The NBA season tips off tonight! Finally it’s here! I can’t contain myself, and I got so excited that I wrote over 4000 words making one prediction for each NBA team this season. Here they are.
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young makes his first all-star game appearance
Trae Young started off his rookie season slow and extremely inefficient, but improved rather quickly, eventually giving Luka Doncic a run for his money for Rookie of the Year. He ended the season at fourth in the NBA in assists with 8.1. However, this season, the Hawks are going to look a bit different. They’ve surrounded Trae Young with shooters as they drafted both DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish.
In another underrated move, they acquired Allen Crabbe, a 37.8% three-point shooter in 2018-19, when they sent Taurean Prince to Brooklyn. In addition, you can expect Kevin Huerter to receive an uptick in minutes this season in his second season. That’s just another shooter on the floor for Trae Young. I haven’t even mentioned John Collins, the Hawks’ near 20-10 big man. I wouldn’t be surprised if Young averaged 20 points and 10 assists this season. He’s that good, and he’s going to the all-star game.
Boston Celtics: Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards make an immediate impact
Most mid-first-round picks and second round picks don’t play much in their rookie years. However, Williams and Edwards are going to play a major role on this Celtics team, and they’re both ready for it. Grant Williams falling to 22 in the NBA Draft was almost as much of a joke as Brandon Clarke falling to 23.
Williams is the ultimate glue guy, and despite being undersized, he can provided instant offense and defense to this Celtics team right away. Williams averaged 18.8 points per game last season at Tennessee, but he also averaged 3.2 assists per game. I think Williams’ passing is just one of the reasons why he’ll be immediately playable and a contributor at the NBA level. He’s one of those guys that always makes the right play on both sides of the ball.
Carsen Edwards is going to be instant offense off the bench as a backup to Kemba Walker. Edwards has already showed us this ability in the preseason as he scored 26 points including eight 3’s in a single quarter. Both Williams and Edwards are going to be significant to the success of this Celtics team.
Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert breaks out and becomes a reliable second option
In eight October games as a starter last season, Caris LeVert averaged 18.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 4.8 APG with a true shooting percentage of 56.1. In six November games as a starter last season, LeVert averaged 17.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 2.3 APG with a true shooting percentage of 55.0. Then, Caris LeVert suffered a leg injury that sidelined him until February.
LeVert didn’t gain back his form until April, where he averaged 21.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 3.0 APG with a true shooting percentage of 61.2 in the five-game playoff series against the 76ers. He played only 28.8 minutes per game in that series as well. It’s clear that the talent is there, he just needs to stay healthy. If he does, then he can easily average 19-20 PPG and be the Nets’ second option.
Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets finish with the worst record in the NBA (less than 18 wins)
Is there much explanation needed for this? The Hornets won 39 games last season, but that was with Kemba Walker at point guard and not Terry Rozier. Rozier, who’s making $59 million over the next three seasons, has never shot over 40% in his entire career.
The rest of that team is just a bunch of good college players who haven’t worked out in the NBA such as Cody Zeller, Malik Monk, Marvin Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrest. If there are two bright spots in Charlotte, it’s Miles Bridges and P.J Washington, but they won’t be good enough to push up Charlotte’s win total.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls head back to the playoffs
The Bulls are extremely underrated headed into this season. They added Thad Young, Tomas Satoransky, and Coby White in the offseason, and will now have a full-season with Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. barring any major injuries.
Young brings a veteran and defensive presence to this young roster. Satoransky, who will start at point guard, is extremely underrated and averaged 11 PPG and 7 APG in February and March last season. His true shooting percentage for the season was 59.0%. Otto Porter Jr. is a solid three-and-D player. Lauri Markkanen was an 18-and-9 player last season, and Wendell Carter Jr. is going to break out in his second season in the league.
I didn’t even mention Zach LaVine, who averaged nearly 24 points per game last season. LaVine gets criticized for his inefficiencies and non-team play at times, but if he can improve upon those things, this team should be better than people think. I think that in a weak conference, this team heads back to the playoffs.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Porter Jr. makes an All-Rookie Team
The Cavaliers are going to be absolutely brutal this year, and there’s no doubt about that. That being said, these young players are going to get a ton of time on the court this season.
One of those players in Kevin Porter Jr. Porter Jr. played only one season in college at USC under Andy Enfield, a guy who isn’t exactly known as getting the most out of his talent. Porter Jr. only played 22.1 minutes per game last season at USC, but averaged 9.5 PPG and shot 41.2% from downtown. He has great size at 6’6″ and was one of the most athletic players in the draft.
The modern game is trending towards athleticism and three-point shooting, so Porter Jr. can fit right in. John Beilein is a phenomenal developmental coach, and I think he’ll get the most out of KPJ.
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic is an All-Star, but the Mavericks finish as a 10-seed or worse
Luka Doncic averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 6.0 APG with a TS% of 54.5 in his rookie season. He easily could have been an all-star last year and I have no doubt he’ll be one this year.
The Mavericks are set up extremely well for the future with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but the rest of their roster is pretty atrocious right now. The other players they’ll likely be starting in addition to the European duo are Delon Wright, Justin Jackson, and Dwight Powell. Yikes.
Their bench is pretty below average as well featuring Seth Curry, Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Boban Marjanovic. In addition, I don’t trust Kristaps Porzingis to stay completely healthy yet. If he misses time, this is going to be a really bad team. Even with a completely healthy Porzingis, this team isn’t deep enough to compete in a stacked Western Conference.
Denver Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. averages more than 10 PPG, plays an important bench role
When Michael Porter Jr. played in the preseason this year, it was the first time he played organized basketball in nearly two years. However, he held his own averaging 9.3 PPG over four games. Yes, that’s not much, but he didn’t play a lot of minutes, and keep in mind… it was his first basketball games in nearly two years! That’s a long time.
Expect the rust to fall off as the season goes on if he can stay healthy. Remember, this guy was supposed to be a top-five pick up until draft day in 2018. The potential is there, and he’s in the perfect situation to develop while not having to play that many minutes. I see him thriving in that role.
Detroit Pistons: Fire sale in Detroit by the deadline
Rob Perez, known as WorldWideWob, questioned whether or not the Pistons were the most obvious 8-seed of all-time in his article for The Action Network. He may just be right. This Detroit Pistons team is going to be the definition of average. They may even be below average, and end up missing the playoffs.
If they’re a few games out of the playoffs by the deadline, I could see them parting ways with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond and completely starting over. If I was the Pistons’ GM, I would have done this in the offseason but knowing Detroit, they’re attempting to put butts in the seats as long as they can. However, the only way to stop the mediocrity would be to trade their best pieces.
Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry wins MVP
The Steph Curry disrespect the last three seasons has been absolutely out of this world. I’ve seen lists with him ranked out of the top-five, and truthfully, Kevin Durant’s presence made everyone forget how good Steph is.
Without Kevin Durant on the floor, Steph Curry is going to average 30 PPG again, and the Warriors will be a competitive playoff team still. If both of those things, happen, I think Curry has a great shot at MVP.
Houston Rockets: The Harden-Westbrook duo works, but depth will become a huge problem in a stacked West
As soon as the Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook, you had the people who laughed and asked how this could work when there’s only one ball. Westbrook and Harden are two Hall-of-Fame players who have yet to win a ring, and I think they’ll be willing to do whatever it takes in order to do that. Yes, sacrifices are going to have to be made. One of them is going to have to play off-ball at times. In fact, I think it’ll help Russell Westbrook’s efficiency tremendously for him not to have an insane usage rate like he did the last few years in Oklahoma City. It may take some time, but I am excited to see Westbrook as a second option.
The Rockets’ downfall, at least at the beginning of the season, is going to be their depth. They have none. They’re going to be bringing players like Austin Rivers, Thabo Sefolosha, Nene, Daniel House, Ben McLemore, Gary Clark, and Tyson Chandler off the bench.
In a stacked Western Conference, that’s not going to cut it. Once the trade deadline comes, they’re going to have to get creative. However, they’ve already traded away so many future picks for Russell Westbrook, that they aren’t exactly loaded with assets. The buyout market may end up being the place where they add more depth. They’re going to need it.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers finish as a 6-seed or worse in the East
The Pacers went 16-23 after Victor Oladipo’s season-ending injury last season, and it looks like they may be without him until at least mid-to-late December. This could mean a very rough first couple of months for Indiana.
Yes, they added pieces such as Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J Warren, but will that translate to wins? I’m not so sure. Is Brogdon going to work as the lead guard? Are Jeremy Lamb and T.J Warren actually good, or were their stats just inflated because they played on bad teams? There’s too many questions with the Pacers until Oladipo comes back, and for that reason I think they’ll finish as a 6-seed or lower.
Los Angeles Clippers: Your 2019-20 NBA Champions
This team is going to be so fun to watch. Why am I sold on the Clippers at NBA Champions? It’s not only because Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but also the surrounding talent and depth around them. The fact that the Clippers were able to construct this team while keeping Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley, and Lou Williams is extremely impressive. They have the star power, defense, depth, and grit needed to be champions. It’s as simple as that.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers fail to make the Western Conference Finals
The Lakers are going to be a great team this year, but I’m nowhere near as sold on them as every else. Why? I don’t think the supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis is good enough to get the job done.
Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma are really the only good supporting pieces the Lakers have right now. Other than that, they have a past-their primes Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, who hasn’t been good in a few years, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a guy who’s only on the team because Rich Paul is his agent. Add in a few others such as Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee, and Troy Daniels. Is this really a team that’s going to win the NBA Finals the way it’s constructed right now? Not a chance.
I think the Lakers get a four or five seed in the regular season due to a combination of other teams being better, LeBron James resting at times, and Anthony Davis inevitably missing some games. They’ll win in the first round, but lose in the second round to whoever they play.
Memphis Grizzlies: Your 2018-19 Atlanta Hawks
After watching the Hawks last season, everyone was ecstatic about their future with the young core they have in place: Trae Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter. This year, that team is going to be the Memphis Grizzlies with their young core of Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke.
Jackson looks like he’s going to be a top-three player in the 2018 draft class, as he put up nearly 14 points per game and shot over 35% from downtown. Morant is my second ranked prospect from the 2019 class, and Brandon Clarke was my fifth-ranked prospect, but ended up falling to Memphis at pick 23. This team won’t win many games, but they’ll be a blast to watch.
Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo averages 14+ PPG and 10 RPG
The day the Heat finally traded Hassan Whiteside was an exciting one for me. Why? It meant it was officially Bam Adebayo time. Adebayo was extremely effective in 28 games as a starter last season as he averaged 11.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, and approximately 1 SPG and 1 BPG.
With Whiteside gone, he’ll be the starting center for the Heat. Adebayo is still only 22 years old entering his third season, and I think he makes a significant jump this season as his minutes increase.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks make a big mid-season trade
I’m a little bit lower on the Bucks than most this season. Why? I don’t think they have enough to beat the 76ers. I think downgrading from Malcolm Brogdon to Wesley Matthews is borderline tragic. Matthews has been brutal this last few seasons as he’s shot below 41% from the field the last four seasons.
They signed Kyle Korver, but at his age, he may be barely even be a bench option. They’re going to need a young player like Donte DiVincenzo to step up into that Brogdon role. If the Bucks don’t get that, then I think they’ll make a big trade at the trade deadline to acquire a shooter.
Minnesota Timberwolves: This will be Andrew Wiggins’ last season with the team
Andrew Wiggins looked like a guy who could be on a path to stardom just two years ago, but he’s pretty much fallen off a cliff ever since. After averaging 23.6 PPG on 45.2% from the field in 2016-17, he’s followed it up with averaging 17.7 PPG on 43.8% from the field in 2017-18, and then 18.1 PPG on 41.2% from the field in 2018-19.
If Andrew Wiggins isn’t playing well once again, then Minnesota just may look to unload him at the deadline or following the season. The only issue? Wiggins has three more years left on his deal AFTER this season, and he’ll be making $33 million in 2022-2023! Absolute insanity.
However, the Timberwolves should be operating with desperation in terms of trying to unload him. Why? It’s because Karl-Anthony Towns just got a 5-year, $190 million contract. He’s their franchise player, and they need to build a playoff team in order to keep him happy. If Towns were to eventually request a trade from the Timberwolves in the next few years, it’d send that franchise to the bottom of the league for years to come.
Wiggins’ contract completely limits their cap flexibility for the next four seasons. If the Timberwolves were to attach a young player and a couple of picks to Wiggins, they can probably find a team out there that doesn’t plan to spend in free agency anytime soon and would take him. It could be a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, who also has a coach that’s known to make the most out of his talent. I’d probably call this one of my bolder predictions in the article due to the huge contract of Wiggins, but if you’re the Timberwolves, you have to try and get it done.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson is immediately a top-25 player in the NBA
The last time a rookie played in the all-star game was Blake Griffin in 2011. Griffin averaged 22.5 PPG and 12.1 RPG during that season. I’d say Zion Williamson can be that next guy, but he’ll miss the first 6-8 weeks of the season with a knee injury. Williamson dominated the preseason games he played in, and as expected looks like he’ll have no problems translating his dominance to the NBA.
His impact on both ends of the floor is insane, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Zion Williamson average 20 PPG and 10 RPG to go along with a steal and a block. In fact, depending on how quick Zion Williamson returns, I think he has a chance to lead this team to an eight-seed.
New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson leads the NBA in blocks
Mitchell Robinson averaged 2.4 blocks per game in only 20.6 minutes per game as a rookie last season. That was good for second in the NBA. In addition, his block percentage was 10.0%. That means if you were playing the Knicks last year and took a shot while Robinson was on the floor, there was a 10% chance it was getting blocked.
I expect Mitchell Robinson’s minutes to go up a lot this year and with it will come more blocks per game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he average over three blocks per game to lead the league. The Knicks probably aren’t going to win a lot of games, but the one’s they do will be large in part to Robinson.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Two of the three are traded: Chris Paul, Steven Adams, and Danilo Gallinari
The Thunder acquired eight first round picks over the summer by trading Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Jerami Grant. Why not acquire more assets for players that likely aren’t part of the future such as Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams?
I could see Sam Presti trading two out of the three of them (once Paul and Gallinari are eligible to be traded) this season. This is going to be a fast rebuild from Oklahoma City, as they’ll likely use some of these picks to acquire big-named players eventually.
Orlando Magic: Jonathan Isaac makes a significant leap forward
When Jonathan Isaac was drafted in 2017, it was clear that he was a few years away from being a solid player in the league. Last season, he made a pretty significant jump from his rookie year. He shot 42.9%, which isn’t good, but was a significant increase from the 37.9% he shot in his rookie season. His true shooting percentage increased from 46.5% to 53.7% as well. Isaac also averaged 9.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. Isaac fits the mold of what the game is trending towards toward: big, athletic stretch fours who can defend.
If Isaac’s shot can improve a significant amount, then he’s immediately going to become a really good player in his league. From 2017-18 to 2018-19, his jump shot increased from 25.3% to 32.3%. Can that take a bounce up once again? I think so.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers win the Eastern Conference
The 76ers watched how the Raptors beat the Bucks last season and said, “You know what? Let’s build our roster the same way.” The 76ers may have lost Jimmy Butler, but they added three other phenomenal defensive players in Al Horford, Josh Richardson, and Matisse Thybulle.
Horford and Embiid playing next to each other will create a nightmare at the rim for opponents. Richardson has averaged 1.5 SPG or over for every year of his career and has a combined 6.1 defensive win shares through the past two seasons. Matisse Thybulle, a rookie, is the only player since college basketball reference began recording in 1992-93 that has averaged at least 3.5 SPG and at least 2.0 BPG in a single season.
I haven’t even mentioned that the 76ers will have Zhaire Smith for a full season, after he only played six regular season games last year. Smith is 6’5,” an athletic freak, and averaged over 1.0 SPG and 1.0 BPG in his sole season at Texas Tech. The 76ers are stacked with athletic freaks that can defend at a high level, and that’s what you need to disrupt the force that is Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s why I think the Sixers are going to win the East this year.
Phoenix Suns: The Suns don’t finish last in the West for the first time since 2015-16
They’ll finish 14th. The Grizzlies are worse.
But for real, this team actually might be watchable this season with Devin Booker who’ll probably average a career-high in points per game, and DeAndre Ayton who should make a second year leap.
They’ll also have their first real point guard in what feels like forever with Ricky Rubio. I also expect rookies Ty Jerome and Cam Johnson to get a lot of playing time, which should be exciting to watch. I think Jerome is going to be a lot better than most think.
Portland Trail Blazers: Anfernee Simons averages 10+ PPG off the bench
This is a bit of a bold prediction, especially for a guy who barely touched the floor last season. However, there’s a lot to be excited for with Anfernee Simons.
In the last game of the regular season, he played the whole game and scored 37 points to go along with nine assists. Additionally, he scored 22 points per game and shot 65% from beyond the arc during the NBA Summer League this July. Simons is going to get his opportunity this year, and I fully expect him to make the most of it.
Sacramento Kings: Kings exceed last year’s win total (39), but once again fall short of the playoffs
The Kings have a very good young core with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley. Bagley averaged 18.5 PPG and 9.2 RPG following the all-star break last season, and that leads me to believe he’s going to have a monster sophomore campaign. This team is going to get to the playoffs soon, but not this year. The Western Conference is too stacked, and this team his too young.
San Antonio Spurs: Derrick White averages 15+ PPG
Derrick White showed flashes of greatness at times last year, including when he dropped 36 points on Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. White took a major jump forward last season, and looks like a guy who can be an efficient scorer going forward for the Spurs.
In his third season, I expect him to play a bit more than just 25.8 minutes per game, paving the way for more scoring opportunities. I think he makes the most of it on what’s going to be a playoff team once again.
Toronto Raptors: Pascal Siakam leads the Raptors to a top-four seed
I feel pretty good about Pascal Siakam not only being an all-star this season, but averaging somewhere around 20 PPG and 10 RPG. The East is a disaster, and although the Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, they returned pretty much everyone else.
Siakam, along with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and solid role players such as Fred Van Vleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, and Serge Ibaka should be good enough for a top-four seed. This is also assuming Masai Ujiri doesn’t sell off some of these guys to kick start a rebuild.
Utah Jazz: Jazz make a big trade at the deadline
The Jazz are going to be really really good this season. Adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic to what was already a 50-win team is huge. The problem is going to be the depth compared to the rest of the conference. Ed Davis and Joe Ingles are solid, but other than that they don’t have much.
It would be a cool twist if a team like Utah was able to lure in a guy like Andre Iguodala once he finally gets to go to another team, but he’s going to go to one of the Los Angeles teams and that’s just something Utah can’t compete with. They’ll be buyers at the deadline, and I expect them to be willing to sacrifice multiple picks for another very good player. In a wide open conference, it’s something they must do.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards win less 22 games or less
The Wizards have announced their starting lineup for opening night: Ish Smith, Bradley Beal, Isaac Bonga, Rui Hachimura, and Thomas Bryant. Their bench will feature Jordan McRae, Mo Wagner, Ian Mahimi, Troy Brown, and Davis Bertans. In addition, this team has all their money tied up in John Wall, who will likely miss a majority of the season with a torn achilles. Good luck to Wizards fans this year.