We are just a day and a half away from the start of the 2016/17 NBA season. After a wild offseason, in which we saw Kevin Durant sign with a team that not only made history but choked after leading 3-1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. How will this season shape up? Will the Warriors get revenge? Will the Cavaliers be the first team to repeat as champions in seven years? Or will we see a dark horse team win the championship? Here are the preview and predictions for the 2016-17 NBA season.
Atlantic Division: I believe the Atlantic Division will be a dogfight between these top two teams. Who clinches the Atlantic Division? Well, I'm giving the edge to the Celtics mainly because the Celtics signed Al Horford. Horford is the go- scorer in the paint and has defensive skills, which gives this defense an upgrade. The Celtics have a deep roster and are led by their coach in Brad Stevens. The Raptors will do well after a historic season, and they got most of their players back. The only way they can be a threat to the Celtics is if Jonas Valanciunas takes that leap that Raptors fans have been waiting for. Meanwhile, the only way I see the Knicks making the postseason is if that team comes together. Right now, this team is a mystery, even though Kristaps Porzingis should improve with the Knicks playing a more uptempo game with coach Jeff Hornacek. There is some excitement for the 76ers for the first time in quite a while with Joel Embiid being healthy and Dario Saric making his debut, but that excitement got drained after Ben Simmons injured his foot. The 76ers are not even a playoff team since the team is still rebuilding, and for god's sake, stop playing Jahill Okafor next to Nerlens Noel. Lastly for the Nets, they're getting close to being a bottom team. They do have a good coach that can develop players in Kenny Atkinson and there are something youth players that are coming up. But if they manage to win twenty games, I think it's a good sign.
Central Division: Now where talking about the Cavaliers, and this is either going to be a championship season or a failure. To me, this is the top team in all of the Eastern Conference, and I would be surprised if this team is not playing in The Finals. There is some drama in the Central Division, and I'm going to try and explain it. I don't think hiring a guy like Nate McMillan is an upgrade for the Pacers, but Paul George is poised to take another step and hopes for a player like Myles Turner, who showed promise. The Pacers have secondary scorers, and Jeff Teague should improve over George Hill. Stan Van Gundy showed us some real improvement with the Pistons last season, and I believe this team will be better on paper, as they have players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond. Not to mention, Jon Leuer and first-year player Henry Ellenson, but the big disadvantage is Reggie Jackson being out. The Bulls made some weird moves in the offseason, and there's a mystery with how the Rajon Rondo-Dwayne Wade backcourt is going to work when the Bulls have a player in Jimmy Butler. For the Bulls to be in the postseason, Fred Hoiberg has to have the Bulls playing better on defense. Lastly, the Bucks have some interesting pieces in their frontcourt, and who doesn't want to see Giannis Antetokounmpo run the point? I would like to see how Jabari Parker continues his development, and I don't know what happens with Thon Maker, but losing Khris Middleton was a huge loss for this squad.
Southeast Division: The Hawks are my favorite to take the Southeast, but after the offseason, I'm a little concerned after they lost Al Horford and traded Jeff Teague. Maybe Dwight Howard can resurrect his career in Atlanta, but he is past his prime, and I don't see that happening. My favorite on this Hawks team is Dorsey Schroder, as I see talent, but he needs to be on his game if he wants to be that upgrade to Teague. I'm not excited about this Hornets team despite being in the postseason, but they do have a great shooter in Kemba Walker. They did lose some players in the offseason, but a player like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is back at 100 percent, and Steve Clifford does a decent job at coaching. I have the Wizard returning to the postseason after being active in the offseason, which helps their frontcourt, but can Bradley Beal be at 100 percent, and can he also build some chemistry with John Wall? The rebuilding process continues in Orlando as Frank Vogel was hired in the offseason. The Magic still have a youth movement, and they signed a player in Bismack Biyombo and traded for Serge Ibaka, but I don't see them in the postseason. The Big Three are done in Miami, and the Heat is now a hot mess, even spending a massive amount of money on Hassan Whiteside. The future is bright with developing players like Justice Winslow and Nick Johnson, but the Heat need to fix their roster.
Northwest Division: One of the teams that surprised us last year was the Trail Blazers, as many of the experts didn't believe they were going to enter into the postseason, and I think they will be in the postseason this year. One team that should breakthrough is the Jazz, and I can put a bet to anyone that reads this blog, despite Gordon Howard being out with a broken finger. George Hill should be an upgrade even of Dante Exum is healthy, and if the Jazz improves on health, this will be a playoff team. Yes, we know about Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, but the Thunder should be a playoff team behind Russell Westbrook, who will have a great season. One advantage that the Thunder has is the duo of Westbrook-Victor Oladipo. Hiring a coach like Tom Thibodeau should help the Timberwolves become contenders, because of stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and players like Providence's own Kris Dunn, Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine. The Nuggets are still rebuilding and have a youth movement. They need a player like Emmanuel Mudiay to develop and Danilo Gallinari to be at 100 percent.
Pacific Division: These Warriors are going to be a deep team. After all, this is a team that won 73 games last season and were one game shy of becoming the greatest NBA team of all-time. Yes, the bench took a downgrade, but guess who's in town, and his name is Kevin Durant. The Clippers are running out of time when it comes to reaching The Finals, but this team should be good. What the Clippers need to do is push the right buttons, and if they do that, this team could be playing the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Them, there's the downgrade of the Kings. Dave Joerger should be a better coach than George Karl, but that front office is a disaster. DeMarcus Cousins will have a great season, and I believe Willie Cauley-Stein could surprise us especially since he's playing under Joerger's system, but I don't see the Kings making the postseason. The Suns were a hot mess last season, and while they're not postseason contenders, they could be a fun team to watch, as they have developed a youth movement, with players like Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss and Devin Booker. After it was good riddance to Byron Scott, the Lakers at least have time to rebuild Scott's damage with a promising youth movement with Brandon Ingram pairing with D'Angelo Russell.
Southwest Division: The biggest question for the Spurs is this LaMarcus Aldridge trade that has been rumored, but despite what is happening, the Spurs are still the favorites to win the Southwest and are a threat to the Warriors. Come on, we all know this is Kawhi Leonard's team now that Tim Duncan retired. Meanwhile, the guy that is taking over Duncan's spot is Pau Gasol, and that doesn't help the Spurs defense. With Dave Joerger going to Sacramento, the Grizzles hired David Fizdale, and this is a team that won't grind anymore. Although the Grizzles are a pretty good team on defense, their success has to come from one player and his name is Chandler Parsons. The Rockets could be in trouble as a defensive team this season, and considering that they got a new head coach in Mike D'Antoni, I wouldn't be surprised if they struggle on that side of the ball, but what keeps this team in the postseason is their offense. James Harden is still the star of this team. Anthony Davis must be a disappointment, but the guy is still fun to watch for the Pelicans. But I'm not sold about this after they were active in the offseason. And when it comes to the Mavericks, never count out a team that is coached by Rick Carlisle and a player in Dirk Nowitzki, but Carlisle is going to have his work cut out when it comes to being this defensive team, especially if this team can't stay healthy.