ONE DAY. We’re one day away from the opening night of the 2015-2016 NBA season. It’s that time of the year. Time for Jusuf Nurkic using his ass, time for Spurs ball movement, time for Derrick Rose injuring a part of the body you didn’t even know existed. This is my season preview. Here, I’ll predict the standings in each conference as well as all major awards races. To piece things together, I threw together a few superlative teams. Those are just for fun.
The “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” All-Stars
these guys continue to find a way, against all odds, to collect an NBA paycheck.
- Kobe Bryant: The Black Garter Snake will be the highest paid player in the league this season. That’d be chill if it was 2008.
- Gerald Wallace: The Celtics will pay Crash $10.5 million this season and while he’s always good for a few comments to the press, that’s not worth $10.5 million.
- Richard Jefferson: No, you don’t need to Google Richard Jefferson to verify he’s still in the league. He is. He’s on the Cavs.
- Carlos Boozer: The Lakers were the “winners” of the Boozer waiver wire sweepstakes. Boozer will collect $13 million this year.
- Anderson Varejao: On the last year of his deal, Varejao will squeez $9.7 million out of the Cavs despite being their fourth, maybe fifth, best big guy.
Now onto conference predictions, let’s start in the West. Because it’s better.
- Golden State Warriors: They were one of the very best teams in league history last year by any measure, and the gang is all back. There may be trendier picks to finish first in the West, but for now, logic says go with the Dubs. I expect Harrison Barnes to play more minutes and break out in a contract year.
- Houston Rockets: I’m all-in on Morey’s team, though they’ll be infuriating to watch due to how many free throws they’re going to take. Love what the Ty Lawson acquisition does for this team, and for James Harden. Trevor Ariza will shoot the ball better.
- San Antonio Spurs: I’m not concerned about Aldridge and Duncan perhaps not being perfect fits next to each other. Pop is smarter than me or you and he’ll figure it out. Kawhi Leonard, likely to see his usage jump up a bit, is a dark-horse MVP candidate.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: There are questions, such as whether or not they can stay healthy and who the hell the primary 2-guard will be. But Durant looks great, and having Kanter’s ability to score down low is only going to open things up for KD.
- Los Angeles Clippers: The bench will be better, right? There’s not much to dislike about the Clips, who’ll continue to improve defensively under Doc, I just like four teams in the West more.
- Phoenix Suns: My surprise team. I get that there are chemistry issues. I get that Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe may not be the perfect pairing. I’m aware that Markieff Morris wants a trade. Still, tons of talent and a great coach, so I’ll put my money on them figuring it out.
- Memphis Grizzlies: Play well throughout the season, fight like hell in the playoffs, ultimately lose due to lack of perimeter firepower, rinse, repeat. I don’t expect much else from the Griz, though perhaps contract year Mike Conley will take on a bigger scoring load.
- New Orleans Pelicans: This team just cannot catch a break when it comes to injuries. Anthony Davis will keep them in the hunt, as will Tyreke Evans if he plays like he did last year. But they really can’t afford to get off to a slow start in the brutal West.
- Utah Jazz: I think their 2nd half was a fluke? No, but I think the W/L numbers are a bit unsustainable. They benefited from a six-game winning streak where the only halfway decent team they beat was Houston. They’re very, very good on defense, but they simply need some semblance of playmaking or shooting from their backcourt. Trey Lyles was an interesting pick with both Devin Booker and Cameron Payne on the board.
- Sacramento Kings: They should be fine offensively under coach Karl. Rondo will be motivated, and they’ll get some wing scoring out of Gay, McLemore, and Bellinelli. Then there’s of course DeMarcus Cousins, the best center in the NBA. If this team can somehow sneak into the playoffs, he should probably win MVP.
- Dallas Mavericks: Wesley Matthews will need to pick up most, if not all, the scoring lost by Monta Ellis going to Indiana. They also won’t have Tyson Chandler. I only see them making the playoffs if Deron Williams somehow finds the fountain of youth.
- Denver Nuggets: I like the Nuggets to surprise and be a competitive team all year, assuming Gallo stays healthy. Emmanuel Mudiay was my #2 player in the draft and I genuinely think he’s an elite point guard prospect along the lines of Rose, Irving, Westbrook, etc. He’ll be thrown into the fire right away.
- Los Angeles Lakers: There are plenty of reasons to watch this team, and a few to think they won’t be completely screwed moving forward (Russell, Randle, and Clarkson appear to be really nice pieces). But Byron Scott is still the coach, and Kobe is still around halting the rebuild.
- Minnesotta Timberwolves: Will be regular entertainment for League Pass subscribers everywhere, but let’s tamper expectations for this year. They’re still a ways away from competing for a playoff spot in the West.
- Portland Trail Blazers: They’re going to be really, really bad. But Damian Lillard should have an opportunity to put up some pretty insane numbers, making this is a somewhat interesting team to follow.
The “What do five fingers say to the face?” All-Stars
these guys take not giving a fuck to a whole new level. they get angry, quickly, and are the most likely to smack the shit out of you.
- Marcus Smart: Just ask Matt Bonner or that racist guy who yelled at him in college. It’s a good thing Smart plays in a level-headed city with little racism. OH WAIT.
- Lance Stephenson: I really shouldn’t need to explain this one. Lance is the realest though.
- Matt Barnes: I really shouldn’t need to explain this one either.
- Hassan Whiteside: Dude is a HOT HEAD. There’s a chance he makes an All-Star team, there’s also a chance he assaults Erik Spoelstra and is immediately hauled off to jail.
- DeMarcus Cousins: Boogie doesn’t take shit from anybody. He wilds the fuck out on an almost nightly basis. At the start of last year, it appeared he grew out of it, but, NOPE. Tiger don’t change its stripes.
The “Bill Walton” All-Stars
the opposite of the above team. these guys are so calm, it’s almost like they’d rather burn one and play some Dead b-sides.
- Kawhi Leonard: He doesn’t speak or show emotions. After the Finals, D-Wade literally said, “Kawhi Leonard, I don’t even know how he sounds. But he’s a bad boy.”
- Glen Davis: “Yo, DeAndre…”
- Klay Thompson: Klay is very chill on the court. He also got busted for weed in college to which students responded, he twists the tightest ones on campus.
- Wilson Chandler: I’ve never seen his face change once. He also plays in Denver.
- J.R. Smith: If you think J.R. is a hot head, that’s on you. The dude catches a buzz the night before playoff games.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: What’s the over/under on regular season games played for LeBron? I’m guessing he plays 64.
- Atlanta Hawks: I believe both Miami and Chicago have a better shot at beating Cleveland in a series, but the Hawks should be the 2nd best team in the East night-to-night. I don’t think the loss of Carroll will hurt thatmuch. They have a great coach, a great PG, and probably the best big man duo in the league. The Hawks will be fine.
- Chicago Bulls: We’ll see how Hoidberg handles his frontcourt minutes. It appears as if Mirotic and Gasol will be his starters, with Taj Gibson and the ghost of Joakim Noah spelling them. Regardless, there’s a ton of talent on this team when you factor in Jimmy Butler, whatever Derrick Rose is, and rookie Bobby Portis. If I’m Cleveland, I wouldn’t want to see them in the second round.
- Miami Heat: How this team gels remains a question mark, but Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside should be as good of a starting five as any in the East outside of Cleveland. Justise Winslow figures to play major minutes given the durability issues Wade & Deng present. He’s going to make some highlight reel plays, but can he dribble?
- Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr. stepping into Paul Pierce’s minutes should be a boost. But this team’s playoff chances hinge on how their bench guys play and whether or not Beal is healthy and focused. An improved John Wall will help, but how much better can he really get?
- Indiana Pacers: I really like the way George Hill played last year. Paul George is back. Monta Ellis was added. Hibbert should give them something. I LOVE the selection of Myles Turner at #11. In other words, I like Indy’s chances to snag a playoff spot.
- Boston Celtics: I doubt the Celtics win 55 like their second half pace from a year ago would suggest, but 45 seems to be a safe bet. That’ll surely get them in, given the rest of the conference. Amir Johnson adds some much-needed interior defense and a more aggressive Marcus Smart will make the starting five more potent offensively.
- Toronto Raptors: Their interior defense is going to be a major problem, but hopefully the Lowry-DeRozan-Carroll trio can pick up some slack. The bottom of the East will be a bit better, so I’d expect the Raptors to take a slight step back.
- Milwaukee Bucks: Will Jason Kidd actually give real minutes to John Henson? The Bucks are a team on the rise and they’ll be fun to watch but they’re the odd man out here for me. They can’t shoot. How much better will Greg Monroe really make them?
- New York Knicks: I expect the Knicks to be A LOT better. They have to be, right? Carmelo will be ready, Robin Lopez and Kyle O’Quinn will help. I think Jerian Grant emerges as their best guard sooner rather than later. Porzingis is the wild card. If he has a year one impact, they could sneak in.
- Detroit Pistons: I want to have faith in Van Gundy and Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. I want to think that their awful start to last season that buried them won’t happen again. And I really like the selection of Stanley Johnson. But this is going to be a team that runs through Reggie Jackson.
- Charlotte Hornets: They looked great in the preseason, and should have a decent frontcourt rotation. But the loss of MKG is going to kill their defense and it’s hard to trust an attack led by Kemba Walker with questionable shooting to contribute much.
- Orlando Magic: On the rise. A lot of exciting young talent. I’m not sure how they’re going to defend the post, though. They’re probably just one year and a good draft pick away from contending for the playoffs.
- Brooklyn Nets: Knowing the Nets, they’ll probably find a way to get good seasons out of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and Thaddeus Young…thus sneaking them into the playoffs. Nets fan, that would be bad. I know they don’t have their own pick this year, but this franchise needs to accept the fact that its quick-fix failed and blow everything up (starting with the GM & coach).
- Philadelphia 76ers: Nerlens Noel is that dude. He’s so much fun to watch terrorize the offense at all levels. That’s all I can say about this team.
The “Ricky Davis” All-Stars
a group of guys who are decent players but think they’re waaaaay better than they actually are.
- Shane Larkin: Have you ever seen Larkin dribble or shoot? He thinks he’s Iverson, only, he’s a marginal NBA role player. FOH.
- Dion Waiters: Dion Waiters is the best scorer on the Thunder or at least he is according to Dion Waiters.
- Nick Young: If you thought Swaggy P wasn’t making this team, where the hell have you been?
- Brandon Bass: “No Pass Bass” as they call him. Bass isn’t quite the egomaniac some of these guys are but every single time he touches the ball he either takes a J or drives straight at the hoop for a dunk he’s incapable of finishing.
- Joakim Noah: Yo, Joakim, you just lost your job to NIKOLA MIROTIC. Stop with the screaming. Your All-NBA days are long behind you.
MVP: James Harden
I’m going with Harden because I believe he’s averaging 30+ on ridiculous efficiency numbers. Having Ty Lawson is really going to help him. His defense improves every year. The Rockets have a chance to emerge as the best team in the league and if that happens it feels like this will be a given (a la Steph last year). Obviously, guys like Curry and Davis and Durant should be right in the hunt. I don’t think LeBron is going to play enough games to really be consdiered heavily. DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard are dark horses for me.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
Sorry, Draymond, but Kawhi should’ve won this last year. He’s a savage defensively. Keep an eye on Nerlens Noel though…(but his team sucks)
6th Man of the Year: Isaiah Thomas
Thomas would’ve won this last year had he played with Celtics all season. He’s the best player on a likely playoff team and he comes off the bench every night, only to carry the offense from that point forward.
Most Improved Player: John Henson
It’ll come down to whether or not Kidd gives him the minutes. He’s a stud defensively, hits the glass hard on both ends, and has really developed a few nice post moves. He’s a double-double guy with 2+ blocks per if he gets the chance.
Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns
Boring, but some of us (cough cough) thought he was the surefire #1 pick and a future superstar before last season even started, but then Chad Ford and everyone else at ESPN insisted that Okafor was the clear #1. Towns will get plenty of minutes and get plenty of looks offensively. Though i do think Emmanuel Mudiay and Jahlil Okafor are both going to have similar opportunities.
Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek (Suns)
If the Suns make the playoffs like I think they will, it has to be Hornacek. The usual suspects like Pop and Doc will be in the hunt, and there will be a ton of eyes on Billy Donovan and Fred Hoidberg as well. Also, Brad Stevens is a beautiful man and I’m currently gazing into his eyes thanks to the blow-up doll I made.
The “F*ck Duke” All-Stars
Because we all hate Duke. you should root against these guys. just be nice to Justise Winslow, that guy is awesome.
- Kyrie Irving: Real talk, Kyrie is actually overrated (as I said in my top 100, statistically, he’s Isaiah Thomas).
- Austin Rivers: That time he wore that fresh creamsicle Bucs hat is and will always be the highlight of his career.
- Gerald Henderson: Fuck you, nobody’s forgotten. Also, he’s not very good and can’t shoot.
- Josh McRoberts: The wackest player in the NBA, no debate.
- Jahlil Okafor: Not Jahlil’s fault, but I really hate how you assholes anointed him the best big man prospect of the decade when he wasn’t even the best in his own class.
Good luck to your team this season! Unless you root for the Lakers, Nets, Knicks, or Heat. In that case, I hope all the horrible things in the world happen to you and only you.