NBA Preview

WSPN staff reporters Christos Belibasakis and CJ Brown offer their predictions for the upcoming NBA season. They preview the 5 most prominent teams in each conference, along with conference final and record predictions.

Credit: Courtesy of Flickr user Gomes Pedro

WSPN staff reporters Christos Belibasakis and CJ Brown offer their predictions for the upcoming NBA season. They preview the 5 most prominent teams in each conference, along with conference final and record predictions.

CJ Brown and Christos Belibisakis

Western Conference:

Golden State Warriors: Coming off of an easy Finals win in which the Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers, it looks like the Warriors will have an even easier path to the finals this year with their biggest competitor, the Houston Rockets, losing some key assets. The Warriors shocked the NBA after signing DeMarcus Cousins, one of the most dominant centers in the league, for a one-year, $5.3 million contract. Although Cousins is still recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, the Warriors will potentially have all five All-Stars in their starting lineup by the time playoffs roll around in April. This lineup includes Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Cousins. The question is if the NBA will even be competitive this year, as the Warriors are led by two top five players in Curry and Durant.

2017-2018 record: 58-24
2018-2019 record prediction: 55-27

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers made the biggest move this offseason by signing Lebron James to a four-year max contract, giving them their first hope in making the playoffs since 2013. The Lakers have high potential as the second overall pick of the 2017-2018 season. Lonzo Ball has had time to develop along with sophomore Kyle Kuzma. A young Brandon Ingram could potentially have a breakout season, as he will receive a lot more touches. In addition to James, the Lakers also acquired veterans Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. The question remains as to how the Lebron-lead Lakers will fare against the mighty Warriors.

2017-2018 record: 35-47
2018-2019 record prediction: 48-34

Houston Rockets: The Houston Rockets have the most to prove in the Western Conference this season. MVP James Harden led them to the most wins last season, and they took the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. They very well might have gone to the Finals, but star point guard Chris Paul suffered a leg injury in Game 5 of the series. The Rockets were easily one of the best teams last year, but it is unknown how the team will be affected after losing ex-starter Trevor Ariza to free agency. The addition of Carmelo Anthony is worth mentioning, but the ex-All-Star struggled in OKC and might have problems coming off the bench.

2017-2018 record: 65-17
2018-2019 record prediction: 61-21

Oklahoma City Thunder: Many people thought the Oklahoma City Thunder had the potential to be championship contenders with the trio of 2017 MVP Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. However, they disappointed and fell to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs, a team led by rookie Donovan Mitchell. Losing Anthony will most likely be beneficial to the team, as the trio struggled with sharing the ball. George surprised us when he agreed to re-sign to a four-year contract with the Thunder when many thought he would want to join LeBron in Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see how Westbrook, coming off his second year in a row of averaging a triple-double for the entire regular season, will lead the new Thunder roster under accusations of stat-padding in favor of winning.

2017-2018 record: 48-34
2018-2019 record prediction: 51-31

New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans showed the NBA that they were a solid team when they brought the Warriors to a hard-fought six games last year in the playoffs. This was all without their second best player. However, this team looks different, as the team has lost DeMarcus Cousins in free agency to the Warriors, along with losing veteran point guard Rajon Rondo to the Lakers. Rondo was key in the Pelican’s playoff success, but point guard Jrue Holiday showed All-Star potential in the postseason and only has room to grow. The Pelicans also added Julius Randle, a player who can help on the offensive side. With their roster changes, the Pelicans, led by MVP candidate Anthony Davis, have a lot to prove in the strong Western Conference.

2017-2018 record: 48-34
2018-2019 record prediction: 42-40

Conference finals prediction: Warriors vs. Lakers, Warriors win in 6 games

Eastern Conference:

Boston Celtics:
The Celtics are definitely the most intriguing team this season. The team that took mighty LeBron James to seven games last year in the Eastern Conference Finals has regained two All-Stars who were unable to compete last postseason. The starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Hayward and Al Horford is going to cause nightmares for opposing coaches, especially with the development of young studs in Brown and Tatum. This team has five potential All-Stars in its starting lineup accompanied by Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier coming off the bench, all of whom are talented enough to be productive starters elsewhere. The stars are finally aligning for Boston, and this season will be a failure if it falls anywhere short of an Eastern Conference, if not an NBA championship.

2017-2018 record: 55-27
2018-2019 record prediction: 60-22

Philadelphia 76ers:
Philadelphia did little in the offseason to impress besides re-signing a general manager who bashed his own players on Twitter – meanwhile, Ben Simmons dated a Kardashian and hit a few open threes. Other than that, the only change to this Sixers team is the return of 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz. In his rookie year, Fultz missed most of the season due to injury, but he returned to the floor late in the year and shot an abysmal 0 percent from beyond the arc and 48 percent from the free throw line. All that being said, the Sixers are the biggest threat to the Celtics in the East with Joel Embiid and Simmons up front. If Fultz returns to his college self, they could have a chance in the conference.

2017-2018 record: 52-30
2018-2019 record prediction: 48-34

Toronto Raptors:
The Raptors had one of the strangest off-seasons in NBA history. They fired head coach Dwane Casey, even though he won Coach of the Year honors. They traded away their franchise player DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, someone who hadn’t played in an NBA game since January and has been riddled with injuries for years. Nevertheless, the duo of Leonard and point guard Kyle Lowry could be dangerous, and big man Serge Ibaka manning the paint could prove dangerous for opposing offenses. If they remain healthy and new coach Nick Nurse picks up where Casey left off, then this team could be a threat. That being said, expect Drake to be courtside at Oracle come Conference Finals.

2017-2018 record: 59-23
2018-2019 record prediction: 49-33

Milwaukee Bucks:
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only person to record a triple double (32 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) this preseason, and it only took him 25 minutes of playing time. The 23-year-old superstar is entering his sixth season after averaging 27 points, 5 assists and 10 rebounds last year. Other than the Greek Freak, however, the Bucks’ lineup is pretty dry. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe are pretty average, and they couldn’t keep up with the Celtics last year. Tony Snell and new addition Brook Lopez aren’t anything special, and if teams can keep the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands, the Bucks are a fairly beatable team. With that being said, the Eastern Conference isn’t known for being good at winning basketball games, so expect the Bucks to have a decent season.

2017-2018 record: 44-38
2018-2019 record prediction: 53-29

Indiana Pacers:
The 2017-18 Most Improved Player Victor Oladipo will have some new faces to look at in the locker room this year. The Pacers had a good offseason, replacing Lance Stephenson with Tyreke Evans and also adding Kyle O’Quinn and Doug McDermott. If the Pacers are able to perform when Oladipo leaves the court, they could be a dangerous regular season team. Yet, they haven’t shown the ability to do just that. Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young will be important to this team’s success, as their rebounding has been a concern in the past – neither exceeded seven rebounds per game last year. Oladipo should earn another All-Star nod, but the Pacers should also earn an early elimination from the postseason.

2017-2018 record: 48-34
2018-2019 record prediction: 50-32

Eastern Conference Finals prediction: Celtics v. 76ers, Celtics win in 5 games