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NBA Preview: Key Additions, Key Departures, and Predictions For Every Team

Eastern Conference:

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics:


Key Arrivals: Amir Johnson, David Lee, Terry Rozier

Key Departures: Brandon Bass

Last year, the Celtics were an extremely productive team that was prolific in rebounding and finding good shots as a result of smart passing. They also played tenacious defense, having made eight steals a game and limiting themselves to less than 14 turnovers per game.

The addition of David Lee should aid their shooting woes, and Amir Johnson will provide another big body to play solid defense and protect the paint. Kelly Olynyk’s struggles to protect the paint consistently are well noted, so adding depth to the frontcourt should help for defensive purposes.

Right now, Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter are at the bottom of the depth chart, and they might not have any impact on the team until late in the season. However, Rozier played extremely well in the preseason, scoring 22 points against the Sixers. Hunter needs to shoot well consistently from the floor if he is going to get playing time, but he did go 4/4 from the field in a summer league game.

Prediction: 8th seed.

I don’t see why the Celtics cannot make the playoffs this year. They only got better in the free agency after freeing themselves from Gerald Wallace’s contract and acquiring David Lee, who is a tremendous player when healthy. Brad Stevens did a fabulous job with them in his first year, and I expect similar success this season.


Brooklyn Nets:

Key Arrivals: Andrea Bargnani, Thomas Robinson

Key Departures: Mason Plumlee, Deron Williams

The Nets were able to sneak into the playoffs last year when the Hornets and Heat struggled at the end of the season. With the departures of Mason Plumlee and Deron Williams, the team has supposedly lost some quality in their lineup, but looking back, both players were inefficient and did not mesh well with the rest of the roster.

Mason Plumlee, standing at almost seven feet tall, averaged less than one block a game (0.8). In fact, despite the size they boasted in the frontcourt last year, the Nets ranked 26th in blocks per game. Brook Lopez was one of the main reasons they made the playoffs last year, averaging 18.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in April. The Nets were smart to retain his services.

Thomas Robinson will add another aggressive defensive presence down low. Robinson is a player who finds his niche scoring off of offensive rebounds and playing disruptive defense.

However inefficient he was, Deron Williams’ departure does leave the point guard position exposed, and Jarrett Jack is no longer a legitimate starting option at the position.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Nets roster does not look strong enough nor deep enough to make the playoffs. Joe Johnson played spectacular last year, but at age 34, he cannot sustain his level of play for 82 games. The team will rely on Brook Lopez to score, but with a lack of diverse post moves and physicality, depending on his offensive production could create an issue this season.


New York Knicks:

Key Arrivals: Robin Lopez, Aaron Afflalo, Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant

Key Departures: Tim Hardaway Jr. and Andrea Bargnani

The Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony for most of last season, and they suffered as a result. They averaged 91.9 points a game, good for dead last in the league. They also ranked 27th in field goal percentage and 29th in rebounds per game.

The addition of Robin Lopez, will definitely help the rebounding and field goal percentage woes, as well as take playing time away from the unproductive Andrea Bargnani. Kristaps Porzingis needs some time to develop his skillset and physicality before he can flourish in Derek Fisher’s Triangle Offense system.

It would have been much smarter to retain Tim Hardaway Jr. rather than sign a less efficient Aaron Afflalo for more money, but the Knicks made their decision. Afflalo will help with the Knick’s 3-point shooting problems, but his overall field goal percentage last year was poor, and we have no reason to suspect that it will improve.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Knicks are in rebuilding mode and can hopefully get Anthony back on track with his usual production. They did not make any big moves that would push them towards being playoff contenders, but they definitely improved from last year (which isn’t saying much).


Philadelphia 76ers:

Key Arrivals: Jahlil Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry

Key Departures: Jason Richardson and Thomas Robinson

The 76ers have shown little success with their new strategy to trade players for picks during their never-ending rebuilding stage. They have developed a habit of finishing at the bottom of the NBA standings. They have drafted 4 centers over the past 2 years. Joel Embiid may not play this season. They picked up Gerald Wallace’s and Carl Landry’s awful contracts. In a nutshell, not much is really going their way.

Hopefully, Nik Stauskas can make a difference, but he has shown little success in the NBA so far. Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel are two tremendous shot blockers, but having both on the court at the same time disrupts their ability to spread the defense.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

It will be a while before the 76ers make the playoffs. Their front office decisions have been extremely poor, and they have made little effort to enhance their roster. Prepare for yet another long season for the 76ers.


Toronto Raptors:

Key Arrivals: DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola, Cory Joseph

Key Departures: Lou Williams, Amir Johnson

The Raptors struggled late in the season and in the playoffs due to injuries to Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan. However, Jonas Valancianus showed a lot of potential, carrying the Raptors to the playoffs last year with his strong performances late in the season.

Kyle Lowry was effective when healthy, but both he and DeRozen struggle to shoot the ball efficiently; this is where DeMarre Carroll will come into play. He shot the ball tremendously from deep and from the field last year, and  although Toronto may have overpaid for his services, he will make an immediate impact.

Cory Joseph was added as an insurance policy against a possible Lowry injury. He did a commednable job filling in for Tony Parker last season and was a key cog for the Spurs off the bench, though his new contract is a bit beefy as well.

The Raptors were a great defensive team, but they may lose some of that physicality with the loss of Amir Johnson. However, DeMarre Carroll has proven himself to be a lockdown defender and is able to cover opponents’ top scorers, while Luis Scola is a more efficient scorer than Johnson ever was.

Prediction: 5th seed.

The Raptors are a strong and deep team, but with so many injury concerns, it is difficult to depend on their health throughout the season. Carroll and Joseph will help if injuries do arise again, but it may not be enough if Lowry goes down yet again.


Central Division

Chicago Bulls:

Key Arrivals: Bobby Portis

Key Departures: Tom Thibodeau

The Bulls had a tremendous season last year with Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah leading the team to the 3rd seed in the eastern conference. Joakim Noah underperformed slightly, but Gasol’s excellent production was able to make up for Noah’s shortcomings, averaging a double-double in points and rebounds.

The duo of Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose gave Chicago one of the best backcourts in the league last year when Rose was healthy. Although Rose returned to his old form, he still struggles with injuries. He has already failed to stay healthy this year, dealing with a broken orbital bone he suffered in the preseason.

Their new head coach, former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, will be a major change from Thibodeau’s philosophies and will hopefully figure out the appropriate playing time allocation to keep Rose healthy and fresh for the playoffs.

Prediction: 3rd seed.

The Bulls retained the assets that made their team dominant, and if they can adjust to Hoiberg, they will perform at a similar level to last season.


Detroit Pistons:

Key Arrivals: Stanley Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, and Aron Baynes

Key Departures: Greg Monroe, Caron Butler

Following the release of Josh Smith early last season, the Pistons went on a blistering 15-1 run. Then Brandon Jennings tragically tore his Achilles, and the Pistons limped to a 32 win season. Detroit will depend on a great season from Reggie Jackson and for newcomer Ersan Ilysova to fill the Greg Monroe sized hole in the frontcourt.

Stanley Johnson looked magnificent in the summer league and has looked good in the preseason. Last year, the Pistons’ backcourt lacked consistent shooting, with Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope unable to find their shooting touch, so Johnson will be a welcome presence for them, depending on if Stan Van Gundy decides to play him at the two or the three. Johnson might actually take some minutes away from Caldwell-Pope this season if he does not make an impact on the defensive end.

Andre Drummond is still a force in the paint, but with no Greg Monroe playing beside him, there is little chance the Pistons get as many rebounds as they did last season, both offensive and defensive. Joel Anthony and Aron Baynes will have to protect the paint well and rebound better as well to make up for this lost production, which is unlikely.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

Though the Pistons did lose Greg Monroe, Stan Van Gundy explained how having Monroe, Drummond, and Jackson on the court has limited court space and efficiency, due to their lack of shooting ability. Stanley Johnson will be a great fit for the Pistons style of play, and with Brandon Jennings coming back later in the season, they will be a dangerous team come January, but it may be too little too late.


Indiana Pacers:

Photo via
Photo via

Key Arrivals: Monta Ellis, Jordan Hill, Myles Turner

Key Departures: David West, Roy Hibbert

The Pacers 2014-2015 season was cut short, mainly due to injuries to Paul George and George Hill. Paul George returned towards the end of the season after that horrendous leg injury in last year’s Team USA camp, but only put up mediocre numbers.

With David West and Roy Hibbert gone, their rebounding production (ranked 4th in the league in total rebounds last year) will suffer a huge blow. While the frontcourt may struggle, the backcourt will have no trouble at all. The additions of Monta Ellis and Joseph Young, along with the resigning of Rodney Stuckey, join with the incumbent George Hill to create a solid rotation of guards.

Joseph Young was one of the best scorers in the NCAA last year, and Monta Ellis has averaged over 17 points a game nine of the past ten seasons. Myles Turner, the Pacers’ first round pick out of Texas, is another athletic big man with great ball handling skills and the ability to get to the basket easily. He also can step out and shoot the three ball, a coveted skill for big men in this league.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Pacers will probably be the first team out of the playoff running this year due to the fact that they lack sufficient big men. Jordan Hill is not nearly as good as David West, and Myles Turner is not strong enough yet to defend a stronger post player. The Pacers have expressed interest in Paul George experimenting with playing time at power forward. Paul George playing the four? Not a good idea.


Milwaukee Bucks:

Key Arrivals: Greg Monroe, healthy Jabari Parker, Greivis Vasquez

Key Departures: Jared Dudley

The Bucks made significant improvements last season and showcased a core that will keep them a strong team in the Eastern conference for years to come. The Bucks led the league in steals per game and shot over 45% as a team, good for seventh in the league. Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokoumpo played phenomenally last season, earning long term roles in the organization’s future (Middleton signed a 5 year, $70 million contract this offseason).

The Bucks have acquired a lot of depth for the bench, and the signing of Greg Monroe will enhance their starting lineup tremendously. Greivis Vasquez, acquired in a trade from Toronto,  proved to be a strong backup for Toronto last season behind Kyle Lowry.

Jabari Parker’s return is somewhat of an underrated storyline. Parker, the second overall selection in the 2014 draft, was supposed to be a sure-fire star. Now that he is healthy, he will have the opportunity to flash the talent that made him such an enticing prospect.

Michael Carter-Williams and Khris Middleton will no doubt attempt to cut down on turnovers, as the Bucks had the worst turnover rate in the league last year.

Prediction: 4th seed.

The Bucks have all the right pieces to make the playoffs and win 40-50 games this season. With Jabari Parker coming back from injury, coupled with the addition of Greg Monroe in the starting lineup, the Bucks should have high hopes for this year.


Cleveland Cavaliers:

Photo via
Photo via

Key Arrivals: Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson

Key Departures: Mike Miller

The Cavaliers suffered serious injuries late in the playoffs. Once they lost Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, any chance to win the NBA Finals was ruined. However, LeBron James put up a legendary performance that stretched the Finals series to 6 games, despite being outmanned by the Warriors. Now, the big three are back and thirsty for a rematch.

Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love combined for over 60% of the Cavalier’s points last year. With only few tweaks to the roster, it is unlikely that will change. Mo Williams will be a productive player off of the bench and will provide much needed depth behind the injury prone Kyrie Irving. Matthew Dellevadova may see a shrinking role despite his heroic Finals performance.

Prediction: 1st seed.

The Cavaliers are, without a doubt, the best team in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are a lethal combo that is destined to win at least 60 games once again this season.


Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks:

Key Arrivals: Tiago Splitter, Tim Hardaway Jr.

Key Departure: DeMarre Carroll

The Atlanta Hawks were considered the best team in the NBA up until the last few weeks of the regular season, when they began to fall apart. Going into the playoffs with little momentum, the Hawks were almost upset in the first round by the Brooklyn Nets, were challenged by Washington in the semi-finals, and were then swept by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The loss of DeMarre Carroll is a devastating blow for their backcourt depth. Hopefully, Tim Hardaway Jr., who was acquired in a draft day trade from the Knicks, can make up for the loss of Carroll. Tiago Splitter was a great pickup as well, and the Hawks were able to acquire him cheaply as the Spurs sold him off for cap room in their pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. Horford’s injury history makes Splitter an important bench piece for the Hawks.

Prediction: 7th seed.

The Hawks may not be as good as they were last year, but they still have Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Kyle Korver. Teague and Millsap are going to have to carry this team to the playoffs this season.


Charlotte Hornets:

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Key Arrivals:  Frank Kaminsky, Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes

Key Departures: Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, Mo Williams, Bismack Biyombo

The Hornets had a great chance to make the playoffs last year, but blew it losing the last seven games of the season. The loss of Al Jefferson to injury and the inefficiency of Lance Stephenson were certainly two huge factors for their disastrous end to the season.

The Hornets tried to improve their team by trading for Nicolas Batum, Spencer Hawes, and Jeremy Lamb, signing Tyler Hansbrough and Jeremy Lin, and drafting Frank Kaminsky. However, they were one of the worst shooting teams last year, and failed to resign Mo Williams and traded Gerald Henderson, both of whom were among the higher percentage shooters on the squad.

The addition of Frank Kaminsky is proving to be a good selection, as Kaminsky impressed in both Summer League play and the preseason. However, the loss of Stephenson cannot be overstated.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Hornets made many adjustments to the roster, but none of them are going to get the them over the hump. Nicolas Batum struggled last year, but they might have a chance if he can return to his 2013 form.


Miami Heat:

Key Arrivals: Justise Winslow, Gerald Green, Amar’e Stoudemire, Healthy Josh McRoberts, Chris Bosh

Key Departures: N/A

The Heat came up short of the playoffs last year after losing LeBron James to free agency, Chris Bosh to a scary blood clot complication, and Dwyane Wade to constant injuries. This team shot the ball quite well, but was unable to control the boards and averaged less than 40 rebounds a game (last in the league).

Hopefully, the additions of Justise Winslow and Amar’e Stoudemire can make some type of improvement on the boards, though it seems unlikely.

Gerald Green won’t help with the rebounding category, but he will contribute with scoring from long range and dunks. Lots of dunks. Hassan Whiteside showed great promise after being pulled up to start for the Heat out of desperation, and he will be the starting center going into the new season. That should put Chris Bosh back into his natural position at the 4.

Whiteside’s emergence as a top center in the Eastern conference is a glimmer of hope for this team, as they needed some infusion of youth to stay afloat.

Justise Winslow was a great, and lucky, draft pick that will add depth to the 3 position, which is definitely needed with Luol Deng holding down the position.

Prediction: 6th seed.

Even if Dwyane Wade only plays 65 games, the Heat should still be able to make the playoffs in the east with Dragic, Bosh, and Whiteside leading the charge without him.


Orlando Magic:

Key Additions: Mario Hezonja, healthy Aaron Gordon,  C.J. Watson, Shabazz Napier

Key Departures: Kyle O’Quinn

The Orlando Magic are a team that is definitely on the verge of a playoff run. After several successful top draft picks and the retention of Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic with big contract extensions, the Magic look more dangerous than ever since the loss of Dwight Howard.

Why, you ask? Victor Oladipo has been extremely efficient for the Magic so far in his short career, and Elfrid Payton played well enough to retain his job as the starting point guard. Mario Hezonja’s knack for scoring gives the Magic yet another weapon, and his two-way versatility give the Magic the shooting guard they need. He will be terrific for the Magic.

Predictions: Barely miss playoffs.

Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Mario Hezonja, Tobias Harris, and Nikola Vucevic as the potential starting lineup? That would be lethal, but Aaron Gordon will need to step up off the bench and Oladipo will have to stay healthy. Maybe in another year or two we can make the Magic playoff contenders, but right now, they still have to figure out how to make the talent on their roster mesh.


Washington Wizards:

Key Arrivals: Gary Neal, Kelly Oubre, and Alan Anderson

Key Departures: Paul Pierce

The Wizards began to prove themselves last year in the John Wall-Bradley Beal era. Wall had a fantastic season, averaging 17.6 points and 10 assists a game. His assist totals led the Wizards to one of the best passing offenses in the league last year, while limiting teams to few second chance points.

The loss of Paul Pierce, however, will be massive. He led them in the playoffs with clutch shots to sweep the Raptors rather easily and put up a strong fight against the Hawks. However, Alan Anderson began to play a bigger role in the Nets 4th quarter scheme in the playoffs, scoring four huge baskets for the Nets in game 2 in the first round, and the acquisistion of Anderson could fill in for Pierce’s clutch shooting for the Wizards.

Gary Neal never proved himself much with Milwaukee or Charlotte, but Otto Porter showed great promise late in the season to prove himself worthy of the #3 overall pick in 2013 draft.

Prediction: 3rd seed.

John Wall and Bradley Beal proved to be a lethal duo last year when healthy. Nene and Marcin Gortat did a fabulous job inside with efficient post scoring. As long as Wall is healthy, this team will do well.


Western Conference

Pacific Division:

Golden State Warriors:

Photo via
Photo via

Key Arrivals: Jason Thompson

Key Departures: David Lee

Golden State was arguably one of the best scoring teams ever in the NBA last season, averaging 110 points per game and shooting 47.8% from the field with over 27 assists a game, good for top spots in of all their respective rankings. Stephen Curry has proven to be one of the best point guards in the NBA and capped the season off by winning the NBA MVP award, as well as an NBA Championship.

The departure of David Lee should not be much of a factor for the Warriors since he played only 33 games last year, and went from being a staple in the starting lineup to starting in less than five games.

Draymond Green will be back on a big contract, and the Warriors were very lucky to have UCLA product Kevon Looney fall to them at the bottom of the first round in the 2015 NBA draft. They also acquired the veteran Jason Thompson for depth behind Draymond Green.

The team is bringing back the same core that won the title last season, and they will definitely compete for a repeat.

Prediction: 2nd seed.

The Warriors will definitely have another successful season as long as Curry is able to stay healthy. With Thompson complementing his scoring, Bogut as the rim protector, and Iguodala as the lockdown defender, this team will win a near 60 wins again.


Los Angeles Clippers:

Key Arrivals: Josh Smith, Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson

Key Departures: Matt Barnes, Spencer Hawes

The Clippers finally showed last year that they can come together and win games in the playoffs. The starpower and veteran leadership from Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, and Doc Rivers make this team one of the scariest in the West.

Last year, the Clippers had the second best scoring offense in the league and were a top ten team in blocks, courtesy of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

The additions of Paul Pierce and Josh Smith will prove to be well calculated moves. Pierce has been a superb clutch performer even in his older days, and Josh Smith proved that he can be efficient when used correctly after he performed well in the playoffs for the Rockets last year. Pierce also play under former head coach Doc Rivers, which should be a beautiful and productive reunion.

Lance Stephenson is another name that needs to prove something going into the season: if he is really worth over $7 million a year as a bench player. Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick wish they were making that kind of money for the efficiency they showed on the court last season. There may be a bit of a logjam at shooting guard if all three remain on the roster.

The additions of Wesley Johnson, Cole Aldrich, and Pablo Prigioni add much needed depth to the Clippers’ ranks.

Prediction: 3rd seed.

This is arguably the most talented team that Doc Rivers has ever coached. If the Clippers were in the East, they would lock up the #1 seed relatively easily, but with the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, and Rockets all breathing down their neck this year, it will be difficult to get anything higher than the third seed.


Los Angeles Lakers:

Key Arrivals: Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, D’Angelo Russell

Key Departures: Jeremy Lin, Wesley Johnson

The Lakers organization has taken a turn for the worst recently with the losses of Pau Gasol to free agency, Kobe Bryant to injuries, and Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher to the Knicks. Kobe Bryant is the only remaining player from the last Laker championship team, but that might not be a good thing for this Lakers franchise.

The Lakers brought in an ample amount of role players, such as Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert, and hope that they can provide some type of upside to this franchise. First team Rookie Jordan Clarkson and 2015 2nd overall draft pick D’Angelo Russell look like emerging stars, and provide a future for the Lakers with Kobe Bryant on the brink of retirement.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

D’Angelo Russell will definitely prove himself to be worth a top pick in the draft, and with Julius Randle coming back from injury and the addition of the new veterans on the roster, this team could be a middle of the pack team. But they are far from contenders.


Sacramento Kings:

Key Arrivals: Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein, Seth Curry

Key Departures: Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry

The Kings have been quite a mess the last few years, dealing with trade drama, coaching changes, relocation rumors, and simply poor play. But, they made strides this offseason, and it’s possible that they could put together a playoff squad.

Rajon Rondo was signed over the summer to be the anchor at point guard that this team needs.  years ago, that would have been a great move. But character issues and insubordination in Dallas saw him ruin a playoff series for the Mavericks, and he is a wild card going into this year with yet another club. The signing of Kosta Koufos and the draft selection of Willie Cauley-Stein creates somewhat of a logjam at center behind DeMarcus Cousins, and it will result in one of the three uncomfortably playing power forward.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Kings did make moves in the free agency this year, but none of them make the Kings a lock for the playoffs. Rondo has already begun to clash with head coach George Karl, and the decision to play Cousins at the four? I already don’t like the situation in Sacramento.


Phoenix Suns:

Key Arrivals: Tyson Chandler, Devin Booker, Mirza Teletovic

Key Departures: Marcus Morris, Gerald Green, Reggie Bullock

The Suns began to show promise in the middle of the season last year, becoming serious playoff contenders, but a poor finish to the season erased any hope of a playoff push. They were a streaky squad throughout the year, going through three 5-game losing streaks that seriously impacted their record.

The trading of Isaiah Thomas proved to be detrimental, as they lost 6 out of their next 10 games after the trade. Once Brandon Knight was acquired, his production dropped off severely, and his season was cut short due to injury. Without any sample size, it is hard to predict how good the Brandon Knight- Eric Bledsoe 1-2 punch will be. There is no doubt that they are both very talented, though, and the pairing could work out very well.

The addition of Tyson Chandler will pick up the slack that Alex Len has failed to produce in his young career. I can’t really support Chandler’s new $52 million contract, though, considering his age.

The Suns went all out to clear cap room this summer in hopes of signing big time free agent LaMarcus Aldridge. Failing to sign him left the team without several of its key players after carelessly and blindly shipping them off to make room for his nonexistent contract.

Devin Booker will bring some shooting talent and range that the backcourt lacked last year. Mirza Teletovic will help spread the floor with his three point shooting ability as a stretch 4, bringing back the Channing Frye type weapon the Suns have been missing.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

Last year, Phoenix proved that they cannot consistently win enough games to make the playoffs. Unless Brandon Knight can turn this team around, Phoenix will make a similar run and struggle to stay afloat in the highly competitive West.


Southwest Division:

Dallas Mavericks:

Key Arrivals: Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams, JaVale McGee

Key Departures: Monta Ellis, Tyson Chandler, Rajon Rondo

After trading for Rajan Rondo in the middle of the season, the Mavs were projected to be the Western Conference favorites, but never lived up to those expectations. Ironically, the Mavericks actually did better when Carlisle benched Rondo for certain parts of the season.

After the failing to sign DeAndre Jordan, the Mavs also lost Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler to free agency. Hopefully Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews can get back to their old form as Dirk Nowitzki continues to carry the Mavericks to the playoffs year after year. Matthews’ achilles is still healing, but he is expected to be ready to go for opening night.

Prediction: 7th seed.

Even though the Mavericks might not have the most talented roster, Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki are always able to get the job done. It’s difficult to depend on Chandler Parsons and Matthews coming off huge injuries, but doable with a legend like Dirk leading the way.


Houston Rockets:

photo via fantasy wired
photo via fantasy wired

Key Arrivals: Ty Lawson, Sam Dekker

Key Departures: Josh Smith, Pablo Prigioni

The Rockets had a fantastic season last year, performing well enough to earn the 2nd seed in the West and pulling off a spectacular 3 game winning streak in the playoffs to come back against the Clippers and win the series 4-3 to make a Western Conference Finals appearance.

James Harden led the team with his offensive scoring ability and pick-and-roll game with Dwight Howard, which was nearly unstoppable. Harden was second place in MVP voting, which just reinforces the kind of year he had.

Dwight Howard is a freakishly athletic big man with a huge wingspan and vertical jump, but he can be undisciplined and skillful at times. He will need to be more consistent in the regular season if the Rockets want to improve from last season.

The Rockets retained Patrick Beverley and traded for Ty Lawson to seek added depth and star power, respectively. I doubt that James Harden and Ty Lawson will be on the court together much, since both players are used to controlling to ball on every offensive possession, but perhaps the pairing will work out like GM Daryl Morey envisioned when he made the trade.

Prediction: 4th seed.

James Harden is easily one of the best players in the NBA, and hopefully Terrence Jones, Trevor Ariza, and Patrick Beverley can take more responsibility if Dwight Howard misses time with his nagging injury problems.


New Orleans Pelicans:

Key Arrivals: Alonzo Gee, Kendrick Perkins

Key Departures: Jimmer Fredette, Norris Cole

Anthony Davis signed one of the biggest contracts in league history, and it was well deserved. Davis just might be the best player in the NBA this season. A 6’11” center that averages almost 3 blocks a game, can shoot the ball from almost everywhere on the court, and can guard almost anyone 1-on-1 in the NBA is the definition of MVP type talent.

The Pelicans have all the talent for a legitimate playoff run, but injuries and chemistry problems could derail what looks to be a successful season. The oft injured group of Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Omer Asik are all healthy coming into the year, which bodes well for the Pelicans.

Prediction: 8th seed.

Anthony Davis carried the team to the playoffs last year, and there is little doubt he can’t do it again.


San Antonio Spurs:

Key Arrivals: LaMarcus Aldridge, David West

Key Departures: Tiago Splitter, Cory Joseph, Marco Bellinelli, Aron Baynes

The Tim Duncan dynasty lives on after he resigned on a 2 year contract worth $5 million each year. The Spurs were able to retain Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard while somehow signing both LaMarcus Aldridge and David West – truly an impressive offseason feat.

The Spurs were defeated last year off of a Chris Paul buzzer beater in the first round of the playoffs in game 7 – a tragic ending to their successful season. However, Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have won five rings, and this team could be their most talented of all. The Spurs have a stronger 10-man rotation than anyone and have one of the best coaches in the game calling the shots.

Prediction: 1st seed.

This Spurs team was extremely successful in the offseason and were able to get David West on a veteran’s minimum. Their bench could possibly start for six or seven other teams in the league. I doubt they lose more than 20 games this year.


Memphis Grizzlies:

Key Arrivals: Matt Barnes, Jarell Martin

Key Departures: Kosta Koufos

The Memphis Grizzlies’ system of post-play that utilizes Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol worked well, as they were one of the best shooting teams in the league last season.

Marc Gasol, who resigned with the Grizz this summer, was easily the most productive player on the team last year. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley were great compliments to Gasol, both averaging great numbers, but this team runs through Gasol. Surprisingly, the Grizzlies were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, averaging less than 43 rebounds a game (22nd).

Hopefully, 6’10” powerhouse Jarell Martin, a first round pick from LSU, can help with that. Martin is a versatile big man who can shoot from outside and provide tough defense in the post.

Prediction: 6th seed.

The Grizzlies are a good team, and with the huge amount of competition in the West, the 6th seed suits them well.



Denver Nuggets:

Key Arrivals: Emmanuel Mudiay, Mike Miler

Key Departures: Ty Lawson

The Nuggets have struggled mightily since the firing of George Karl. The franchise hasn’t been able to get a head coach that fits their team, and they can’t seem to win more than 35 games. Though Ty Lawson was important to the team, his departure gives them a much needed chance to start over.

Emmanuel Mudiay will have to perform extremely well this year to warrant his 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, but his experience in China should help his development in the NBA. Mudiay is a player that thrives off of the pick-and-roll, which could prove effective with Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The team has some interesting and talented pieces, like Mudiay, Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari, but it isn’t enough to get them to the playoffs in the West.


Minnesota Timberwolves:

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Key Arrivals: Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Miller

Key Departures: Gary Neal, Chase Budinger

The Wolves were the worst team in the NBA last year, but have a ton promise heading into the 2015-2016 season. Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Gorgui Dieng is not a bad lineup at all. Andrew Wiggins played tremendously last year, winning Rookie of the Year, and Gorgui Dieng had 15 double-doubles in relief of Nikola Pekovic.

Even with all that youth on the team, the Timberwolves signed several veterans, such as Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince while retaining Kevin Garnett. The veterans help won’t affect the team’s play very often, but they will speed up the development of the many young players on this squad.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

Do not expect too much improvement than last year. However, the team does have a lot of hope going into the season, especially to see how Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Town play together. This team is going nowhere but up.


Oklahoma City Thunder:

Key Arrivals: Cameron Payne, Kyle Singler

Key Departures: Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones

The Thunder missed the playoffs by a single game and was without Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant for the last six weeks of the regular season, a tragic ending for a team that worked hard all year to contend for a title. During the season, Russell Westbrook recorded 11 triple doubles, just four away from Michael Jordan’s personal seasonal record.

Even with Durant and Westbrook playing at full strength in past years, the Thunder have not been successful in the postseason. They don’t seem to mesh well in big games, and ever since James Harden was traded, the team has failed to reach the NBA Finals.

Their lack of depth makes this season even more unlikely to end in a Finals trip.

However, the selection of Cameron Payne was a good one even with the depth at point guard already established with DJ Augustin and Russell Westbrook. Payne is strong, lengthy, shoots the ball well, and plays good defense. He is also known for his great passing in tight areas around the basket to big men, so guys like Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will thrive off of him.

Prediction: 5th seed.

The Thunder are definitely a playoff contender with a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. I think they can make a run in the playoffs with their current roster, but they are going to have to perform better on the road, having gone 16-25 outside of Oklahoma City.


Portland Trailblazers:

Key Arrivals: Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson

Key Departures: LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez

The Blazers were projected to finally get past the 1st round in the playoffs, but were beaten again by the Grizzlies and sent home early. Now, every starter from last season is gone except for Damian Lillard, and the Trailblazers are going to have to find someway to rebuild the team around him.

LaMarcus Aldridge will be hard to replace with his versatile post and face-up skillset. With Robin Lopez gone, the Blazers are left without an established hardworker to grab rebounds. Aaron Afflalo and Wesley Matthews, two talented sharpshooters, are now out of the mix as well.

The additions of Mason Plumlee, Gerald Henderson, and Al-Farouq Aminu are not bad at all. However, they will do little to make up for the losses faced in this offseason. Ed Davis is another free agent that should help the loss of LaMarcus Aldridge down low, but he does not posses the big man shooting abilities of Aldridge – but then again, who does?

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Trailblazers are going to need to finish their rebuild before being considered playoff contenders again, and that should take a while.


Utah Jazz:

Key Arrivals: Trey Lyles, Trevor Booker

Key Departures: N/A

The Utah Jazz are much like the Orlando Magic, with great young pieces and rotational depth being put together to make a playoff team for years to come. However, the loss of Dante Exum (ACL tear) really dooms their chances quite a bit. Exum was a solid defender and had an excellent assist to turnover ratio last season, and he figured to have an even bigger role in the offense this year before his injury.

Trey Burke is not a bad candidate to take over Exum’s responsibility, but he hasn’t exactly stunned anyone in his young career. He has flashed promise, however, and with Gordan Hayward, Rudy Gobert, and Derek Favors all returning, the Jazz could a very dangerous team.

Rudy Gobert had one of the best offensive rating to defensive rating ratios in the league last year, and boasted a fantastic field goal percentage. He really is something special, and he should be one of the top centers in the league going forward.

Prediction: Miss playoffs.

The Jazz will be extremely close to making the playoffs this year, but they will end up short due to the loss of Dante Exum and lack of a veteran leader. Favors and Hayward do have the talent to lead this team, but in the West? Not yet, at least.

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