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Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, NBA, Finals, Playoffs, Predictions. 2018, 2019

Steph Closes Out on Kyrie (via CelticsHub).

In the midst of a banal time for NBA news, we here at AccessNews24 take a look at the NBA’s future playoff seedings, including regular season records and playoff seedings.

A couple of points to note should be taken into consideration before looking at this list:

Tanking was at an all-time high last year; therefore most of the teams who acquired high draft picks in the 2018 NBA draft were better than they performed last year and should be better competition for the upcoming playoff teams this year.  Also, these teams each acquired legitimate talent in the NBA draft, thus bolstering their success.  Free agent signings such as Deandre Jordan to Dallas, as well as recovering stars such as Kristaps Porzingis, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Aaron Gordon, will contribute to less regular season wins for 2019 playoff teams.

-Lebron James is really, really, really good.  The Los Angeles Lakers will likely have the most substantial net improvement in wins, and naturally other NBA playoff teams will receive more net losses as a result in 2019.

Fans in 2019, will see many more games where their team will lose to a worse team because these teams will have more talent.  This leads to some NBA playoff teams, even those who seemingly improved their roster, having worse regular season records than 2018.

On to the predictions…

 

Eastern Conference

  1. Boston Celtics (58-24):  The Celtics will shine as the unquestionably dominant team in the East in 2019.  They resign valuable bench players Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, who provide stability and identity for the team.  They also add valuable talent and depth in Gordon Hayward and rookie center Robert Williams III.  Their combination of depth and talent will suit them well in both the regular season and postseason this year.
  2. Toronto Raptors (50-32):  Despite losing their best player and head coach, the Toronto Raptors slide into the second seed on account of their collective experience and Kawhi Leonard performing as he has in the past.  Ultimately, this team is worse than they were last year, and their rank is not indicative of their talent in comparison to the East come playoff time.
  3. Philidelphia 76ers (49-33):  Though inexperienced and mercurial, this is the real second best team in the East.  Choosing Toronto over them was tough, but young teams tend to drop easy games in the middle of the regular season.  Markelle Fultz looks to be a pleasant surprise for Philly fans, but opposing teams will have a better sense of how this Sixers team operates, leading to less regular season wins.
  4. Milwaukee Bucks (46-36): This team will be exciting if nothing else.  This is the first time HC Mike Budenholzer has had a true superstar to work with  Giannis Antentokounmpo.  If Bud can utilize new additions Ersan Ilyasova and Donte DiVincenzo effectively and build a 2014 Atlanta Hawks-esque team including Giannis, this will be one of the teams responsible for bringing back respect in the Eastern Conference.
  5. Indiana Pacers (44-38):  This was a tough team to rank considering they massively overachieved last year with emerging All-Pro Victor Oladipo, but also significantly improved their lineup.  The additions of Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, and rookie talent Aaron Holiday should prove to be productive behind a reputable coach in Nate McMillan.  Not only that, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu look to improve significantly after their lack luster rookie season.  Ultimately, while this team is assuredly deeper and will be better suited for a run in the playoffs this year, they drop four wins from last season.
  6. Wahington Wizards (42-40):  I pity (most of) the citizens in Washington D.C.  General manager Ernie Grunfeld feels that the Wizards, a team already considered dysfunctional by many, need Dwight Howard to be the player that takes them to that “next level” to contend for a championship.  Anyone agree with him?
  7. Detroit Pistons (40-42): While it is a comparatively slow race to the finish in the Eastern Conference finals, the Detroit Pistons will be Kryptonite to the rest of the NBA during this time of transition to positionless basketball.  With Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin healthy, this starting frontcourt can average half the opposing team’s rebounds.  This advantage could lead to some surprising wins this regular season, especially if the opposing teams’ shots are not falling on that day.
  8. Cleveland Cavaliers (39-43):  Despite all the unwarranted disrespect in the media, Kevin Love is a more-than-serviceable shooter, scorer, passer, and rebounder, who is also capable of drawing offensive fouls in crucial moments.  He is capable, even at this age, of leading a team offensively.  This team’s core does have championship experience, and with the addition of firey rookie Colin Sexton, this team should have just enough to get swept by the Celtics in Round 1.

 

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors (60-22): Reign.  Rinse.  Repeat.  The Golden State Warriors will spend the next six months wholly concerned with staying healthy and should win about 60 games in the process.
  2. Houston Rockets (53-29):  With the critical losses of Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute, and even Ryan Anderson, the Houston Rockets cannot be improved from last year.  Yes, Carmelo Anthony can still take over a game occasionally and is NBA-caliber at this moment in multiple facets of his game.  This does not mean that he can contribute equally to all three of those players.  Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, and Michael Carter-Williams are all untrustworthy deep into the playoffs, so this team is not as deep as prior years.  Still, they took the Warriors to seven games last year, and are a very formidable team who should only see a slight drop off in their regular season record.
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder (52-30):  The Thunder land in the 3rd spot of this prediction piece, winning a tiebreaker over the Lakers and Jazz.  This might be the toughest defensive team Russell Westbrook has had around him since Durant left.  While they lack shooting, a lineup of Westbrook, Dennis Schroder (or Andre Roberson), Paul George, Nerlens Noel, and Steven Adams can lock down any team, any day.  If this team can rectify some of their shooting woes from deep, they will surprise NBA fans.
  4. Los Angeles Lakers (52-30):  Lebron is here! Positionless basketball in Los Angeles!  They’re going to play like the Warriors!  While the last statement may be a bit much, this seems to be the opinion of fans in Los Angeles, and they’re right for the most part.  If this team implements its young talent in a way reminiscent of 80’s Showtime, then this season is a success.  Additionally, they should win about 50-55 games with a cohesive passing game and tough defense.
  5. Utah Jazz (52-30): Defense seems to be a running theme here, but the Utah Jazz should be (statistically) the best defensive team in the NBA this year. This is contingent on Rudy Gobert staying healthy for an 82 game season.  His defensive presence combined with the improvements of Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles should tie in perfectly with Quinn Snyder’s plan to run an efficiency-based game.  Snyder is a great coach, and this will translate to a high win total in 2018.
  6. New Orleans Pelicans (48-32):  Anthony Davis is going to be an MVP candidate this year.  If last year’s playoffs were indicative of anything he does this year, this team could be a scary dark horse pick in the playoffs.  The addition of Julius Randle should compliment Davis well, and Jrue Holiday will be back at his natural position now with Rajon Rondo in Los Angeles.  Lack of cohesion and synergy early on in the regular season will be what keeps this team from a home-field advantage come playoff time.
  7. Portland Trail Blazers (46-36):  The Portland Trailblazers are a very respectable team.  Their placement at seventh is only because they failed to improve this offseason, while nearly every other team before them has.  They will put out a formidable team in 2018, but history (and Kevin Durant) tells us that Portland, as currently constructed, is not a contender.
  8. San Antonio Spurs (45-37):  Gregg Popovich lost Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Danny Green, and an injured Kawhi Leonard this offseason.   However, he did gain a perennial All-Star in DeMar DeRozan.  Considering Kawhi Leonard did not play last year, this may be a net improvement on the court as compared to the previous year.  The issue is that what Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili lacked last year in on-court production they more than made up for in leadership and cohesive qualities.  This team will not have this next year and because of this will limp into the playoffs, a shell of their former selves.
Samuel Ryan

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