We’re just one day away from the 2018-19 NBA regular season. Which teams will make the playoffs? Who will win it all? I predict all of that and more.
1. Boston Celtics: The Celtics were just one game away from the NBA Finals last season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. They didn’t lose any key players in the offseason and should be regarded as the best team in the Eastern Conference.
2. Toronto Raptors: When on the court, Kawhi Leonard is one of the six best players in the league. He is clearly an upgrade for the Raptors. A starting five of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas will be very tough to score on.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers are coming off of a very successful season where they finished third in the entire conference. It will be interesting to see how much Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have improved and what Markelle Fultz brings to the table.
4. Indiana Pacers: The Pacers shocked everybody last season by finishing 5th in the East and pushing the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the first round. I really like the offseason addition of Tyreke Evans, who averaged 19 points, five assists, and five rebounds per game on 45/40/78 shooting.
5. Milwaukee Bucks: Last year, Milwaukee underachieved, which led to a head coaching change during the season. We’ll see what first-year coach Mike Budenholzer does with this roster.
6. Charlotte Hornets: My surprise team of the season. We all know what Kemba Walker will do, but how about their new rookie Miles Bridges? The former Michigan State Spartan will make an immediate impact and help the Hornets return to the playoffs.
7. Washington Wizards: Dwight Howard hasn’t been known to be the best teammate, and he’s joining a team whose chemistry has already been questioned. Despite that, the Wizards have enough talent to be a playoff team in the East.
8. Miami Heat: They’re not the flashiest team, but they are very well coached by Erik Spoelstra. The Heat will return to the playoffs.
Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics over Raptors in 6
1. Golden State Warriors: Need I say more? Just imagine how good they’ll be when Demarcus Cousins is ready.
2. Houston Rockets: Losing Trevor Ariza hurts, and I don’t like Carmelo Anthony signing after his disappointing stint with the Thunder. Nevertheless, the Rockets will be the #2 seed in the West because they have James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela, who were 42-3 when all three them played last year.
3. New Orleans Pelicans: The loss of Demarcus Cousins doesn’t concern me because the Pelicans played so well without him towards the end of last season. I also like the addition of Julius Randle, who is coming off of his best season. Finally, it would be foolish of me to talk about the Pelicans without reminding you how amazing Anthony Davis is.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Gone is Carmelo Anthony, but the Thunder’s acquisition of point guard Dennis Schroeder was savvy. But how much will Oklahoma City’s lack of shooting hurt them? They only have three reliable three-point shooters: Paul George, Alex Abrines, and Patrick Patterson. In today’s heavy three-point driven league, that isn’t a very popular formula to win.
5. Los Angeles Lakers: It should take some time for LeBron James to get fully acclimated to a new roster filled with young players. However, there’s enough talent around James to make some noise in the West.
6. Utah Jazz: The Jazz had one of the best records in the league last season after the all-star break, and Rudy Gobert missed 26 games. If Donovan Mitchell can build on his excellent rookie campaign and if Rudy Gobert stays healthy, look out.
7. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs made the playoffs last season without Kawhi Leonard, and now they have DeMar DeRozan. This team doesn’t have a ton of perimeter shooting and losing Dejounte Murray for the season hurts, but I wouldn’t bet against Gregg Popovich.
8. Denver Nuggets: This team has a lot of young talent in Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Nikola Jokic. Denver missed the playoffs last season by just one game despite their big free agent signing Paul Milsap only playing in 38 games. They’ll make it this time around.
Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Rockets in 4
Warriors over Celtics in 6: The Celtics have the best coach in the entire league in Brad Stevens, and a starting five of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford will be very hard to stop. However, Demarcus Cousins being added to a Warriors team that already seemed unbeatable is just too much to overcome.
MVP – Anthony Davis: The Brow will yet again put up amazing stats this season. That, along with the fact that I have him leading the Pelicans to the No. 3 seed in the brutal Western Conference without a very good supporting cast, will make it hard for people not to have him as the MVP.
DPOY – Joel Embiid: Embiid was a finalist for this award last season. He’ll win it this time around.
ROTY – Miles Bridges: Bridges is an explosive athlete who can shoot the ball. Similarly to Donovan Mitchell last season, he won’t begin the year as a starter, but that will change. Bridges will win the Rookie of the Year.
6th Man of the Year – Lou Williams: Lou Williams won the award last season averaging 22 points per game. It’s a safe bet that he’ll win it again with similar production.
COTY – Brad Stevens: Stevens has yet to win this award. He’s long overdue. He’ll lead the Celtics to the best record in the East and take home the Coach of the Year award.
MIP – Jonathan Isaac: The former 7th overall pick averaged just five points and three rebounds per game in his rookie season. There’s obviously a lot of room for improvement, and he’ll have the opportunity to do it for the Magic.