Golden State Warriors
With Kevin Durant gone, and Klay Thompson hurt, the Golden State Warriors are in a bit of a pickle. Yet, with Stephen Curry, one of the best players in basketball, we predict the team will stack third in the Western Conference despite their shaky perimeter rotation.
With Durant gone, Curry is the alpha dog once again, so we predict he will win the MVP race this season. Curry and Draymond Green will need to lead their team this season more than ever as Klay Thompson recovers from the sidelines.
Nonetheless, coach Steve Kerr, Curry, and Green are more than capable to begin the season off on the right foot. The Warriors will ride Curry’s historically efficient shooting. Will it be enough this season?
The Houston Rockets come into this season as an improved team, thanks to catalyst Westbrook who will be adding that necessary dynamism to the offence. Westbrook is strong-willed and will place constant pressure on the rim, taking the pressure off Harden.
Houston will have its typically strong offense and a passable defense, especially if Clint Capela returns to his 2017-18 form. The Rockets pose a real, legitimate championship threat. Houston have a similar roster to last season, with the addition of the Paul-Westbrook swap.
With a Russell Westbrook-James Harden pairing, we see the Houston Rockets posing quite a threat.
The Philadelphia 76ers are coming in hot on defence. Joel Embiid and Al Horford are two of the league’s most impactful, versatile frontcourt defenders. Ben Simmons is a five-position cheat code. Josh Richardson is a point guard locksmith who happens to wield a 6-foot-10 wingspan.
If Philadelphia can get on the same page, there’s no reason the Sixers can’t sit first in defensive rating when the season ends. However, the concern lies in their offence. With Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick gone, Brett Brown must find new ways to manufacture offence in the halfcourt.
Will their defence, and willpower be enough to make it till the end?
The Milwaukee Bucks are a similar team to last season showing continuity with the same system. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the MVP, and coach Budenholzer’s rotations will be tailored around the Greek’s dominance as a slasher. Having Antetokounmpo is a huge advantage for the Bucks as with his immense gravity of offence and defence, he can single-handedly lead Milwaukee to victories.
Given the limited nature of his role, the Brogdon loss will hurt, but it’s not crippling. George Hill, Wesley Matthews, and others can step into the void with success.
Milwaukee is running back the core elements of a 60-win team, one that, before collapsing, went up 2-0 on the eventual champions in the conference finals. With another year of experience, the Bucks are wiser and ready for action.
Last season, LeBron put up his usual outstanding numbers: 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game, leading to an All-NBA Third Team selection. Despite most expecting LeBron to lead them to a championship title, overall the Lakers put on a good show.
This season, the Lakers have a good reason to think about championship-level expectations. During the offseason, the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis, a three-time All-NBA and All-Defensive power forward. In free agency, the LA acquired a solid crew of role players to complement their stars.
The pressure-packed environment and drama-filled history of this franchise and its star player make it so that it seems any and everything could happen this season, from championship glory to a disastrous implosion. Which will it be?
Last season, the LA Clippers won 48 games. Since then, they have swapped Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, as well as brought on Maurice Harkless, Patrick Paterson, and Rodney McGruder.
Out of the Western Conference teams, LA has the most depth and highest talent concentration. The Clippers, even with several returning members, will need to work Kawhi and George into the mix if they want to win the championship, giving Kawhi back-to-back championship runs.
The Clippers are a well-rounded group, not perfect, but perfectly capable of plugging holes and outgunning opponents. We predict they will make it to the top this season.
*Odds are subject to change.