2017-18 NBA East and West Conference Predictions

Lincoln Byrd, Author

The past couple of NBA seasons have been quite similar, with the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers both reaching the finals, but with this past off-season, the NBA could change a lot this year. Here’s what I predict will happen in this season.

Eastern Conference:

1. Boston Celtics – The Boston Celtics made some big roster additions this off-season, adding four-time NBA All-Star and NBA Champion Kyrie Irving. Irving sure was a fun player to watch in Cleveland, and after coming to Boston in a trade, he is now going to be the leader of this Celtics team. Irving’s leadership will be necessary, especially after the season-ending injury to All Star forward Gordon Hayward, whom they also acquired during the off-season from the Utah Jazz. After a slow start, the Celtics are looking great, and I expect them to reach the post-season with the first seed.

2. Washington Wizards – The Wizards, who have been getting better each year with young players, made a statement last year by getting fourth seed in the East last year. John Wall and Bradley Beal are one of the game’s greatest duos, both averaging over 20 points per game (PPG). Washington is getting better each year; D.C. fans have a lot to look forward to this season.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers, who have made it to the finals for the past three years led by arguably the greatest player of all time LeBron James, have dominated the Eastern Conference. The Cavs did lose All Star guard Kyrie Irving in a trade to Boston, and they haven’t started out too well with the new additions of Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose. And, with Isaiah Thomas not returning until January, the Cavs might not dominate the Eastern Conference as they usually do.

4. Milwaukee Bucks – There is sure a lot to mention about this young and talented Bucks team, but let’s talk about the so-called “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is a talented player all around who is currently averaging 38.4 PPG and is well into the MVP conversation after leading the Bucks to the playoffs last year with a 42-40 record. The Bucks sure have a big year ahead, and Antetokounmpo is predicted to be one of the greatest to ever play the game. The Bucks are a young team with a lot of heart, so don’t be surprised if you see them reach the playoffs in years to come.

5. Toronto Raptors – After being swept by the Cavaliers in the second round of last year’s playoffs, the Toronto Raptors have made some big roster changes. The Raptors, led by All Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, have added some new players with Serge Ibaka and CJ Miles. The Raptors will also give Forward Norman Powell some more playing time. Toronto is a team that regularly makes the playoffs, reaching them in their past four seasons. They will reach the playoffs this year with the fifth seed, since they are surrounded by some quite talented teams here in the East.

6. Orlando Magic – The Magic had a surprising start to the 2017 season, winning five of their seven games and beating the Cavaliers and Spurs by over 20 points. The Magic don’t have many good players other than Aaron Gordon, but if they keep playing like they are now, they could be a strong team in the East.

7. Detroit Pistons – The Pistons started the season well, and I believe they will keep it up. Andre Drummond, the Pistons big man, will be a threat, and he will get a lot of rebounds, along with points. The Detroit Pistons won’t be ranked too high although they can compete in the East. They didn’t make the playoffs last season, so this will be a great bounce-back season for the franchise.

8. Philadelphia 76ers – The Sixers have had many years of disappointment and frustration. They’ve gone down as one of the NBA’s worst teams ever, finishing with a 10-72 record two years ago. This year all of that will change with former number-one overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Ben Simmons, finally healthy after breaking his foot in his rookie season. With Simmons and the talented point guard Markelle Fultz, this team has a bright future. The 76ers, who are currently in the rebuilding process, also have center Joel Embiid, who, if healthy, can take the team to the playoffs.

9. Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets are a weird team entering this season. With additions of Dwight Howard and Malik Monk to play alongside Kemba Walker, the Hornets sure did quite a bit this off-season. I don’t think these players will fit into Steve Clifford’s coaching style, and I don’t expect Dwight Howard to be playing multiple seasons in Charlotte. The Hornets have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs.

10. Miami Heat – The “Big 3,” consisting of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, is long gone, so the Heat will have to win games with a new lineup. There are a lot of familiar faces from last year, including Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside. I do believe this team can win although their championship days are pretty much over. Miami also finished the second half of last year’s season 31-10 after an ugly 10-31 start. That would’ve been a comeback season for the ages, but the Heat just missed the playoffs in a tiebreaker with the Chicago Bulls. I don’t believe the Heat will make the playoffs this season, but I do expect a good season from Dion Waiters.

11. Brooklyn Nets – The Nets started off hot, but they will eventually cool down. This Nets team isn’t as good as they appear since they will be missing Jeremy Lin this season. Don’t forget that this is the team that only won 21 games last season, so I don’t expect them to be on the winning side. The Nets are rebuilding and could have a good team soon, but it won’t happen this year.

12. Indiana Pacers – The Pacers had a rough off-season by getting robbed in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul George was traded for some half decent players, which shocked many Pacer fans. The Pacers will not make the playoffs without that lost talent, and Myles Turner isn’t enough of a leader to carry this team to victory.

13. Chicago Bulls The Chicago Bulls have lost a lot of talent this past off-season, including All Star forward Jimmy Butler being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They also lost Dwayne Wade, who only spent one season in his home city to play alongside LeBron James. The Bulls made the playoffs last year, but that won’t happen this year. The Bulls have officially begun rebuilding their team, and they will be tanking for a good draft pick.

14. New York Knicks – After losing star forward Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder, the Knicks are getting worse and worse as the years go by. Signing Tim Hardaway Jr. is just a baby step for the franchise because they’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do. If Kristaps Porzingis can’t win with Carmelo Anthony by his side, it’s even less likely without him.

15. Atlanta Hawks – Oh boy! After losing in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Hawks lost two of their main players. They lost Paul Millsap in free agency, and they traded away Dwight Howard to the Hornets, even after the big contract they gave him, which many questioned. Dennis Schroeder does not have the qualities of a leader, and this team will be absolutely awful. Putting them this low is understandable, but very disappointing for a team that’s regularly in the playoffs, and that got the number-one seed in 2014.

Western Conference:

1. Golden State Warriors – The 2017 NBA Champions are here, and they’re ready to make another great run. The Warriors have been the most dominant team these past three seasons, with the most combined wins of all time in that three-year period. In 2015, the Warriors finished with a 67-15 record and won the finals. In 2016, the Warriors broke the record for most wins in a season with 73 wins and only 9 losses. Then the Warriors came back even stronger, adding All-Star Kevin Durant to their lineup. The Warriors won the finals with Durant and are back to fight and likely advance to their fourth straight finals.

2. Houston Rockets – James Harden, one of the best players in the league, now has a new sidekick, Chris Paul. Paul is one of the league’s best in assists, and alongside Harden, this team will make a great run. Harden must take advantage of having Chris Paul now because he might not stay in Houston after this season. The Rockets are always a strong team, and I believe they are tough competition to this Western Conference.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder have just built a super trio this off-season adding All Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to go along with the most loyal NBA player and 2017 MVP, Russell Westbrook. Building this “Thunderous Trio” is big for this team after losing Kevin Durant last year to the Golden State Warriors. The Thunder, without Durant, made the playoffs, but got knocked out in the first round to the Rockets. The Thunder are now back in business, so that’s why I’ve got them at number three.

4. San Antonio Spurs The Spurs, who are normally dominating the Western Conference, have a lot of pros and cons. One big question is how long 35-year-old Tony Parker will play since in this past season he has been slowing down due to injuries. Pau Gasol is on his way out as well since he hasn’t been performing well at all lately. The Spurs will soon move on from their very old team with Kyle Anderson, who is expected to be big. Gregg Poppovich, one of the game’s greatest coaches, will start giving these rising stars more time sooner than later, and don’t forget that the Spurs do have defensive monster Kawhi Leonard, who has led the team to a finals championship.

5. Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers normally make the playoffs. They should reach the post-season, but expect them to be gone by the first round, again. Chris Paul was a big part of this team, and trading him away isn’t going to help the Clippers win a championship.

6. Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are great all-around players. Mike Conley, the Grizzlies’ starting point guard, has done well in this league, and Marc Gasol, who leads the team in scoring, will help this team make the playoffs

7. Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were enough to take this team to the playoffs last year, and they should repeat. They will have a great year, even if they don’t play Golden State in the first round again. This team could be a playoff threat.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves – This is arguably the team with the best off-season other than the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Timberwolves have made a lot of roster additions, including Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Bulls and Jeff Teague, who signed as a free agent. These two strong players will go along with Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns to make one of the biggest powerhouses in basketball. This team will soon be high up in the Western Conference, but in their first year they won’t make it too far in the highly competitive Western Conference. I do believe that the Wolves will be a great team, and they will be tough competition for the Warriors.

9. Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are a good team, but they won’t be good enough. Yes, I know they have added All-Star Paul Millsap to play along with Nikola Jokic, but that duo is nowhere near as good as Curry and Durant, and Westbrook and Paul George. The Nuggets are still rebuilding. Even after adding these players, they still need more help at the guard position.

10. New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans have a playoff-caliber team, but they don’t have much of a bench, which means starters such as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will have to do most of the heavy work.

11. Utah Jazz – Gordon Hayward is no longer on the Jazz, and that will make an impact on this team. The Utah Jazz have got some young players on the rise, but that won’t be enough to qualify for the playoffs.

12. Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball is expected to be great, but he hasn’t put up the numbers to back up that statement. Lonzo’s boastful father will be wrong since his team won’t make the playoffs, and the Lakers should be tanking for a good draft pick.

13. Phoenix Suns – The Suns are awful. Devin Booker is probably the best player they have since Eric Bledsoe is long gone, and you guessed it, the Suns will need some more years of rebuilding.

14. Dallas Mavericks – These aren’t the same Mavericks as the ones from 2011. Dirk Nowitzki is on his way out, and the Mavs aren’t going anywhere with the lineup they have now. Dennis Smith Jr. is a talented player, but he will need some good players on his side as well.

15. Sacramento Kings – The Kings’ 11-year playoff drought will soon turn to 12. The Kings would be lucky if they won more than 25 games this season. DeAaron Fox might have been a sensation to watch in college, but he won’t shift to the pros like all the others of this draft class. DeMarcus Cousins isn’t a King anymore, and they will end up dead last.