NBA Standings Prediction | Derek Li
NBA Standings Prediction
by: Derek Li
Boston Celtics: Despite missing their two best players in last year’s playoffs, the Celtics took the Lebron-led Cavaliers to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Celtics are the favorite to be the top team in the East. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward expected to be healthy soon, the Celtics are only going to get stronger.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers surprised everyone by making a deep playoff run last season, losing to the Celtics in the semifinals. This extremely talented and young team showed off their pure skill and athleticism, while also demonstrating their complete inexperience to everyone. As Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid start gaining more and more NBA experience, this team is going to become a deadly force. Plus, the Sixers’ number one overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, barely played last year; imagine the offensive talent if Fultz starts playing like he did in college.
Toronto Raptors: The Kawhi Leonard trade undoubtedly created a lot of controversy, as well as talk about loyalty in this league. Objectively, however, Kawhi is “better” than DeRozan when healthy; he won finals MVP in 2014 as a 22 year old. The player who was once thought to be the future of the Spurs organization should keep Toronto a competitive playoff team, assuming he decides to actually play. Led by Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard as well as a bunch of promising young talent such as OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, the Raptors are looking once again to prove the haters wrong.
Indiana Pacers: After losing Paul George to the Thunder during the summer of 2017, Pacers fans were expecting a complete rebuild. However, Victor Oladipo caught the whole league by surprise during his all-star season last year. At 26 years old, he put the Pacers on his back and gave them the offensive shot creation that they needed to take the extra stride. Hopefully, as Oladipo continues to improve his game, the Pacers supporting cast, especially Myles Turner and Tyreke Evans, will give their star player enough help to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee Bucks: At just 23 years old, Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best young player in the NBA. As the rightful leader of the Bucks organization, the Greek Freak put up an amazing statline of 26.9 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, and nearly 5 assists per game while shooting over 50% from the field. He is an invaluable asset to the team, playing and defending all positions as a 7 footer with a long 7’3’’ wingspan. With Khris Middleton proving fans that he is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, the key to the Bucks success this season depends on their role players spacing the floor well and consistently knocking down jumpers.
Washington Wizards: Over the past few years, the Wizards have had one of the most offensively talented backcourts in the NBA, with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way. However, the team’s lack of depth in the frontcourt and chemistry issues have hindered efforts to make a deep playoff run. This year, the addition of Dwight Howard may resolve some problems, but other players, such as Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr., will have to step up as well.
Detroit Pistons: Even after adding Blake Griffin last year, the Pistons remained a mediocre team. This year, as Griffin and Andre Drummond get acclimated playing with each other, The Motor City’s basketball team has a decent chance of returning to the playoffs.
Miami Heat: Since the Big 3 era of the Heat ended, Miami has always maintained a solid, well-coached group of players. The team has a consistent performance and great defense. However, the team still desperately needs a player who can step up in big moments.
Golden State Warriors: There isn’t much to be said about the Warriors. With a starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and DeMarcus Cousins, they are essentially the Western Conference All-Star team. The Warriors are once again championship favorites this season.
Houston Rockets: Even though the Rockets lost their valuable “3 and D” player Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns, they acquired offensive support in Carmelo Anthony as well as young talent in Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight. If everyone, especially Chris Paul, can stay healthy, the Rockets still have a shot at beating Warriors in the playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans: During the playoffs last year, Anthony Davis proved to everyone that he can single-handedly carry a team on his back and is the best big man in the league. A versatile, athletic, and consistent center with a reliable jump shot, Davis is the ideal modern-day NBA star. With the offseason addition of Julius Randle, and the return of Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic, Davis should have the best supporting cast of his career. This makes for a scary team that has the potential of making a deep playoff run.
Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers playoff performance last season was one of the most disappointing in recent years. After a spectacular regular season performance led by a backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers were expected to turn on the jets and advance into the second round of the playoffs. However, Portland fell short. Despite this,, the Blazers will probably still perform highly in the regular season, especially if center Jusuf Nurkic becomes more aggressive offensively and new addition Seth Curry proves to be a great knockdown shooter.
Utah Jazz: If the 76ers’ Ben Simmons didn’t count as a rookie last season, Donovan Mitchell, would have easily won the Rookie of the Year award. Nonetheless, Mitchell wowed everyone with his amazing performance on both ends of the floor last year, and showed that he is the future of the Jazz organization. Averaging over 20 points per game on a team that made it to the Western Conference semifinals in your rookie season is not an easy feat. The key to the Jazz’s success this year is whether players such as Dante Exum, Royce O’Neal, and Trey Lyles can provide enough offensive firepower against teams such as the Warriors or Rockets.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are possibly the most underrated team in the NBA. With an extremely talented young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris, as well as support from veteran power forward Paul Millsap, the Nuggets have a great chance of making the playoffs this year. They have decided to build around Jokic, who has quickly become one of the most versatile big men in the league. Even with all the offensive talent, however, what will ultimately determine their success is whether they can perform well on the defensive end. The addition of Isaiah Thomas as a backup point guard certainly doesn’t help the Nuggets case.
San Antonio Spurs: For the past few years, the Spurs big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili have all gotten old or retired, creating many doubters of the rest of the team. Yet, it seems as if every single year, the Spurs, coached by basketball genius Gregg Popovich, has managed to always make it into the playoffs with relative ease. The teamwork and discipline of this team is unmatched by any other organization in the NBA. Even though they lost Kawhi Leonard this offseason, they by added DeMar DeRozan and drafted Lonnie Walker, all of whom will hopefully give the Spurs sufficient help to reach the playoffs once again and make some noise.
Los Angeles Lakers: LeBron James is the single largest reason why the Lakers have a great chance of making the playoffs this year. Arguably the best player ever, he will provide the Lakers not only with his incredible skill set, but also his veteran presence and experience to mentor the promising young players such as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma. Although most of the Lakers players still need to gain more experience in the league, LeBron James will almost surely give them the boost they need to make it into the playoffs.