By: Rossy Pasternak
The 2016-2017 NBA season starts today, and I could not be more excited! After an offseason that had us all on the edge of our seats waiting for scoring-god Kevin Durant to make his decision. As everyone knows by now, he went to possibly the only team that could have said “Nah, we don’t need you.” Other than that, it was business as usual in the NBA, with the 76ers young players getting injured, the Orlando Magic front office making questionable decisions, and Darryl Morey continuing to be Darryl Morey.
Without further ado, let’s get to my picks.
1. Golden State Warriors
For obvious reasons (see: Splash triplets + Draymond), the Warriors are the consensus #1 team in the NBA, and an almost unanimous pick to win the West this year.
2. San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio has, strangely, been the subject of trade rumours. Reports have stated that LaMarcus Aldridge will not make it through the season with the team. I believe that Aldridge and fellow big-man Pau Gasol will carry this team, along with league MVP Kawhi Leonard, to the second seed in the West.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The band is back for one more run at playoff success. The Clippers window is closing, as Chris Paul is aging, and Blake Griffen is a free agent after the season. The Clippers will show a new sense of urgency, resulting in their best season since “Lob City” was formed.
4. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers added Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli to their already young and expensive core. The big contracts lock this roster in for the next few years, and this core should be feared. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will continue to carry this team, and the defense will be much improved with the new additions.
5. Utah Jazz
Utah has been the “up and coming” team for the past few years, but I truly believe that this will be the year they take the next step into the playoffs. Gordon Hayward is injured to start off the season, but once he is back, this team will be one of the most feared in the NBA. If Hayward was healthy to start the season, the Jazz would have ranked even higher.
6. Houston Rockets
Houston is playing with James Harden at point guard, or as Mike D’Antoni calls it, “Points Guard.” Coach D’Antoni’s ideal lineup is all offence, no defence. With Harden at the point, he can deploy that lineup. With Eric Gordon at the 2, Ariza at the 3, and Anderson at the 4, the Rockets will have shooting throughout the lineup. “Moreyball” will be at its finest this season, and the Rockets will see a resurgence from last season.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
The Griz’ have basically trademarked “grit’n’grind” basketball over the past few years, but this year are changing it up. Memphis, under new head coach Dave Fizdale, will play more of a “pace-and-space” offence than ever before. Chandler Parsons adds some shooting to the team, who have been shooting more three pointers than ever this preseason. I expect that trend to continue in the regular season, and Marc Gasol to be a focal point of the offence from the elbows. If everyone stays healthy, and that is a BIG if with this team, they will be fearsome once again.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
The T-Wolves young core will take the next step towards contention, but will fall just short to half-human, half-cyborg Russell Westbrook and the Thunder.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is good, but not good enough to carry a team this bad to the playoffs.
11. Denver Nuggets
Denver has done a great job scouting, drafting, and developing international talent. They finally will start seeing the fruits of their labour this season.
12. Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker is going to be a superstar in this league, and Marquisse Chriss has looked good in preseason. This is going to be an exciting team, but not a good one.
13. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs’ fail to contend in what ends up as Dirk Nowitzki’s final season.
14. Los Angeles Lakers
D’Angelo Russell and crew take massive steps in their development, but the team is still too shallow to contend for a playoff position.
14. Sacramento Kings
Cousins, Gay, and Collison are all gone by season’s end. The Kings’ fire-sale results in them having three picks in the top 10, and they use all of them on players over 7 feet tall.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James has been to 6 straight NBA Finals. He’ll make it 7 this season. I guess that means James Jones will as well.
2. Boston Celtics
The Celtics have a ridiculous collection of talent. Isaiah Thomas is a stud, and Al Horford can do everything on the court. I predict that Boston trades for DeMarcus Cousins by the end of the season, possibly for a package including Marcus Smart, Jonas Jerebko, and a Brooklyn 1st rounder. The Celtics are going to be scary come playoff time, with or without Cousins, due to the absolute genius of coach Brad Stevens.
3. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have a healthy and comfortable Paul George, who is ready to set the NBA ablaze. They also added Jeff Teague and Thad Young. The Pacers will be less stout on the defensive end than usual, but Nate McMillan will find a way to make up for it on the offensive end.
4. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors didn’t add much this offseason, other than Jared Sullinger, who could be out as many as three months, and the rookies: Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poetl. Lowry and DeRozan will once again have to carry this team, and they will, both being named All-Stars once again, and Lowry finishing top-5 in MVP voting.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are going to be tough to play against due to their sheer size. Khris Middleton is out, but he will be back with enough time to spare to make a difference. Point Giannis will be a successful experiment, and I like the acquisition of Tony Snell, who has been inconsistently good for the Bulls. If he can bring it every game, he will be vital to the team’s spacing and defence.
6. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls would be much higher in these rankings if I thought that the trio of Wade, Rondo, and Butler could co-exist. All three are ball-dominant players who are at their best in iso, or as the ball handler in pick and rolls.If they figure out how to play together, they could move all the way up to second in the East.
7. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets put it all together late last season, all without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG is a premier defender on the wing, and will only improve the team.
8. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons under Stan Van Gundy are one of the most entertaining teams to watch. They dominate the boards with Drummond, Harris and Boban. With all that size, as well as Stanley Johnson, Reggie Jackson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, this team will be one of the best defensive teams in the league.
9. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks seem not to know what type of team they want. They won 60 games in 2014-15 because of their premier shooting, yet are now built around a low-post threat in Dwight Howard and a point-guard who struggles shooting from 3, Dennis Schroder. Still, this team is too good not to contend for a playoff position.
10. New York Knicks
The Knicks have finally surrounded ‘Melo with talent, and have a great starting lineup. The key to the Knicks outperforming this ranking is Derrick Rose. If Rose can return to a shadow of his old form, the Knicks could make some noise in the East.
11. Washington Wizards
John Wall is biding his time until he can get out of DC, but while he is there he might as well play well. He carries this team, along with a finally sort-of healthy Bradley Beal. It isn’t enough to make the playoffs.
12. Orlando Magic
The Magic could end up with D.J. Augustin as their starting PG if Elfrid Payton struggles, and they will struggle to find minutes for their young stud Mario Hezonja due to the backlog of bigs. It will be nearly impossible for the Magic to get the most of Ibaka, Biyombo, Vucevic, Gordon, Jeff Green, and Hezonja due to the fact that they all play, or are best suited to play, centre or power forward.
13. Miami Heat
Is Pat Riley finally declining, or did he just know it was time to let go of the old era. Either way, the fate of this team is now in the hands of Hassan Whiteside, a 27 year-old child.
14. Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons was hurt, but Embiid is back. #TrustTheProcess.
15. Brooklyn Nets
Jeremy Lin is the franchise player for the Nets… wait, why are they this low? Goku is their superstar!
That is a wrap for SportsNak’s 2016-2017 NBA Season Predictions!!! I can’t wait to see how wrong I am!
What do you think of our predictions? Any predictions of your own? Let us know in the comment section below and on Facebook!
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Edit: This post was edited to include the New Your Knicks. Prior to the edit, James Dolan was considering trading the whole team away for Andrea Bargnani. Fortunately, Dolan was vetoed by Phil Jackson.