The NBA season is finally here! Who will exceed expectations? Who will fall short? Who will win this years Finals?
Our “NBA experts” answer the big questions.
1. What are you looking forward to most this NBA season?
Killian: Drama: Is drama not the best part to every NBA season? There is no team sport in which we believe we actually know the players more than the NBA. LeBron is in LA, Jimmy Butler is bullying his teammates, Golden State is trying to make a permanent stamp in history, and that is just surface level. The NBA has the greatest grasp on its fans, of course the NFL has more viewers but the engagement NBA twitter is second to none. It is the easiest to follow each storyline, with fans being the content generators.
Arnold: The trade deadline/blow it up teams. Does Jimmy Butler make it to the trade deadline ( I hope so)? Where does he end up? Does Portland finally blow it up and break up their Lillard – CJ backcourt? What about Washington? Do they breakup their Wall – Beal backcourt? Does Charlotte finally trade Kemba Walker? Do the Lakers say “eff it” and trade their young pieces for a star at the deadline (Hello Lillard)? What about Detroit? They can’t ride with a Blake – Drummond duo right? You know what’s fun? A Blake Griffin for CJ or Lillard trade. Or what about a Beal for Blake trade? SO MANY FUN POSSIBILITIES.
Tom: This season will be dominated by the chaos in LA with Lebron and dynastic talks of Golden State, but what we all should be focusing on is the Eastern conference. The 76ers stayed pat this off-season while the Celtics got stronger with two starters from injury. The burgeoning rivalry in theEast between the Celtics and 76ers but sprinkling in the Raptors who just need to go all in and trade for another star. Will Kyrie stay with the Celtics? Did the 76ers mess up by not adding another star? Can Kawhi still play at an elite level?
Coach Red: Without question a Post LeBron Eastern Conference is what I can’t wait to see. There are so many grown men who have had their lives ruined or caveated due to LeBron and now that he is no longer in the Eastern Conference coaches like Dwane Casey, Brad Stevens and Tyron Lue have no excuse. Dwane Casey was for years stifled at the hands of LeBron led teams and while his situation has changed as he is no longer in Toronto there should be a quick turn around in the next few years up in Detroit. Brad Stevens now has the ability to out basketball opposing teams now that the best in the league is no longer impeding his path to the Finals. If the Celtics don’t make it to the Finals there will definitely be dissention in the Stevens fan boy section as to whether he is the chosen one who will bring balance to the league. And Lue, Lue like every other coach who started with LeBron James on his roster will have this year to prove whether or not he can actually be considered a good coach. Brown and Blatt failed miserably but Spoelstra proved he was legit and now it is time for Lue to do the same. Is he truly a savant with in game adjustments and X’s and O’s or was it all just a façade with LeBron doing all the work behind a little red curtain? We gon see!!
2. Which team will exceed expectations?
Killian: I know I always sound like a homer, I will not say that they will make the playoffs but I believe the Cavs will beat their over/under by more games than any team in the O/U range of 32-40. Not a smoking hot take in my opinion. They have experienced guys, that that experience winning. Of course, Bron not being there makes a massive difference (last time he left, they ended up with the #1 pick). I just believe that the shambles he left behind this time would kill the previous shambles.
Arnold: Toronto Raptors: Lebron is finally out of the Eastern Conference and no team is happier than the Raptors. Toronto has won 50 plus games in three straight seasons and they just replaced Demar Derozan with Kawhi Leonard. People (including me) forget that Kawhi Leonard was a top-three player TWO years ago. Toronto is DEEP, they have 10 guys that can give them quality minutes in the playoffs. Most people are predicting a Sixers – Celtics ECF matchup. I’m riding with the 6 and predicting a Celtics vs Raptors match-up (Celtics in 7). But don’t be surprised if you see Drake sitting court side at the 2019 NBA finals yelling at Kevin Durant.
Tom: The team most likely to exceed expectations will be the Washington Wiz… joking. The team will be the Thunder. Russ, PG13, Shroder, Roberson and Adams. OKC has the talent to play with anyone in the league. If Russ can keep himself from pounding the ball all game long OKC can make a jump. With a competent PG in Shroder playing beside him, Russ needs to play off of the ball. If Russ can control himself OKC can beat the Rockets and end the Golden State dynasty.
Coach Red: The Dallas Mavericks are going to be the team that catches everyone off guard. I think Vegas has them around 35 wins for the season and I think there is significant underestimation of their roster. Everyone is on board that the team will be fun to watch with Doncic and DSJ along with it being Dirk’s final year (most likely), but I believe with the versatility that we are going to be seeing from the way Carlisle uses Doncic at multiple positions to DSJ being used more off the ball as opposed to dribbling the leather off of it like last season they could easily finish in the top half of the Southwest.
3. Which team will fall short?
Killian: Sixers: Health will always be a question with this group of guys. Who is Fultz? There are too many questions with this team. I think that the Sixers fans believe this to be a 60 win team, but with health concerns, the loss of free agents, and the lack of additions, I can see things being delayed ANOTHER year.
Arnold: Philadelphia 76ers: I just don’t trust that medical team. Three (if you count Fultz) of their best players have suffered season ending injuries. Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz all sat out their rookie year due to injury/who knows what. And guess what, they just added another player in Zahier Smith to that list. I just don’t trust or see Embiid/Simmons staying healthy enough. Injures suck, hopefully Embiid and Simmons can stay healthy this year because I am officially done trusting the process.
Tom: By mid-season the Lakers will be floating around 20-18 and this is when Lebron will start having back-issues. He didn’t come to the Lakers to compete this season, but to see which young players were worth keeping until the Lakers go all in next season. Lebron will return to help salvage the Lakers season, but they will get bounced in the first round by OKC or the Rockets.
Coach Red: When looking at who isn’t going to live up to expectations I am definitely going with the Bucks. I am not sold on Giannis having the offensive tools to be a true superstar this year as it is till pretty clear that he does not have a jumper. Budenholzer can make the offense as pretty and up tempo as he wants but that isn’t going to change the fact that The Greek Freak is not a threat outside the paint, this man couldn’t hit the side of a house if he was in the family room. It is not hard to gameplan for a team whose biggest offensive threat needs to be inside the paint to be effective. The front office has done a weak sauce attempt to surround him with a collective perimeter threat to compliment his deficiencies and we will have another year in the books where we are saying “once he gets a jumpshot he will be unstoppable”. This is the year that more people jump off the Giannis MVP train and get a ticket on the Giannis Is a Solid #2 train.
4. One bold prediction:
Killian: Trae Young will be ROY. He by no means has the most talent in the class, and we can probably say that he has the lowest floor of anyone in the lottery. He will be able to shoot whatever he wants (this may end up being a weapon against his campaign) and he will be the primary ball-handler, so he will get all of the counting stats. I would imagine he will have low efficiency, but he will put up numbers
Arnold: This will be the last year of the Golden State Warriors dynasty. More to come in a future column….
Tom: Deandre Ayton will easily be a top 5 center this year and the unanimous rookie of the year. Follow me here name 5 better centers…. Ill give you Embiid, Towns, Jokic.. who is next? (Davis is a PF) Ayton doesn’t even have to have a good game and he is consistently getting double-doubles. Booker and Ayton are already the best Guard/Center combo in the league.
Deandre Ayton tearing up Pre-Season
Coach Red: This is a little far out on the calendar but I believe the Laker roster we see at the start of this season is going to be almost identical to the one we see at the start of next season. I think after a year in LA and making the playoffs as an 8th seed (best case scenario). LA falls short of many of the top free agents that they are hoping to sign in the offseason. LeBron is still the best player in the NBA but the appeal to play with him is a currency that has shown to be progressively diminishing. The guys around LeBron will get better over the course of the year but LeBron is going to find himself stuck in a legitimate rebuild as opposed to the “just wait till my homies get here” phase everyone believes them to be in.
5. You’re 2019 NBA Champions….
Killian: Golden State: Do I want it? No. Am I rooting for it? No. But there is no one that believes they are remotely knowledgeable on the workings of the NBA can make any other pick. There is a world in which someone else wins the title, but please lead me to the person that is willing to bet a significant amount of money so I can drag the clown to the poor house.
Arnold: Golden State Warriors. I know, it’s a boring pick but does anyone expect anything else? They’ll sleep walk through the regular season/first round, coast through the second round, and wake up for the WCF vs Lebron and the Lakers. The Finals will be close between the Warriors and Celtics but the Warriors experience will be too much for the young Celtics. I’m going with the Warriors in six. If it wasn’t for Draymond’s technical in 2016 the Warriors would be shooting for a five-peat…….a five–peat. What the hell. I can’t even spell my name right five times in a row.
Tom: OKC will win it all this year. Add Roberson, subtract Melo and a competent guard (Shroder). OKC and Russ will find a way to down his usage, make open shots off the ball and improve those around him. The Golden State dynasty will end when Boogie messes up the Warriors juju and Durant will go to the New York Knicks.
Coach Red: Golden State without question is going to win this year, the only real question is will they do it in 16 games. The Warriors have cultivated a system within their system which involves getting stars of varying levels to join their roster to keep things fresh as they roll to another championship. Warriors players have said it themselves, they’ve been there before and the feeling (while great) isn’t the same level of excitement and euphoria as it was the first time they won the title. Now what gets them going and prevents them from having a year where they look to be dreading the regular season like they have in the past is by living vicariously through the ringless stars that join their team. This year it is Cousins and while he brings a scary presence in the paint he also oddly enough gives the Warriors something to work towards as they have won so much the only way they can stay locked in is through the possibility of watching someone on their team get their first ring.