Underrated Young Core
This past season Atlanta surprised a lot of people, and it was not because of their ability to win games.
Throughout their 29-win season, the Hawks proved to have one of the most talented young cores in the association, which came as a shock to many.
Obviously Rookie of the Year runner-up Trae Young is at the helm of the Hawks up-and-coming roster, after an incredible 19 ppg,8.1 apg rookie campaign, but it’s guys like John Collins and Kevin Huerter that have made this Atlanta Hawks core what it is.
Young, Collins, and Huerter were a fantastic fit together this past season.
Now Atlanta will be adding defensive STUD De’Andre Hunter, this years #4 overall pick in the draft, and #10 pick Cam Reddish to their already talented young group of guys.
Do not be the least bit surprised if this underrated young core finds its way into the Eastern Conference playoff race sooner than most people think. Maybe not this season, but soon.
If you were ever planning on hopping on the Atlanta Hawks bandwagon, do so now… before it’s too late.
Tatum and Brown
Everything for the Boston Celtics this upcoming season rides on the development and production of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
If you’re Boston, you know what your gonna get out of Kemba Walker: a much better locker room presence, but slightly less talented, version of Kyrie Irving.
You know what you’re going to get out of guys like Enes Kanter and Marcus Smart, the DOGS for this team.
The rookies are going to be rookies.
And who knows what the hell is going on with Gordon Hayward nowadays, apparently he’s really good at Fortnite.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown… those are your X factors.
Those two guys are the difference between a second round playoff exit, and an NBA finals appearance.
If Tatum can continue the superstar-trajectory he set for himself after an incredible rookie season just 2 years ago, and Brown can continue his development and come out with his best season yet, there’s no reason why this Celtics team can’t hang with the top of the Eastern Conference and have as good a shot as anybody to appear in this years NBA finals.
Waiting On Durant
For the Brooklyn Nets it really is simple.
Without Kevin Durant, you’re a 5 seed in the Eastern Conference this season at best.
With Kevin Durant, you are legitimate championship contenders, with a great shot to bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Durant’s achilles tear he suffered during the 2019 finals as a member of the Warriors will keep him out all of this year, which means until he returns at the start of the 2020-2021 season, the Brooklyn Nets will be waiting on Durant.
This season will be unbelievably exciting for Brooklyn, dont get it twisted. It’s going to be the Kyrie Irving show at the Barclays Center. It does not get much more exciting than that.
However, the ultimate goal isn’t to just have fun and put on a show for the fans; it’s for that to result in an NBA Championship. And for the Brooklyn Nets, that simply will not be a possible reality until Kevin Durant’s return.
Less than 2 years into the “post-LeBron era,” Cleveland has already put together one of the most intriguing young backcourts in the association.
Collin Sexton proved himself to be an absolute defensive pest during this past season, his rookie campaign. Sextons offense took some time to adjust to the NBA; but by seasons end, his incredible defense and exponentially growing offensive ability established him as a truly great young point guard in this league.
Cleveland will now pair their #5 pick in this years draft, Darius Garland, a combo guard once projected to be the top pick, but plagued by injury during his lone collegiate season at Vanderbilt, with Sexton.
Cleveland will not win a lot of games this year; expect to see them in the top 10 of next years draft lottery at minimum. However, that does not mean this won’t be a successful year for the Cavaliers.
This season will be all about the pairing of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland in the backcourt for Cleveland, and if they show the ability to work as well together as the Cavaliers projected they would when making the controversial decision of drafting Garland, the future will be bright for a Cleveland franchise recovering surprisingly well from the departure of LeBron James.
Save Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal is too damn rare of a talent to be wasted on a Washington Wizards team who’s second best healthy player is CJ Miles.
Look, at some point every team has to make a decision: do you want to contend for a championship, be satisfied with just making the playoffs, or trade your star players and completely rebuild with young talent and draft picks?
Washington is doing none of this.
They sure aren’t contending for a title, they frankly will not have enough talent outside of Beal to fight for a playoff spot, and by holding guys like Bradley Beal hostage, they aren’t committing to a rebuild.
I understand it can be a hard decision to make, to commit to losing for a couple of years for the ultimate goal of a brighter future. It took Oklahoma City 3 years of mediocrity with Westbrook to eventually admit that mediocrity isn’t enough.
It’s time for the Washington Wizards to follow in the footsteps of the Thunder and blow it up. Trade Beal, save him and yourself as a franchise from pointless mediocrity, and rebuild around guys like Rui Hachimura, Mo Wagner and Admiral Schofield
It’s time, Washington. It’s time.
Fight for Eighth
The Chicago Bulls are actually a very talented young team. They are at the point in their rebuild where they can legitimately start to fight for playoff contention.
Guys like Zack LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, Kris Dunn and Otto Porter Jr may just be enough to earn their Bulls a playoff appearance in a weaker Eastern Conference.
Either way, whether they end up making the postseason or not, this will be a fun season in Chicago.
They have rebuilt the right way, and whether it does this season or in the future, it is starting to truly pay off.
The Chicago Bulls will be in a dog-fight for the eight-seed, now we just have to wait and see if they can go get it.
First Round Exit
Derrick Rose has joined Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard in Detroit to complete the perfect recipe…
for a first-round playoff exit.
Detroit will make the playoffs, possibly as high as a 5 seed. They are more than talented enough to do so, especially if Blake Griffin has the best year of his career like he did this past season for the Pistons. The problem with this roster, the thing that puts them in such an odd position, is that everyone is simply average.
Blake Griffin is an all-star. In fact, I am one of the few people who believed he deserved some All-NBA consideration after this past season of his. But guys like Derrick Rose, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard are simply average. They aren’t very good, but they aren’t nearly bad enough to hit the draft lottery.
It’s a weird situation Detroit is in: to know you are almost guaranteed a playoff appearance in a weak bottom-half of the Eastern Conference, but also guaranteed to lose to any one of the top 4 seeds you will end up playing against.
But hey, if consistently making the playoffs and getting knocked out of the first round is what your into, I won’t judge.
You’re into what you’re into I guess.
New York Knicks
Not That Bad
Just about everyone, including myself, had a great laugh at the fact the the New York Knicks made sure all year that they had enough cap space to sign two max free agents this offseason, trading away just about everybody on the roster making any sort of substantial amount of money, just to miss out on every single max player they reportedly had interest in. And they didn’t just lose out on the main guys, but they lost out on the two main guys they were “supposed” to sign, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, to the team a train ride away in the Brooklyn Nets.
Yeah, it is pretty hilarious.
However, once you find youself able to contain your laughter, consider this:
Dennis Smith Jr is a crazy explosive, talented, growing young point guard who was the 9th overall in the draft just 2 years ago.
Kevin Knox had an impressive rookie year this past season, surprising many people with his ability to shoot the three-ball. His 12.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg go extremely overlooked.
Mitchell Robinson, after just one season in the NBA, is already one of the leagues best interior defenders and shot-blockers. Robinson put up historic numbers in his rookie season as far as that specific category is considered, averaging an extraordinary 2.4 blocks per game on the year.
Allonzo Trier, who went un-drafted in the 2018 NBA draft, had an extremely surprising, great year for the Knicks, putting up just under 11 ppg on 40% 3-point shooting.
RJ Barrett, New York’s #3 pick in this years draft, was universally recognized as a top 3 talent in a loaded 2019 draft class. He had an incredible season at Duke with Zion Williamson as his teammate taking up most of the spotlight. Barrett is considered to be one of the best scorers from the draft and is expected by many to be able to make an instant impact in the league.
All of these great young talents are members of the New York Knicks. Now, although they weren’t able to sign any max free-agents, the Knicks offseason acquisitions of guys like Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Julius Randle, Wayne Ellington, Marcus Morris and Taj Gibson only add good things to their talented group of young talent.
If you really look at this New York Knicks roster, past the initial humiliation of the beginning of their offseason, you’ll see that things really are not that bad.
They’re young, they’re talented, and they’re playing in Madison Square Garden, so how bad could it be?
Giannis Giannis Giannis
Not much needs to be said here.
Everything for the Milwaukee Bucks this season depends on how good Giannis Antetokounmpo is.
Last season, the Bucks were a 60 win team, and came within 2 games of an NBA finals appearance. This season, they will be running it back with almost the same squad. Replacing the lost Malcom Brogdon with Westley Matthews was a great, quick-thinking move by general manager Jon Horst. The additon of Kyle Korver also goes incredibly overlooked.
So, if Giannis Antetokounmpo comes out this season continuing on the upwards trajectory he is expected to, he may just be enough to lead this Milwaukee Bucks team to the promised land.
However, he has to be great.
No, better than great.
He has to be legendary.
Last season Giannis had a historic year, finishing as one of the only players in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
This season, he has to be even better.
If anybody can do it however, it is Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Rozier Show
The Charlotte Hornets are going to be absolutely atrocious this season.
League projections have the Hornets at 24 wins for this season, tied with Cleveland for the worst in the association.
However, for this Charlotte team, who’s BY FAR best player just averaged 9.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg and 2.9 apg on the year, 24 wins is not low enough.
Now maybe Terry Rozier really is as good as he was in the 2018 playoffs, leading the Boston Celtics to the final minutes of a game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals versus LeBron James and his Cavaliers.
Or, maybe he is as good as he has been in just about every situation outside of that spectacular playoff run…
which is, well, average.
By paying Rozier over $56 million, the Charlotte Hornets are betting that he truly is the player he was during that 2018 playoff run, and that the only reason he hasn’t consistently played that way over the course of a season is because he has been stuck coming off the bench behind guys like Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving.
So this season for Charlotte is going to be the Rozier show.
The opportunity is wide open for this guy to show the world that he is the legitimate NBA starting point guard he says he is.
Now lets see what he can do…
Simmons, Just Shoot
Just about every player on the 76ers roster has established themselves in this league, meaning you can look at them and confidently say what they are.
Joel Embiid is a top 3 center. When healthy, this guy is an automatic 25 and 12. He’s gonna block a ton of shots, amaze with his incredible low-post and mid-range offensive ability, and consistently be one of the leagues most entertaining and eccentric players.
Tobias Harris is great offensive talent. He can score the ball from anywhere and has been a borderline all-star type of player his whole career.
Josh Richardson is a very good two-way wing. Not a great, but very good. He’ll knock down threes and be a pest on the other end of the floor.
Al Horford is just Al Horford. If you have ever watched this guy play you know what I mean. Every time he steps on the floor your getting defense, leadership, 3-point shooting, playmaking, and low-post hook shots. You just get everything with this guy. He doesnt do anything spectacular, but he does everything very, very well.
Ben Simmons however, that’s this teams wildcard. Simmons is not established; nobody can truly look at this guy and definitively say what he will be this season.
He could come out this year the same as years past, and be a very good player. However, his inability to even attempt a shot outside of the paint has proven to be a handicap up to this point in his career. Teams quite literally ignore him in half-court sets, because they know that if he is not under the rim, he’s not even worth an effort to defend.
Or, he could come out this year and add a jump-shot to his already incredible fast-break, rebounding and playmaking abilities.
Now I’m not saying he’s going to finish the year shooting 40% from 3 on 4 attempts a game. All I’m saying is that if he were to at-least ATTEMPT open jump-shots, the difference it would make for his game would be extraordinary.
For Philadelphia, the difference between not even coming out of the East, and having a GREAT shot at winning the NBA championship, is the extent to which Ben Simmons comes out this season shooting and hitting jumpers.
Come On Wiggins…
Ever since being selected #1 overall in the 2014 NBA draft, Andrew Wiggins has done anything but live up to the “#1 pick hype.”
His early NBA career has been full of poor defense, lackluster shooting, and an absence of effort.
The Timberwolves are in desperate need for Wiggins to flourish into his potential, after paying him upwards of $140 million this past season.
If Andrew Wiggins would just put some effort into his game and make the leap as a player he is more than capable of making, with Karl-Anthony Towns being the superstar talent he is for Minnesota, the Timberwolves may just be able to sneak into the Western Conference playoff race.
But Andrew Wiggins, for the sake of both the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise and his own reputation in the league, has to be better. Come on Wiggins…
Golden State Warriors
Surprisingly, Very Underrated
I can not believe I’m saying this, but people are SLEEPING on the Warriors.
For whatever reason, everybody seems to be counting them out of title contention.
Let me remind you that just 3 years ago, the Golden State Warriors broke the regular-season RECORD for wins with 73.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond green were the engines that made that team go, and they are all still on today’s Warriors.
Yes, Klay Thompson likely won’t play until the final 2-3 months of the season. However, Curry, Green and the newly acquired D’Angelo Russell will be more than enough to at-least lead Golden State into the postseason. And once that time comes, when Klay Thompson is added to that group of guys, theres no saying that this team won’t be capable of going all the way.
I can’t believe I have to say this like it isn’t obvious, but a lineup of: Steph Curry, D’Angelo Russell, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Willie Cauley-Stein is, at full strength, good enough to match up with anybody.
Dont sleep on Golden State; if a team led by Curry, Thompson and Green has showed us anything in the past, it’s that they can be DANGEROUS.
Portland Trail Blazers
Same As Always
The Portland Trail Blazers are a better version of the Detroit Pistons. And this really does hurt me to say, because I am a huge fan of the Lillard-McCollum backcourt.
However, like has been the case every season since 2014, the Trail Blazers just don’t have enough.
They will make the playoffs, and possibly have home court advantage, but they just do not have enough to come out the loaded West.
Whether it’s in the first, second or even third round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Trail Blazers are just destined to lose.
I hope I’m wrong, I really do.
But… I’m not.
Lillard will be incredible this year, possibly an MVP candidate.
McCollum will continue to be one of the leagues most underrated players.
I actually think the offseason pickup of Hassan Whiteside will work out nicely for this team.
But, once this super good, but not great, team finds themselves in a 7-game series versus either LA team, it’s a wrap.
This year will, unfortunately, be the same as always for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Is Porzingis Healthy?
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis!
Young, talented NBA duos just don’t get much better than that.
Luka Doncic, the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year, is coming off of a fantastic 21.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.0 apg season.
The trajectory he set for himself makes this coming season one we can expect to be an-star year for Doncic.
His newly acquired teammate, Kristaps Porzingis, can have much of the same said about him.
That is, if he is healthy.
Before tearing his ACL last season, the 7’3” Porzingis was putting up almost 23 ppg on 40% from 3. They call him the “Unicorn” for a reason.
This guys height combined with his incredible, guard like offensive and defensive abilities, make him truly special.
He says he is healthy; the Dallas Mavericks have come out and said he will be good go this year, so we’re just going to have to wait and see if he truly is still the spectacle he once was in New York.
If the 23 year-old Porzingis does in-fact come out this season as healthy as everyone is saying he will, there is no reason why him and the 20 year-old Doncic can’t lead the Mavericks to a surprising number of wins, and quickly become one of the leagues most formidable duos.
– By Zack Weiss