As the NBA season is tipping off, two of our writers: Kennington Smith and Khari Pressley break down the upcoming season.
Khari: The Raptors should win the Atlantic Division based on the sole fact that they have more talent than any other team in the division. Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan are All-Star caliber players and one of the top backcourts in the NBA. Third year SF Terrence Ross also looks to make strides after proving he could knock down the 3PT shot last year (39.5%). Jonas Valanciunas has All-Star potential as an offensive center as well, don’t sleep. Lou Williams will add a scoring punch to a bench unit that desperately needs it. The Raptors are way better than every other team in this division and the standings should reflect that at the end of the season.
Kennington: It’s pretty clear that the Raptors will run way with this division with relative ease. Philadelphia is two years away from being two years away from being close to any type of contention, while New York and Boston are in the midst of a rebuilding stage. Brooklyn is the only formidable opponent but under a new head coach, Kevin Garnett on his last leg, and Derron Williams appearing unable to return to all-star form, I can’t imagine any way they can pull out as champions. Kyle Lowry andDeMar DeRozan are emerging as stars and they added scoring with Lou Williams off the bench; they’ll take the division by storm, once again.
Khari: This is a tough one, but I’m gonna go with Chicago to win this division. If Rose stays healthy all year, I think they’ll win the East and he’ll make a push for the MVP. Without Rose, they’re the same Chicago team we’ve seen the past two years, great defensively but can’t score. Jimmy Butler will continue to be the athletic 3 and D guy he’s been and Pau’s offensive skills will give the usually ugly Bulls attack some luster. I like the McDermott and Mirotic pick-ups in the offseason and I expect Tony Snell to emerge as a Kawhi Leonard type player off the bench. You know what you’re getting from Noah and Thibs, the future of this team is all on D. Rose.
Kennington: I think we all know we’re in for a two horse race here. Without Paul George, the Pacers are almost destined for the 2015 draft lottery, the Bucks are still too young with a first year coach and the Pistons’ locker room issues are too much to overcome. In a tough selection, I have to go with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Top to bottom, the Cavs just have a better roster. Kyrie, Lebron and Kevin Love in a starting five with Tristan Thompson, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller leading the bench attack. They might not be cohesive out of the gate, but post-all-star break…..watch out.
Khari: I like this division competition-wise. I think all of these teams can be good either now or down the road, but for now I’m going with the Wizards. Wall and Beal have emerged as everyone’s favorite young backcourt, and for good reasons. Wall is a FREAK who’s becoming a better shooter/distributor by the day. Beal has the prettiest shooting form in the league and has the composure of a 10 year vet. Paul Pierce will provide some “Paul Pierceness” to the roster, which is a good thing! Nene won’t be healthy for all 82 games, but when he is he’s a great 2-way big man. Gortat brings the toughness to the defensive side and is capable on the block and in pick-n-roll situations. The bench looks nice as well with Dr. Andre Miller and Otto Porter who looked VERY GOOD in Summer League. Not to mention, the reigning Summer League MVP Glen Rice Jr. I like the Wiz to finish 3rd in the East overall. They’ll be fun to watch.
Kennington: No Lebron, no problem? The Miami Heat win the Southeast again. An opinion I wouldn’t have if Bradley Beal wasn’t going to miss a considerable amount of the season. Without Beal, I imagine the Wizards getting off to a slower start than expected with older players like Paul Pierce having to play more minutes than expected. In my opinion, they’re one more year away. Atlanta can’t be disregarded; they have gone to the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons. However, they lack the offensive firepower to contend at the end. Yeah, the Heat lost Lebron but they added all-star forward Loul Deng and now have fire power off the bench in Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts and Shannon Brown. Also, look for Norris Cole to emerge as the full-time point guard. It won’t be the same, but good enough.
Khari: No surprises here, OKC is gonna win the Northwest division. KD is gonna be out for like 20 games, but have no fear, Russ is here! I think Russ and Serge can carry the Thunder to a good enough record while the MVP is out with a broken foot. The Thunder will be good just based off of talent alone. When you have Russ, KD and Serge Ibaka you can’t really be a bad team. They didn’t do much in the offseason. They added Anthony Morrow who’s a big time floor spacer, and the picked up McGary in the draft who I like. But I don’t really think they made themselves any better. Stephen Adams will continue to get better and Kendrick Perkins will continue to be Kendrick Perkins. I’m picking them to finish 2nd in the West. Here’s to hoping that Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III live up to their potential and Scott Brooks creates an offense that involves ball movement.
Kennington: It won’t be a cakewalk by any means, but the Thunder will take the division once again. Even without Durant; Westbrook, Ibaka, and upstart guards Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb and hold the ship together until his return. While the Trailblazers will provide some competition, there is no answer for Westbrook and Durant when they’re both on the top of their games. The clock is ticking to see if the Thunder can finally take the championship step and keep Kevin Durant in OKC long-term, they’ll be on a mission this year.
Khari: I expect the Clippers to win this division, but by no means will it be easy. Golden State and the Clips will be battling for that 3-seed all season long, but I think the Clips’ record will give them the slight edge. There’s a lot to like about this team. CPS is the best PG in the game, Blake is a top 3 PF with new found 3PT range. D. Jordan is a great rim protector and finisher and there are plenty of deadeye shooters on the roster. BJ Mullens adds a shooting big, which is just what the Doc ordered… Get it? Anyways, the Clips are legitimate contenders. They have everything you need to win it all. Let’s see if Chris Paul can prove his doubters wrong.
Kennington: UPSET ALERT…. WELCOME GOLDEN STATE. This year will be the year Steph Curry permanently puts himself in the “top 3” point guard conversation. Klay Thompson is one of the best 2-guards in the game today and on the wings Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala add offensive explosion and perimeter defense. The Clippers and Warriors are developing a nice rivalry, however, this is the year that the Warriors get the better of LA.
Khari: The Spurs. Houston and Dalls will provide stiff competition, but at this point, we’ve all learned not to bet against Pop and his band of foreign brothers. Tim Duncan is ageless, Manu is ageful but he gets plenty of rest and Tony Parker is the perfect conductor of Pop’s offense. They have shooters all over the place and Boris Diaw is one of the most underrated players in the league. They also drafted his heir apparent in Kyle Anderson this summer, so be on the look out for him. With Kawhi Leonard turning into the franchise’s new star, the Spurs are looking to repeat as NBA Champions and kick off a new era, kind of.
Kennington: Defending NBA champions return the entire team and add a lottery caliber rookie to their team? No way do the Spurs not repeat. NBA’s deepest team, with the best coach and the “Big 3” has added a fourth with the emergence of their soon-to-be franchise player Kawhi Leonard. Houston and Dallas will present competition as always, but neither have made the moves that catapult them in the same caliber as the Spurs. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Spurs winning formula puts them over the top once again.
Khari: Stephen Wardell Curry Jr. will usurp CP3’s title of best point guard in the league this season. He averaged 24 and 9 last season, shot 42% from 3 and was second in the league in triple-doubles all with a defensive minded coach who ran an unimaginative, isolation based offense. Now, with Steve Kerr at the helm, I expect Steph to flourish even more and prove to whatever doubters he has left that he is indeed an MVP caliber point guard. He’ll battle with the Clippers for the 3-seed in the West, that, with a MVP level stat line and a broken single season 3PT record might be enough to snatch the MVP away from Bron Bron or KD.
Kennington: Heeeeeeeee’s baaaaaaaack. Derrick Rose. As much as I would love to take Anthony Davis in the upset, unfortunately the Pelicans won’t be enough of contenders for Davis to swing enough votes. The world has been waiting for Derrick Rose to return to form and I believe he will this year. The Bulls have done a pretty solid job with surrounding Rose with talent both on the wings (McDermott) and in the post (Pau, Mirotic). He looked solid throughout the preseason and if the Bulls are going to contend for a title once again like I think they will, Rose will return to his prior self.
Khari: Jabariiiiiiii Parkerrrrrrrr! Call me basic, but he’s the best rookie in the best position to succeed. He’ll be the go-to guy from the jump and he’s more than capable of doing so. I may not be very efficient yet, but there’s time for all that. This award is all about production and he’ll provide more of that than any other rookie. Not to mention, the Bucks are my sleeper team this year. They may not make the playoffs, but they’ll definitely scare some people. The Bucks are coming #FearTheDeer
Kennington: Nerlens Noel. A franchise in complete disaster, the 76ers will need any bright spots possible if they want fans to attend their games, luckily they’ve been waiting a year to unleash Noel. Without really any other legitimate scoring options on the floor, expect Noel to be the center of the offense with last year’s ROY Michael Carter-Williams feeding him the ball early and often. Similar to Anthony Davis in play-style, I expect Noel to be a 16-10 type of player this year. Sixers go back-to-back in ROY and look out for the 3-peat with Joel Embiid next year.
Khari: Steve Kerr. The Warriors are projected to be a top 5 offensive and defensive unit. They really have the talent to be the best offensive team in the league. If Kerr can bring that out of them with his Triangle/Popavich/7 seconds or less hybrid offense, then I think the award is his to lose. They’ve looked great in the preseason, let’s see if it carries over.
Kennington: Not much thinking required here. Best team, best record, best coach. One more for Gregg Popovich
Final Four: San Antonio Spurs vs Golden State Warriors / Chicago Bulls vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Finals: San Antonio vs Chicago
NBA Champion: Los Spurs
Final Four: San Antonio Spurs vs Oklahoma City Thunder / Chicago Bulls vs Cleveland Cavaliers
Finals: Spurs vs Cavs
NBA Champion: Spurs overcome Lebron one last time, Manu and Timmy ride into the sunset.