DAR Sports: The 2017-2018 NBA Season Predictions

By @TrueGodImmortal

There is nothing more exciting than what will happen this Tuesday. If you're unaware, it's simple. The start of the NBA season is upon us. After a fun yet shortened preseason, the real fun is about to begin as the regular season is just hours away (it'll likely be started by the time you read this or almost there). With that in mind, I think it's only fair we give the NBA a proper preview of the upcoming season and make some predictions of course. Who walks away with the titles, the award, and who will end up as the top teams in every conference? Let's take a look. 

Top 8 Eastern Conference Teams The East isn't stacked like the West, but that might be a good thing. This is the year that we could see more players in the East step up and make something happen. While LeBron is still the King Of The East and will likely be that again this season, I'll admit, I'm not as confident in that for a number of reasons. Usually, every season for the last 6 or 7 years, I've almost knew for sure a LeBron led team was coming out of the East. His teams are stacked and built this way, so it makes sense. No one has a strong enough team and a solid bench to compete with his squad and this year isn't too different, except for one team. That's the Boston Celtics. Now, while I don't think the Celtics are a clear cut favorite to win in the East, I think the divorce between LeBron and Kyrie Irving makes things much more interesting. For all the annoying fandom and false narratives that LeBron enthusiasts spew, the truth is, LeBron doesn't make the Finals for the last three seasons without Kyrie and the Superteam around him. Sure, LeBron was the leader, but Kyrie was as vital to the title run and the Finals appearances as LeBron. While disgruntled Cleveland fans will tell you otherwise NOW, a few months ago, they would have told you the same. However, narrative aside, the dynamics have changed. The Cavs are older, have yet to fix their defensive issue, and they have a limited amount of shooting in their starting lineup currently. What will this mean going forward in the season? Likely another Finals appearance, but it's also possible their lack of defensive awareness, shooting, and old age could be a problem in the playoffs. With that being said, what about the rest of the East? Let's take a look at the top 8 teams in the East this year. 

1. Boston Celtics (55-27) 

-You might be surprised to see the Cavs not be the no. 1 option, but the way that I see it, the Cavs didn't get much better, if at all, and the Celtics improved a little bit. While some say the loss of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder hurt, they were replaced essentially by Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, both huge upgrades at their respective positions. Their biggest loss defensively was Avery Bradley, but they have made some big pickups in Marcus Morris and their rookie Jayson Tatum, who can help in this area, along with the maturation of Marcus Smart and the growth of Jaylen Brown. I think the system of the Celtics will flow smoothly and lead them to a 55 win season with Hayward and Kyrie as 1A and 1B. The Celtics are the only team I even see as a threat to the Cavs, and their regular season success will be a product of their youth, speed, schemes, and overall talent. I think we see just how good both Kyrie and Hayward really are this year in breakout seasons for both.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (52-30)

-I predict the Cavs will only win a few games over 50, and that's if they want to. With the new rule imposed on resting players for games, it's possible LeBron has to play more games than usual this season, and perhaps that pushes them to a higher win total. I think what makes this so strange however is that there is so much uncertainty on this team. Dwyane Wade is no longer the Wade of his prime and while that doesn't mean he's terrible, he's definitely not a true solid option on a team, nor should he starting. The verdict isn't out on Isaiah Thomas and his hip injury, nor am I sold completely on Derrick Rose staying healthy this year once the playoffs begin and the competition gets heavy. Kevin Love will step up to make a big contribution, but the internal issues and egos may be a problem with this team. Considering we saw the cracks in a LeBron led team's armor this off-season with the Kyrie ordeal, one has to wonder if we see more of the same with this team that's made up of so many egos and such a lack of defense and shooting. On paper, the Cavs have the second best roster in the NBA, but I don't think we see them go as hard until the playoffs like most Bron led teams. They'll win just enough to get the 2nd seed, and maybe take a crack at the 1st seed, but their focus is the playoffs and that's when we'll see them try to be at their full power. Still, age and lack of defensive in this ever changing fast paced game could be a problem against some younger teams with solid defense and shooters. 

3. Washington Wizards (50-32)

-John Wall and Bradley Beal could end up being the duo of the East this year. The Wizards should win 50 games and they should be slightly better than they were last year. Wall and Beal are a great backcourt, and I think they are both focused on making the Conference Finals this year. Will they? That remains to be seen, but I could see them having a small shot. Still, their season is dependent on how well their bench does. Wall and Beal are huge contributors and they put the team on their backs regularly but their bench needs to step up and make some production happen in order for them to become a serious contender in the East. Pressure is also on Otto Porter to live up to that contract as well. Can the Wizards get over the hump? This is the year where they can, but I'm not 100% sure if they will.

4. Toronto Raptors (48-34)

-Lowry and Derozan will be together for years to come. The Raptors will win nothing. I think on paper, they have a very good team and that they could very be the surprise team in the East if it all flows together well. I can't see this team not winning at least 45 games and making the playoffs, And I think they'll be fun to watch this year. I predict a first round exit in the playoffs this year, but it's possible we could see them in the 2nd round, or even a shocking appearance in the Conference Finals. It isn't likely, but if the team executes the way we know they can, they're like the Wizards in the respect that they could have a shot, but I have more doubts than belief.

5. Milwaukee Bucks (47-35)

-The Sleeper. Giannis is on a mission and the fact is, this could be the year he breaks through even bigger than before. Will we see the Bucks finally show they are a true contender? I have some doubts, but with a solid all around team and the return of Jabari Parker coming, they could be even better than they were last year and if they stay defensive minded, there's a huge chance they could surprise the world and win more games than I predict and may become a top 3 or 4 seed. It's entirely possible, it just depends on health and how hungry this team is.

6. Charlotte Hornets (44-38)

-The 6th through 8th seeds are up for grabs and nothing is safe. Truthfully. If I had to make a choice, I would say the Hornets should be fun to watch in spurts, but I'm not 100% sold on them. I think winning 40 plus games is possible with this team if Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard click and they play solid defense. This is a free for all style pick as I don't know what to expect with this team, but there's a little bit of promise with them. I can't see the Hornets any higher than a 6th seed, but if they do make it higher, they won't make any splash in the playoffs.

7. Detroit Pistons (42-40)

-This is a team that I think will shock everyone. They have the pieces. They have the defense and their offense will be decent. I predict this will be a breakout season for Avery Bradley. He's going to shine in Detroit and I think he's accustomed to the system very well. The Pistons aren't a threat at all, but I do think they could end up as a fun team to watch on TV, racking up wins against the top teams of the league. Detroit is going to be a great city for Avery Bradley, Andre Drummond should have a decent season, and the Pistons should squeeze into the playoffs.

8. Miami Heat (40-42)

-I think the Heat deserved to make the playoffs last year, but they just missed out, however this year will be different. Miami returns to the playoffs this season led by Hassan Whiteside who has a big year and Dion Waiters who steps up big time when his team needs him and of course, Dragic will be solid once again. The Heat likely won't get out of the first round, but they will be a playoff team once again.

Other Teams To Watch In The East
Despite the top 8 teams being discussed, there are some teams I'm keeping my eye on in each Conference. There are two promising teams who might not be playoff bound, but could be fun to watch. Let's take a look at those.

*Brooklyn Nets (31-51)

-The Nets won't be trash this year. I actually believe they won't. They won't be a playoff team, but they won't be the worst team in the East this year. I think they have a decent squad and can win around 30 games this season, which will likely be better than the Magic and the Bulls, and quite possibly the Hawks. I expect a big year from D'Angelo Russell, and while I don't see the Nets finishing the year in the hunt for the postseason, I see a glimmer of hope being built this year to make them at least be seen as a future playoff team a year or two down the line.

*Philadelphia 76ers (39-43)

-I want this year to be the year that the 76ers make the playoffs but I'm not sold yet. On paper, if they stay healthy, they could do some damage. They could really go hard at the teams in the East and compete at the highest level, but it's the unknown health factor that gives me my doubts. Markelle Fultz has to show up, Ben Simmons needs to stay healthy, and Joel Embiid needs to stay healthy and play more games. If Embiid can play 60-65 games this year and the 76ers can make the playoffs or compete for a playoff spot at least, this season is a win for the Sixers. They've been trusting the process for a while now. It's time for it to pay off. This season could be the start.

Top 8 Western Conference Teams
The West is stacked this year. While most people know who is coming out the West more than likely, what remains to be seen is how the rest of the teams work out this season. Can the Warriors maintain dominance in the West? Will the Rockets be able to make the James Harden and Chris Paul partnership work? Will the Spurs be great again? Will the new trio of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George work together to make something happen in Oklahoma City? Will the new Minnesota team that includes Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague work well despite not having solid shooting and some defensive issues? Could the Nuggets be the sleeper team to watch for? Will Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis lead the Pelicans to playoff glory? Does Lonzo Ball show the world what it means to be a big baller? Do the Grizzlies find a way to be good without their tough veterans? Can the Utah Jazz find a path to the playoffs without Gordon Hayward? All these questions get answered this season. Let's talk the West.

1. Golden State Warriors (71-11)

-Can the Warriors win more than 73 games? Yes. I believe so. They should have won 70 games last season really, but the KD injury and minute restrictions in the final few games stopped them from that. They went 67-15 after losing KD for 6 weeks, then went 16-1 in the playoffs at the highest level of basketball. To make matters worse for the rest of the league, the Warriors got better. Steph Curry looks as focused as ever, Kevin Durant will be focused, Draymond Green is ready, Klay Thompson might be better than ever, and with four of the top 25 players in the league on one team and in their primes, we could be seeing a dynasty in the making. Add to that, the veteran savvy of David West, Nick Young, Casspi, Zaza, and Javale, as well as their two most productive bench pieces in Iguodala and Livingston, with their youth in Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw, And the Warriors are stacked and set for years. Even in the future when some of their veteran core leaves and gets replaced, just the power of Steph, KD, Draymond, Klay, Iggy, Livingston, McCaw, and Bell will be hard to stop because it's the perfect mix of high level veterans, great players in their prime, and youth. The Warriors should be the team to watch again, and I think they'll coast somewhat this year and still just win 70 games because they are that good offensively and defensively. 

2. Houston Rockets (57-25)

-This is a great regular season team. It will be a great regular season team. Aside from that, this team will not have much more success than that. Still, I see the Rockets gaining the no. 2 seed barely over the Thunder, and the addition of Chris Paul will be important for that success. They lost a few pieces in that trade for CP3, but they added some good complementary pieces to go along with most of the team they had in terms of starting lineup. They won't be much better defensively, as CP3 has been on the decline slowly in the area, but they will be tougher to guard. You gave two no. 1 options in James Harden and Chris Paul working together and I think it'll work well up until the playoffs, where they will both likely feel the pressure and lose in a 7 game series. But, for the time being, the Rockets will be a lot of fun to watch....... shoot threes.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-26)

-I might be crazy for this, but I actually think that this team could be the no. 2 or 3 seed over the Spurs. The Spurs aren't as good as they were last year IMO and they're older. Russell Westbrook had a near 50 win season with literally one of the worst teams around him, and now he has two solid pieces in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. This team will be fun, and I think they'll flow well, and due to the Thunder being a good defensive team for the most part, that's where they will shine the most. The scoring of Paul George and Melo will help Russell Westbrook where he needed it last year and that makes this Thunder team a contender. They have a depth issue on the bench, but with PG or Melo able to be out there to run the 2nd unit from time to time, this could be a welcome change for the Thunder overall. I think they could challenge for the no. 2 seed as well.

4. San Antonio Spurs (54-28)

-If you think I'm doubting the Spurs, you're wrong. I don't. They could very well be a 55 win team or even close to a 60 win team, but I just feel like their old age and the offensive strength of some of these other teams will cause them to fall just below the 55 win mark. Kawhi will have a great season, and he will be much more motivated, but the reality is, the Spurs have some slight depth issues that might prove to be an issue for them through the season. I still think the Spurs will be a top team in the West, and they could finish as the 2nd or 3rd seed, but to spice it up a little, I say they fall off a bit from where they were the last two seasons.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves (49-33)

-I have my doubts about this team. It's not that the talent isn't there. It's the chemistry and the coaching. Thibs is a decent coach but minute distribution and schemes will play a big part in how this team succeeds. The addition of Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and of course Jimmy Butler gives the Wolves their deepest roster in quite some time. The biggest issue is going to be defense and shooting, but I'm interested to see how this plays out. Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns should be able to step up big time this season and if this team works together well, I could see the Wolves being a slight contender. I expect internal issues between the big 3 in Minny, but the season will end their playoff drought and get them closer to being where they want to be.

6. Denver Nuggets (48-34)

-I think this Nuggets team will be really good, and the sleeper team of the West. They have enough pieces and a solid bench that could help them make a real run the West, but for me, The focus this season goes to one big piece of the team and one new addition. Nikola Jokic will be the centerpiece of the team, while the integration of Paul Millsap will be huge for the team. They will be th sleeper team this year and while I can't see them making big noise in the playoffs, I could at the very least see this team upsetting their opponent in the first round. The Nuggets will be good. Not good enough to win the West, but they'll be as good as they can be in such a stacked Conference.
7. Portland Trailblazers (46-36)

-This team just can never get over the hump. Dame Lillard is a great player. He could become a scoring champion this year. CJ by his side makes a dynamic duo that goes for what they want, which is the NBA Championship. However, this team won't have that type of success, and despite Nurkic having that post presence and doing what he does best with this team, it won't be enough to surprise the rest of the NBA by the Blazers doing some damage in the playoffs. They're a good team, but it's just not possible for a team like this to go far in the West. Maybe in a few years they can fix this issue.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (43-39)

-Do I think the Clippers have a shot at succeeding this season? No. Can they make the playoffs? Sure. Will that mean anything going forward? No. That's the issue. The Clippers have Patrick Beverly, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. This should equal some success for them in the West, but not a lot. The Clippers can reach the 7th or 8th seed, but that's their ceiling. They won't make it beyond the first round of the playoffs, and that seems to be a theme with this team. They'll be good, but just not good enough to make any real noise.  

Other Teams To Watch In The West
The West is so stacked that there will be teams that don't make the playoffs that will be fun to watch of course. I think the Suns and the Mavericks will actually end up being two of the worst teams in the West this season, and the Utah Jazz will struggle to find sufficient scoring as well. The Grizzlies won't make the playoffs, but defensively they'll be a tough team to beat I'm sure. Still, the West has two non playoff teams I think we should all watch. Let's take a look at those.

*New Orleans Pelicans (41-41)

-Boogie and AD will just miss the playoffs this year, but they'll compete for the playoffs most of the year. Their team isn't stacked for the playoffs but with two of the best big men in the game and two top scorers in the game, the Pelicans need to work on centering the game around those two and getting Jrue involved more. They could sneak into the 8th seed if the Clippers aren't healthy or the Blazers slip, but it seems unlikely that the Pelicans end up making the playoffs this year. They have the tools, but the West is so stacked, it's entirely possible this team finishes 9th or 10th in the Conference. Still, Boogie and AD together for a whole season will be fun to watch.

*Los Angeles Lakers (30-52)

-Are you ready for Magic? No? Well, how about Lonzo? How about Kyle Kuzma?  The Lakers aren't making the playoffs, but they can definitely be a fun team to watch. They have a solid young team with a lot of potential for the future, but I can't see the playoffs for them just yet. In a year or two? For sure. Just not now. Still, the development of Lonzo and Kyle Kuzma is enough to make me tune into a few of the nationally televised Lakers games.

Who Wins The Awards
There are so many awards to look forward to. From MVP to Defensive Player Of The Year to Rookie Of The Year, all eyes will be on the players this year as we watch another season that's sure to break records. For MVP, I have to look at realistic candidates. For one, LeBron James is not a realistic candidate. His team features Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and more, so he has far too much help on his Superteam to win MVP. Plus, the Cavs aren't likely to win anywhere near 60 games IMO, and the only way LeBron could even be considered was if the Cavs win over 60 games. Considering the Warriors can win over 60 games and over 67 with relative ease, it is possible Kevin Durant or Steph Curry could win MVP. If the Warriors have a huge season, win 70 games, and either Durant or Curry have a big year, one of them will win MVP due to the team success. I think Curry will have a huge all around season and is a possible choice, but Durant might cancel him out and vice versa. The same should be said for James Harden who has a group of three point shooters around him and now he has the 1B to his 1A with Chris Paul, which could knock his chances down some. Russell Westbrook has to share the ball with Melo and Paul George so I doubt he repeats as MVP. This leaves two realistic options in Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving. I want to see Kyrie win MVP this year. If the Celtics can win close to 58 games or higher while Kyrie averages his highest PPG and leads them to the no. 1 seed, I could see him winning. He doesn't have half the team LeBron has or Durant and Curry have, so him winning MVP is actually realistic. I would hope Kyrie gets the credit he deserves if he leads the team to the no. 1 record in the East. Kawhi could lead the old age Spurs to another 55 win season and if he stays healthy, I think he should get MVP. Honestly, he had a claim to it last season, and probably should have won. Regardless, the NBA is biased so you will see either LeBron, Durant, Harden, or maybe Curry win this award.

Rookie Of The Year is tough, and I don't have a true pick, but I'll say it will come down go either Lonzo or Dennis Smith Jr. For Most Improved Player, it'll be really tough to pick. I could see Brandon Ingram winning this award, D'Angelo Russell, or maybe a sleeper pick like Jaylen Brown. It's anybody's award honestly. For the Defensive Player Of The Year award, I have Draymond Green going back to back with Rudy Gobert knocking on the door to take the award next season. For Coach Of The Year, I hope the Celtics win the East and Brad Stevens finally gets his credit for turning Boston into a viable team in the Conference. All of these awards could go to surprise choices, but that's the fun of the season. You just never know what to expect.

Final Thoughts
Barring injury, I think this season ends the same way it did last year: with the Warriors defeating the Cavs in the Finals. This coming season, if both teams are healthy, I have the Warriors sweeping the Cavs, or winning in 5 games once again, with Steph Curry walking away with his much deserved Finals MVP Award (he should have won it in 2015). It's possible the Celtics dethrone the Cavs, but I'm still not ready to bet against LeBron yet in the East, plus his roster is much deeper than any other team in the East, as he wants it. If we get the Cavs vs Warriors 4, I think the reality is going to be that Golden State is miles ahead of Cleveland, younger, more efficient, and I think that without Kyrie, the Warriors will be control the game much easier even than last year. Isaiah Thomas won't be 100% the same and defensively he's much more of a liability than Kyrie, as is Derrick Rose, and I feel like age will be a big factor in how the Cavs move by the time the Finals start. No matter what, this season should be a lot of fun, and it will end the same way I think the next few seasons will: with the Golden State Warriors as NBA Champions.



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