By: Cale Michael (@BoosterGreen)
The NBA season is fast upon us and with all of the changes that happened during the draft and the off-season I suspect that many teams will not only look, but also play a lot differently than last season. This article will go over what each team has lost and what they have gained since the end of the season and what I think they will accomplish this year. I will be listing in Alphabetical order so sorry Wizards fans you’ll have to stick around for a while.
Team 1: Atlanta Hawks
Last Year’s Record: (60-22). 1st in the Eastern Conference.
Lost in the Eastern Conference Finals 4-0 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hawks went from the 8th seed to the 1st seed in the east in just one season. Nobody saw this coming and I don’t think it really set in until four out of the five starting members of the team made the Eastern All-Star team. At the end of the regular season, the surprise Hawks had a better record than the powerhouse Cavs and looked ready to take on the whole conference behind newly named Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer. Unfortunately the playoffs did not go as Atlanta planned and they were tested early by the 8th seed Nets and by the Wizards in the second round. All of their struggles came to a peak when they were swept in the conference finals by the 2nd seeded Cavs. The troubles continued when DeMarre Carroll decided to sign with the Toronto Raptors over the summer but I still have two plus points for this team.
- The core roster is still intact. Even if they won’t have their starting SF back they still have a good shot of being a 50+ win team if they can stay healthy.
- Other than Al Horford the team has at least two more seasons with all of the other starters on their squad and plenty of assets to trade to gear up for another deep playoff run.
Prediction for 2015: (50-32) 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
Team 2: Boston Celtics
Last Year’s Record: (40-42). 7th in the Eastern Conference.
Lost in the First Round 4-0 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Okay I am going to try to remain as unbiased as possible for this section. So this was a surprise year for the young boys in green, most of the league expected them to miss the playoffs for the second straight year and continue their rebuilding effort. Those people were wrong, they made it to the playoffs off of a strong second half to the year bolstered by the addition of Isaiah Thomas from the suns. The young team shocked everyone by jumping into the 7th spot and although they were swiftly dealt with by the powerhouse Cavaliers they made a strong showing of their team and energetic play. I have way more positive to say about this team than most others but for the sake of being fair I will limit myself.
- The team has a bit of experience now and swapped the rarely used Gerald Wallace for the starting quality David Lee. A nice swap that brings a much needed veteran to the team. (They also resigned some players and snagged Amir Johnson)
- They still have the struggling Nets first-round picks for the next few years, along with a few other teams. The future looks bright for the Celtics.
Prediction for 2015: (45-37) 6th in the Eastern Conference.
Team 3: Brooklyn Nets
Last Year’s Record: (38-44) 8th in the Eastern Conference.
Lost in the First Round 4-2 to the Atlanta Hawks.
Good news Nets fans! Brook Lopez looks healthy and in top form! Bad new, you gave Thaddeus Young a ludicrous deal and your starting point guard is Jarret Jack. Not the worst news but it doesn’t look good for the near or distant future right now. If I had to guess they will have to bank on free agents over the next few years to rebuild or try and get lucky with a few trades. Other than that all they have is Brook Lopez and a quickly aging Joe Johnson in an Eastern Conference with a healthy PG and a very scary Heat squad. Good luck!
- Brook Lopez resigned and looks like he wants to remain in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future.
- After Joe Johnson’s 20+ million contract expires this off-season, the sky is the limit for FA signings.
Prediction for 2015: (30-52) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 4: Charlotte Hornets
Last Year’s Record: (33-49). Did Not Make Playoffs
Here is a pretty interesting young squad that could go one of two ways. The first possibility is Kemba Walker has a breakout year and stuns the NBA alongside a deeper bench and a health Big Al or the second… they have a repeat of this year and fall apart early on. I really want to see Kemba stay healthy and become a top ten PG but I feel that it will take another year for the Hornets to get over the hump. But man do I want to watch this team play this year!
- They are a very young team that has a lot of potential for the future with many great assets.
- They have one of the top ten centers in the league in Al Jefferson and a great PG in Kemba Walker.
Prediction for 2015: (33-49) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 5: Chicago Bulls
Last Year’s Record: (50-32). 3rd in the Eastern Conference.
Lost in the Second Round 4-2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
One of the top teams in the east last year and still a contender this year, the Bulls are only going to drop off a little bit. With the recent injury to the cursed Rose I had to rethink what the team could bring to the game. Of course I expect Gasol and Butler to be in top form and hopefully Noah will be back and healthy, but that doesn’t sell me on the team as a whole. Their depth at every other position is a concern for me and I honestly don’t think Rose can stay healthy for long periods of time anymore. I hope I am wrong but until I am proven my statements remain unchanged.
- They still have two always healthy All-Star players on their team.
- All the pieces are in place, as long as his team can stay healthy they have a legitimate shot at the title.
Prediction for 2015: (49-33) 4th in the Eastern Conference.
Team 6: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Year’s Record: (53-29) 2nd in the Eastern Conference.
Lost in the Finals 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors
The Cavs by far have the most stacked team in the league. They have the best player in the world, two other all-stars and a whole cast of great other players surrounding them. The depth on the team got even better over the offseason. If Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are both back to form and can avoid any other injuries this team will easily takeout the competition. This super team has everything it takes to win it all.
- Even better overall depth than the previous season.
- Amazing starting 5 that could be the best we see this year.
Prediction for 2015: (61-21) 1st in the Eastern Conference
Team 7: Dallas Mavericks
Last Year’s Record: (50-32) 7th in the Western Conference
Lost in the First Round 4-1 to the Houston Rockets
I really don’t like what the Mavs did this offseason. Sure they signed Wesley Matthews and that is cool but they just let Ellis and Chandler walk away and then failed to get Deandre. They put all of their eggs into one basket and I think it is going to backfire for them. What they should have done was offer DJ that contract but also offer Tyson and Monta a deal too just in case one falls through. Now they have Zaza starting at center while the Suns got Chandler with no resistance. Dumb management.
- They have a good starting lineup.
- Some of their players are young and can still improve.
Prediction for 2015: (39-43) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 8: Denver Nuggets
Last Year’s Record: (30-52). Did Not Make Playoffs
This is another team that could either be really good or really bad. They have a strong young core with enough veteran leadership to make a decent playoff push, but aren’t quite at the level where they could go deep into the post season or contend yet. All of the pieces are there for them to be contending in a few years but right now they should focus on developing their young guys and prepping for the future.
- Young team with a lot of potential.
- Enough talent to make it into the playoffs now.
Prediction for 2015: (32-50) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 9: Detroit Pistons
Last Year’s Record: (32-50). Did Not Make Playoffs
This team has yet to decide which way they are going to start building the franchise. They let their starting PF walk away to the Bucks and then give Reggie Jackson a huge contract that he didn’t deserve. They drafted a player in Stanley Johnson who could pair up with the young Andre Drummond nicely for the next decade or so, if they can keep them both, and if that is the case then playing Jackson and Jennings at the same time could help them in the long run. However, this franchise has no chance of making the playoffs if the roster stays like this.
- Good franchise cornerstones in Drummond and Johnson
- Many assets contending teams would love to have. (Jennings, Ilyasova, etc.)
Prediction for 2015: (30-52) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 10: Golden State Warriors
Last Year’s Record: (67-15)
Won the Finals 4-2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers
The defending champions kept the core of the group who brought home the biggest W intact (Minus David Lee but they parted on good terms so … meh), but they have a much tougher road to the throne this year with the even more loaded teams in the West prepared for round two. They really just need to stay healthy and try to keep home court advantage in the playoffs again. Also if the bracket sets them up against the Spurs or Thunder in the conference finals that would help too. Also not a knock against the Warriors and what they did but I still think that as a whole the team can’t replicate what happened during the regular season.
- Almost the exact same team that won the whole shebang last year.
- A few moves to cover some old weaknesses.
Prediction for 2015: (55-27) 4th in the Western Conference
Team 11: Houston Rockets
Last Year’s Record: (56-26) 2nd in the Western Conference
Lost in the Conference Finals 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors
This team got better by a large margin this offseason. Their only real loss was Josh Smith leaving for LA, but that was overshadowed by the addition Ty Lawson and the combination he could bring with a healthy Dwight Howard. The should have been MVP James Harden looks to be just as deadly as ever and now they have depth at their weakest position, PG, that killed them during the playoffs once Beverly went down. If the starting five can stay healthy and Lawson meshes well with the squad this team could very well be the one to beat in the west.
- Improved the PG position and made it a strength.
- Both Howard and Beverly look healthy and in good condition.
Prediction for 2015: (60-22) 2nd in the Western Conference
Team 12: Indiana Pacers
Last Year’s Record: (38-44). Did Not Make Playoffs
Last year’s season was basically up for grabs since Paul George was out nearly the whole year due to that nasty injury he got over the summer, and it turned out to be a lukewarm season overall. They barely missed the playoffs and over the summer the traded Roy Hibbert away to LA to move in a more small ball style with rookie Myles Turner and the former Laker Jordan Hill. They also bolstered their pretty strong guard squad with the signing of Monta Ellis. With this invigorated roster and the coaching staff trying PG out at the four spot, this year should be very interesting indeed for the Pacers. I do think that it will take a year for them to work things out and they will fall just a tad short of the playoffs once more.
- Paul George is back and they signed Monta Ellis.
- Small ball fits this team and will probably work to their advantage.
Prediction for 2015: (40-42) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 13: Los Angeles Clippers
Last Year’s Record: (56-26). 3rd in the Western Conference
Lost in the Second Round 4-3 to the Houston Rockets.
The west is so full of good teams as usual that some of them just have to fall back a bit. That is not to say that the Clippers got worse, not at all, they actually improved their much needed depth by bringing in Paul Pierce and Wesley Johnson at the three and Josh Smith at the four. The roster itself is much improved but compared to the other teams I think that they will struggle early on and hit their stride after the All-Star break. This team has everything it takes to succeed. They just have to put it all together.
- Added some much needed depth to the bench.
- This team looks ready to contend for a few years to come.
Prediction for 2015: (54-28) 5th in the Western Conference
Team 14: Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year’s Record: (21-61). Did Not Make Playoffs.
Okay Laker fans prepare for the truth, and this coming from a Celtics fan since the early 00’s so please heed my advice. I know that you really want to believe your team will be in contention and I know you have some good players, but your team will not make the playoffs this year. Barring a miracle from Kobe that turns himself and Hibbert back to their primes and can also somehow make the young guys play like they have been in the league for years. This is squad is leaps and bounds better than last season but they do not have any realistic shot of snagging one of the playoff spots in that packed conference. I feel your pain, but just wait a bit longer, good things come to those who wait (and who also don’t brag about how good their team is going to be constantly even when they aren’t. That is obnoxious.)
- A few really talented young players that look like they have a bright future.
- Next season Kobe’s giant contract is off the books.
Prediction for 2015: (30-52) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 15: Memphis Grizzlies
Last Year’s Record: (55-27) 5th in the Western Conference
Lost in the Second Round 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors
This is by far the team that remained the most unchanged during this offseason and also the team that I think has the best underdog opportunity in the league. Memphis has never been that flashy and brilliant team that you love to watch for their skills, they are a team that plays physically and breaks other teams. The starting lineup of this team represents that playstyle. They now have a full year to incorporate Jeff Green into their systems and get back to where they were last year and possibly even further. The only thing this team could really improve on would be depth, and Tony Allen’s shooting, but even that is a mild complaint. This team has what it takes to win the west and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see it happen.
- They are the most imposing team in the league and are nearly unmatched in physical play.
- They are hardly ever injury ridden, so a healthy year should be expected.
Prediction for 2015: (52-30) 6th in the Western Conference
Team 16: Miami Heat
Last Year’s Record: (37-45). Did Not Make Playoffs.
This is the hardest team in the entire league to predict this season. They have an amazing starting lineup and very good depth, but the entire season comes down to one thing, health. The entire outcome of the team rests on if D-Wade and Bosh can remain healthy and play like we all know they can. The roster they have assembled is great from top to bottom and is capable of going toe to toe with any other team and has the best chance of beating the Cavs this year. Like I said earlier, health is key.
- Improved depth for every position.
- Healthy start to the season will prove to be a key factor later on.
Prediction for 2015: (55-27) 2nd in the Eastern Conference
Team 17: Milwaukee Bucks
Last Year’s Record: (41-41) 6th in the Eastern Conference
Lost in the First Round 4-2 to the Chicago Bulls
This is where I do get a little biased on the list. While the Milwaukee youngsters did manage to secure the 6th seed last year and have only improved throughout the offseason, I still think they take a small step back this year due to some growing pains. In the near future this team will move up the ladder of the east but this will not be their year. Dealing with new players and an actually successful season should keep the staff busy and they should focus more on developing the young talent over winning immediately.
- Young core that has not reached full potential yet.
- Healthy Jabari Parker this year.
Prediction for 2015: (41-41) 7th in the Eastern Conference
Team 18: Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Year’s Record: (16-66). Did Not Make Playoffs.
The team that had the worst record in the league last year now has one of the highest upsides for the coming years. With the previous Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and a lineup that looks more complete overall they have a chance to shock some people. Even if they do perform as we expect them to and they still remain on the outside looking in, I still say watch out. With Kevin Garnett leading this young squad and taking Towns under his wing, this team will be one to reckon with for the coming years.
- A nice mix of super talent and veteran leadership.
- Two of the best up and coming young players.
Prediction for 2015: (30-52) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 19: New Orleans Pelicans
Last Year’s Record: (45-37) 8th in the Western Conference
Lost in the First Round 4-0 to the Golden State Warriors
And finally we reach the one man team. This team reminds me so much of the early years of LeBron in Cleveland it is almost uncanny. He has a supporting cast that doesn’t really fit his playstyle, other than Tyreke, but somehow they squeaked by the Thunder thanks to Davis’ buzzer beater. This team has limitless potential but they need to try and fill out the roster with more complimentary players for Davis. If they could get those pieces then this team becomes a legitimate threat to anyone. I recommend an upgrade at the center position and trying to fill out a better backcourt.
- They have the soon to be best player in the entire league in Anthony Davis.
- Plenty of cap space to make some helpful moves.
Prediction for 2015: (48-34) 8th in the Western Conference
Team 20: New York Knicks
Last Year’s Record: (17-65). Did Not Make Playoffs
Truly this team had one of the biggest changes in identity last season. With the trading of Tyson Chandler and the release of Amare Stoudemire the big three of New York was officially in the past. All of the pressure fell upon Carmelo Anthony to carry the team and he failed miserably. With nearly a whole new group coming in for the big apple I expect improvement. However I think that they need to explore trading Anthony to see if they can get some nice young talent and start building for the future.
- Added some nice pieces.
- Very unpredictable playstyle.
Prediction for 2015: (35-47). Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 21: Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Year’s Record: (45-37). Did Not Make Playoffs
With the previous MVP Kevin Durant being out most of the season the depth of the Thunder was really thrown into the open as they were picked apart by the tough competition. With the midseason trade that brought so many players to the team to fill those gaps, I really thought that they would make the playoffs. However, that didn’t end up happening and now they have a seemingly healthy KD back and some much needed depth I think that this might very well be the year my hometown team takes the next and final step.
- Much better depth.
- A new coach that should give the team a boost.
Prediction for 2015: (66-16) 1st in the Western Conference
Team 22: Orlando Magic
Last Year’s Record: (25-57). Did Not Make Playoffs
There isn’t much to say about the Magic. They have a lot of up and coming young talent and one of, in my opinion, the best centers in the league with Nikola Vucevic, and the sky is the limit for this squad. I still feel that they are one piece and a few years too early to compete for anything major. If they can continue to develop the young players then I think they have a good chance to be a good team in the near future.
- Very young and talented team.
- Plenty of cap space and assets to make big moves.
Prediction for 2015: (34-48). Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 23: Philadelphia 76ers
Last Year’s Record: (18-64). Did Not Make Playoffs
With the second worst record in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers continued to be awful with little to no hope for a quick turnaround. The previous year’s 3rd Overall pick Joel Embiid never even touched the court and a mid-season trade sent the 2013 Rookie of the Year to Milwaukee for little to nothing of instant value it seems that the franchise was destined to continue their streak of losing seasons. There was two bright sides to this season for them however.
1) Nerlens Noel finally started putting up starter quality numbers.
2) They drafted possibly the best player in the draft in Okafor so there is a small light at the end of the tunnel for this franchise.
Prediction for 2015: (25-57) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 24: Phoenix Suns
Last Year’s Record: (39-43). Did Not Make Playoffs
This team continues to baffle me each year. I really thought they had something with Goran and Bledsoe and even after they traded for Knight I still thought they were fine, but now I just don’t know. Tyson Chandler is my favorite big man in the league but even I know when they are overpaying him just to get someone for rim protection. This is another team with no clear direction for where they want the team to go, and I am afraid that it will end with yet another mediocre season.
- Better paint protection.
- A few really talented players that could have good seasons.
Prediction for 2015: (38-44) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 25: Portland Trail Blazers
Last Year’s Record: (51-31) 4th in the Western Conference
Lost in the First Round 4-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies
I really like what the Blazers had going with LA and Lillard but all things come to an end eventually. Now it is back to square one and though I do think Lillard will be amazing this year, the team as a whole will not be as successful. I expect this team to be focused on developing the unproven talent they got in the offseason and if they can win while doing it then good on them.
- Great young talent to build around.
- Cap space and good trade pieces.
Prediction for 2015: (25-57) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 26: Sacramento Kings
Last Year’s Record: (29-53). Did Not Make Playoffs
Truly this franchise is a mess. I was watching this team closely over the offseason for many reasons. The main reason was to see if Cousins would be traded, bias here because there were rumors the Celtics were in the sweepstakes, or what other things would implode. I really do not see this team improving even with the addition of Rondo because of all the other questions surrounding the franchise.
- Have arguably the best center in the game.
- Good starting lineup.
Prediction for 2015: (20-62) Will Not Make Playoffs
Team 27: San Antonio Spurs
Last Year’s Record: (55-27) 6th in the Western Conference
Lost in the First Round 4-3 to the Los Angeles Clippers
The end of the 2014 season was a huge let down for the defending champions and this season they are looking to take the west by storm. With the additions of LA and West the depth in the post has improved and while they did lose a few players like Splitter and Joseph to get them it was a wise move to do so. Now they have another superstar that is ready to help the Spurs get their sixth title. With this new lineup I see a bright season ahead for the Spurs.
- They have a strong starting five and a deep bench.
- The team play this season will be even deadlier this year.
Prediction for 2015: (56-26) 3rd in the Western Conference
Team 28: Toronto Raptors
Last Year’s Record: (49-33) 4th in the Eastern Conference
Lost in the First Round 4-0 to the Washington Wizards
Time for another team to take a step back. I know that this team should improve but I just do not believe in this squad. Carroll was a weird addition and I don’t really understand how this lineup is going to work. If they can prove me wrong then I will be happy because I like some of the players, but while my heart says yes my mind is punching it and saying don’t be stupid.
- A few borderline star players.
- Good trade candidate.
Prediction for 2015: (40-42) 8th in the Eastern Conference
Team 29: Utah Jazz
Last Year’s Record: (38-44). Did Not Make Playoffs
If I had to pick a team other than the Celtics to root for it would be the Jazz. Gordon Hayward is probably my favorite player in the league that hasn’t hit his prime yet and his game is just exciting to me. The team plays big and tough defense and don’t want anyone in the league to enjoy playing them, and that is my kind of mindset. With all of their young but effective players and both Favors and Hayward looking to make the jump to all-star caliber, the Jazz will be a team to watch.
- Have young and effective players.
- Could have two all-stars and the Defensive Player of the Year if they play the right way.
Prediction for 2015: (50-32) 7th in the Western Conference
Team 30: Washington Wizards
Last Year’s Record: (46-36) 5th in the Eastern Conference
Lost in the Second Round 4-2 to the Atlanta Hawks
The Wizards were actually my pick to face the Cavs in the conference finals, but due to one really lucky miss courtesy of the great Paul Pierce the Hawks got away and then were swept. If all went right for the Wizards they could have been the best team in the east last year. I don’t think they have that same potential this year, but they will put up one heck of a fight against whoever they play. If Wall, Beal, and Gortat stay healthy and play to there potential, the sky is the limit for this team.
- Great lineup and rotation.
- Healthy team to start the season.
Prediction for 2015: (47-35) 5th in the Eastern Conference
To wrap up my season of predictions here are who I expect the playoff teams in each conference to be and my predicted records and at the end I will give my finals predictions along with my individual awards prediction.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (66-16)
- Houston Rockets (60-22)
- San Antonio Spurs (56-26)
- Golden State Warriors (55-27)
- Los Angeles Clippers (54-28)
- Memphis Grizzlies (52-30)
- Utah Jazz (50-32)
- New Orleans Pelicans (48-34)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21)
- Miami Heat (55-27)
- Atlanta Hawks (50-32)
- Chicago Bulls (49-33)
- Washington Wizards (47-35)
- Boston Celtics (45-37)
- Milwaukee Bucks (41-41)
- Toronto Raptors (40-42)
Most Valuable Player – Anthony Davis (New Orleans)
Rookie of the Year – Karl Anthony-Towns (Minnesota)
Defensive Player of the Year – Rudy Gobert (Utah)
Most Improved Player – Otto Porter (Washington)
Coach of the Year – Bill Donovan (Oklahoma City)
Thunder vs Cavaliers
Cavs in 7
Thank you all for reading my list and I can’t wait to see how it holds up over the course of the season. I am so excited! If you want to tell me your ideas or have some nice NBA talks be sure to follow me on Twitter @BoosterGreen because I talk about sports a lot. Also be looking out for my other posts around the sports media centers.
- Cale S Michael (10-25-2015)