much of a selfish diva, but we’re just going to hope that that isn’t true.
Record Prediction – 34-48, No Playoffs
Cleveland Cavaliers – My Dad thinks his Cavs are still a playoff team. My Dad is wrong. Now, he’s not as wrong as most would think, as I believe the Cavs won’t drop to the bottom of the league. They still have Kevin Love, who puts up good enough stats that they’ll find ways to win games behind hot shooting nights from him. They also have my second favorite rookie, Colin Sexton, at point guard, and his fiery intensity should drive the Cavs to steal some games from overconfident teams that don’t feel like trying on a random night in Cleveland (cough–the Wizards–cough). They also have nice young foreign products in Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman, with Osman being one of the most beloved guys in the league for his combination of being uncoordinated yet effective. But there are other pieces that I’m not so high on. Mainly, I’m not a huge fan of a declining George Hill, a clinically insane JR Smith, and the locker room virus that goes by the name Tristian Thompson. And now we get to the coach, Ty Lue. I, like many, have thought that he was just LeBron’s puppet, due to the Cavs lack of plays besides “Give the ball to LeBron and get out of his way”. The Cavs also had atrocious defensive concepts, which we often credited to Lue’s lack of attention to detail. This year we find out how good Lue is, as LeBron has abandoned Cleveland once more, leaving the city in a very dire situation. Luckily for the Cleveland fans, they got a title during this last LeBron tenure, and they’re not completely in the basement like they were last time.
Record Prediction: 35-47, No Playoffs
Detroit Pistons – Is there a more uncomfortable team in the NBA? Former Coach and GM Stan Van Gundy crippled the roster with his indefensible trade for Blake Grffin. In the words of Bill Simmons, it was one of those “I’m going to be fired anyways, might as well go all in” trades that completely backfired almost immediately. I have thought Blake Griffin was overrated since 2015, and the rest of the league has finally caught up to me. The Pistons literally gave the Clippers a nice rookie in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a capable scoring wing in Tobias Harris, and a surprisingly effective Boban Marjonovic, only to get trapped with FOUR MORE FREAKING YEARS OF BLAKE GRIFFIN’S 30 MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT!!!! It’s not as bad as the Nets-Celtics catastrophe, but it’s not too far behind for worst trades of the decade. But here’s what makes the Pistons so disturbing to me … I still had to pick them to make the playoffs. I mean, who else could I choose? It was between them, the LeBron-less Cavs, a Chicago team that can’t play defense, and the Hornets who play three slow white guys at center. So yeah, after thinking about I thought the Pistons had just barely enough talent to reach the eight seed. I liked what I saw from Andre Drummond last year, as he fixed his achilles heel free throw shooting, and displayed some ability to pass and create out of the pick and roll. Other helpful players include … uhhhh (checks ESPN’s rosters, sees Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Ish Smith, Langston Galloway, throws up, then continues writing). So yeah, the roster isn’t great. But hey, I finally found a guy I kind of like in Reggie Bullock, who was an excellent three point sniper last year. This all circles back around to Blake, the crucial player on this roster. If he can be a big who creates for others and consistently knocks down threes, they’ll be okay. If he’s typical Blake, who is an inefficient scorer and cardboard cutout on defense, then the Pistons will be the typical frustrating Pistons. But I still have to put someone in the eight h seed. Man I hate this team.
Record Prediction – 39-43, 8th Seed and First Round Loss
Indiana Pacers – Remember how I said it was hard to like the Pistons, well, the Pacers became probably the NBA’s most likable team last year. Oladipo was the story of the year, as he made a huge leap from average starter to potential franchise player. After his stats dipped in OKC due to the Westbrook Effect–when a player is never passed to and never given an opportunity with Russ at point guard so they become a worse player overall–he was sent to Indiana with everyone (including myself) saying that Sam Presti had robbed the poor Pacers of Paul George. And it was a robbery, but OKC was the one who got fleeced. Oladipo is just a better player than Paul George, there I said it. George didn’t really bring something new to the table, shot horribly from three near the end of the season, and got schooled by the balding Joe Ingles in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Oladipo lifted the Pacers to the fifth seed behind career highs in points, rebounds, assists, three point percentage, and PER, and followed it up by leading the Pacers to near upset of LeBron and the Cavs in the playoffs. But we’re not done, the Pacers also got Sabonis in the deal, who proved that he has value and can be played during clutch moments of big games. However, I think the Pacers could end up winning a few less games this year. Why? Last year, they snuck up on everybody and stole countless games, while this year people will know who they are. In addition, their off season was lackluster in the least. They added Tyreke Evans, who’s a proven scorer, given that his scoring only happens on bad teams, and they picked up Aaron Holiday in the draft, who some people were high on, but I’ve been down on them ever since I saw him lose his cool in March Madness as UCLA got upset by St. Bonaventure. The key of their team is Myles Turner, who took a step backwards last year, but has reportedly revamped his body this off season. If Myles comes back and can be an all star player, the Pacers will be serious contenders to take the East, but if he’s still the same, the Pacers are a middle of the pack team at best.
Record Prediction – 46-36, 5th Seed and First Round Playoff Loss
Miami Heat – I’m reluctant to write this review, as I know that at any moment Jimmy Butler could be sent to South Beach and completely change this team’s outlook for the season. The reported package was Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, and a first round pick, which was almost accepted by the T-Wolves until Thibs stepped in and tried to force the Heat to take a Gorgui Dieng tax, leading to trade talks falling apart. That would’ve been a great deal for the Heat if the report was true, but their was also some talk that the Wolves wanted Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo, and the Heat didn’t want to give up Richardson. I understand that Richardson has value, but he’s never going to be an all star, and in this league, you need stars. Basketball can be controlled by one player, as that player has the opportunity to take over games, scoring by himself over and over again. So if you need to give up Richardson for Butler, you 100% do it. I really liked Bam Adebayo last year as he showed flashes of being a great defensive center, but still, he’ll never reach the level Jimmy is at. But even if the Heat don’t get a deal done, they still have enough to be a quality playoff team. Goran Dragic is good for twenty points every night, Justise Winslow has been a disappointment, but he still has athletic burst, and I’ve become a full time resident on Waiters Island. There is only one dark spot, and he goes by the name Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is now an ugly albatross of a contract as he was so bad last year that the Heat were forced to start Kelly Olynyk in the playoffs. I doubt that he ever regains his best form, as his seasons in 2016 and 2017 might prove to be apparitions from his true identity in the NBA: an athletic, knucklehead center along the lines of JaVale McGee. So we once again come back to Jimmy, as the Heat are still the favorite to land him. If they can get the disgruntled star, they could vault themselves into the top four of the East, but if they fail, they’ll probably remain stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity and lose in a disheartening first round series.
Record Prediction – 42-40, 6th Seed and First Round Playoff Loss
Milwaukee Bucks – Remember a couple years ago when there were rumors that the Bucks might leave Milwaukee? Bucks fans were desperate to keep their team and were praying for some light in their franchise to lift them out of their slump. They originally thought it might be number two overall pick Jabari Parker, but we all quickly realized that the real star was the skinny kid from Greece–Giannis Antetokoumnpo. But things are different now. No longer are Bucks fans simply satisfied with keeping the team and rooting for Giannis. They want to win. Bucks twitter threads became a very dark place last year, compiled of thousands of Bucks nation that were calling for Jason Kidd’s head, infuriated with the lack of creativity on offense and the atrocious principles on defense. Fortunately, the Bucks made the right move in firing Kidd halfway through last year. Not as fortunately, however, the Bucks made his assistant Joe Prunty the interim head coach. Don’t know who Joe Prunty is, don’t worry, I’m probably one out of the three people who actually knew that he was the Bucks’ coach last year. He was basically just as bad as Jason Kidd but not as despicable, so not surprisingly, the Bucks did not keep him as the head coach. The Bucks actually made the best move possible, going out and getting Mike Budenholzer to coach the team, a coach finally worthy of Giannis’s talent. Bud led many Hawks teams to achieve something greater than the sum of its parts, and I’m sure he can do the same with the Bucks. Giannis is more talented than any players he’s ever had, and we’ve already seen some promising signs in the pre-season. The Bucks are playing with faster pace, having Giannis push the ball down the floor to set up shooters like Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and even Ersan Illyasova. More importantly, Giannis has been attempting threes, some even off the dribble. Reports are that Coach Bud told Giannis that he doesn’t just want the Freak to shoot threes, but that their offense NEEDS Giannis to make threes in order to function properly. I love this tactic by Bud, as it really will motivate the one glaring weakness in Giannis’ game, forcing him to constantly improve his play rather than being stagnant. So overall, the Bucks didn’t really improve their roster much in the off season, with the most important acquisitions being Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo (aka the Big Ragu). I’m picking them to improve not because of their great trades and picks, but simply due to Giannis’ natural progression and the faith I have in Budenholzer. They’ve let me down two seasons in a row, so this is the last year that I put faith in them.
Record Prediction – 48-34, 4th Seed and Second Round Playoff Loss
New York Knicks – You know the Knicks are in a bad place when the most talked about player in their franchise as of now is not even on their roster and could very well never be!!! Kevin Durant is the light at the end of the tunnel for suffering Knicks fans, who think that the Slim Reaper may be coming to their team during the next free agency summer. It’s based on a weird “KD cares about his legacy and wants to play for a premier franchise in a premier city” narrative that does seem very fishy superficial and hard-to-believe. But after we’ve seen KD head to the Golden Dynasty and LeBron head to LA, anything is possible. Now let’s get to a sorer subject … the actual Knicks team. Of course, Porzingis is the team’s star, and he was spectacular at the start of last year before losing the entire second half of his year to a torn ACL, effectively torpedoing New York’s season as well. The Knicks took the right approach after the Unicorn went down, embracing the tank job by bringing in the league’s Most Valuable Tanker–Mr. Emmanuel Mudiay, whose combination of sluggish defense, selfish distribution, and painfully bad shooting make him a near guaranteed loss every night. This year the Knicks will probably have to deal with more tanking, as Kristaps probably won’t be back from his injury until December, and by that time the Knicks will probably be out of the playoff picture anyways. They do have some pieces I like, such as rookie Kevin Knox, who impressed everyone in his summer league heroics, and Tim Hardaway Jr., who I swear only makes threes whenever I’m watching his games. A player that is going to be key to how there season goes is Frank Ntilikina, who proved his defensive prowess, but also lacked the ability to shoot anywhere near consistently. The report that the Knicks will start him at small forward indicates to me that he may not be good enough at shooting in order to be a guard, and this concerns me. And who could forget Enes Kanter, a walking quote machine that gets double doubles while also giving up a jaw-dropping amount of pick and roll points. Pretty much, the Knicks will be who they always are–a rag tag team of overpaid and below-average players that will frustrate the one star they have while also turning off the star they soon hope to get.
Record Prediction – 26-56, No Playoffs
Orlando Magic – Why on earth did Aaron Gordon sign an extension to stay with the Magic? I’m not dumb, I know it’s because of money and some dumb personal pride type of thing, but from a basketball perspective it makes no sense. The Magic are going nowhere and have been going nowhere since 2012, where they rid themselves of a premature Dwight-bola virus. And ever since they’ve been rebuilding, but have made backwards progress if anything. They just barely missed the playoffs in 2016 behind a core of Victor Oladipo, Evan Founier, young Aaron Gordon, and Nik Vucevic. Things fell apart the next year as they stupidly traded Oladipo and their draft pick (which became Domantas Sabonis) for half a season of Serge Ibaka. Young Ibaka might’ve made sense a little, but old Ibaka is a below average starter at best. Meanwhile, Oladipo has blossomed into an All-NBA team player, and Sabonis is better than Ibaka at this point. So yeah, that trade was about as good as the Magic’s point guards (sorry to DJ Augustine and Isaiah Briscoe, but not really). So that brings me back to Gordon, a dynamic athlete who sort-of kind-of figured out how to shoot last year, but given the opportunity to try and find a big deal with a team that could use his talents, he took what the Magic gave him almost right away. Oh well, we’ll have to watch him waste his promising career with the Orlando Tragic for the next four years. The Magic have some players I like in Evan Fournier, Nik Vucevic, and Terrence Ross, but the franchise as a whole is so inept that any talent they have gets neutralized. The only reason I’d watch the Magic at all this year is rookie Mo Bamba and his freaky 7’10” wingspan. I didn’t like the pick, as the Magic are legendary for drafting big men who are “theoretical shooters”, and they decided to take another awkward and lanky big man with their pick. But he looked pretty good in pre-season, and those arms are something to behold. The Magic should only have two goals for this season: help Gordon and Bamba develop, and try not to be worse than the Hawks.
Record Prediction – 21-61, No Playoffs
Philadelphia 76ers – I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always feel like the teams I root for are worse than most people think they are. Everyone told me how great my Eagles were coming off the Super Bowl, but I was a little skeptical as I still never really trusted our defensive backs, and so far, I’ve been proved right. Same goes for the Sixers, who have been declared as a team of the future with their total team athleticism and young superstars in Simmons and Emiid. But I’ve had a lot of questions and doubts. Simmons is awesome, but can he ever be the best player on a championship team if he can only shoot layups and dunks? Considering how Joel Embiid is a turnover machine and often can stagnate the offense’s ball movement, is he really the superstar that we think he is? People claim that Fultz’s potential is still through the roof, but I haven’t seen any ability to score or finish at the rim nearly whatsoever. Covington was named first team all-defense, but I think he’s just good on ball, as I can recall many times that he’s gotten lost in help side and off ball positioning. I mean you have to admit, there’s a lot of what ifs and uncertainties with this team. The only player that is pretty easy to understand is Dario Saric–a crafty European that is a streaky shooter, good creator, and average defender. Dario’s reliable, and I love that about him. You know what’s not reliable? The health of Sixers’ draft picks. Seriously, how did Zhaire Smith, another first round rookie, break his foot just like Simmons and Embiid. It’s uncanny. And it’s not like Smith is in the same realm as those two. When the trade was announced back on draft night, I was admittedly disappointed that the Sixers would no longer have Villanova man Mikal Bridges, but I understood the move, as that 2021 pick could prove to be incredibly valuable. However, I just can’t over the fact that the Sixers immediately let go of Mikal, who I thought fit their system perfectly and will definitely develop into a legitimate starter in the league. I know I’ve complained a lot about this team, but it’s only cause I care. The Sixers are very talented and should have a great season barring injury (please don’t let that me jinx them in that last sentence). Simmons will be an all star and a dark horse MVP candidate, Embiid , despite some offensive inefficiencies, is too much of a defensive beast for him not to be great, and the Sixers role players can give them enough for what’s expected. The only gripe I can not get over is Fultz. I’ve written about him so many times, and I’ve always been severely worried. That trade gave the Celtics a potential “best player in the league” candidate in Tatum, and will most likely give them a top five pick in this upcoming draft. It truly was an incredible heist by Ainge. The Sixers need to pray and hope that Markelle’s scoring and shooting ability returns, but in all likelihood, this trade will be seen as a move along the lines of the OKC Harden trade–a move that derailed a should have been dynasty.
Record Prediction – 56-26, 3rd Seed and Eastern Conference Finals Loss
Toronto Raptors – Oh the Raptors. I’ve never seen such a consistently good team be mocked as harshly as they are. And deservedly so. When you always have great regular seasons, only to follow them up with plain awful performances in the playoffs, you should be ridiculed. But I give Raptors GM Masai Ujiri credit, because I’ve liked his approach going into this year. It was clear that with their roster as it was they would never win a title and with all their big contracts, they’d inevitably have to blow the team up in a few years. So why not swing for the fences while you still have talent? The Raptors made probably the gutsiest move of the off season in trading their own Franchise Superstar DeMar DeRozan for the enigmatic Kawhi Leonard. It’s all but certain that Kawhi will leave Toronto in 2019 free agency, but he does give the Raptors a greater chance of finally winning something important this year. And even if they don’t win anything, they can blow their team up more easily with DeRozan’s contract off the books. But the DeRozan-Kawhi switcharoo wasn’t the only major change that Ujiri made. Very quickly into the off season, he shocked us all by firing Coach of the Year Dwayne Casey in favor of promoting Assistant Coach Nick Nurse. It was very perplexing to fire such a well respected coach, but I once again give Ujiri credit for not settling for their status quo. He wanted to change things up and he sure has. As for the Raptors’ current roster this year, I still think Kawhi is a franchise player, that Lowry will always help you win no matter what the numbers say, that Valanciunas is a really fun Center, and that they have an awesome, quirky bench headlined by Fred Vanvleet, Delon Wright, Pascal Siakam, and OG Annuoby. The Raptors still have enough pieces in place that they’ll be a great regular season team and will probably finish just above my own 76ers, but come playoff time, they’ll suffer the same disappointment that Toronto has gotten use to.
Record Prediction – 57-25, 2nd Seed and Second Round Playoff Loss
Washington Wizards – The Ringer had an Instagram story that you could screenshot then use to fill out you predictions for the NBA season. One of the predictions was “Most Memeable Team”, and for that one I selected the Washington Wizards. I know the obvious pick would be the Lakers considering who they signed during free agency, and the Timberwolves were a good candidate as well considering the Jimmy Butler dilemma right now. But when you’re off season acquisitions were Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, and Austin Rivers, you deserve to be mocked. Dwight Howard is literally hated by everyone he’s ever played with, Jeff Green has never played two good games in a row in his life, and Austin Rivers has always played like the kid on little league team who thinks he’s great because his dad is the coach (wait …). And it’s not like this was a peaceful teams with no preexisting problems. This was a team that literally sucked against all of the league’s worst teams last year, openly admitted to a players only meeting where Gortat and Wall both stated that they hated each other, and whose starting point guard would rather party and gain twenty pounds than workout this summer. It’s this bad and I haven’t even mentioned that two of their wings are Kelly Oubre and a freaking Morris twin! Those two are in the top ten of “guys most likely to pull a Ron Artest and attack a fan in the stands.” This team is like an old school NBA team that never learned how you’re supposed to act in the 21st century. The only one who seems like a reasonable person is Bradley Beal, who broke out last year with injuries no longer holding him back. Beal was so much better than Wall last year, and the rest of the team should acknowledge him as the alpha dog. Unfortunately, John Wall is an overweight diva that will constantly scream at them how great he is. I hope John Wall likes feeding the loss column as much as he likes feeding himself, because him and the Wizards will be doing a lot of that on their way to a seventh seed and potential locker room assaults on each other.
Record Prediction – 41-41, 7th Seed and First Round Playoff Loss