If you’re looking for a 3-part series, you usually look for movie trilogies. The public perception says the first movie is usually the classic. The second movie is generally harder to top than the first one. And the third movie is the wild card (you’re not sure what you’re going to get). From what I experienced, the first movie is the best, the second movie is a let down, and the third movie is slightly better than the second one. Personally, I enjoyed The Matrix trilogy but others may differ. Lord Of The Rings is another iconic trilogy that people celebrated. Those movies gives you a beginning, middle, and ending.
With that being said, it’s hard to find a good trilogy these days, but we might finally get one starting June 1st. This will be the 3rd consecutive meeting between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers with enormous anticipation.
In the first matchup in 2015, the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA Title in over 40 years, beating Cleveland in 6 games. The Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans felt that the loss was a fluke because Kevin Love was out for the postseason with a shoulder injury that occurred in the first round and Kyrie Irving injured his knee in game one of the NBA Finals. Even though LeBron James was without his All-Star teammates, he still put on an outstanding performance and kept the series interesting.
In last year NBA Finals matchup, the Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA championship by edging out the Warriors in 7 games and also coming back from a 3 games to 1 deficit. The Golden State Warriors and their fans would say if it wasn’t for Draymond Green being suspended for game five or Andrew Bogut getting hurt, the Warriors would’ve been back to back defending champs.
You can make excuses for both teams if you choose to but the fact of the matter is that we will finally get to see a “winner take all” meeting in this long awaited rubber match. What makes this main event still admirable is the additional on Kevin Durant to the Warriors last July. He is the ultimate x-factor in this series and also has the most pressure to win. The Warriors won 73 regular season games last season and are proven champions without him. If Golden State falls short for the second consecutive year, majority of the heat will be on Durant just because of his “power-shifting” free agency decision last summer. Anything less than holding up the Larry O’Brien trophy this season will leave a stain on his legacy.
In which seems to be a conclusive matchup between these two teams, this is projected to be the best series yet. There are no injuries. No one is on track of being suspended. Each team is coming into the series well rested. All we can hope for at this point is for the series to live up to the hype. We’ll get to see a healthy Kyrie Irving against a healthy Stephen Curry. We’ll witness Kevin Durant to try to get over the hump against LeBron James. The 3 point shooting of the Cavs will be tested by the Splash Brothers of the Dubs. JR Smith will probably be JR Smith, and Draymond Green’s antics may appear once or twice. And Kevin Love would want to have a better NBA Finals performance than last year.
The series will come down to a few things. Whoever team’s role players can step up on the road will have a big advantage. We expect the stars to perform to a high level, but when you can get consistent productivity from a JaVale McGee and David West or Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye, it will take some of the burden off the starters and make them less fatigued.
Another factor is 3 point shooting. Whichever team is hitting from behind the hot consistently will make it tough for the opponent to stay in the game. The Warriors have better long distance shooters, but the Cavaliers have plenty of long range depth.
My last key point is turnovers. Golden State’s only moderate weakness is being too careless with the basketball at times (that was one of the main reasons Cleveland was able to come back last year). The Cavs will continue to make them pay if that trend continues. If the Warriors can hold on to the ball, then the Cavaliers might have their hands full.
Both teams come into the NBA Finals on dominant stretches. Golden State is undefeated in postseason play thus far and Cleveland only suffered one loss. The Warriors are the favorite in this series. Get your popcorn ready because part 3 should be rewarding for the average NBA fan.
February is one of my favorite months for sports because of the Super Bowl, pitchers in MLB report to spring training, college basketball is starting to get down to the wire, and NBA All-Star Weekend. This year, the festive event will take place in New Orleans. I took a trip to New Orleans in May of 2015, and that was one of the best experiences of my life. The culture in “NOLA” is truly one of a kind. The original destination was Charlotte, but due to anti-gay laws within the state, the NBA elected to change locations. The NBA just hosted the All-Star Game New Orleans in 2014.
Besides Kyrie Irving’s belief that the world is flat, the most intriguing headline of the weekend is Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reuniting as teammates. Their brotherly friendship has been derailed since KD’s departure to Golden State. The two has yet attempted to patch things up so that should make way for an interesting interaction in the locker room.
The events for Saturday includes the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, JBL Three-Point Contest, and the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. I’m picking Isaiah Thomas for the Skills Challenge, Nick Young for the Three-Point Contest, and Glenn Robinson III for the Slam Dunk Contest.
As for the NBA All-Star Game itself, I have Anthony Davis as the MVP. With that being said, I hope all the events live up to the hype! JGOOD
The NBA season is finally back after a historic NBA Championship victory by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and an offseason where Kevin Durant shook up the basketball world by signing with the Golden State Warriors. Phenoms were drafted in June and some NBA stars found different homes with contracts that would break the bank 20 years ago. My good friends Cello and Reap (yes, short for Grim Reaper), along with D.Reed and Chris helped contribute to this article. They will also be active on Twitter for this upcoming NBA season for your NBA news, updates, questions, and debates.
NBA WEST PLAYOFFS 2016-17 (Cello)
(Preseason Seed Predictions)
15. Denver Nuggets
Not much to this Denver team. They play hard even game, but it just won’t be good enough with such a tight race to the playoffs in the west.
14. Phoenix Suns
The Suns lost some players and no one on that roster really has what it takes to make them as good as they were last season. They are going to need to rebuild.
13. Sacramento Kings
On paper, this team looks like they should be in the playoffs yearly. DeMarcus Cousins is arguably the best big man in the West, but he seems to just not be able to get his team close to the playoffs. With him and Rudy Gay in the line-up, what is the problem? Seems that management just can’t surround him with the best supporting cast, and it’s only a matter of time before “Boogie” moves on to a new team.
12. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers will be in the playoff hunt in a few seasons, but there is going to be an adjustment period. The first season in 20 years without Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant is going to be tough. At the same time, these young guys can now grow as players as last season held them back and didn’t allow them to get any real development on the court in order to celebrate Kobe’s retirement with the tour. No doubt they are better than everyone thinks. Ingram, Clarkson, and Russell are going to be exciting to watch.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are on the rise. This team will be in the playoffs within the next few seasons. Their starting line-up is scary. With some time under their belt, expect Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns to be All-Stars. Unfortunately, this team has no bench, and that will be the reason they do not make the playoffs this season.
10. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans just doesn’t have the pieces anymore. A couple of years ago, they were on the rise. With Anthony Davis missing most of last season’s games due to injury and the departure of Ryan Anderson, this team is in need of new pieces and that isn’t coming this season.
9. Houston Rockets
With the departure Dwight Howard, this team may be better off without him. They have added Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Nene,but is it enough to get this team in the playoffs? Only time will team. Right now, I think they will just miss the playoffs due to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. May come down to a tie-breaker.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
This team, of course, is no longer a title contender without Kevin Durant (we all know this). However, Russell Westbrook is the type of guy that will push his team into the playoffs this season. Look for him to have the best season of his career and lead his team to what would be a dream matchup between the Thunder and Warriors.
7. Utah Jazz
Seeds 7-11 will be in the mix of making the playoffs this season. Utah has progressively gotten better each of the past few years, and with their new added vets of Boris Diaw, Joe Johnson, and George Hill, these guys will only get better.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are going to fight and claw their way right into the playoffs again. Lillard and McCollum are one of the best backcourts in the league right now. With the struggles of the Western Conference teams through the past few seasons, Portland will get to the playoffs and make some noise.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
There isn’t much to say about Memphis. They always seem to hover around the five seed. Mike Conley should come in highly confident after that contract he signed (highest paid player in NBA history, for now), and they will just keep grinding.
4. Dallas Mavericks
This team has added some championship pedigree to the roster in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. These two alone will continue to keep Dallas in the mix. With Dirk Nowitzki’s career coming to an end soon, don’t expect this team to make it to the make it past the second round.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers starting lineup is good. Their problem, though, is they just don’t have enough to take them to the finals. As long as the core group stays together, they will be in contention, but unless they add another key piece, don’t expect them to get past the Spurs or the Warriors any time soon.
2. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are a great team, as usual (much like the NFL’s Patriots). It really doesn’t matter who is on the floor because the system is just great. The greatest PF to play the game is now retired, but they didn’t really downgrade the position as Pau Gasol is there now (he still averages a double-double).
1. Golden State Warriors
The GSW is expected to get back to the finals. The starting line-up can do that but what people don’t realize it to get Kevin Durant, they had to give up some of their key players like Harrison Barnes and Leandro Barbosa. That can be an issue later. Right now, they are the top team in the West, we shall see once the season starts.
NBA EAST PLAYOFFS 2017
(Preseason Seed Predictions)
15. Brooklyn Nets
This team has been on a downfall for the last few seasons. Stars like Joe Johnson left and free agents like Jeremy Lin have signed. After a terrible season last year, don’t expect any improvement this year.
14. Philadelphia 76’ers
With the addition of Ben Simmons to the Sixers, this team will be very exciting to watch. Joel Embiid, will finally make his debut and his looks good. They won’t be as bad as they have been in the past few years, but they are all still young and have some building to do. This team will be good in about 3 seasons.
13. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have the potential to a very good team. Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a superstar in the league, but the franchise just hasn’t surrounded him with the right people. Watching this team play will be better than their record will be.
12. Orlando Magic
The Magic have some good new additions like Bismack Biyambo and Serge Ibaka, but they just don’t have the necessary star power that it’s going to take to get to the playoffs. Look for them to be in the hunt within the next 2 or 3 seasons.
11. Charlotte Hornets
This team has the pieces to make the playoff race, but the East seeds are going to be close. Teams 5-11 will be within a few games apart.
10. Washington Wizards
They always seem to be good but just not good enough. With the East being so tight this year, the Wizards look like they may just fall out of the runnings. It will definitely be close.
9. Detroit Pistons
Detroit is just on the outskirts of the playoffs. This team can float anywhere from 6/7 seed to about the 12th seed. With the addition of the Bulls possibly making the playoffs this season, the Pistons are going to just barely miss their entry.
8. Miami Heat
With the loss of Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat will no doubt struggle to make the playoffs. With the weak of the East, they still do have enough pieces to make it to the playoffs but don’t be surprised if they slip into the 9/10 spot before season’s end.
7. New York Knicks
On paper, this team looks amazing or as D. Rose says, “super team” (but that’s on paper). The fact of the matter is the Knicks have a bunch of players who used to be stars. Now, they are a bunch of injury-prone players. I would love to see this team gel and succeed, but it seems more and more, less likely. Their playoff hopes strictly depend on whether the team can stay healthy OR if D. Rose can stay out of jail.
6. Chicago Bulls
Dwyane Wade is HOME!! But does that make the Bulls a contender? No, but this one of the most interesting teams entering this year’s association.
5. Boston Celtics
Al Horford, that’s all you need to know. This man is going to make the Celtics a tough team to beat. Last season, they played better than anyone thought they would, and this new addition can be scary with a few more additions.
4. Toronto Raptors
They Raptors will still be a decent team in the East after last year’s surprise performance to the ECF (Eastern Conference Finals). The loss of Bismack Biyambo will sting a little, but they will still be top four in the East.
3. Indiana Pacers
Paul George is a superstar and looks like he hasn’t missed a beat after that gruesome injury he had in the summer of 2014 (Team USA scrimmage). With Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague added to the roster, this may be just what they need to go deep into the playoffs.
2. Atlanta Hawks
With the Hawks acquiring Dwight Howard (where he can actively be used), he will be motivated to work hard in Atlanta (his hometown). The Hawks have some very experienced players on the roster, and they will succeed because of it.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
That’s a given. The defending champs have little competition in the East (but far more now than last season). Look for Lebron to continue to a 7th straight NBA Finals appearance. The Cavs roster hasn’t changed much but when you have Lebron James, it really doesn’t matter who else is on the team.
NBA Awards Predictions
D.Reed @freshprynce23 (Twitter and Instagram) JGood @jgoodwithsports (Twitter and Instagram)
Cello @brimology101 (Twitter)
Reap @reapdareaper07 (Twitter)
Chris @mrwsa11 (Twitter)
What a free agency that we are experiencing!! I’ve already mentioned the insane contracts that are being handed out. Now the only question left is who is actually benefiting from this event. Here’s the biggest winners and losers of this summer:
Last year the Spurs locked down Lamarcus Aldridge on Independence Day. This year Kevin Durant declared his independence and joined the 2-time reigning Western Conference champs. This is the first time ever that former MVPs are on the same team in their respective primes. The Warriors were on the verge of a repeat without KD. With Durant, this team has dynasty potential (similar to when LeBron joined the Miami Heat).
Even though they missed out on Kevin Durant, they was able to sign Pau Gasol, who they have coveted for years. Having him and Lamarcus Aldridge makes their offensive difficult to stop. They are interchangeable between the low and high post and Gasol is a skillful passer. If Duncan decides to return, they will make a formidable front court. Oh, and not to mention Kawhi Leonard and others.
The Pacers was relevant in the Eastern Conference 3 years ago but fell off due to a leg injury by Paul George and roster changes. They had already traded for Thaddeus Young and Jeff Teague before free agency started. Them signing Al Jefferson, along with already having Monte Ellis and their superstar Paul George, has made them a dark horse to get back to competitive status. I’ve heard they may bring back Lance Stephenson as well.
A month ago, the Knicks didn’t look like they would improve too much this summer but that all changed after trading for Derrick Rose. Phil Jackson added Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings for much needed depth. New York should be a contender in the East. Just when you thought Phil didn’t care about the Knicks organization, he pulls off some impressive transactions.
When Derrick Rose was traded, management said that they wanted to get younger and more athletic, but also didn’t want to completely rebuild. They turned around and signed Rajon Rondo and Dywane Wade. That’s definitely goes against what was said in he first part, but nonetheless the additions with Jimmy Butler makes the Bulls lineup intriguing. The team has the potential to do great things.
Losin Kevin Durant makes them the biggest loser of the summer by default. They went from a title contender to a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. What’s even worse, unless Russell Westbrook decides to sign a contract extension, the Thunder would be wise to trade him now so this situation doesn’t happen again a year from now.
The Clippers missed out on Kevin Durant and resigned Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford. The bad part about this is that the teams that they have to beat to get to the NBA Finals (Spurs and Warriors) have gotten significantly better while they have stayed the same or gotten slightly worse. Unless DeAndre Jordan learns how to make free throws, the Clippers will always be inferior.
Look, 2 years ago the Rockets overachieved by going to the Western Conference Finals. Last season they barely sneaked into the playoffs like an 18 year old getting into a club with a fake ID. I don’t care how Dwight Howard was playing or his attitude, losing him and replacing him with Nene is not acceptable. Maybe this team will actually play better if James Harden starts playing defense or limit the isolation plays. Until then, this team is mediocre at best (Good luck making the playoffs next season).
Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are known to be aggressive when going after superstar free agents. However, striking out with Kevin Durant and then being stubborn and”playing chicken” with Dywane Wade has left Miami without their franchise player. Sure, they have plenty if cap space now and will be big players next summer but for time being, it’s not longer “Wade County” in Miami. Oh and not to mention, there’s still uncertainty on Chris Bosh’s future.
Last offseason, when the Wizards couldn’t keep Paul Pierce, the wheels started to fall apart (and other parts were dismantled as well in summer). First, Kevin Durant, who is from the D.C. area, doesn’t even request an interview with Washington. Next, the Wizards couldn’t land Dwight Howard or Al Horford. Lastly, they signed Ian Mahinmi (29 years old). He was a backup center for the Pacers making 4 million. The Wizards gave him 64 million over 4 years (16 million per season if the contract paid out equally). I know the contracts this offseason have been outrageous but to over pay an unproven player sounds desperate to me.
We all make decisions in life. Some minor. Some major. Some might only effect yourself and some could impact others. Sometimes it can take days, weeks, months, or even years to decide OR it could take a split second. Regardless of the decisions that you make, just make sure you’re happy about it and can live with it.
With all that being said, I’m sure the whole United States and parts of the world has heard about Kevin Durant’s career decision. The reactions have been mixed to say the least. He’s been called “weak”, a “coward”, and names far more vulgar than you can imagine. I’ve seen videos of Kevin Durant jerseys and shirts being set on fire and even obliterated with automatic weapons. I can’t say that this is the worst I’ve seen from a decision like this because LeBron’s choice had a similar impact in the city of Cleveland in 2010.
I was one of the people who got on LeBron for leaving to form the big 3 in Miami. I felt like he ran from the challenge to make his life easier. I thought he lied to the city by promising them a title but bolted. The fact that he went on live TV to announce his decision wasn’t right. It was just unacceptable.
However, now I understand. If LeBron didn’t leave he wouldn’t have learned how to win. Playing with a proven winner like Dwyane Wade molded him. I don’t believe he would have the mental tools to bring a championship to Cleveland. Also, he was already getting criticized for not winning so he put himself in position to win multiple titles and that’s what he did. The same thing applies for Kevin Durant. He spent 8 years with the Thunder organization (first year as the Supersonics) and only been to the NBA Finals once. When the Heat formed the big 3, Durant mentioned on Twitter that he didn’t understand why you need to team up with other stars. At the time, Kevin thought he would win a championship soon. When you keep losing year after year (meaning not winning a championship), it will take a toll on you.
Kevin Durant went to the Golden State Warriors because playing with great teammates makes his job easier and he will have the chance to win multiple rings. People are stunned that he joined the team that eliminated him. In my opinion, I don’t think he thought of it in that way. I believe that this team gave him the best chance to win. The guy was already criticizing for losing (like LeBron was). If he chose any other team, he would’ve felt backlash as well (except maybe the Celtics). If he stayed in Oklahoma City and never won a championship, he would’ve been like Karl Malone or Charles Barkley: to win MVP, a Olympic gold medal, but no NBA championship. We always like to compare the great players to Michael Jordan. We know that Michael wouldn’t want to join the competition (he would want to beat them), but we have to realize and accept that KD or LeBron are not MJ.
He made the choice for himself and now he’s has to live with it. More pressure is on him to win and win now. To join the team that had the best regular season record in league history, winning is the only thing that’s acceptable. He can’t please everybody and I think he understands that, and everyone is not going to understand his decision either. At the end of the day, he made a life decision just like the rest of us.
Game 7… The end of a battle… Equivalent to a season finale of your favorite television show (mines would be The Flash)… Similar to the last movie in a trilogy (like The Matrix trilogy)… It is one of the most prolific events across all sports (second only to The Super Bowl in my opinion).
Game 7 is a different atmosphere. The teams have become very accustomed to their opponent over the previous 6 games. There’s no more making adjustments at this point. Your strategy is not surprising and almost irrelevant. At this point, it’s all about heart… Who wants it more… And how bad do you want it.
The Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the latest victims of this scenario. In my opinion I believe either the Warriors win by double digits, win a close game, or the Thunder sneaks by in Oracle arena. This could be the last game in the Durant/Westbrook era (Kevin Durant is a free agent in July).
What seemed like a sure trip the NBA Finals, will make for an epic game one way or another. When being down 3 games to 1 and having Klay Thompson making 11 3 pointers in an improbable game 6 win sets up for something magical… And having this game on Memorial Day, will make it that much more memorable.
The past 10 years the NBA has provided us some memories from great players who were drafted within this time frame (Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and many more). The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors are a prime example of what happens when you draft the right players. Unfortunately, there are others who didn’t even scratch the surface of the hype that they were given before stepping foot on an NBA court. Here are the honorable mentioned below:
Andrea Bargnani, 1st Overall, 2006, Raptors, Italy
Epke Udoh, 6th Overall, 2010, Warriors, Baylor
Jimmer Fredette, 10th Overall, 2011, Kings, BYU
Anthony Bennett, 1st Overall, 2013, Cavaliers, UNLV, (Jury still out on him)
And here we go!
10) Patrick O’Bryant, 9th Overall, 2006, Warriors, Bradley
This guy, physically, had the potential of being a game-changer but his skills never developed. He wasn’t able to crack the rotation. O’Bryant played in 90 games (started 3) in 5 seasons averaging 2.1 points per game. Yeah… that’s pretty bad.
9) Yi Jianlian, 6th Overall, 2007, Bucks, China
The next best thing from China was nowhere as formidable as Yao Ming. His game wasn’t as polished and was too injury prone to stay on the court. At times you saw flashes of what could be, but all we’re left with is a “never was” (sounds harsh).
8) Sheldon Williams, 5th Overall, 2006, Hawks, Duke
The former Duke star was nothing close to stardom in the NBA. After only 2 years in Atlanta, Williams became a journeyman around the league until 2012. The only thing going for him is Candace Parker (Winning).
7) Royce White, 16th Overall, 2012, Rockets, Iowa State
Royce White was one of my favorite players entering that 2012 draft because his game was outstanding (point forward with an all-around game). However, nobody will ever see him at the next level because he is battling with anxiety disorder. It is to the point that White is not comfortable with flying. The only stat he has is 3 minutes played in his NBA career (Shaking my head). Great talent nevertheless.
6) Michael Beasley, 2nd Overall, 2008, Heat, Kansas State
After missing out on the Derrick Rose sweepstakes, Michael Beasley became the “sloppy seconds” to a draft class that also produced Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, DeAndre Jordan, and Goran Dragic. Beasley’s play never lived up to the side kick that Dwyane Wade needed, and he also dealt with some off the court issues as well. Another player with wasted potential (You see the theme right?).
5) Joe Alexander, 8th Overall, 2008, Bucks, West Virginia
While we’re still on the 2008 draft class, we can’t forget Joe Alexander. Let’s put it like this: the guy who was supposed to help turn Milwaukee around played 67 games in his career in 2 years. He was phenomenal at West Virginia (I remember watching him on television). I honestly don’t have a clue what happened besides lack of work ethic and skills, but more unfortunate things have happened (You’ll see).
I just want to remind everyone that the Timberwolves had back-to-back picks (like the cover of Lethal Weapon) which also included Ricky Rubio with the 5th pick. ALSO, they had two chances to draft the kid from Davidson but blew it. Jonny Flynn wasn’t the same after having hip surgery in the summer of 2010. No one could predict this would happen… just like the player who was selected after him right?
3) Adam Morrison, 3rd Overall, 2006, Bobcats, Gonzaga
Easily the 2nd worst pick that Michael Jordan was responsible for (cough, Kwame Brown). That one mythical season in College got him to be the worst pick in the Bobcats history (Now Charlotte Hornets 2.0). He lost his starting job mid way through his rookie year because of poor defense and shooting. The following year, he tore his ACL. He ended up being the late 2000’s version of Mark Madsen by riding the bench and receiving a championship ring from the Lakers (bum status with perks).
2) Greg Oden, 1st Overall, 2007, Trail Blazers, Ohio State
A lot of people have him at number one on these type of list because of where he was drafted and how many games he played. He also reminds people of Sam Bowie (ouch). When Oden did play, he was productive. Unfortunately, when you go four seasons without playing an NBA game due to knee injuries and set backs, it’s extremely hard to ignore that. At least he’s currently playing in China.
He was the highest draft pick ever to be sent down to the NBDL. The worst lottery pick to ever come out of UCONN. He’s played on 4 different teams and his best statistical season was his rookie year (3.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg). The Memphis Grizzlies passed on James Harden, Stephen Curry, Demar Derozan, Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson, Taj Gibson… even Danny Green would’ve been a better option than Thabeet (the list is longer than that). The TRUE definition of a wasted draft pick.
Denver Nuggets Key Additions: Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou Key Subtractions: Ty Lawson Outlook: The Denver Nuggets remind me of the Houston Rockets a few years ago being “stuck”. They are not good enough to contend, but they not bad enough to receive top talent in the draft. Fortunately for Houston, they were able to trade for James Harden. They are high on their first round pick Emmanuel Mudiay. They still have players that can put in the ball in the basket (Gallinari, Chandler, Foye). They still have a rebounding machine in Faried (if only he can develop a post game). The fact remains unless they find a player with a true low post presence and actually make any effort in playing some defense, they will continue to be the team that you see today instead of the team that made the playoffs 10 consecutive seasons not too long ago.
Minnesota Timberwolves Key Additions: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nemanja Bjelica, Damjan Rudez, Andre Miller, Tyus Jones Key Subtractions: Chase Budinger, Robbie Hummel, Justin Hamilton Outlook: I jumped on the Andrew Wiggins bandwagon at the beginning of his rookie season. He is going to be a star in due time. This team will soon erase the years of sitting through the Kevin Love years into something exciting and prosperous. With the addition of Karl-Anthony Towns, and having veteran leadership like Andre Miller and Kevin Garnett, I expect this T’Wolves team to become this decade’s Oklahoma City Thunder team in a year or two. However for this season, they should be one of the most exciting teams to watch and may steal a few games.
Oklahoma City Thunder Key Additions: Cameron Payne, Josh Huestis Key Subtractions: Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb Outlook: The long-awaited return of Kevin Durant plus the triple-threat machine Russell Westbrook puts this team back in the elite category. The Thunder has been the forgot team in the Western Conference because of the Kevin Durant foot injury that cost him to miss the entire 2014-15 season. In that time frame, long time Thunder coach Scott Brooks was let go. Billy Donovan is now the guy leading the charge in his first time on the big stage. However, there a few unknowns heading into this season. Will Kevin Durant reclaim his status as a top 2 player in the league? Will the Thunder become elite contenders again? Will Kevin Durant resign with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason? Only time will tell but don’t be surprised if they are playing basketball in June.
Portland Trail Blazers Key Additions: Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gerald Henderson, Maurice Harkless Key Subtractions: LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Aaron Afflalo, Steve Blake Outlook: The Trail Blazers lost 80% of their starting lineup in free agency in the first week. Damien Lillard is the official franchise cornerstone and his help is lackluster. The team will be going through some growing pains and I’m not sure how the process will take, but we will truly see if Lillard can make the best out of a bad situation. This team will be a lottery team this season.
Utah Jazz Key Additions: Trey Lyles, Tibor Pleiss, Raul Neto Key Subtractions: Jeremy Evans Outlook: This team is very young and far from being a playoff contender. It didn’t help that Donte Exum tore his ACL over the summer. I like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Trey Burke as solid role players for a contender, but unless they take their game to the next level quickly, the Utah Jazz will remain towards the bottom of the bucket. Will this franchise begin to swim or are they going to keep drowning? I expect about the same this year as the previous few unless somebody proves me wrong.