One of the most exciting NBA seasons to date was followed by a just as exciting off season. The defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers saw the balance of power swing back to the West coast as Kevin Durant took his talents from the Midwest of Oklahoma City to the Golden State of California to join the once champion Warriors.
The shift prompted LeBron James to begin his offseason workouts earlier in preparation for the perceived 3rd matchup of the two titans. The Cavaliers are the team to beat; there’s no question about that but just as the Warriors retooled, so did some of the other teams in the league and they’re looking to challenge the King and take his throne.
“I know teams switch and pick up new coaches or new players, and their whole goal is kind of they want to beat me,” James told cleveland.com “It’s never just about me, but I always hear them saying, ‘We gotta beat LeBron.’ It’s not just me on the court, but I understand that teams get together in this conference and across the league to try to beat me.”
Once such team that’s looking to take a leap in the standings is the Orlando Magic. After multiple years of failing to reach the NBA Playoffs, the Magic looked primed to make a run for the first time since 2012. Gone is the one time hope of the franchise in Victor Oladipo who could have a career resurgence in Oklahoma City.
With the additions of veterans Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green alongside of a newly extended Evan Frounier, the Orlando Magic are primed to move past the likes of the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat in the east.
Who to Watch
A couple of players to keep an eye on this upcoming season will be veteran forward Carmelo Anthony of the New Yorks Knicks and second year guard Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. After winning his third consecutive Olympic Gold Medal, Anthony is primed to have an NBA Caliber year. Anthony’s previous years coming off of an earned Gold Medal (2008 and 2012) were very strong campaigns for the 14 year vet. During the 2012 season Anthony averaged an almost career high of 28.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds.
Despite being green in a number of ways, Devin Booker has a skill set that will allow him to be a star in the NBA for many years. Booker sports the beautiful combination of size along with a deceptive speed that allows him to be able to finish at the rim almost at will. Standing at 6’6 Booker is a large shooting guard with a sweet stroke. Last season, his rookie campaign, Booker averaged 13.8 points per game while shooting 34% from beyond the arc.
Due to Booker recently being named at the starting shooting guard for the Suns; the potential is there for Booker to average upwards of 19 points per game all the while shooting close to 40% from the three.
This season will come down to one thing; simply put it’s the Warriors Championship to lose. Will they be able to learn and grow together quick enough to challenge the potential East leading Cavaliers. Win or lose, the legacy of LeBron James was cemented last season once he brought a championship back to the city of Cleveland, however, if the Warriors were to fail at winning the championship this season their legacy will be one that will reflect fools gold.
Hardwood Your Thoughts:
The Hardwood Nation
The Chicago Bulls will be competitive this season and will make the playoffs. I see them winning perhaps 45 games which should be enough for them to qualify. Getting Dwyane Wade during the offseason was a great move. Although he is aging, he will be motivated to play well in his hometown. Look for Denzel Valentine, and Christiano Felicio to have an impact. This will be a new look team. Another good addition was Rajon Rondo and of course, the Bulls still have Jimmy Butler, one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Basically, it is his team now.
We will see if coach Fred Hoiberg can assemble a winning team. If not, he might be gone.
The Hardwood Nation
Last year Kristaps Porzingis had arguably the most surprising season in the NBA, going from getting booed during the draft to quickly becoming a fan favorite at MSG and finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting. With a better supporting cast behind him and Carmelo this season and his amazing rookie year behind him, I think Porzingis will surprise the league yet again and have a breakout year, averaging around 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. If the preseason is an indicator, Kristaps looks good. Having worked on his shot and post game over the summer, he should be able to score from almost anywhere in the half court set.
However, I think one setback could come in the addition of Derrick Rose. Rose’s style requires that he gets the ball a lot, and with Carmelo also on that team, that means less shots for Porzingis.
Even if this scenario comes true and Rose is taking shots from Kristaps to the point where he’s not scoring as much as expected, KP will still impact the game defensively and off-ball offensively.
Watch out for Godzingis this year.
The Hardwood Nation
Last season we witnessed the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors face off yet again for the NBA Championship. The results flip-flopped from the previous year and many fans thought that Golden State was going to secure their second consecutive title. However, LeBron James and his henchmen had a different outcome in mind.
It was an exciting Finals series to watch and the city of Cleveland was on fire to see their King deliver first Championship in 54 years for the city and the first for the Cavaliers organization in their history. That is what all fans want and crave from their favorite players and teams.
I am very much looking forward to this season and I predict that the Cavaliers and Warriors will meet again for the third consecutive year but this time will be much different.
With the addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors it will make it very difficult for King James and the Cavs to pull off the victory.
During the off-season James began preparing himself earlier than usual for the ultimate show down to perhaps pull off a bigger upset than last season’s victory.
Having watched the NBA for a long time has allowed me to witness many miracles, but the Golden State Warriors will bring home the gold back to the Bay Area.
Balls In Our Court Podcast/Hardwood Nation Contributor
Basketball is Back and you don’t understand how excited I am! I know there is a lot going on so here’s some of the things I’m excited about.
Kevin Durant, the villian? Sounds so unreal, this and I think he’s still a likable guy and while I’m all about making a decision that benefits you, it still irk fans when you go to a team that beat you last year, so LeBron handled the role pretty well, however I want to see how Durant handles it.
The Eastern Conference still remains the physical conference and besides the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, every team has a legit shot at the playoffs. The east has gotten better, and on any given night besides Cleveland any team could beat one another, it should be fun to watch.
Russell Westbrook, he already plays with a chip on his shoulder and now we get to see a pissed off Russell for 82 games? Good luck to other Point Guards in the league.
Look out for my Orlando Magic. I’m not predicting anything, but we are going as far as Vogel philosophies and the further development of Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton development will take us.
I don’t see anyone beating the Warriors. They stretch out defenses beyond the three-point line, while you could beat them inside and their bench depth isn’t the best they can come down at anytime and hit five shots in a row, you foul them, its guarantee points from the stripe and chasing around shooters is very tiring for 48 mins. They have three of the best shooters on the same team. Sometimes everything in life ain’t fair. KD gets his first title.
The Hardwood Nation
First things first, I’m still suffering a 2016 NBA Finals hangover. What an amazing series. We all know what happened and we have heard it over and over again. With that being said, we will get to see who wins the best of 3 since the finals will be yet another rematch. Unless something miraculous happens, no team in the Western Conference will get passed that group in Golden State and The King will return for a 7th straight appearance in an NBA Finals series. Re-signing J.R. Smith last week and returning the last piece if that puzzle, I don’t see the East being represented by any other team.
2017 NBA Finals:
Golden State has relied on a deep bench to succeed. For the past couple seasons, from 1 to 12, had one of the most complete teams. They did add Kevin Durant but they lost Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Leandro Barbosa, Marreese Speights, and Festus Ezeli.True, not huge names compared to Kevin Durant but when KD’s defense is suspect and the names you lose give depth AND defense, they become huge. Not to mention the scoring distribution. KD averaged 28.2 pts last season and won’t this year. Curry averaged 30.1 and he too, will not repeat that. Interesting enough, this pre-season Curry is averaging 11.8 and Durant is averaging 18.2, funny how that equals 30 pts/gm. Curry’s total from 2015-16 is equaled by that of both Curry and KD now, but they don’t have the big men to slow down a well-oiled machine in Cleveland.
Predicting the result: Repeat for King James and yet another NBA Finals MVP.
KIA NBA MVP:
There can be so many names thrown in here, right? I don’t think so. I think there are only 2 names that stand out as frontrunners to win it. I would love to say Russell Westbrook will be the favorite but unfortunately he isn’t. With Golden State’s star studded show, they lock down #1; San Antonio, coming off their franchise’s best season, get #2; Clippers get #3 and Portland gets #4. OKC gets #5, at best #4 if they can outlast Portland. Of course this is all opinion but it’s hard to argue against it. When has anyone from a #4 or #5 seed won an MVP? So, now on to Curry and Durant. These guys remind me of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Both are good but who do you vote for? Curry and Durant will both have a drop in stats to be able to complement each other. So Westbrook, Curry, Durant, Paul, and Griffin all having an uphill battle to compete for MVP, who does that leave?
Predicting the result: LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard
Bold personal predictions:
- Boston will be a heck of team. The addition of Al Horford was great and he will fit perfectly.
- Russell Westbrook averages a triple-double over the course of the entire season
- Orlando, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Sacramento struggle and end up with league’s 5 worst records.
- James Harden leads league in scoring
- New York Knicks improve heavily.
- Dwyane Wade has a brief stay in Chicago and is traded shortly after December 15th.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo ends season as top 10 player
- Minnesota Timberwolves get into the playoffs as a #6 seed.
I will be the first to say this is going to be an exciting season. Young talent like Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Davis, Stanley Johnson, Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gobert, Andrew Wiggins, CJ McCollum, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Giannis Antetokounmpo start really making their imprints and owning the transition into making this “Their” league. With Dirk about to retire, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (although 31 and 34 yrs old) are the “old” guys now. Kinda funny when you are into your early to mid 30’s and you are considered old, LOL. The evolution of the Golden State Warriors. I am interested to see how fast they can “click” and what adjustments are made. I am very interested to see how Miami evolves as well. With losing Wade and now Bosh, how do the trio of Whiteside/Winslow/Richardson react?
I guess we will see over the next 8 months.
Being back in the Palace for the playoffs for the first time since I was 9 years old was a relieving and rejuvenating experience. With new signings over the summer including Jon Leuer and Ish Smith, Pistons fans, like me, were very excited to see if they could crack the top four in the Eastern Conference.
After hearing about Reggie Jackson’s injury, I was baffled and unsure of what to expect as the preseason opened. Well, the ball movement has clearly fallen off. I’m going to say this contrary to my dumb friends who think that Smith can fill in the void at point guard. Detroit is in deep trouble. Deep, deep trouble.
Obviously, Detroit has pieces. But they need Jackson’s leadership on the court in order to expect success and fluid ball movement. The first month of the season can go any direction in his departure.
The Hardwood Nation
We’re on the cusp of the NBA season, there’s so many interesting storylines set up. Can LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers repeat? How will the Golden State Warriors fair with Kevin Durant now in town? Who will win MVP? How will the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers look following their roster moves? In the deep, stacked Western Conference who will sink or swim? Well, let’s dive into it.
Kia NBA MVP: For me the top two candidates for this was simple, what two players have the best opportunity to be the guy game in and out all season? Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Harden is now apart of the Mike D’antoni all offensee little defense scheme, where he’s been given the role of Point Guard. So he’ll have the ball in his hand far more than last season, with that he’ll be asked to create for others more. It’s not unrealistic to think Harden could average, 27ppg 10apg 7rpg and I think he’ll do just that. However, that won’t be good enough to win MVP as Russell Westbrook will take advantage of finally being the Batman of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Everything is set up for Westbrook to go on a giant “F you” tour around the league. Westbrook very well may average 30ppg 12apg 9rpg. Now I do think his efficiency may drop and I wouldn’t be surprised if he averaged in the upwards of 25 shots a game. Nonetheless he’ll lead the way and carry the Thunder to the playoffs. Notable mentions for MVP, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Paul George.
Now for my West/East Conference predictions.
- Cleveland Cavaliers 62-20
- Indiana Pacers 55-27
- Boston Celtics 53-28
- Toronto Raptors 51-31
- Atlanta Hawks 48-34
- Detroit Pistons 48-34
- New York Knicks 45-37
- Chicago Bulls 44-38
- Washington Wizards 44-38
- Charlotte Hornets 43-39
- Milwaukee Bucks 41-41
- Orlando Magic 37-45
- Miami Heat 34-48
- Brooklyn Nets 25-57
- Philadelphia 76ers 14-68
- Golden State Warriors 64-18
- Los Angeles Clippers 59-23
- San Antonio Spurs 57-25
- Portland Trail Blazers 54-28
- Memphis Grizzlies 51-31
- Utah Jazz 49-33
- Houston Rockets 44-38
- Oklahoma City Thunder 43-39
- Dallas Mavericks 42-40
- Denver Nuggets 40-42
- New Orleans Pelicans 39-43
- Minnesota Timberwolves 35-47
- Sacramento Kings 33-49
- Phoenix Suns 27-55
- Los Angeles Lakers 20-62
I’m not going to predict who I believe will win a chip this upcoming season, just playing I’m rolling the dice and taking the Cavaliers. With that being said, I’m expecting a third straight year between the Warriors and Cavaliers. Let’s just make that a yearly thing for now.
I’m going to end with a list of the Top 4 teams of each conference I feel everyone should watch and or keep an eye on. Of course the first two Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Now the other three teams from the East, Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks. My three from the West; Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Let’s enjoy this season!
The Hardwood Nation
As the beginning of the 2016-2017 NBA season approaches I find myself once again waiting with excitement like a child on Christmas Eve. With so many different stories to look forward to and plenty of change throughout the league this season is poised to be as satisfying as any in recent years. Between the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers the East looks like once again it will be a wild ride as each team fights for a slot in the playoffs.
Of course, it looks like Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers might have another cake walk into the NBA Finals as the Toronto Raptors amongst other teams in the East haven’t been able to show they have enough fire power to slow that train down.
The Western Conference won’t be without its drama this season as all eyes will be on the two-time Defending Conference Champion Golden State Warriors. I seriously hope that new star Kevin Durant is ready for his new villain role because he and his new teammates will be booed in masses; in ways that haven’t been seen since LeBron James played his first season for the Miami Heat.
It also seems most NBA writers have all but given Thunder guard Russell Westbrook the MVP award this season. There’s no doubt that he will be amazing to watch as he unleashes his usual play style upon the league that mimics a bull in a china shop. Without Durant in Oklahoma City Westbrook is prepped to improve upon his already impressive stat sheet.
One of the most interesting story lines that I’m looking forward to seeing is what Damien Lillard will be able to improve upon and just how far he can lead his rag-tag crew in Portland. After what could be called a “Cinderella” type season and success in the playoffs last year one wonders how much farther if any that Lillard can take the Trail Blazers.
As a side note, Lillard just released his first album under the stage name of Dame D.O.L.L.A and was amongst the top of the Hip Hop charts on Apple Music. In one of his songs, Bill Walton, he speaks upon his being passed up and overlooked and how it has fueled him. I believe we are still in store for greatness by the small guard hailing from Oakland.
I see they fail to recognize I’m different
Really a misfit, a man with infants
Unlimited loads of pigment
My true colors, that’s all I know
I show my true colors
These dudes busters, I’m a smooth substance
Heavily favored by the Man
I’m giving thanks, I raise my hand
He ultimately made the plans
For me to thrive and be alive
I ain’t sink, he let me swim
Remember when them lights was dim
Now I’m shining, and I ain’t wearing diamonds
I don’t follow no facades and I ain’t close to trendy
Type to get a section in the club and keep it friendly
Promoters approaching, pointing at chicks to send me
‘Cause it’s looking empty, reception don’t offend me
All-Stars, I should have three by the name
They say I cried about not makin’ it, it’s free to complain
It’s deeper than fame, it’s principle
My feelings hurt? Minimal
Second team additional
Twenty Ms, boy it’s fixable
Boy it’s fixable
They robbed me though, and it was criminal
But aye, to the game I was chalking it
I’m trying to bring a chip to Portland just like Walton did
[Hook/Outro: Dame D.O.L.L.A]
You gon’ respect it
You gon’ respect it
You gon’ respect it
You gon’ respect me though
“I want to be the MVP. If we come out and do the things we’re capable of doing as a team, if we win games, that means my performance will be at the level of an MVP.”