Kelly: Let’s be honest. We’ve had just the first night of the NBA season and already people are jumping off and on bandwagons left and right.
The Warriors lost a game? So much for that super team.
The Spurs beat the Warriors? Meet the next king of the West.
Damian Lillard dropped almost 40? He’s the MVP.
Why not join in on that fun and make a few predictions for the 2016-2017 year?
Here are my playoff predictions sprinkled with some things I’m looking for this year. My love of young players and fun teams might cloud these “rankings” a little.
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture:
- Cleveland Cavaliers. Duh.
- Boston Celtics – For reasons I can’t really explain, I happen to love a ton of guards that can’t shoot. Boston has two of my favorites in Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, plus between signing Al Horford and drafting Jaylen Brown, this team got a whole lot more interesting.
- Toronto Raptors – The number two team last year didn’t really lose a whole lot, except for Bismack Biyombo and kept its core intact. They should be near the top again.
- Washington Wizards – And here’s where things get a little crazy. Bradley Beal is inked up and now has to prove that he’s worth all that money. Pair that with John Wall, arguably a top 10 player in the game, and a new coach who might bring some life to the D.C. area. I’m in on the Wizards.
- Milwaukee Bucks – Led by my MVP pick Giannis Antetokoumpo and Jabari Parker, the Bucks and their incredible length have a resurgent year and get themselves in the middle of the playoff race.
- Indiana Pacers – I’m not entirely sure firing Frank Vogel was the right move, but this team brought in a decent amount of talent in the offseason, and in a relatively weak conference (save for LeBron) they are almost a lock as a playoff team.
- Atlanta Hawks – I hate bringing in Dwight Howard. I don’t know how he fits into Bud’s system with the rest of the team around him. Still, they have some really talented players and I don’t think they’ll miss the postseason.
- Detroit Pistons – Welcome to a second-straight playoff berth, Stan Van Gundy and Andre Drummond! I think this team has done enough to get them into a battle for a playoff spot and they have enough youth to edge out some of the older, injury-prone teams like the Knicks.
Western Conference Playoff Picture:
- Golden State Warriors – Even though they lost game one and probably won’t go for 73 wins this year, this team has just so much talent that when they put it all together, it will be hard to stop.
- San Antonio Spurs – The one takeaway I’m keeping from last night’s game is that this is Kawhi Leonard’s team. He is such a silent star in the NBA and I think somehow he stays off people’s radars until they wake up and see the Spurs at the top of the conference.
- Houston Rockets – This pains me a little because I really can’t stand James Harden after last year’s mail-it-in performance. However, I think he might function better without Dwight Howard and with Mike D’Antoni so I think I have to put them here.
- Portland Trailblazers – Damian Lillard is good. Really good. This team outperformed expectations last year, but I think they showed how good they can be. I don’t really see them sliding at all from last year.
- Los Angeles Clippers – Ugh another team I don’t enjoy watching but feel obligated to put on this list. I think this is the last gasp for the trio of Chris Paul + Deandre Jordan + Blake Griffin so I think they make a push for the playoffs, I just don’t know how high they’ll go.
- Utah Jazz – This team might be second in offseason buzz behind the Warriors, but for good reason. Their defense is fantastic and Dante Exum is returning. I’m curious how they’ll handle being without Gordon Hayward to start the year, but I think this team pushes itself into the picture.
- New Orleans Pelicans – Hear me out. Anthony Davis is relatively healthy (stupid sprained ankle). They brought in a few reinforcements with upside potential, like Lance Stephenson, and drafted a really exciting player in Buddy Hield. If Jrue Holiday was there to start the year, I might even have them a smidgen higher, but while we all pray for his wife to recover, this team will suffer a little at the start without him, but I think they can make a late run.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns might be one of the most exciting young players, and Andrew Wiggins isn’t far behind him. The two of them now with new head coach Tom Thibodeau have the ability to excite Minnesota fans and carry them for a run at a playoff spot.