DAR Sports: Top 10 Projected NBA Teams of the 2016-2017 Season

By @TrueGodImmortal

This is a look at the top 10 teams going into the new season. Now, this isn't our official preview, but with the preseason beginning soon, and the chemistry of new teammates soon to be tested, I wanted to step back and take a look at how things look going into this next season. There are a few teams missing from this list that I wanted to include, but couldn't (Blazers and Hawks come to mind). Regardless of whether I'm correct or not this coming season, this is what it looks like going into the year. Let's get into the top 10 projected teams of this upcoming season.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

-If everyone stays healthy, I see these Wolves making the playoffs. They've got the future of big men on their team in Karl Anthony Towns, and I could see them getting in as a 7th seed. Once again, if all goes well and they remain healthy, this team could upset the 2nd seed in the West. My only fear is Thibs running these young guys into the ground similar to how I felt he did with the Bulls. I could see anywhere from a 45-37 record to a 49-33 record being a possibility for this team. I hope that we truly see them make it to the playoffs. They're an exciting team to watch and the addition of Kris Dunn could be a bigger deal than we realize. This might be the no. 1 team in the West in a few years.

9. Chicago Bulls 

-Call me crazy if you'd like. I don't care. I just have a feeling that this Wade and Butler combo could work wonders for the team. Butler was able to lead the team well before he got injured last season and his injury was a big reason why they missed the playoffs. Without Derrick Rose, it may seem like the team has lost its heart, but I think it regained a lot of heart just by having Dwyane Wade join the team. Another hometown boy who loves the city and was the soul in Miami can bring his leadership to Chicago and help teach Butler how to win or at least be a contender. The X-Factor here is Rajon Rondo and what he will do, but I suspect he will put forth his best, which COULD work well in the Bulls favor. If Rondo is efficient along with Wade staying healthy, then the Bulls are a for sure 5th or 6th seed in the East.

8. Boston Celtics 

-This Celtics team added Al Horford and were in the race to add Durant. This team SHOULD be able to garner a 5th or 6th seed in the East and remain a contender for years to come. They have a lot of tools to keep the team afloat in the future and I'm 100% sure that they have dominant performances throughout the season. They have more chemistry on the court than a lot of other teams and I could see them finishing with a 49-33 or even making it to be a 50 win team, once again, if everyone is healthy. Realistically, a few of these teams will not be fully healthy, and that will alter where they end up, but certainly the Celtics right now are a possible East frontrunner.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

-Without Kevin Durant, I don't see them being a top 3 seed again, but a very possible 5th or 6th seed in the West. The West is really a two team race again this year with the Spurs and Warriors as the obvious frontrunners, but the Thunder have a focused Russell Westbrook, who will own this team and continue to make it his. The team lost big pieces in Ibaka and Durant, especially Durant, but adding Victor and some other small pieces could prove to be vital for their growth and change in the coming season. I could see Westbrook leading them to a 5th seed and upsetting the 4th seed in the conference, or even garnering the 4th seed. The Thunder may have lost their best overall player in Durant, but they still have a top 5 overall player in Westbrook and what more could you ask for there? Let's see how the Thunder fare going forward.

6. New York Knicks/Toronto Raptors

-Health. This is the biggest key right here for the Knicks and the Raptors. I couldn't decide between the two, so they're here for a tie. I know it's confusing. I'll explain. First the Knicks. The Knicks for all intents and purposes could be a big team in the East. Melo seems focused, which could spell trouble for a lot of other teams. Rose seems focused, though he has some legal issues pending that could certainly hinder his season. Either that or he goes off and scores with reckless abandon while fighting this case. It can go either way, but on paper right now, I have them as a possible 4 or 5 seed in the East.

As far as the Raptors, they won't be as good as they were last year, but they kept most of their pieces and while they will have much more competition in the East this coming year, I definitely can see them as a 3 or 4 seed in the East. The Raptors and the Knicks are the teams that have much promise, but one injury and it all goes out the window. Imagine Rose going down or Porzingis going down for the Knicks early on. Imagine Lowry or Derozen going down for a majority of the season... it's over. So, with that, these are my two biggest question marks on the season, but also two teams with the most promise to be big contenders.

5. Indiana Pacers

-This is the 2nd best team in the East. Or they will be in my book. With some adjustments and minor losses and a reinvigorated Paul George, a healthy Pacers team could legit make a run at the no. 1 spot in the East. The Pacers of a few years ago could resurface in some way, but this time more aware and smarter, with the ability to combat the Cavaliers. While I can't see the Pacers really heading to the NBA Finals, I can see them forcing a 7 game series out of the Cavs, or making the Conference Finals. Paul George could very well end up as a possible MVP candidate IF things go right for the team. I can't wait to see how things turn out for them.

4. Los Angeles Clippers 

-Every year, the Clippers are a top 3 or 4 seed contender, or at least they should be. They have immense talent on their roster. Chris Paul should come back focused, DeAndre Jordan should have gained some more experience via the Olympics, and a healthy Blake Griffin could spell doom for a lot of teams in the East. The Clippers upset the Spurs two years ago, only to blow a 3-1 lead over the Rockets, and choked against the Blazers as well, could this be the year they don't choke? I doubt that, but I could see them making the Conference Finals, or giving the Warriors a brief run for their money in the playoffs. They should easily end up as the 3rd seed in the West, as long as injuries don't come the team's way.

3. San Antonio Spurs 

-Once again, the Spurs are a projected top 2 or 3 team in the West. I think the West once again comes down to Spurs and Warriors on the regular season, but I think the loss of Tim Duncan will be hard for the Spurs. Granted Duncan saw decreased playing time before his retirement, but he's the greatest power forward of all time and a vital part to this team. While Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Alridge can carry the team to greatness, the aging Tony Parker and Manu both could see a decline this year in their play and that could harm the team overall. The addition of Pau Gasol helps however and could be a big factor in their matchups going forward with other top West teams. Coach Pop has the formula and the right guys, so maybe this is the year for the Spurs to return to glory.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers 

-The reigning. Defending. NBA Champions of the World. The best player in the game. One of the 5 greatest players of all time. Lebron James. Then you add Kyrie Irving. A hopefully focused Kevin Love and a mostly in tact Cleveland team with a ton of chemistry and a pretty good coach in Tyronn Lue and you have all the pieces in place for a 3rd straight Cavs Finals appearance and another possible championship. I think the Cavs are a foregone conclusion for the no. 1 seed in the East, though this year they do have a few more contenders to possibly dethrone them, but realistically, the Cavs are coming out the East again and we will see a 3rd straight Finals battle between the Cavs and Warriors, marking the rivalry of this era, if so. Speaking of the Warriors...

1. Golden State Warriors 

-On paper, this team could be unstoppable. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. Stephen Curry. These were the three leaders and the big 3 that helped lead the team to a 73-9 record and another Finals appearance. Now, add one of the 3 best players in the world to this team and an offensive juggernaut. Imagine what that team could do. That's where Kevin Durant comes in. Three of the best shooters in the game along with one of the best defensive players in the game. The Warriors lost a lot of their bench, but considering the biggest pieces of that bench are still present in Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, this makes them even more deadly. That starting 5 could be something epic and while I can't see them going for more than 73 games won this go round, it's possible they could do it. They have some big men, which is where they really lack only, and defensively they're still a solid team. If healthy, this Warriors team is no. 1 in the West and should be able to win a championship. Only time will tell, but it's very possible.

This list was harder to choose when you get beyond the top 3 or 4, but this is how I see it this season. The season is about a month and some change away still, but lord knows I can't wait. This is set up to be one of the most epic seasons we've seen in some time. The NBA has to be happy, because the money will certainly roll in this season.



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