NBA Season Preview

 

  • The Philadelphia 76ers over/under is set at 40.5 wins this season and is one of the most heavily debated ones in the NBA. Which one are you picking and why?
    • Gandhi- Under. The 76ers future is bright, but is only one year removed from winning 28 games, I don’t buy the Sixers hype yet. Their core or the “FEDS” have played 112 games combined and 81 of those are by, in my opinion, the weakest link of the FEDS, Dario Saric. Simmons and Fultz are still a rookie and EVERY rookie has growing pains despite how well the media covers them up. The Sixers take a jump up in wins and definitely got better, but I am rolling with 32-35 wins and confident in taking the under.
    • Stagge- Although the future of the Sixers is extremely bright, I still think they have a long way to go and will struggle against better teams this year. I think they are comparable to last year’s Timberwolves, a young, inexperienced team who finished 31-51 with a -1.1 point differential. That is what happens to extremely talented, young teams. For a counterexample, last year’s Hawks, dominated by veterans, finished with a -0.9 point differential, but a 43-39 record and a 5 seed in the East. I think the Sixers have a season similar to last year’s Timberwolves and struggle to finish games. I’ll still inflate the win total to about 38 though because they are in the East (that’s how bad the East is). Still, bet on a playoff spot because of the atrocious East, but I’m taking the under.

 

  • Cavs vs Celtics? Who finishes with the better record and who makes it to the Finals?
    • Gandhi- Celtics. Call it blasphemy or an overreaction but could this be the end of Lebron James’ run to the finals? Kyrie is gone. Isaiah Thomas is out for a while so that means Derrick Rose is the starting point guard. I’m confident the Celtics have the better record in the regular season. The debate comes to the finals part of it. I’m not sold on Thomas’ fit in Cleveland and if he doesn’t come back until the new year that gives them limited time to mesh. We can’t discount Boston also. I’m not a huge Hayward believer but he is no question an upgrade over Jae Crowder. Kyrie Irving is a better offensive finisher and believe it or not defender. If Tatum can produce efficiently, Jaylen Brown makes up for the lack of defense of Irving, and Hayward is a 20+ point scorer, I like the Boston Celtics to upset the Cleveland Cavaliers and go to their first NBA Finals since 2010.
    • Stagge- I think the Celtics finish with a better record in the regular season, but the Cavs make it to the Finals. The young guns for the Celtics will be running all season long, and it will be a fun regular season for them. With IT out until Christmas and a roster full of old guys that will need rest, the Cavs will be saving their energy for the playoffs. I’ll take the Cavs in the playoffs because they will be well rested, play better defense, and have more experience.

 

  • Are the Timberwolves real contenders for the title this year? If not, how much longer until they will be?
    • Gandhi- No, 2-4 years. The title is between four teams. The Warriors (obviously), the Celtics, the Cavaliers and the Rockets. 2-4 years is the timeline because the Warriors will be together for a few more years and the Timberwolves cannot compete with the Warriors. Karl Anthony-Towns, Jimmy Butler, and Andrew Wiggins are all top 100 players and Towns and Butler are top 20. The core is fantastic and I am a believer of Jeff Teague. The bench is what concerns me. Gorgui Dieng is an average big man. Justin Patton is RAW. Tyus Jones flashes potential but isn’t the ideal backup point guard. Don’t get me wrong, the Timberwolves will be successful this season but the Warriors are still together and until they break up or the Wolves get another star, it is a waiting game.
    • Stagge- The Timberwolves are on a perfect timeline to peak once the Cavs, Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder have run their course. The Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder will run out of money soon and the Cavs and Spurs will be too old very soon. I’m not sold on the Timberwolves this year. Jeff Teague is not an elite PG, they will have trouble shooting the three, and have major defensive holes in Wiggins and KAT. They have over $47 million of their salary wrapped up in Teague, Taj Gibson, and Gorgui Dieng. The Timberwolves are definitely a playoff team, but still years away from a title contender.

 

  • Are the Pelicans a playoff team? If not, what happens to Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis before next year?
    • Gandhi- No. Both stay and Cousins leaves in FA the following offseason.The Pelicans will contend all year but they will lack late-game production from their guards. Rondo is out, and besides Jrue Holiday, the backcourt for the Pelicans is thin. They will be fighting for a spot all year where New Orleans won’t be willing to part with them. The only way I see a trade is if the Cavs dangle their pick from Brooklyn. Davis and Cousins are two of the best big men in the league, but it’s a guard’s league now and the Pelicans don’t have enough to take them to the next level.
    • Stagge- Not even close. If the Pelicans are in the East, this is a different story. In the West, the Pelicans have virtually no shot of making the playoffs with the kind of wing players they have put around Boogie and AD. Cousins should and probably will be gone, but might have limited options in free agency with money dry across the league for next summer. The trade market is probably a wiser place for him to go. If I’m the Pelicans, I leave it up to Davis to decide whether he wants to be there. There is still plenty of time in his career to build a team around him, but I don’t want to be a part of another rebuild if I’m AD, which I believe the Pelicans will be forced to start this offseason.

 

  • Can the Rockets and Thunder put all of their ball-dominant players together to be successful or will it be a dumpster fire?
    • Gandhi- Rockets = success. Thunder = disastrous. The Rockets have enough other pieces to rely upon through the growing pains of learning to share the ball. Chris Paul is known as a deadly pick and roll player and Harden is known for his driving ability. The Rockets and Coach D’Antoni will have to work out the rotation but if they get it right guys like Ariza, Gordon, Anderson etc. will step up enough to help them contend. The Thunder are a different story. Melo is a ball-dominant player and an iso scorer. The only time in his career we have seen anything different is in the Olympics every four years. Russell Westbrook averaged 10 assists so yes he shares the ball, but he doesn’t like being second fiddle. Just ask KD… Paul George to me is the X-Factor. What is the role of Paul George? Does he get the ball enough to stay happy? He didn’t when he was the only star in Indy so why would he now (@ CJ Miles)? They don’t have enough bench playmakers to produce and make up for the looming question of “who gets the last shot”? I don’t see this Thunder experiment working.
    • Stagge- The Rockets will be able to figure this thing out. Harden and CP3 are different types of ball handlers, with Harden liking to drive and dish and Paul more of a keep the ball in his hands for an entire possession kind of guy. Harden also has versatility as a spot up shooter for when he and CP3 play together, but most of their minutes should be staggered. The Rockets have loads of wing depth of guys that can spot up and shoot the ball, which will make life easy for both ball handlers. I think the Rockets have a great season. The Thunder will be able to figure things out between their three guys by passing the ball more and should be able to keep ⅔ of Westbrook, PG, and Melo out there for almost the entire game if they play their cards right. The problem with the Thunder is the pieces around Russ, PG, and Melo. The Thunder don’t have anyone else to knock down a consistent three with any sort of volume outside of their Big 3, and PG and Melo aren’t great facilitators anyway. When the Big 3 are on the floor, they will be able to work things out. The lack of depth and the need to rely on Westbrook, PG, and Melo to score every single game will be the bigger issue.

 

  • Which team of the Mavericks, Lakers, Suns or Kings are the closest to contending for a playoff spot in the West?
    • Gandhi- Lakers. Maybe this is because the other teams don’t have a big market or the hype, maybe this is because all of these teams only have 1-2 young core members besides the Lakers. None of these teams will make the playoffs this year. But in the next two or three, I think the Lakers get back. Lonzo Ball is the face of Los Angeles. Brandon Ingram is progressing, Brook Lopez is a 20 point scorer. Lonzo, KCP, Ingram, Randle, and Lopez is the best starting five of these teams and that’s not a question. The rumors are swirling about Paul George, Demarcus Cousins, Lebron James and every other half decent player. I believe at least one star comes to join the Purple and Gold in the offseason, and the Mavericks, Suns, and Kings won’t be able to sign a star in the near future.
    • Stagge- This year, I’m taking the Mavericks, but only by a little. Don’t get me wrong though, none of these teams are sniffing the playoffs. The Mavs are a veteran team who underperformed last season and have a great coach and owner committed to winning. DSJ/Yogi, Wes Matthews, Barnes, Dirk, and Noel still form the best starting five in this group. The team that will make the playoffs next is the Lakers though. They are still probably a couple years away, but should soon pass up playoff teams from last year such as the Grizzlies, Jazz, Clippers if they decide to blow things up, and Spurs if they age quicker than expected.

 

  • Which team of the Bulls, Pacers, Nets, or Magic are the closest to contending for a playoff spot in the East?
    • Gandhi- Nets. This is really between the Pacers and the Nets. The Bulls and the Magic don’t have their young star yet, and that’s the first step. I’m taking the Nets because they have potential to take the eight seed. D’Angelo Russell has untapped potential and still can be a star. Allen Crabbe was the Nets’ guy last year and now they have him. Demarre Carroll is a solid 3 and D player. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is still a great defender and has improved his shot this offseason. This team has playmakers and in the East that is so depleted there is a chance the Brooklyn Nets steal a playoff spot and crush the Cavs dreams of having a lottery pick to replace Lebron.
    • Stagge- The Pacers are the closest to contending for a playoff spot. Never thought I’d say that, but it’s how bad the East is. One thing the Pacers have that no other team has in this group is depth. The wing talent is a little depleted, especially with Glenn Robinson III out for a few months, but a starting lineup of Collison/Oladipo/Bojan/Thad Young/Turner is better than any other one in this group. Also, this roster wasn’t completely blown up in the offseason as much as the Bulls or Nets were. There is still veteran presence on this team and will be the best of these awful teams this season.

 

  • Who is the most intriguing team this year?
    • Gandhi- Denver. The Nuggets have one of the most underrated teams in the league. Millsap and Jokic lead a frontcourt that is top 10 in the NBA. Gary Harris is a borderline top 10-top 15 shooting guard and the only thing they lack is a true point guard. I am interested to watch Mudiay/Murray handle the point and I’m very intrigued by Millsap and Jokic. They have potential to really take this league by storm.
    • Stagge- So many teams made huge changes this offseason, but none more intriguing than the Celtics. A scrappy team focused on defense and rallied their ringleader Isaiah Thomas just last year, Danny Ainge moved all of his chips into the middle of the table for Kyrie, including the Nets pick. The Celtics are now a younger team ready to take control of the East. The question is: Is Kyrie ready for his own team and ready to dethrone Lebron for his own shot at the Warriors?

 

 

 

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