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NBA 2015-16 Season predictions


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Posted (edited)

 

With another season right around the corner, It's high time to essay forth another college try at forecasting the NBA, but I will be limiting myself to playoff teams. After all, who can be arsed to write about the sad-sack teams, much less read about them? :boring:

Eastern Conference



1. Cleveland Cavaliers. The Big Three of LBJ, Irving, and Love did not find a comfort zone last season, but once Irivng and Love went down with injuries in the playoffs, Coach Blatt found the magic formula by going with an old school big lineup with Mozgov, Thompson and LBJ up front. This season, since Love and Irving will be healthy, exactly how Coach Blatt deploys the roster will be the major narrative of the season, after whether LBJ will be the first player to lead his team to six straight Finals berth in the modern era.

2. Atlanta Hawks. Despite surprising last season, too many pundits remain unconvinced, dismissing the Hawks as a one-season wonder, a fluke. They will win due to a great coaching staff, a fantastic system, and a loaded roster, although there's no superstar who can bail them out when necessary. DeMarre Carroll is gone, but he's easily replaceable, as long the other players do it collectively.

3. Toronto Raptors. The GM Ujiri has turned around the Raptors since he arrived from the Denver Nuggets, and they upgraded on defense with pitbulls in Carroll and Biyombo. With PG Lowry rededicated to a new regiment, the Raptors may surprise and muscle their way into the top.

4. Miami Heat. With a formidable starting unit (Whiteside, Dragic, Deng, Bosh and Wade), and if the max guys stay healthy, the Heat can rise and challenge the incumbents in Cleveland. But the starters are far too fragile to survive 82 games.

5. Chicago Bulls. The Bulls could reach as high as the second seed or fall low enough and struggle to make the playoffs. Hence, this middling spot is just right. Pau Gasol was happy to escape from LA, but he won't be featured much in newcomer coach Hoiberg's run and gun attack. But ultimately, it doesn't look like Derrick Rose will ever rediscover his old MVP form. Moreover, the offense will be better under Hoiberg, but their defense will suffer, and that spells a slow decline and a down cycle.

6. Washington Wizards. A dynamic backcourt in Wall and Beal will not be enough to offset a shitty offseason. It looks like the management at Washington is just spinning wheels until the free agent class of 2016 looks their way.

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7. Milwaukee Bucks. They used to laugh at Coach Kidd, but after a few shrewd moves in the last two years, nobody is laughing now. Moreover, free agent Greg Monroe will offset the losses of Pachulia and Ilyasova, but there's not enough experience and chemistry to muscle into the top ranks just yet. The Bucks' loaded roster are cursed with potential, and will remain a team of the future.

8. Final Playoff Spot. The final playoff seed will be clinched by a .500 team or worse. Indiana Pacers, if George is back to his old form, could make it. Orlando Magic with a loaded backcourt and a hard ass for coach, has a shot. The Pistons under Van Gundy do, too, but I think the Boston Celtics have the most realistic shot since they are rebuilding the right way - piece by piece, with patience, instead of waiting for a homerun in the draft. Moreover, their playoff experience last year will help immeasurably over the other also-rans.


Western Conference



1. San Antonio Spurs. Now that the Spurs have signed 3 time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, they will have the best and most consistent and versatile scoring option since Duncan was an MVP caliber player 10 years ago. As long the Spurs stay healthy and Coach Pop doesn't sacrifice too many games for sake of rest, the Spurs will be the best in the league.

2. Golden State Warriors. Due to an improved western conference, it's unlikely that the Warriors will win 67 games again, but they will remain serious championship contenders. While most will monitor the Warriors' small ball lineup and three point attempts, the real secret is whether the Warriors will play defense as hard as ever, or succumb to the disease of more and rest on their laurels.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant and Westbrook are by far the best one-two punch in the league. If KD returns to form and Westbrook stays healthy, the Thunder will embark on a season-long revenge tour. But I have little faith in Coach Donovan, because the NBA is far more sophisticated than college basketball, which means he has to lean heavily on his assistants (former head coach Maurice Cheeks and Monty Williams).

4. Los Angeles Clippers. Chris Paul is a great player, but he is beginning to decline. His monopolizing of the ball forces everyone into dependents. Moreover, the undersized Paul wears down in the playoffs every year, because of this very fact - he holds onto the ball until he finds an opportunity to get rid of it, and opposing teams bully him for it. So, the Clippers must adjust by realizing that Blake Griffin is their best player, and make him control the game instead like Charles Barkley used to 20 years ago.

5. Houston Rockets. The Rockets were lucky last year, because they finished 5th in point differential in the West and 7th overall, but clinched the second seed in the West and overcame a 3-1 hole vs the Clippers, only to get waxed by the Warriors. The Rockets will contend behind MVP caliber Harden, but it really depends on Howard and his health to vault them beyond the others.

6. Memphis Grizzlies. Despite being extremely physical and built for the playoff grind, they still lack consistent outside shooting. That will allow opposing teams to clog the paint and slow down the Grizzlies' bigmen without worrying about getting burned from beyond the arc.

7. New Orleans Pelicans. Although the Unibrow Anthony Davis has posted some historic numbers, he has to learn how to translate numbers into team success, and lift his team to new levels. If the Pelicans crack 55 wins, Davis will be an MVP finalist.

8. Utah Jazz. The Jazz finished strong last year according to a sustainable formula: improved defense. Gobert and Favors are terrific talents in the frontcourt, and the swingman Gordon Hayward will continue to mature into an all-around talent.

Dallas Mavericks? Despite making the playoffs 14 of the last 15 years, the loss of DeAndre Jordan will be too hard to overcome, since they lost Tyson Chandler to the Suns. And who really thinks that Deron Williams will ever get his game back?

Sacramento Kings? No doubt, their roster is an interesting mix, and Coach Karl has a history of maxing out results from teams with strong personalities, but there's way too much volatility in the front office to expect a legitimate playoff bid.

Los Angeles Lakers? If Kobe Bryant was 10 years younger, he could lead this mediocre team into the playoffs. At best, he will push them towards .500, but his body cannot hold up for 82 games.
kobe.jpg

Edited by The Heretic
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7. New Orleans Pelicans. Although the Unibrow Anthony Davis has posted some historic numbers, he has to learn how to translate numbers into team success, and lift his team to new levels. If the Pelicans crack 55 wins, Davis will be an MVP finalist.
 

I'm not really up to speed on the Pels, but there is reason to expect that they might get off to a slow start. First of all, Holiday is being limited to 15 minutes/game at least until January (and assuming that he doesn't re-aggravate his injury in the meantime), and then there is the fact that Evans is also injured, leaving the Pelicans very iffy at PG. Then there are the injuries to the two centers. But even if he wasn't hurt, I'd be surprised if Asik could really work well in the up tempo offense Gentry wants to run; last year, it looked like Asik had a hard time getting from one end of the court to the other and that was in an offense that had a more (let's just say) leisurely pace. One positive thing which I do expect from this Gentry-coached team that will be in stark contrast to the Williams-coached team of last year is that Gentry will NOT allow the other players on the floor to turn their focus away from The Brow when on offense; that happened with stunning frequency last year, especially late in games. Go figure.

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... whether LBJ will be the first player to lead his team to six straight Finals berth in the modern era.

I have a question: When did "the modern era" begin? Because you're making me feel really old when someone like Bill Russell and the 1960s are considered pre-modern!!! Although, I must admit that I only remember the latter part of that "pre-modern" era along with what I presume is the transition to the "modern" one.

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Posted (edited)

... whether LBJ will be the first player to lead his team to six straight Finals berth in the modern era.

I have a question: When did "the modern era" begin? Because you're making me feel really old when someone like Bill Russell and the 1960s are considered pre-modern!!! Although, I must admit that I only remember the latter part of that "pre-modern" era along with what I presume is the transition to the "modern" one.

The "modern era" commonly dates back to the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.  But recently, some commentators have pushed that up to 1979-80 to honor the golden age of Bird & Magic. 

That's why you see the media qualify statistics with the "modern era" moniker. 

Edited by The Heretic

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Ah, the old ABA. I especially remember the red, white, and blue basketballs; I even had one. I went to one New Orleans Buccaneers game; would have been either in late '67 or early in the winter of '68, during the ABA's first season. I'd been selected along with some other guys at school about my age (I would have been in third grade) to perform some tumbling and stuff like that at halftime of a game against the Minnesota franchise. The game was played at the Loyola University Fieldhouse; it had an elevated court. As I recall, the Buccaneers won, and the score was 120-102. Before the game, the school took us to a restaurant called Thomasee's (or something like that). The whole evening was a lot of fun, and it's fun to reminisce.

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I did some looking up and have concluded that my memory was not quite right. The Buccaneers defeated the Muskies 126-100 on February 10, 1968. Truth be told, I think my memory is right about the score actually being 120-102, but it's no big deal that the world is wrong on this point.

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7. New Orleans Pelicans. Although the Unibrow Anthony Davis has posted some historic numbers, he has to learn how to translate numbers into team success, and lift his team to new levels. If the Pelicans crack 55 wins, Davis will be an MVP finalist.
 

I'm not really up to speed on the Pels, but there is reason to expect that they might get off to a slow start. First of all, Holiday is being limited to 15 minutes/game at least until January (and assuming that he doesn't re-aggravate his injury in the meantime), and then there is the fact that Evans is also injured, leaving the Pelicans very iffy at PG. Then there are the injuries to the two centers. But even if he wasn't hurt, I'd be surprised if Asik could really work well in the up tempo offense Gentry wants to run; last year, it looked like Asik had a hard time getting from one end of the court to the other and that was in an offense that had a more (let's just say) leisurely pace. One positive thing which I do expect from this Gentry-coached team that will be in stark contrast to the Williams-coached team of last year is that Gentry will NOT allow the other players on the floor to turn their focus away from The Brow when on offense; that happened with stunning frequency last year, especially late in games. Go figure.

The way I see it, because Holiday is 25 years old, and Tyreke Evans/Ryan Anderson/Eric Gordon are all 27, and Asik is 29, there's little room left for growth from the supporting cast. In order to take the next step from playoffs to title contention, the Pelicans will have to be more than the sum of their parts. Now, if the top 5 guys (Asik, Evans, Gordon, Holiday and Unibrow) stay healthy, they will be a serious force. After all, that lineup outscored opponents by +12.4 points per 100 possessions last year.

Next, Coach Gentry will have to force the pace while improving the defense. Usually those two are inconsistent goals, but the Warriors found the magic secret by playing at the fastest pace in the league while playing the best defense. They outscored opponents by going from defense to offense at an insane rate, and there's nobody faster in that situation than Anthony Davis. :deal:

But in order to do that, the Pelicans will have to figure out who can stretch the floor and let Davis move to the center position. Asik is incapable of shooting or create his own offense in the post, and has crappy hands, preventing him from being of any use in pick and roll situations. Ryan Anderson is the logical answer, because he can space the floor and is the most talented option at the stretch 4 spot, but he doesn't play defense in the slightest. Cunningham is decent but he's a journeyman at best. I would recommend the Pelicans to move on from those guys and trade for Terrence Jones from Houston Rockets, who used to play with Davis at Kentucky. He's being squeezed out and could stand to find serious minutes with the Pelicans.

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They outscored opponents by going from defense to offense at an insane rate, and there's nobody faster in that situation than Anthony Davis. :deal:

According to Gentry in the article, Alvin Gentry concerned about New Orleans Pelicans' transition defense problems, "When we get a team in halfcourt, we've been pretty good defensively. But we can't give up 17 points just on us missing a shot and not running back." Players not running back AND Asik out with an injury?!?!?! OhOh. But, yeah, the Pelicans' bench is not a problem for opponents, and that is a problem for the Pels.

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Folks are wondering, "What has Alvin Gentry done to Anthony Davis?"

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Will reply at length later, but for now, it is because Anthony Davis is not a creator. He cannot break down defenses by himself, dribble and work his way into a good shot on his own.

He is the best finisher in the league, meaning he needs players to get him the ball in prime scoring positions. And those players are not available to pass him the ball, on account of being injured. :nono:

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Hugo and I went to the Pelicans-Celtics game last night. The Pels had just defeated the Cavs three days earlier; the Pels had Norris Cole and Tyreke Evans back -- meaning they have finally gotten much healthier and should really be starting to turn the season around, again, especially because they had beaten the Cavs and all. Anyhow, as it turned out, the Pelicans were extremely disappointing. Teams have bad nights, and on some nights any team can shoot very well; so, the disappointment has nothing to do with the ease with which the Celtics took care of the Pelicans. Instead, the disappointment has to do with the Pelicans' general approach: Why are they very nearly always setting up a play with Anthony Davis at what must be 15-18 feet away from the basket - not only starting with him there but keeping him away from the basket? Why does no one crash the offensive boards? The only offensive rebounds occurred on attempted tip-ins by the very player who had missed a layup or some other close shot. The defense was ramshackle. Why not try some man-to-man? Because whatever kind of defense they were running was wholly ineffective? Well, at least we had fun playing the games they have outside the arena for fans prior to the opening of the arena doors. And, yes, it is true - as hard as it is to believe it - Hugo did defeat me in the hoops-shooting game. The score? 20-19. After all, one must try to make certain that one's visitors have the best possible visit. Right?

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There's some light over the horizon. Markieff Morris is on the market, and if the Pelicans trade Anderson for him, they'll get a serious upgrade. Morris is a much better athlete and defender, and can help the Pelicans go to small ball successfully without sacrificing rebounding or defense, and unleash the Unibrow from the shackles of the paint, let him run the floor and finish the break. 

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