Who's ready for some basketball? Even though it's almost two months away.
With so many huge trades, a number of impact free agent signings and of course a plethora of intriguing 2017-18 rookies. There are a number of exciting storylines to follow. Will someone take down the powerhouse Golden State Warriors? Will this be LeBron James' final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Heck, are the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors FINALLY read to end LeBron's seven-year streak of reaching the NBA Finals?
Furthermore, are teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards finally prepared to take their games to the next level? All of the talent is in place.
We can expect more "dominant" teams in 2017-18, yet also quite a few porous teams who had to trade away their top players. So with all the chaos of the offseason (seemingly) over, here's a look at our projections for every NBA team's record in 2017-18.
30 30. Atlanta Hawks: 38-44
This could be where it all ends for the Atlanta Hawks -- their 10-year playoff streak. Losing Dwight Howard, Paul Millsap, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jose Calderon is just too much. As talented as Dennis Schroder is, the Hawks no longer have the depth nor firepower to be a force in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks are fortunate that the East is a laughingstock, however. So they could do just enough to get into the postseason. The Indiana Pacers (seventh seed), and Chicago Bulls (eighth seed), traded away Paul George and Jimmy Butler, respectively. That means they won't be playoff teams, giving Atlanta a chance to sneak in there.
But even if they do, the Hawks won't be winning 45-plus games. It'll be a losing season in Atlanta, with all the studs they lost and failed to replace.
29 29. Boston Celtics: 53-29
The Celtics clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference this past season. That was thanks in large part to an inexplicable collapse by the Cleveland Cavaliers to close out the regular season, and the Toronto Raptors being hit bad by the injury bug.
But Boston should once again fight for the top seed in the East. GM Danny Ainge had a wild offseason, trading away the top pick before eventually selecting Jayson Tatum at No. 3. He followed it up by signing Utah Jazz Star Gordon Hayward for four years, before picking up Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving in a trade.
These moves didn't come without a price, however. Boston doesn't have Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Amir Johnson or Kelly Olynyk -- five of their top players from last season. The Celtics will be a top squad once again next season, but the loss of depth and role players mean they won't have the drastic improvements many are expecting.
28 28. Brooklyn Nets: 25-57
The Nets were the worst team in the NBA last year, finishing with a 22-60 record. But the Boston Celtics owned their top pick and flipped it to the Philadelphia 76ers. As it turns out, trading for past-their-prime veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry wasn't worth it in 2013.
The good news is that Brooklyn should be just a tad bit better next season. The front office chose to be a dumping place for bad contracts, so they were rewarded with D'Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers for taking on Timofey Mozgov's bad contract. They also got a 2018 first and second round pick from the Toronto Raptors for taking on DeMarre Carroll's albatross contract.
With the addition of youngster Allen Crabbe, Brooklyn now has some youthful newcomers to make them a bit better. They will be pretty bad in 2016-17, but not bad enough to hit the 60-game losing mark. That's progress.
27 27. Charlotte Hornets: 40-42
The Hornets had an extremely disappointing 2016-17 campaign, going just 36-46 while failing to make the playoffs for a second consecutive years. But Charlotte made an impact move by acquiring Dwight Howard from the Atlanta Hawks, so Kemba Walker and co. should be able to reach the postseason again in 2018.
Thanks to the Pacers and Bulls choosing to unload their franchises stars, Charlotte will have it a whole lot easier in 2017-18. Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum and Howard will present a strong scoring unit.
These moves won't turn Michael Jordan's squad into a powerhouse, but they could fight for a top-six spot in the East. Throw in 2017 first rounder Malik Monk (a shooting guard), and the Hornets have the pieces to rebound from a disappointing season.
26 26. Chicago Bulls: 20-62
Remember when the Bulls were an annual playoff time in the Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen era? Then they rebuilt after MJ's retirement in 1999 and had to undergo a number of horrible years? 2017-18 will be 1998-99 all over again.
Chicago made the playoffs in 2017 with 41 wins, but they ultimately decided it was time to trade away superstar Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Throw in Dwyane Wade's inevitable buyout (as ESPN's Nick Friedell is expecting), and the Bulls are one talented-thin team.
Zach LaVine is going to have to carry this young group on his own, unless rookie Lauri Markkanen has some tricks up his sleeve. But yeah, the Bulls will be fighting for the draft lottery next year. Winning 25-plus games should be considered a major accomplishment for them.
25 25. Cleveland Cavaliers: 55-27
Despite a miserable finish to the 2016-17 season that saw Cleveland go 10-14 to close out the campaign, they fell just short of winning the top seed over the Boston Celtics. Nobody knows how Cleveland embarked on such a slump, but that isn't going to happen again under LeBron James' watch.
Furthermore, the Cavaliers actually got better from the Kyrie Irving trade. Isaiah Thomas isn't far off in terms of reaching Irving's talent. But adding Derrick Rose and defensive stalwart Jae Crowder will pay huge dividends for Cleveland.
Don't forget about LeBron and Kevin Love, obviously. Cleveland is now better built to challenge the Golden State Warriors more next season. When all is said and done, expect the Cavaliers to recapture the top seed in the East with a cool 55 wins.
24 24. Dallas Mavericks: 30-52
Long gone are the days where Dirk Nowitzki's crew was a consistent force in the Western Conference. Mark Cuban's crew has willingly rebuilt for the past couple of years, and Dirk has been kind enough to work with the young players who look to form into the future stars of this franchise.
Dallas was one of the worst teams in the league last season, finishing with a porous 33-49 record. But despite the ageless Nowitzki still going strong and a breakout year for Harrison Barnes in 2017, the Mavericks aren't well-positioned to get much better. They saw the Western Conference get a whole lot better this offseason -- which means the Mavs have fewer "winnable" games.
Expect another tough year for the Mavericks, but at least they won the NBA Championship in 2011. That makes this rebuild a bit more easier for fans to accept.
23 23. Denver Nuggets: 41-41
The Nuggets just barely missed out on the opportunity to be swept by the Warriors in the opening round of last year's playoffs. That is, they went 40-42 and missed the final spot in the Western Conference one game.
That's okay, because they look set to make a run at the postseason in 2017-18. Out goes Danilo Gallinari, and in comes power forward Paul Millsap -- who's coming off a career-high 18.1 points per game. The Nuggets now have a roster that consists of Millsap, Wilson Chandler, Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris. This is a team that is more than capable of fighting for the playoffs.
Losing Gallinari does hurt, however. So the Nuggets shouldn't expect to see a drastic record change. They are good enough to at least reach .500, though. So expect a non-losing season in Denver, as the Nuggets make the playoffs in 2018.
22 22. Detroit Pistons: 39-43
The Pistons should be able to contend for a playoff spot in the suddenly weakening Eastern Conference. Andre Drummond remains the league's top rebounder and gives his team the chance to win most nights. The trade for newcomer Avery Bradley supplies Detroit with a big-time shooter and quality scorer. It was totally worth trading Marcus Morris for him.
Bradley and point guard Reggie Jackson will form a decent back court, and Drummond will obviously continue to dominate as a top-flight centre. The Pistons are still in rebuilding mode and don't quite have that true superstar scorer, however.
That will hold them back from reaching .500 or better. But 39 wins just might be enough for the Motor City to experience a return to the playoffs.
21 21. Golden State Warriors: 70-12
The Warriors "only" won 67 games last season, before going 16-1 in the postseason to wrap up arguably the most dominant playoff run in NBA history. Kevin Durant finally won his championship (as everyone expected). The Warriors only goal now (other than becoming a dynasty), is to somehow top the 2015-16 record of their 73 victories.
Well, the Warriors won't quite get that far. But they should be even better in 2017-18, provided that K.D. doesn't have to miss 20 games. Yeah, they still won 67 games last year without their best player.
The San Antonio Spurs are getting older. The Los Angeles Clippers are no longer a threat. The Utah Jazz lost their two best players in free agency. Some of the top teams in the West got significantly worse. As long as Golden State doesn't rest their players like most super teams enjoy doing, they should get 70 wins again.
20 20. Houston Rockets: 60-22
If James Harden was good enough to single-handedly give the Rockets 55 wins (and the third seed in the Western Conference), in 2016-17, just how much better can Houston be with ultra star Chris Paul in the field? The Rockets are loading up on trying to take down the Warriors powerhouse.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. Though incredibly unlikely, the Rockets will at least crack 60-plus wins. That's what happens when you have two perennial MVP candidates on the same team, on the same court, at the same time.
It's going to be a remarkable season for the Rockets. Harden nearly won the MVP last year and carried the Rockets to within two games of reaching the Western Conference Finals. With Paul here, it's third-round or bust in Houston. Gear up for an exciting year.
19 19. Indiana Pacers: 26-56
It looks like the Pacers days of being a perennial playoff team in the Eastern Conference are long gone. Superstar Paul George was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a return of non-impact players Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers also traded away C.J. Miles to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that sent backup point guard Cory Joseph the other way.
So the Pacers enter 2017-18 without two of their top players from last season. Oh, and Jeff Teague decided to join the new 'super team' Minnesota Timberwolves. So now the Pacers are missing their top two scorers from last year, plus Miles.
Pacers fans got to experience a nice dose of the postseason under George. They had their chances, but couldn't get past LeBron James' teams. They'll be among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference next season.
18 18. Los Angeles Clippers: 46-36
The Clippers used to be good for 50-win seasons and a top-five seed in the Western Conference. But they were never able to advance past the second round in the Blake Griffin-Chris Paul era. There's zero reason to believe they'll change that, with Paul being shipped to the Houston Rockets in the offseason.
But the good news is that Griffin re-signed in L.A. for the max. The Clippers also offset some of the damage of losing Paul by signing Italian standout Danilo Gallinari, who's capable of scoring 15-20 points per game.
A starting five of Griffin, Gallinari, DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverley is still very playoff caliber. Losing Paul does hurt, but the Clippers won't go from postseason to no postseason. They'll be a good team, just not a great one.
17 17. Los Angeles Lakers: 31-51
The Lakers had one of the better offseasons, drafting promising point guard Lonzo Ball with the second pick. They also got out of Timofey Mozgov's terrible contract by packaging young point guard D'Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. With Ball, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle rounding out the starting five, the Lakers are building a future championship contender.
This could be the last year of suffering, as Paul George and LeBron James have both expressed interest in playing for Purple and Gold. Perhaps the 'super team' days will return again.
But 2017-18 isn't going to be the year of rebounding for Los Angeles. They've been smart to build around young talent, and there may be a few flashes here and there. At the end of the day, though, this will be one of the worst teams in the West.
16 16. Memphis Grizzlies: 33-49
The Grizzlies streak of making the playoffs for seven consecutive years is going to end in 2018. After a few years of posting 50-win seasons, the Grizzlies have barely stayed above .500 and have just one postseason series victory in their past four years. Translation: The window has closed.
As great as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are, the Grizzlies lost franchise star Zach Randolph and veteran Vince Carter in the offseason. They saw many of their inner-conference foes get better, while making few moves to address their roster weaknesses. Memphis will simply not be a playoff team in 2018.
While we're at it, it may be a good idea to trade Marc Gasol and acquire future assets for him. It'd be wise to not delay an inevitable rebuild.
15 15. Miami Heat: 45-37
Chris Bosh sat out the whole season due to blood clots, and Dwyane Wade ditched South Beach to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls. Yet the Heat wouldn't go down without a fight, winning 41 games and missing out on the playoffs via tiebreaker to the eighth-seeded Bulls.
But as I've said many times on this list, the Heat saw a handful of 2017 playoff teams from the conference get much worse. With Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters and Goran Dragic all in the fold, the Heat should return to the playoffs. Easily. This is a great young core to enjoy, and don't discount D-Wade returning if and when the Bulls buy out the three-time NBA Champion.
Miami will have a winning record and could steal a playoff series. They won't be a championship contender, but the postseason will return to South Beach next year. Bank on it.
14 14. Milwaukee Bucks: 45-37
The Bucks won 42 games last season, got the sixth seed in the West and pushed the overwhelming favored Toronto Raptors to six games in the series. Those were all indications that the best has yet to come for a team that's led by 'Greek Freak' Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo is a favorite to win the 2018 NBA MVP, having scored a whopping 22.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last year. Malcolm Brogdon is a nice sidekick to Antetokounmpo in the back court. But it's too bad the Bucks chose to stay quiet in the offseason.
But luckily for Milwaukee, the East got a lot worse in the offseason. Jimmy Butler and Paul George are out of the conference. The Hawks are undergoing a massive rebuild. The Bucks should be a challenger for a top-five seed in the East this upcoming season.
13 13. Minnesota Timberwolves: 48-34
Perhaps no team is bound to turn their season around as much as the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is going to be one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2018 and beyond. Seriously, things are going to be so fun to watch.
As if the dynamic duo of '95 kids Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns weren't enough, the T-Wolves front office made a giant splash by acquiring superstar Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. Butler is coming off a career year and should flourish even more with a better supporting cast in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves didn't stop there, also signing point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Taj Gibson. Suddenly, the Timberwolves are a shoe-in for the playoffs. Tom Thibodeau is going to make Chicago pay for firing him and sending Butler back to him. Get ready for a big year, Minny.
12 12. New Orleans Pelicans: 44-38
Even though it was a lost season, the New Orleans Pelicans made a blockbuster deal to land superstar DeMarcus Cousins. It was too little too late though, as the Pelicans didn't come anywhere close to the playoffs in 2017. However, a full season of Cousins and world class power forward Anthony Davis will do wonders for the Pelicans. They're going to be dangerous next year.
Re-signing point guard Jrue Holiday was one of the most underrated moves of the offseason, as was signing veteran point guard Rajon Rondo. The Pelicans have formed a pretty solid starting five, with talent on the front and back court.
By no means are they a threat to win the NBA Championship in 2018, but you have to like the roster they've re-constructed. A winning record and a trip back to the postseason are in the fold for New Orleans.
11 11. New York Knicks: 23-59
Carmelo Anthony is likely to be traded by the 2018 trade deadline, and Derrick Rose (who averaged 18.1 points per game last season), took his talents to Cleveland. With the Joakim Noah project also a disappointment, it appears as though the Knicks will be contending for the draft lottery next year.
Adding Tim Hardaway Jr. to a team that already includes rising star Kristaps Porzingis was a terrific move, but the drama in New York is far from done. Phil Jackson was sent packing, and the Knicks haven't really established a direction -- even though it's been obvious that a rebuild is imminent.
With Melo getting traded sooner or later, the Knicks will be in contention for the first overall pick next year. That's something to be excited about, right?
10 10. Oklahoma City Thunder: 50-32
The Thunder were a one-man wrecking machine under MVP Russell Westbrook last season. But now that he has sidekick Paul George to work with, the Thunder could make plenty of more noise in the Western Conference -- if you catch my drift. Though this isn't a squad that's set up to take down the Golden State Warriors, they could easily be a top-five seed in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City Thunder will always be a playoff team as long as Westbrook is there, but losing Kevin Durant obviously damaged their championship dreams. George is only under contract for next season, so the Thunder should try to get aggressive at next year's deadline and add a third star. The window of opportunity isn't going to last long.
But overall, this is a team capable of getting back to 50-plus wins. Westbrook and George are going to be fun to watch.
9 9. Orlando Magic: 31-51
Remember when the Magic had Dwight Howard on their team? Those days were fun, but things have been rough for Orlando since D12 was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012. They've racked up losing seasons every year since, having not won more than 35 games in a season.
What has complicated things for the Magic is that they haven't been bad enough, either. They're never in contention to win the draft lottery, and don't get enough top-five draft selections.
The good news is that they have a rising star to build around in Evan Fournier, plus Terrence Ross who came over in the Serge Ibaka trade. There are some parts on this roster to like, but the Magic still have a long way to go in their rebuild. They'll be among the worst teams again in 2018.
8 8. Philadelphia 76ers: 30-52
The good news: The 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz with the top pick and signed J.J. Reddick in the offseason. With other youngsters in Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, the 76ers have built a 'super team' through the draft.
The bad news: The 'super team' 76ers aren't quite ready for take off yet. Simmons has yet to play a game in the NBA, as has Fultz. It's going to take at least two years for these guys to morph together until they can think about the playoffs. There's nothing to dislike about what this team is shaping out to be for the long term.
But again, the 76ers are just too young to compete. They need the young guys to stay healthy and develop chemistry together. So don't expect a massive turnaround from Philly in 2018.
7 7. Phoenix Suns: 25-57
The Suns were the worst team in the West last year with a 24-58 record. Only the Brooklyn Nets (20-62), had a worse record. Unfortunately for the Suns, things aren't looking a whole lot brighter for 2018 (see what I did there?).
Though Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker form one of the top back courts in the game, there just isn't a whole lot after that. It remains to be seen if fourth-overall pick Josh Jackson will be ready for a big role as the starting small forward or not. There are some nice young pieces in tact here, but the Suns aren't ready.
Had they made a package deal for Kyrie Irving, then we'd be talking about a possible playoff team. But the Suns couldn't make it worse, so they'll undergo yet another frustrating season.
6 6. Portland Trail Blazers: 41-41
The Trail Blazers could really do some damage in the West if they somehow supplied Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum with some help, but the two-man team keep finding ways to get Portland into the postseason.
Portland got into the postseason last year with a 41-41 record, as the Denver Nuggets finished just short of catching the Trail Blazers. Portland stayed fairly quiet in the offseason, while they saw teams like Houston, Denver, the L.A. Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves make their rosters a whole lot better.
The Trail Blazers will fight for one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference, but expecting anything more than a 41-win season could be asking for too much. There just isn't enough star power for them to break through as one of the west's elite teams.
5 5. Sacramento Kings: 28-54
The Kings have consistently been in the Western Conference basement for quite a while, but now they have to prepare for a full season without DeMarcus Cousins -- who was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans at the trade deadline.
Sacramento tried to get better by adding standout point guard George Hill, and other veterans Vince Carter and Zach Randolph. But Randolph and Carter are well past their playing primes, and are simply there to provide depth on the bench. The Kings are still in full-scale rebuilding mode, so they're not looking to be a competitive team in the Western Conference.
Instead, look for Sacramento to fight for the worst record in the NBA next season. There just isn't enough talent there for them to make much progress in 2018.
4 4. San Antonio Spurs: 58-24
Even without Tim Duncan, and with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili getting up there in age while struggling to stay healthy, the Spurs just won't stop. They finished with a 61-21 record, and could have given the Warriors a run for their money in the Western Conference Finals if Parker and Kawhi Leaonard were healthy.
Because of head coach Gregg Popovich being good at his job or something, the Spurs looked poised to once again wreak havoc in the Western Conference. Though it would have been nice if they could have landed a big-time impact player (Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving were linked the them), the Spurs kept their core in tact. This will be a winning team in 2018.
The odds of winning a sixth championship in 18 years is a long shot. But don't ever count out the Spurs under Coach Pop.
3 3. Toronto Raptors: 51-31
The Raptors have made the playoffs in each of the last four years, which includes back-to-back 50-plus win seasons. Thanks to a super weak Eastern Conference that obviously no longer includes Paul George or Jimmy Butler, the Raptors shouldn't have a problem reaching 50-plus wins again.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are among the top scoring duos in the league. But with power forward Serge Ibaka now under contract for three years, the Raptors could own one of the league's top "big threes".
Masai Ujiri also did a sign-and-trade for Pacers' sniper C.J. Miles, who shot .413 from downtown last season. So the Raptors now boast a strong starting five, when you throw in talented centre Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors aren't in prime position to take down the Cavaliers, but another 50-win season is in the fold.
2 2. Utah Jazz: 43-39
Well, the Jazz probably had the worst offseason out of every team. They won 51 games last season and made it to the second round of the playoffs. But franchise star Gordon Hayward opted to join the Boston Celtics, while point guard George Hill took his talents to the Sacramento Kings.
The Jazz were able to offset a bit of the damage by trading for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, but they haven't made enough moves otherwise. Nonetheless, the Jazz are still good enough to post a winning record in a Western Conference that only has so many good teams.
Joe Johnson, Derrick Favors and Rubio are good players and should help Utah sneak into one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.
1 1. Washington Wizards: 50-32
The Wizards have one of the game's elite superstars in John Wall plus one of the top sidekicks in Bradley Beal. Though Otto Porter Jr. is a nice option at small forward, the Wizards still lack that final piece of a "big three". They'll once again be one of the top-four teams in the Eastern Conference, but don't take them seriously as a championship contender just yet.
It wouldn't be all that surprising if the Wizards somehow managed to take one of the top two seeds in the East. But the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors all have superior depth -- which just puts them over Washington right now. It will be another strong season for the Wizards, as they crack the 50-win mark for the first time since....1979.
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