2018-19 NBA Season Preview

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2018-2019 NBA Season Preview and Projections
By: Tycen Gray
10/16/18
The National Basketball Association has provided their global fanbase with some fireworks just in the offseason and preseason. It is riveting times for the NBA, as they are rapidly becoming the most popular league in the United States. As the 2018-19 campaign approaches and begins on October 16, there are many new faces with new teams. How will these transactions affect playoff and award races? Look at our projections to find out:
EASTERN CONFERENCE
FINAL STANDINGS

  1. Boston Celtics (62-20)
  2. Philadelphia 76ers (58-24)
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (53-29)
  4. Indiana Pacers (50-32)
  5. Washington Wizards (49-33)
  6. Toronto Raptors (45-37)
  7. Miami Heat (42-40)
  8. Cleveland Cavaliers (40-42)
  9. Detroit Pistons (39-43)
  10. Charlotte Hornets (36-46)
  11. Chicago Bulls (35-47)
  12. Brooklyn Nets (32-50)
  13. New York Knicks (28-54)
  14. Atlanta Hawks (25-57)
  15. Orlando Magic (23-59)

 
Conference Champion
The Boston Celtics return both wing Gordon Hayward and point guard Kyrie Irving healthy, which adds a couple of top-20 players in the NBA to a roster that gave LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the conference finals without their two stars. Young wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum can fill the basket in bunches while they play their role in a 4-out concept around veteran forward Al Horford. The C’s also sport the explosive Terry Rozier, defensive-minded Marcus Smart, and the physical front-court duo of Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes off the bench. This squad is long, smooth, versatile, and extremely deep. They may be the only team in the league that contest with the reigning champs out west.
Overrated Team
Simply put, there is an excess of hype around the Toronto Raptors. Kawhi Leonard certainly looks the part to be an upgrade from DeMar DeRozan, but questions still lurk around his health and desire to be in Toronto. Kyle Lowry is a really good point guard, but evidence supports the idea that he shys away from the big spotlight and he is inconsistent in the playoffs. Outside of the new dynamic duo in the Six, the supporting cast has yet to impress late in the season. Even if they exceed the expectations presented in the projections, it’s hard seeing them go anywhere in the playoffs.
Underrated Team
While the Chicago Bulls are widely predicted to miss the playoffs, do not surprised if they pose problems and give themselves a chance to sneak into the bottom of the playoffs. They possess and interesting young core that excels in athleticism, and can truly be a Three-and-D type team with a solid group of scorers. While they are still raw by NBA standards, young legs do go a long way over the course of an exhausting season.
Most Valuable Player Candidate
With Milwaukee projected to take the 3-seed, that means Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to play at an elite level the entire year. The Greek Freak continually becomes more and more comfortable with this role, and while he does have a solid supporting cast, Milwaukee will lean on him to lead them to the promised land. The 6’11” foreigner can play any position on the floor and effectively, especially with his new-found 3-point jumper. Giannis has all the skill sets in the world to make him a true MVP player.
Rookie of the Year Candidate
Wendell Carter Jr. looks like a prime player to end up taking over the starting 5 spot for the Chicago Bulls. If Chi-Town is to sweep the legs from underneath the conference, this will need to happen. Carter is a large presence in the paint at 6’10” and 255 pounds, who specializes in rim protection, but also showcases an efficient jumper from a spot up position. Carter will certainly be instrumental for the Bulls’ success once he finds the groove, and could be the most dominant rookie in the Eastern Conference.
6th Man of the Year Candidate
Building off his postseason performance last season, Terry Rozier will come off the bench this year for the Boston Celtics. He is a hard-nosed point guard that uses his high motor and athleticism to pester opposing guards on both ends of the floor. Rozier also has developed his shot-making abilities, as he consistently sank tough combo-move shots in the Playoffs. Look for the Celtics to not miss a beat when Rozier is subbed in for superstar Kyrie Irving.
Defensive Player of the Year Candidate
If Giannis Antetokounmpo does not win the MVP then he is certainly in play for the DPOY. As stated beforehand. He can efficiently score at and defend all five positions on the basketball floor. His insane wingspan and body length allows him to be the most versatile defender in the NBA, and he is able to generate tons of steals and blocks, while being a major problem for any offensive game plan. No open layup is safe with his long strides being able to catch up, it is easy to see why The Greek Freak could so easily be a dominating menace in the Association.
Most Improved Player Candidate
As the seasons build-up, it seems like the past couple have been make or breaks for the Washington Wizard duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. However, there is third member of the Wizards that continues to be a catalyst in Washington’s success. That man would be 6’8” forward Otto Porter Jr., who is a smooth combo forward who has tremendous ability at both ends of the floor. The only problem for Porter is that he is consistently inconsistent year in and year out. If he could string together a consistently strong year for D.C., he will be vital in Washington’s playoffs hopes and he will be viewed as a higher tier player.
Coach of the Year Candidate
It has to be Brad Stevens. He is yet without a Coach of the Year award, even after his complete 180 degree turnaround with the Celtics. He has improved his win total between seasons every single year he has been at the head of Boston’s squad. A top seed in the Eastern Conference would only solidify another reason as to why Stevens deserves this award, which is long overdue. Just as LeBron finally delivered a ring to Cleveland, and Kevin Durant finally got himself a ring, Brad Stevens will win the Coach of the Year award (not too comparable, but whatever).
 
WESTERN CONFERENCE
FINAL STANDINGS

          1.   Golden State Warriors (63-19)

  1.   Houston Rockets (57-25)
  2.   Los Angeles Lakers (55-27)
  3.   Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32)
  4.   Utah Jazz (49-33)
  5.   Minnesota Timberwolves (45-37)
  6.   San Antonio Spurs (42-40)
  7.   New Orleans Pelicans (41-41)
  8.   Portland Trail Blazers (39-43)
  9.   Dallas Mavericks (38-44)
  10.   Denver Nuggets (36-46)
  11.   Memphis Grizzlies (36-46)
  12.   Phoenix Suns (33-49)
  13.   Sacramento Kings (32-50)
  14.   Los Angeles Clippers (21-61)

 
Conference Champion
C’mon now. In a surprisingly down year in terms of quality of teams for the Western Conference, the surplus of talent on the Golden State Warriors will blow away the rest of the conference. A starting line-up that consists of five 2018 All-Stars: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins. Every other team in the West has a deficiency or two, and it is quite difficult to pick out the Warriors’. They will match up in the finals with the Boston Celtic dynasty.
Overrated Team
The Portland Trailblazers have time and time again squandered their chances in the playoffs. With unrest in both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum (a highly undersized backcourt I may add) and miniscule cap space, the Trail Blazers are kind of stuck. Their style has not changed in a few years, and they continue to only grab a mid to low spot in the playoffs. They are prime to miss the postseason altogether this year, leading the front office to ponder on what to do with their star guards.
Underrated Team
The Dallas Mavericks have assembled quite the intriguing mix of players. The greatest Maverick of all time, Dirk Nowitzki, has slid into a bench role as high flying center DeAndre Jordan comes in to control the paint. A young backcourt in Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic will be matchup problems for years to come, and Harrison Barnes has shown he is a steady scorer in this league. If Dallas can find a long-term wing or stretch 4, they have the ability to become elite quickly. I would not be surprised if they make the playoffs, no matter what seed they would work their way to.
Most Valuable Player Candidate
At 33 years old, LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA today, without questions. He ventures on a new journey with a plethora of young talent and veteran role players on the storied Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron, just like Giannis, is a talent that can thrive at every position on the hardwood, one through five. He is as physically dominant as any player to come through the league at 6’8” and 250 pounds. While the NBA loves variety in the MVP voting and The Greek Freak will make a strong case for the award, LeBron will be in the mix like he has been every year.
Rookie of the Year Candidate
One of the reasons the Dallas Mavericks will be a surprise team this year is because of Luka Doncic. He is a 6’7” 19-year old that can play in any spot on the perimeter. Doncic can do a little bit of everything on the floor, and has already proven that he is elite on the basketball floor, winning the Euroleague MVP at 18 years old in the second-highest level league in the world (behind the NBA). With this experience, the rookie already holds an advantage over other first-year players, and a mixture of athleticism, shooting, and ball skills will carry Doncic a long, long way in this league.
6th Man of the Year Candidate
Andre Iguodala has been booted from the “Hamptons Five” starting lineup since DeMarcus Cousins’ arrival to Oakland. However, still a strong force behind the Warrior’s success, the former Finals MVP will look to come off the bench as he has done in the past and pack a mean punch. Assumably, Iggy will be able to feast on the opposition’s bench and continue to build large runs even when the group of All-Stars are off of the floor.
Defensive Player of the Year Candidate
None other than Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz will look to go back-to-back in the DPOY department as the 7’1” Frenchman continues to terrorize any opponents looking to get an easy bucket. Gobert will again anchor down the backside of the Jazz defense, and he shows no signs of stopping as he has grown in his consistency as a player the past couple of years.
Most Improved Player Candidate
It’s no secret that LeBron James makes players around him better, and the same will be said for this upcoming season. Brandon Ingram has been touted as a breakout player for a year or two now, and now that he has one of the best facilitators in the league with him, he will be able to operate and optimum levels. The lanky 6’9” combo forward is super smooth, as he has consistently been compared to Kevin Durant. With a completely new system and an increased pace, Ingram will receive more opportunities to show off his scoring capabilities and find himself in his first playoff appearance.
Coach of the Year Candidate
To stick with the Lakers team, an increase in winning usually gets the Coach of the Year spotlight, and while LeBron James is viewed as the pseudo head coach, Luke Walton is the appointed leader of this new era Showtime squad. If he is able to bolster the Lakers’ status to a projected 3-seed, then there is no question he will be the Western Conference candidate as Coach of the Year. The NBA also loves variety in this category as well.
THE “BIG” PREDICTION
I claimed that the Celtics are the only team in the entire league that can hang with the Warriors, and essentially I believe they will be able to overcome the Dubs with their systematic ways. Boston matches up the best with Golden State, and a league hungry to knock off the back-to-back champions will back the Celtics the entire way. Celtics bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to TD Garden in a seven game series.