The 2017-18 NBA season starts a week early this year, and just about everyone is predicting yet another NBA Finals rematch, Warriors-Cavs Part IV. But after one of the most exciting offseasons in recent memory, the Thunder, Rockets, Spurs and Celtics, among others, hope to spoil the budding Warriors dynasty and take the crown for their own. Only time will tell whether they’re able to succeed, or if the Warriors will take home their third NBA Title in four years. Here are my 2017-18 NBA Predictions:
- Even without Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the class of the Eastern Conference. There will absolutely be some coasting, but once Isaiah Thomas returns, this team is deeper and more talented than in year’s past.
- Among the Cavs, Celtics and Wizards, Washington was the only team that didn’t experience major roster turnover this offseason. Expect that to pay off for John Wall and co. as they eke out the No. 2 seed in the East over Boston.
- Did they overpay for Kyrie Irving? Maybe. But if Irving and Gordon Hayward gel in Brad Stevens’ offense, the Celtics will be deadly. That will take some time, however, and it’s also a big “if,” relegating the Celtics and their growing pains to the No. 3 seed.
- There might be no greater example in the Eastern Conference of a regular season team than the Toronto Raptors. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will keep the wheels churning in Toronto, but the question is, can they get it done in the playoffs?
- Giannis Antetokounmpo is only getting better, and he’s already arguably the second-best player in the East. If Jabari Parker returns close to 100%, this team could real dangerous team come May.
- The combination of Kemba Walker, Nicholas Batum and Malik Monk should be enough to get the Hornets into the playoffs, even with Dwight Howard weighing them down and especially in the incredibly weak Eastern Conference.
- Pat Riley hasn’t yet been able to land a star to replace Dwyane Wade, but with Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside, he still has a team good enough to make the playoffs in the East.
- Trust the Process. The last two to three Eastern Conference playoff spots are up for grabs and based on talent alone, the Philadelphia 76ers should be in the mix. If Joel Embiid stays healthy, the Sixers will be a fun team to watch, but one with a lot of growing pains.
- Do I trust Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond to carry the Detroit Pistons to the playoffs? Absolutely not. But in the East, it’ll certainly be a close race, especially with Avery Bradley added to the mix in Detroit.
- The Magic have a lot of interesting players but put together, they don’t make much of an interesting team. Combined they’re still just slogging along in the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
- The Indiana Pacers aren’t tanking, yet, but they’re also not good either. If the Pacers are going to get back to the upper echelon of the East, they’re going to have to get worse before they get better though.
- Kristaps Porzingis can’t do it all himself, but it will certainly be fun to see him try. The Knicks need to surround him with talent though, and fast, otherwise he might be the next Knicks superstar to demand a trade.
- Being a Nets’ fan must be tough. Still without their 2018 first round pick, but not good enough to make the playoffs, Brooklyn is stuck in no man’s land. Trading for D’Angelo Russell though might look like a steal in 2-3 years if he develops as some predict.
- Without Paul Milsap, the Atlanta Hawks are on their way to bottoming out. Dennis Schroder will keep them afloat, but he could be on his way out as well. At some point, the question becomes: will Mike Budenholzer see this rebuild through?
- Thanks to an incompetent front office, the Bulls sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. I’m not sure I’d trust Gar Forman with a rebuild though…
- The Golden State Warriors are the most talented team in the NBA, and if the game was played on paper, we’d award them the 2017-18 NBA Title before the season began. The NBA isn’t played on paper, but still, the Warriors just might be too good.
- After an abysmal performance against the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Houston Rockets added Chris Paul, along with several 3-and-D types. They’ll keep raining threes, but can they keep it up for a full seven-game playoff series?
- Take the NBA MVP and add Paul George and Carmelo Anthony and suddenly the Oklahoma City Thunder are back in the discussions atop the Western Conference. If the Thunder’s new “Big Three” can gel, don’t count them out against the Warriors.
- The Spurs did nothing this offseason you say? Don’t bet against Gregg Popovich. Unless Kawhi Leonard misses significant time, Popovich will have the Spurs humming, as usual, gunning for yet another playoff berth.
- He doesn’t have the name recognition that many of the other stars who switched teams this offseason have, but Paul Millsap should prove to be a terrific pickup for the Denver Nuggets. They’re not in the upper echelon of the West just yet, but another year of growth from their young and talented core should get them there.
- The Minnesota Timberwolves were a popular pick to jump up in the West last season, but their defense, or lack thereof, led to another season on the outside looking in. Adding Jimmy Butler will help, but Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns must improve defensively as well – both had 110+ defensive ratings last year.
- While the rest of the NBA is zigging, the Utah Jazz are zagging with two terrific big-men in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. The Jazz will have to figure out how to replace Gordon Hayward’s production on the offensive end, but Utah is still talented enough to make the playoffs.
- Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are gone but don’t count out Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Bet on the Memphis Grizzlies figuring out a way to make the playoffs, even in the deep Western Conference.
- Without Chris Paul, I’m not buying that the Los Angeles Clippers are still a playoff team. Blake Griffin’s health is always a question, and I’m not betting on the duo of Austin Rivers and DeAndre Jordan to push this team to the playoffs, especially in the West.
- If the last few weeks of the Portland Trail Blazers 2016-17 season, during which they went 17-6, aren’t an anomaly, the Trail Blazers might once again be able to sneak into the playoffs. If not though, Damian Lillard and co. might miss the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13.
- All eyes are on the Pelicans to see if the DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis experiment works in New Orleans. Odds are against it though, especially with a lack of quality guard play in New Orleans. And if it doesn’t work Cousins may once again be on the move at the trade deadline.
- Instead of trading for Kyrie Irving, the Phoenix Suns bet on their young talent. That bet won’t pay off with a playoff berth this season, but Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren all should make strides this year.
- The Lonzo Ball-hype train has left the station, but the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t turning things around just yet. Ball’s still a rookie, while Brandon Ingram still has to make major strides for the Lakers to even get close to making it out of the lottery.
- Dennis Smith Jr. and Yogi Farrell will make the Dallas Mavericks interesting to watch, but the Mavericks are basically in a holding pattern till Dirk Nowitzki retires: not good enough to make the playoffs, but not tanking either.
- Who knows if Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadive know what they’re doing. Maybe trading DeMarcus Cousins will pay off, maybe it doesn’t. At the very least, they drafted a potential star in De’Aaron Fox.
- No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers (4)
- No. 2 Washington Wizards over No. 7 Miami Heat (5)
- No. 3 Boston Celtics over No. 6 Charlotte Hornets (4)
- No. 5 Milwaukee Bucks over No. 4 Toronto Raptors (6)
- No. 1 Golden State Warriors over No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies (5)
- No. 2 Houston Rockets over No. 7 Utah Jazz (6)
- No. 3 Oklahoma City Thunder over No. 6 Minnesota Timberwolves (6)
- No. 4 San Antonio Spurs over No. 5 Denver Nuggets (6)
- No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 5 Milwaukee Bucks (6)
- No. 3 Boston Celtics over No. 2 Washington Wizards (7)
- No. 1 Golden State Warriors over No. 4 San Antonio Spurs (6)
- No. 3 Oklahoma City Thunder over No. 2 Houston Rockets (7)
- No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers over No. 3 Boston Celtics (6)
- No. 3 Oklahoma City Thunder over No. 1 Golden State Warriors (7)
- Cleveland Cavaliers over Oklahoma City Thunder (7)
The Warriors are the odds-on favorite to win the NBA Title. FiveThirtyEight gives the Warriors a 38 percent chance of winning the NBA Finals. But that also means FiveThirtyEight is projecting that there’s a 62 percent chance they don’t. Reaching four-straight NBA Finals is tough, especially in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference. The Warriors are unlike any team in NBA history, but one small misstep could be the difference. That’s why I’m making a gutsy, bold and probably stupid call and predicting the new-look Thunder to come out of the Western Conference, only to lose to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Because you just never know. I might be wrong. Heck, I’ll probably be wrong. But predicting the obvious just isn’t as fun. As for the Cavaliers, it’s just so much easier to come out of the Eastern Conference. And it doesn’t hurt that they have the best player on the planet.
- NBA Finals MVP: LeBron James, Cavaliers
- NBA MVP: LeBron James, Cavaliers
- Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Jazz
- Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., Mavericks
- Coach of the Year: Michael Malone, Nuggets
- Sixth Man of the Year: JR Smith, Cavaliers
- Most Improved Player of the Year: Gary Harris, Nuggets