Smell that? It’s a cake straight out the oven celebrating a fresh new NBA season. I love food, but when it comes to desert lets bake a cake. Carrot Cake is my favorite but it is not a consensus favorite. The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals fair and square in six facing the Cleveland Cavaliers (WWW predicted correctly). There were echoes of them winning it all because they did not face the Clippers, other teams were not healthy in the west and a Finals opponent who lacked their big three with LeBron James almost winning MVP in a losing effort while, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were injured. Carrot Cake is not the out right favorite for desert cakes but it is a winner in my eyes. The Warriors are defending champions and their name is on the cake. Let me serve you some slices in my playoff preview top eight teams gets a slice of their our choice to celebrate the playoffs.
LeBron James is now 30. Nothing an anti-inflammatory shot in his back cant fix, he is still the best player in the NBA today with no true sign yet of him slowing down. In the Finals individually he averaged 35.8 points and 13.3 rebounds a game. I question is he the General Manager, Head Coach and player I argue yes. James gets credit for everything Cavs. Kyrie Irving projected to return in January
from his left knee injury. Free agent Mo Williams will fill the void in the meantime. Kevin Love needs the ball in his hand, the Cavs wish he was even on the court during the finals. This season should be easier for the Cavs than last.
The Raptors are very entertaining to watch. I don’t mean Vince Carter wearing a Raptors Jersey on classic NBA television. The Raptors team is true contender in the east. Offensively they get the job done. Defensively their passports were missing especially in the playoffs causing an early first round exit. Their key off-season acquisition DeMarre Carroll will help. Point Guard Kyle Lowry will add the thrills but they need to keep on in the post season.
3. Atlanta Hawks
It may have taken a 60-win season but the Hawks finally have my attention. Four all-stars and a reliable bench will have them in talks to give the Cavs a run for their money. And they can’t have an encore of last season of getting swept by Cleveland. Tiago Splitter to the rescue. Rebounding was an issue and he will be a catalyst in the rotation and allowing the Hawks to play big. They Hawks are the best at spacing the floor and Mike Budenholzer will have the challenge of improving on a 60 win season.
4. Chicago Bulls
Bulls fans are tired of the word injury and name Derrick Rose in the same sentence. Chicago finished with 50 wins last season under Tom Thibodeau who was given a pink slip. Enter rookie coach Fred Hoiberg. Steve Kerr won a title his rookie season, pressure will be high on Fred. He will be bringing faster pace approach to offense. However it is a failure if he does not take this team to greatness. Hoiberg needs time, which Chicago does not have especially with an aged roster. Jimmy Butler needs Derrick Rose and vice versa to make this work and take down the Cavs.
5. Miami Heat
If I read the Heat’s roster out loud at my local barbershop no argument of it being amongst the most
entertaining. Lack of chemistry is the issue at hand during the preseason. Coincidently Dwayne Wade
and Chris Bosh missed a combined 58 games in 2015. Call this team the Miami Health for them to have any shot at the Cavs. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic make the line up strong. Luol Deng at age 30, Wade 33 and Bosh 31 make it fragile. The second unit is amazing on paper it will be interesting to see what coach Erik Spoelstra has under his coaching hat.
6. Washington Wizards
John Wall in the open court is very good. Wall has come a long way especially accepting the leadership role on the court. Can Wall lead one of the most talented backcourts along side Bradley Beal? Only if they make shots. Randy Whitman introduced a faster system with greater emphasis on spacing with emphasis of higher use of Otto Porter. Wizards need to make every possession count especially with Wall quarterbacking on court.
7. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks finished at .500 last season minus Jabari Parker. I have them at a number seven seed however they can upset and get past the first round of the playoffs. Jason Kidd coaching, a young and talented roster and a fun culture to be around. The young roster needs to grow quick with Michael Carter-Williams raising his game to an elite level. Defense is fun to watch this team play improving the offense will be the where Buck stops if it is subpar.
8. Boston Celtics
The Celtics are a true blue collar team in the eastern conference. The backcourt will be fun to watch however they lack a star. David Lee and Amir Johnson are new additions. The Celtics presence inside will not get the job done against a Cavs team. Celtics are rebuilding but progress is evident. Marcus Smart is the starting point guard behind him off the bench is star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is a legit sixth man of the year. Coach Brad Stevens is the right man to bring the Celtics back to prominence with future picks in his back pocket.
9. Indiana Pacers
This offense was ranked 24th last season. Paul George out for the entire season was definitely a reason why. Roy Hibbert and David West key parts of the Pacers identity in seasons past are gone. Offense is the new name of the game for the Pacers along with speed. Jordan Hill, Chase Budinger and Monta Ellis were new acquisitions. Frank Vogel will work this roster he has demonstrated a strong coaching acumen. This is definitely a roster that can attack the basket at will moreover show defensive potential.
10. New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets are that team that is on the outside looking in. Their roster has a PG and inside presence. Al Jefferson is a legit player who is always haunted by injury. Kemba Walker is their leader but he is no Magic Johnson to carry a team from the point guard position. Steve Clifford’s experiment with Lance Stephenson in the Hornets rotation last year did not work but he is gone the addition of Frank Kaminsky’s shooting is what they need to build this back up to a playoff team.
11. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets cleaned up the confetti and pulled back on the spending they were use to in the past. The Nets ended their relationship with all-star point guard Deron Williams buying the remaining two years of his contract. They quietly added 7 foot Andrea Bargnani. The road ahead is a long one for the Nets. Joe Johnson gets the ball however everyone around him is stagnant. Lionel Hollins best coaching move will be to start from his centerpiece and leading scorer Brook Lopez. Until then Brooklyn don’t stand up.
12. Detroit Pistons
True story, I saw ex Detroit Piston Rasheed Wallace walking in the popular urban neighborhood Brickell located in Miami, FL. Stan Van Gundy sure could use his him back in Detroit. Gundy’s offensive scheme is coming together but the defense will be the telling of which direction the team is going. Andre Drummond is the bright side for the Pistons. The Pistons have not made the playoffs since 2009 they will remain below average.
13. Orlando Magic
The magic have NBA talent that is not much of a threat. Bringing in Scott Skiles this summer was the best thing to not just coach but mentor the talent who underachieved. Defense will be an area to start improving. Tobia Harris was resigned for four years, $64 million; he will need to prove he deserved every penny. Discipline is where they need to prove the pundits wrong. Offensively get to the basket.
14. New York Knicks
I am trying not to write a joke regarding the Knicks. But they have become a running joke of a franchise. Phil Jackson with the number four pick in the draft picked Kristaps Porzingis who showed potential in the preseason with Dirk Nowitzk like skills. Carmelo Anthony does not have the supporting cast. There was no sizzle by the Knicks in free agency. Anthony’s defense is not a threat. Dropping the triangle offense is not a bad idea.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
Jahlil Okafor welcome to the NBA. This is not Duke but you have a paycheck with your name on it. 76er fans have a potential rookie of the year on their roster. Center Joel Embid is out with a foot injury. The roster is so unattractive. Nerlens Noel is at the power forward position but a true center. Okafor is who you build the team around at center. It will be another year where a top draft pick piles on.
Cavaliers over Heat
1. Golden State Warriors
Last season the warriors led the league with 45 double-digit victories last season. They proved many wrong winning with an explosive offense. Alvin Gentry is gone however Steve Kerr will not change much from the beautiful basketball the Warriors played last season on offensive end. They are undersized defensively but scrappy. Teams around the NBA are using them as a template on how to run an offense and succeed. The chemistry is unselfish. Stephen Curry’s defense is weak but the system helps him not get exposed with a helpful front line.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two true MVP candidates on a roster. Thunder and lightning if they both are healthy. They need each other. The team has debth on the bench. Billy Donovan is an upgrade from Scott Brooks. Donovan will have to connect with Westbrook. Kevin Durant, like LeBron, can’t be shut down.
3. San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker’s elite days are winding down. I see this team a throwback to the David Robinson and Tim Duncan days. LaMarcus Aldridge is a shooter anywhere inside the arc. Aldridge can play the roll of young Duncan, Duncan can play the older Robinson role. They will not need three point shooting however it is a strong option. Kawhi Leonard will give you want you need on the defensive end. Greg Popovich will surprise you with a lineup nightly, no surprise if they make it out the west.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are Hollywood. Pick and chose a dunker assisted by Chris Paul. Lance Stephenson, Josh Smith or the fan favorite Blake Griffin. The roster is exciting but the pure shooter is J.J. Redick. Doc Rivers will coach and keep the personalities of Smith and Stephenson in check. Chris Paul does no enjoy sitting out during games however he needs to save gas for the playoffs. Griffin is improving as a player but DeAndre wants the touches he was promised
5. Houston Rockets
Kevin McHale acquired point guard Ty Lawson for peanuts in the off-season. Lawson is a floor general and plays defense. He will help James Harden away from the ball and add more fuel to Dwight Howard. Lawson is the answer to pundits stating Harden and Howard don’t play well. Time is now especially since it is running out for Howard moreover he has hit his plateau.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
Alvin Gentry is in the building. Gentry brings his quick paced offense that will only improve the Pelicans. They will be contenders in the west because they have the future MVP in Anthony Davis. At age 22 what cant Davis do and he is only getting better. Pelicans can improve by seven games this is huge in the west.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
Grizzlies have a veteran core who are fun to watch. They know how to play defense against any team. When the playoffs come around the engine light comes on. They get exposed with their shooting struggles. The inside game with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol can only carry them so far. Matt Barnes is not the answer for shooting woes.
8. Dallas Mavericks
Things were looking so good in free agency with the addition of DeAndre Jordan from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers took a flight for the most expensive hug it out session. Dirk Nowitzki at 37 years of age has a player option for 2016-17, this may be the last German shuffle. He was left with parts that you just can’t see how they will actually work together. The Mavs won 50 last year and I see 50 again even with players who are injury prone.
9. Phoenix Suns
The front office delivered a strong message unloading talent. Drama with players and the front office is a constant. Markieff Morris demanding to be traded after twin Marcus was sent packing makes behind the scenes a reality show. This team will struggle. Eric Bledsoe is worth the ticket price. Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight is a trio who needs chemistry. Jeff Hornacek will put his team on the floor what you see is what you will get.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have an identity and that is defense. The frontcourt with Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are not flashy but they can play with the best of them. I wonder would they be noticed if this roster was in New York? This team can fight for a playoff spot only if they are up to the task in the west. Head Coach Quin Snyder made a huge leap last year with 38 wins, 12 more wins is a possibility.
11. Los Angeles Lakers
The roster says Kobe Bryant but the age next to the name says 37. Last year Kobe averaged 34.5 minutes before a torn rotator cuff ended his season after 35 games. Byron Scott has to cut back on his minutes. The loyalty is evident from the Lakers franchise however they are a bad team. What is the identity of the team? Are they a young or a veteran squad. I only see this season a success if Kobe actually takes a back seat to the young core of Juluis Randle and rookie D’Angelo Russell. Breaking news: Metta World Peace made the Lakers roster.
12. Sacramento Kings
The Kings are better than last season. I don’t picture them making the playoffs. DeMarcus Cousins is worth the price of admission along with the personality. They used a lottery pick on Willie Cauley-Stein who may get lost in the shuffle of scorers. Rajon Rondo and George Karl’s offense style can be a challenge. Chemistry can lead to combustion on this team.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves lost their head coach Flip Saunders after losing his battle to cancer days before the start of the season. The team won 16 games last season and will win more than that this season. Coach Saunders is in their hearts for added motivation. Kevin Garnett at age 39 may not have many games this season in his system but the young team will look to him especially for rookie Karl-Anthony Towns who was impressive in preseason. There will be growing pains however this roster will be fun to watch.
14. Denver Nuggets
The hype is real regarding rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay. His shot will improve importantly and he has to work on preventing turnovers something that comes with maturity. The Nuggets do not have an identity around him. New coach Mike Malone will do his best to implement Mudiay in his vision of the offense of up-tempo basketball. Early growing pains for this team.
15. Portland Trailblazers
The good news is Damian Lilliard is still wearing a Trailblazers jersey. Bad news is the off-season consisted of a mass exit of the talent around Lilliard. The pay roll is a league low $50.3 million. The young bigs will be scrappy but in the west someone has to finish last in the talented conference. This is an example of a rebuilding team.
Warriors over Thunder
Warriors over Cavaliers