Golden State Warriors: Unless Draymond turns on Warriors and starts kicking his own teammates in the nuts, this team will dominate the regular season. While I don’t expect the Warriors to break their own record, most prediction softwares have the Warriors winning upwards of 75 games.
Los Angeles Clippers: GM Doc brought the gang back for one more go-around this season, and 50-55 wins seems reasonable for a group that knows each other almost too well. The addition of Mo Speights will bring a much needed frontcourt scoring threat off their bench, but outside of the starting unit, their defense will struggle mightily. The title window for this aging group has passed, but this years looks promising for Chris Paul to finally reach the WCF.
- San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw are gone, Parker and Ginobili are aging, and there are rumors floating around that the Spurs are looking to move Aldridge. But they added Pau Gasol, still have reigning 2-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, and last time I checked the Spurs haven’t won less than 50 games in a full season since 1993. They are old and slow, but haven’t we heard this argument before? Kawhi and LaMarcus will keep the Spurs machine humming this season.
- Utah Jazz: We know defense will be elite, but it’s the offense that will determine Utah’s playoff seed this season. After KD, the addition of George Hill was possibly the best transaction of the offseason, because anything is better than Trey Burke. Missing Hayward to start the season will hurt, but Gobert and Favors will keep this team in most, if not all, games. Keep an eye on Derrick Favors this season; I think he’s poised to make his first all-star appearance.
- Portland Trailblazers: The backcourt duo of Lillard and McCollum will get buckets, and the addition of Evan Turner will provide a boost to the second unit, but they will continue to struggle on defense. They still depend too much on their guards for scoring, and the combo of Ed Davis & Mason Plumlee will strike fear in the hearts of no one, but 45-50 wins is a reasonable assumption for the Blazers. If Meyers Leonard can continue his sharpshooting, we will see some great shooting lineups from Terry Stotts’ crew.
- Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard is finally out of town, and Mike D’Antoni is primed to speed up this offense. Moving Harden to PG is essentially just a change in title, but Harden should feast in this uptempo scheme. New addition Ryan Anderson will provide spacing for Harden’s drives, and those drives will give Anderson a plethora of open 3’s. These Rockets should challenge the Warriors to lead the league in scoring, but they might give up 110 points a game as well. If their defense is passable, then Houston should improve upon their disastrous 2015-2016. Harden is my pick for MVP if the Rockets reach 50 wins.
- Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley became the highest paid player in NBA history this summer, and Memphis better hope he earns that money, because they don’t have the depth to withstand more injuries this season. Health is by far the largest factor for the Griz; they are aging, and free agent addition Chandler Parsons has yet to prove that he is past his knee troubles. There are too many question marks for new coach Dave Fizdale to get Memphis into a top-4 seed, but this veteran-laden team will find a way into the postseason.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Much like their superstar Russell Westbrook, this team is an enigma. Westbrook will average close to a triple-double, but there isn’t much shooting around him to keep opposing defenses from clogging the paint and forcing him to take difficult shots. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter should lead the league in offensive rebounding from Westbrook’s missed layups alone, but it remains to be seen if that can be a viable offensive scheme for an entire season. Oladipo and Kanter will make up for some of the scoring they lost with Durant, but obviously you can’t replace a top-3 player. The Thunder will go as Russell goes.
Outside Looking In
Dallas Mavericks: Rick Carlisle is a wizard and Dirk is still an elite scorer, but the lack of a quality PG and the slowest frontcourt combo in the league will sink the Mavs playoff chances. Mark Cuban backed up the truck to get Harrison Barnes, but I don’t think Barnes is ready quite yet to succeed in his expanded scoring role. If Rick Carlisle AKA Jim Carrey brings the Mavs to the playoffs, I will never doubt Bruce Almighty’s coaching prowess again.