For the most part, the 2016-17 NBA season was as we expected. Teams such as Golden State, Cleveland, and San Antonio stayed at the top of the league standings, while clubs like the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers continued to disappoint their fans. We also had teams that struggled, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons, even though many thought they were going to take the next step in their development.
For the 2017-18 season, I think we will continue to see the likes of Cleveland, Golden State, and San Antonio dominate the standings. However, we will also witness some new teams hop into the contender category, and we will get to watch other squads begin a rebuild that will put them in the laughingstock category.
This article will look into the future by predicting the top eight and seven worst NBA clubs by the of the regular season next year. Note that this article is playing the prediction game and it guesses which teams are going to be moving star players in the offseason. More will be explained on that below.
15 Best - Miami Heat
I am expecting the Miami Heat to take a huge step next year. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra are winners and missing the postseason is not something that they are used to. Although the Heat failed to reach the playoffs, they surprised many by finishing 41-41. Heading into this season, a lot were expecting Miami to be at the bottom of the standings, which was true at the beginning of the year until the team went on a crazy winning run.
Remember, the Heat were able to overachieve this past season with a somewhat average roster. In this offseason, they will a have a ton of cap space, so do not be surprised to see them land a star player. Overall, I expect Miami to get back to the 50-win range next season.
14 Worst - Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets were terrible in 2016-17 and I expect no different in 2017-18. Remember, the Nets traded away their first round pick to Boston, which in all likelihood is going to be a top three pick. This means that Brooklyn will not be able to add a potential franchise-changer to its roster, and instead give that opportunity to a division rival. I also think the Nets are going to trade away Brook Lopez for draft picks and young players during the summer. This means that the Nets will probably be even worse next year (if that is possible).
I guess one positive for the Nets is that they will have a lot of cap space to sign players. Maybe they will be able to land quality guys and help speed along this rebuild. Truthfully though, this is wishful thinking at this point.
13 Best - Oklahoma City Thunder
A lot of this prediction has to do with the assumption that the Oklahoma City Thunder will bring in some more help for Russell Westbrook next season. If I had to choose, a perfect fit would either be Brook Lopez or Paul Millsap. So why do I think OKC will bring in another star player next season? Mostly because Sam Presti is a very good general manager, and he is going to do everything in his power to keep Westbrook happy.
Overall, I think Oklahoma City will also see development from Victor Oladipo. He has the potential to be a number two or three scorer on a very good team. He showed flashes this year, but he was not consistent enough. After a year playing alongside Westbrook, I expect Oladipo to be more comfortable, and it will show in his game. Look for the Thunder to be a top three or four team in the West next year.
12 Worst - Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have some good young players on their team in Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, and T.J. Warren. In fact, Booker has shown qualities of becoming a franchise player. He has an amazing ability to score in a variety of ways. Whether it is running off screens or creating his own shot, Booker will find an opening to put the ball into the net. The 20-year-old just needs to continue improving every season, which he will.
However, we must remember that the Suns also have some terrible contracts for another couple of seasons in Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight. This will impact the ability of Phoenix to load up its roster. Because of this, the Suns are going to be a bad team for at least another couple of seasons. I also do not think Eric Bledsoe is a starting guard for a playoff team, as he has not shown the ability to stay healthy.
11 Best - Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have become one of the more consistent regular season teams. They have had back-to-back 50-win seasons and it does not look they will be slowing down anytime soon. The Raptors a nice mixture of veterans in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valančiūnas, and Cory Joseph. They also have some promising young players in Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Jakob Pöltl. Masai Ujiri has done a great job in building a solid roster with both the present and future in mind.
I am also expecting free agents like Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and P.J. Tucker to stick around. All three seem to like Toronto, and the Raptors have shown they are willing to keep them. Overall, the Raps have proven they can be a good regular season team. Now is the time for them to knock off the best teams in the playoffs.
10 Worst - Sacramento Kings
While I do think the Sacramento Kings made the right move in trading DeMarcus Cousins, I do not think they will be any good next season. Also, how were the Kings not able to get more in return for a player that consistently averages 20 and 10? Sure, Buddy Hield is promising, and maybe the Sacramento can find a dependable player with the first round pick they received. But really, you are telling me they could not get more for a legitimate all-star?
Regardless, the Kings are going to be bad again in 2017-18 with or without Cousins. Before, they at least had a star player where they can try to build around on. Now, they have no one. The only positive thing I can say about the Kings are that they have a good head coach in Dave Joerger. Maybe he can turn the ship around and hopefully he does, because Kings fans deserve it.
9 Best - Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are one of the rising teams at the NBA. Their superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is only 22 years old. His game is rapidly improving, and if he develops even somewhat of a consistent jumper, "The Greek Freak" will be unstoppable. The man is a one-man fastbreak and is just an overall force on both ends of the court.
We also cannot forget that the Bucks have other promising players such as Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, and Khris Middleton. We also may include Jabari Parker in this list if he can prove he can stay healthy.
Overall, Milwaukee took a big step this year by finishing over .500 and making the playoffs as a sixth seed. Jason Kidd's boys gave the Raptors everything they could handle and almost eliminated them. Next year, expect the Bucks to take another giant step forward.
8 Worst - Chicago Bulls
A lot of this has to do with the prediction that the Chicago Bulls are going to rebuild next season. I'm predicting Dwyane Wade will opt out of his contract for a chance to play for a true contender, and Chicago will trade Jimmy Butler.
Team staff might see that the roster is no where close to winning a championship and figure the best way to get back on track is by stockpiling good young talent and draft picks. If it was me, I would not trade Butler, but all reports seem to indicate the Bulls are going to do so in the summer. If they pull the trigger on "Buckets", Chicago will have no one to carry the squad to a playoff spot. CHI will fall sharply in the standings next year, hoping for a high draft spot.
7 Best - San Antonio Spurs
Including San Antonio on this list is a must. When was the last time the Spurs were not one of the best teams in the league? They have built the best basketball program in the NBA and they are able to get more out of players than any other squad. They are like the New England Patriots of basketball.
For next year, there are two main two reasons the San Antonio Spurs will remain one of the top clubs in the league in 2017-18: Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard. Popovich is the best coach at the NBA right now, and as long as he remains in the franchise, the Spurs always have a chance. Even better for "Pop" is that he has a superstar in Leonard on his team. "The Claw" is just a great two-way player who is still young and improving. Add in other good cagers like LaMarcus Aldridge, and SAS will continue to thrive.
6 Worst - Indiana Pacers
It is looking more and more likely that the Indiana Pacers are going to trade Paul George, hinting on several different occasions that he is not happy in Indiana. Whether it is throwing his teammates under the bus or talking about the lack of winning, he has made his intentions clear. The Pacers have to make the smart choice and trade George instead of losing him for nothing. This way, Indiana will at least be able to acquire good young players and draft picks to help them rebuild.
When the Pacers do trade George, 2017-18 will be a rough season for them. They won't have a star to help carry them to the playoffs and their priority will be more on developing young talents. If "PG13" does in fact get traded, I predict Indy to land in the bottom five by the time the regular season schedule is done.
5 Best - Cleveland Cavaliers
As long as LeBron James is around and healthy, the Cavaliers will always be one of the top teams in the league. I think James will start to slow down, but not in 2017-18. It almost seemed like he and the Cavs were not trying during the regular season. LeBron openly talked about several things that would make one think this. Things like regular season games not being that important and how chasing the number one seed is not that important. We even saw Tyronn Lue rest players down the stretch when Cleveland was in the middle of the battle for the top spot, which makes me surmise the Cavs were just bored and that their struggles were overrated, managing to win 50-plus games.
"LBJ" will still be one of the top players in the game next year, so do not expect anything different. Cleveland will once again have a chance at the championship next season.
4 Worst - Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic have some talent on their roster. They also made the right decision in letting general manager Rob Hennigan go. In addition, they have a good coach in Frank Vogel.
However, I do not see things turning around for them next season. Orlando just has a very messy situation overall. Some of their contract signings in the summer of 2016 are going to haunt them. I will never understand why they signed Bismack Biyombo when they already had Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vučević under contract. Also, Biyombo was simply not worth the money they guaranteed him. This money could have been spent on other resources. The Magic are also paying Evan Fournier like he is a legitimate number two option for a winning team. I have yet to see enough from these two guys to believe they can lead their squad.
3 Best - Boston Celtics
Boston had a terrific regular season in 2016-17, but I am expecting even more improvement in 2017-18. Remember, the Celtics will have tons of cap room and will be able to trade for players like Paul George or Jimmy Butler. Boston also owns what is likely a top three pick (if they keep it). If the Celtics use this draft selection, they are going to add a young prospect that will learn from a great coach in Brad Stevens.
The possible aforementioned additions on their current roster will instantly put the Celtics into "legitimate contender" status with teams like Golden State, Cleveland, and San Antonio. The future is very bright for the Celtics and what we have seen in 2016-17 is only the beginning.
2 Worst - New York Knicks
Although I do not believe in Carmelo Anthony can be the best player on a championship team, he is still an all-star. Nevertheless, it is looking more and more likely that the Knicks will send Anthony packing to another camp. When this happens, New York will go from laughing stock to major laughing stock.
If you are a Knicks fan, what is there to be excited about? Melo is most likely gone, Derrick Rose is a free agent and it is going to cost a ton of money to keep him, the Joakim Noah contract is terrible, and the coach is being forced to play a system that clearly has not worked in this "new" NBA. I guess there is Kristaps Porziņģis, but even he is frustrated with his own team. What happens if he wants out too? Good luck, Knicks.
1 Best - Golden State Warriors
A no-brainer here. The Golden State Warriors are going to be the top team in the Western Conference for another couple of seasons at least. Yes, this is assuming Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry stay with the team beyond this season.
All of Golden State's star players such as Durant, Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are in their prime. They have great chemistry together and do not mind sharing the ball. If Thompson is hot one game, Durant and Curry have no problem deferring. That is probably the most amazing part about watching the Warriors.
Golden State also has a tremendous head coach in Steve Kerr. He consistently puts the players in a good position to win. We also cannot forget one of the best general managers in Bob Myers. Expect more dominance from the "Dubs".