I assume they will be better now that some shooting has been added, but unfortunately having no star player who can handle the ball and shoot makes it tough to trust this team when in close situations in the playoffs. If everything works well I assume this team will be a good regular season team, much better than last year. However, when it comes to close games, I cannot see this team competing with top teams who have ball-handlers who can shoot like the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Nets, Warriors, Celtics and many more.
Golden State Warriors
While Steph is amazing, it is hard to see this team making it very far. With sub-par shooting at every other position, it’s going to be a different warriors team than we have seen in the last 5 years or so. Even if Steph returns to MVP form, I still would not consider this team to be a true contender.
So far in Brad Stevens tenure with the Celtics there is a common result during the playoffs. They can never get out of the East. While other teams in the conference also cannot get out of it, the Celtics seem to be repeatedly in the conference finals or a game or 2 shy from it every season. This team has some good players, but at least right now, Tatum cannot be the superstar-top-4 talent that is needed in this league to win a championship (Steph, KD, Lebron, Kawhi).
The Milwaukee Bucks have the reigning 2x NBA MVP, and have put a solid supporting cast around him. While this should all signify the gap between the Lakers and Bucks should be minuscule, it does not. This is because while Giannis has 2 MVPs, he has 0 finals births and only 2 conference championship games won. The Bucks, while they can contend to be the second-best team in the league, no one is taking them seriously until they show us they can make some noise in the postseason. Jrue may be an upgrade over Bledsoe, but lets be honest, a PG upgrade that is not huge will not turn a team that lost in the second round last year into a champion
The Brooklyn Nets are clearly the biggest question mark on this list. KD is coming off one of the worst possible injuries a basketball player can have, and Kyrie has not played a full season in years (along with having had a knee surgery). This means we really do not know what the Brooklyn Nets are going to look like this year. If KD returns to top 5 player form, sure they can be the second best team in the league, but it would take almost all of the chemistry, and surrounding players to fit perfectly. If I had to guess, this team will not be as good as expected, because either KD or Kyrie will either not be able to properly come back from their injuries, or not be able to stay healthy.
The eastern conference champions, Miami is looking like a solid team this season. While they lost Crowder they did pick up Bradley. The Heat were somewhat of a shock last season, meaning that this year, they won’t be able to surprise anyone. While I do expect to see some improvement in some of their young players, it is tough to see Miami even making it out of the east this year. Therefore, they cannot be the second-best team in the league.
The Denver Nuggets got worse this offseason. I understand their moves, by getting rid of Craig it opens playing time for MPJ, however, the team did overall get weaker. Losing Jerami Grant is a big deal, as he provided some floor spacing as well as defence to a team now lacking in perimeter defenders. I think in a few years last year’s Nuggets team could get looked at as a “what if” when they had Grant, Beasley, Porter, Jokic, and Murray. Now if those 5 were together, the offense would be amazing. While this team did beat the Clippers in the playoffs last season, it is tough to see them even putting up a fight without Grant and Craig to defend Kawhi and PG.
The Dallas Mavericks were better than their record last season. Looking purely at the games where both Luka and Porzingis played, Dallas had a record close to the third seed in the western conference. The one big problem is that Porzingis is injured again. He really seems to be struggling to stay on the court, as would be expected for a 7 foot and 3 inches power forward who is extremely skinny. Luka is ascending, with some reoccurring ankle issues albeit, and Porzingis is a great complementary piece. The main problem I see is that Porzingis will be out to start the year, and Doncic is constantly injured. While they have tons of potential, I need to see this team stay healthy before I can make them the second-best team in the league.
Ah. The 3-1 has been blown, and Doc is now gone. With Montrezl’s surprise exit, this team was about to be completely blown up, but Ibaka saved the day. While Montrezl is a big loss, Ibaka is a gain. Putting a big man who can shoot 3’s on the court is huge for this team. While the Clippers choked last season, they surprisingly became better than the pack this season, WITHOUT actually improving themselves. Funny how almost every other good team in the west got worse. I would say these Clippers have a slight decrease in talent compared to last season, however with a decrease in competition talent, they have actually emerged as the frontrunner in my opinion to be the second-best team in the league. This is with me expecting chemistry to improve.