Monday, October 7, 2019

For Better or worse: NBA 2019-20

I had a lot of fun writing the NHL post, which occurred to me the morning the season started. I had so much fun, I had to do it for the NBA, too. And it was a crazy offseason...let's see how I think it will play out.

The Atlanta Hawks will likely struggle again this season, but will be a lot of fun to watch. They brought in Jabari Parker as the only major free agent, but their growth will come internally. Trae Young is going to make this team...keep an eye on him, his play reminds me of Iverson. The first time Vince Carter takes the court for Hawks will see him set the record for longest NBA career in history. I think the Hawks are a year or two away from making a real impact. Better than last year.

The Celtics got both better and worse. They lost Kyrie Irving in free agency, which contributes to both of those results. His play is top of the line...when he shows up. A lot of the time this past year, he was there, but he didn't really show up. He says that is due to the loss of his grandfather, which affected him mentally, and if that's true, then I truly feel sorry for him. Either way for the Celtics, he's not there anymore. Neither is Terry Rozier or Al Horford. However, Kemba Walker comes to town and will finally have a capable supporting cast in Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, et all. They were one of the better teams in the east and likely will be again.

Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving. DeAndre Jordan. All came to the Nets...Durant in trade, Irving and Jordan as free agents. For the first time in the history of the team, my team won the offseason! However, while the Nets are absolutely better, it's going to be a while before we really get to see how good, as Kevin Durant is expected to miss the entire season due to the injury he suffered in the NBA finals. I have confidence that I will get to see my team win the NBA Championship in the next couple of years...for the first time since 2001-02, when we were undone by the Nets refusing to go after offensive rebounds. Now we have DeAndre and Jarrett Allen, two of the best centers in the league, and DeAndre is a rebound specialist. I can't wait.

The Hornets got worse in the offseason. I actually expect the Hornets to have one of the worst records in the league. They struggled last year, and then lost the best player in Bobcats/Hornets 2 franchise history as a free agent. Terry Rozier has a LOT to prove, and joined them as the new starting point guard...but I don't think that'll be enough to make them a contender. Team management is the problem here, which is bizarre as you'd think a team owned by Michael Jordan would have the same killer instinct he had a player. Nope.
I think the Bulls will be better this year, but mostly due to internal growth of the players they have, not outside additions, which is limited to Thaddeus Young. If they can avoid injury will go a long way, as they have been hit hard last year or two.
The Cavs were awful last year, and are going to be awful this year. They have one good player- pictured- and he has an injury problem. They didn't get any better, but it would have been pretty hard to get worse.
The Mavericks lost the greatest player in franchise history when Dirk Nowitzki retired at the conclusion of 2018-19. However, they have a bright future anyway as Luka Doncic is probably the best player to come from Europe since...Dirk Nowitzki. They missed the playoffs last year and they probably will again this year, but I think they will be better and on an upward trajectory as Luka matures. He's only 20.
The Nuggets were surprisingly good last year, 2nd place in the West. Did they get better? I'm not sure. They added only Jerami Grant, but Michael Porter Jr. should play this season after missing all of last season with a back injury. Before the injury, I had heard he was a potential #1 draft pick. He's missed two+ years because of it...if he is as fully healthy as everyone's saying he is, and didn't lose any skill/physical ability to the injury, they will be better. Continuity is a good thing for them, I believe.

 Better, for sure. A healthy Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and others return, and they added Derrick Rose- former MVP, finally healthy after a long ordeal-currently slotted as the backup point guard, I expect that will change as the season goes on. He's still got it.

Worse...The Warriors probably had the worst off-season in the NBA, losing Kevin Durant. You can't lose one of the best players in history and have a good offseason. It's more than that, though. They broke up the majority of the championship core. Andre Iguodala, traded for salary cap reasons. Shaun Livingston retired after they cut him for salary cap reasons.
Klay Thompson will miss most of the season due to injury. That's a huge blow to the team, as Klay is part of the core, with Steph and Draymond. They return healthy, but as we saw in the finals...they are vulnerable. In fact, most people who follow the NBA believe this off-season was so wild because teams feel like they have a shot to win the title for the first time in a long while- the Warriors have been unbeatable over the past several years, and only lost last year due to losing two of their key players to injury. They still have Steph Curry, and they still have Draymond. But they are not unbeatable this year.
The new players they brought in are a little baffling. They got D'Angelo Russell from the Nets in exchange for Durant. That's bizarre, he's a starting caliber point guard when they already have the best one in the game in Steph. They plan to make Russell play shooting guard, at least until Klay returns. Willie Cauley-Stein is their new starting center, after losing DeMarcus Cousins to free agency and Damian Jones to trade. They will still make the playoffs, that's for sure. But it's not going to be as happy a season in their new arena as the previous few have been.
The Rockets have believed themselves to be title contenders for the past several years, when in reality, they had no chance. Now, they do. They traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, a HUGE upgrade. A lot of the media is saying "How well will Harden and Westbrook fit together?"...apparently forgetting that the last time they played together was in the NBA Finals. Granted, they don't have Kevin Durant with them, but both of them have also gotten significantly better since then as well. They are a title contender provided they can stay healthy.
The Pacers did very well last season, even after Victor Oladipo went down with a knee injury. However, they lost some players in free agency and to retirement, and didn't really bring in any key names. Add that to the fact that Oladipo is going to miss the beginning of the new season from the same injury, and I think this season is going to be worse than last year.

The Clippers mortgaged their future away this off-season...but got exponentially better, as they got Kawhi Leonard as a free agent and Paul George in trade. They are now title contenders. Yes, the Clippers. A legitimate threat to win it all. Never thought I'd ever type that.
The Lakers have LeBron, so they are always going to be a factor. LeBron got injured last year, for the first time in his 17 year career, and it doomed the Lakers, as the rest of the players they had either weren't good enough or were too injured to carry the load; the Lakers fell from 4th in the west to 11th while LeBron was out. Fortunately for the Lakers, they traded pretty much all of those injured guys for Anthony Davis, which, if they are healthy, makes them a title contender...and significantly better than last year. For the first time in NBA history, both Los Angeles teams are going to be a title contender in the same year.

The Grizzlies got worse. After a down year last year, they traded Marc Gasol at the trade deadline, and Mike Conley in the offseason. They did get the top point guard prospect in the draft in Ja Morant, but it'll be a few years before the Grizzlies can start thinking about the playoffs. Still, they do have Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., so they have the start of a core to build around.

The Heat are a team that got both better and worse. (lateral) They got Jimmy Butler via sign and trade, but they lost their best center (Hassan Whiteside) even though they refused to actually play him when it mattered. The biggest loss, though, is Dwyane Wade, who retired. If Jimmy Butler can stay healthy, he can probably will them into the playoffs all by himself.
I used to think Giannis was over-rated. Either I was wrong, or he's just gotten that much better. He won MVP last season, and will very likely be a candidate to do so again this year. The Bucks go as Giannis goes...if he has another great season, the Bucks will have a legitimate shot to win the Eastern Conference this year. They have both of the Lopez twins now, which should be fun to watch. Oh, and, Giannis is only 23 and is still getting better. That's a scary thought...for the other teams in the eastern conference. The Bucks also have two of the three Antetokounmpo brothers in the NBA right now.

I just don't know what to expect from Minnesota. They didn't make any big splash in the offseason, but they still have Karl-Anthony Towns. They lost Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, so I'm going to say worse, but I'm not totally convinced that I'm right here- this is a time of transition for the Wolves.
New Orleans pulled off a rare feat- they lost the best player on the team, but got better anyway. Anthony Davis is now in Los Angeles, but they got Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart for him. They also brought in Derrick Favors after the Jazz moved on from him, something that they've been talking about for years. Of course, the most important factor for the Pelicans is that they won the draft lottery and got Zion Williamson, supposedly the best player to enter the NBA since LeBron James. Are they going to be title contenders? No, not this year. But they are going to be a team to watch in the future...especially if Zion is as good as everyone says he is. (I've been hearing about Zion since he was in middle school, by the way). If the trio they got from the Lakers can stay healthy, I would say they are probably a lower half of the playoff bracket team.
The Knicks went into the offseason believing they were going to get Kevin Durant as a free agent. That didn't they signed a bunch of power forwards instead. Julius Randle is the only one signed for more than just the coming season, so who knows how that will play out. They have a good coach in David Fizdale, but the players may not gell all that well together...especially because most of the ones they added all play power forward. I fear it's going to be another trip to the lottery for the Knicks. Even so, they did get better.
Nobody had a worse off-season than the Thunder. They have been a playoff, even championship contender since they moved to Oklahoma, but that era is over now...they will be in the lottery, Possibly the leading contender for it. Russell Westbrook, the heart and soul of the team, was traded to Houston. Paul George, who was actually third in the MVP balloting last season, is now in Los Angeles. In return, they got Chris Paul, who's old, battling injuries constantly, and has never been as good as he thinks he is. (They are already trying to find a team to trade him to, with no success so far) They got pretty much every Clippers draft pick they could possibly get and most importantly, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who won the starting point guard role on the Clippers last year, and was considered the PG of the future in LA, until he was traded for George. Steven Adams returns but is not a high scorer, Andre Roberson is finally healthy after missing almost 2 years to injury.

The Magic actually had a really good year last year, and only got better as the year went on. They got better this offseason as well, not losing any of their key players, and adding Al-Farouq Aminu in the offseason. They got Markelle Fultz at the trade deadline but he didn't play for them due to injury. He's cleared to play now, so that is who will likely make the team better than it was last year. He's a former #1 pick who's been battling injury since before he was drafted, afterall.

Better, I think, although a tough call. They lost Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade, and JJ Redick as a free agent. But they added Al Horford and Josh Richardson to replace them, both excellent players, so they should be just fine. Actually, if Joel Embiid stays healthy, they are a title contender in the East. That's a fairly big if...he's never played more than 64 games in a season, although he has vowed to change that this year.
Phoenix has been one of the worst-run teams over the past few it would have been pretty hard to get worse. They brought in Ricky Rubio as a free agent, Dario Saric via trade, and hired Monty Williams as a coach, so they should be better...but that's relative. They will be better but still terrible.
Portland got all the way to the Western Conference Finals last year thanks to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum...they had some roster turnover but the biggest move was getting Hassan Whiteside in trade from the Heat. He's a good center and will be the starter, at least until Jusuf Nurkic can return from the broken leg he suffered late last year. Portland has the makings to be a title contender. They should be better than last year.

The Kings barely missed the playoffs last year, and should be better this year. De'Aaron Fox has become one of the point guards of the future...and one of the biggest improvements I've ever seen from a player year to year. If he can continue that trajectory, he will be an all-star someday, and the Kings may play in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 because of him and his teammates' continued growth.
Lateral or a little worse. The Spurs didn't do much in the off-season. They traded Davis Bertans to the Wizards to open up cap space for a free agent who reneged on his deal and went to the Knicks, and that's about all they did. They still have DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, and should still be a playoff team, but they didn't get better and they didn't really get worse other than the loss of Bertans. That loss should be offset by the fact that a couple of their players missed all of last season to injury, and will return this year.

Toronto won the title last year but got worse this year, as they lost Kawhi in free agency, something that most of us expected. However, I don't think it's going to be a huge dropoff. When Kawhi sat last year due to them being cautious about his health, they still played very well. I don't see them getting back to the finals, but I would not be totally surprised if they end up with home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, either.
The Jazz got better this fact, I would say this coming season will be their best since the Stockton/Malone era. They got Mike Conley in trade with the Grizzlies, which is a huge deal. Conley is probably the most under-rated point guard in the NBA today. The got Bojan Bogdanovic as a free agent. They bring back Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. I would be surprised if they finish lower than 4th in the west. That's a bold prediction because the West has a lot of good teams this year.
The Wizards had the most disappointing season of any team in 2018-19. They weren't the worst team, but they had expectations of contending for a title...and they were not even close to making the playoffs. And now their star point guard is going to miss the entire season due to injury, in John Wall. Bradley Beal is showing he's capable of carrying the team by himself, but it's more than one man can do; I expect the Wizards to be in the lottery again next year.

The champion...well that's tough to predict. The Warriors have been the odds-on pick to win for the past several years, and would have won last year if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson didn't get injured. I don't think the Warriors will win it all this year, although Klay is expected back before the end of the season. I think it will be Rockets over Bucks.


  1. I still say that Giannis is overrated, he just looks good because today's defenses are so poor, just look at this past FIBA tournament, teams were allowed to play physical defense against him, and he withered! Good thing for him though is that you can't play that kind of defense in the NBA, so barring any injuries, he'll continue to look like something special.

  2. Looking forward to watching the NETS again.. finally! I'm glad Vince Carter will set that record.

  3. Don't follow basketball, but I read your GS review. Seems to go hand and hand with what Bay Area sports radio is saying about them.