Let me get one thing out of the way: The Golden State Warriors are going to repeat as NBA Champions. It'll only be a matter of who the Warriors beat in the playoffs. The shocker in this post is who'll they'll face (If it is a shocker at all).
It won't be a rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Warriors, although that could be another ratings boon. After all, who wouldn't want to see LeBron try and take down the mighty Warriors? Instead, it'll be Kyrie Irving who'll be facing the Warriors again. That's right, the Boston Celtics will be returning to the NBA Finals with a retooled lineup.
They've added Gordon Heyward to move the ball better. While the Celtics did lose Isaiah Thomas, Thomas's injury concerns and age seem to be red flags for Boston. They also traded away Avery Bradley, who's a great role player. But the Celtics are adamant about going all in. I also predict Kyrie will break through as the focal point of the Celtics.
But why won't the Cavaliers make it back? There seems to be some major dysfunction within the organization and it's all but certain that LeBron James leaves Cleveland after this season. This time, owner Dan Gilbert is the one to blame for the ongoing fiasco in Cleveland. His stubborn nature led to general manager David Griffin (who was a favorite of LeBron's) being kicked out the door, ensuring an imminent rebuild in store for Cleveland.
As for the rest of the Western Conference, San Antonio is still the biggest adversary to Golden State. They gave the Warriors a bit of a fit in Game One of the Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard was injured. The question is: Do the Spurs have enough scoring to give the Warriors a major problem? Houston added Chris Paul to bolster their offense, but it was to spite the bench depth. The Rockets also don't have enough defense to stop the Warriors at all. Coach Mike D'Antoni is an offensive genius. However, he hasn't built a quality defense during his time as an NBA head coach.
Oklahoma City added Paul George to give MVP Russell Westbrook a complimentary piece. However, there isn't much depth anywhere else. The Clippers look pedestrian, especially after losing Paul. Portland has a nice backcourt and they added a big body in Caleb Swanigan. But can they find scoring in other places? The Timberwolves added Jimmy Butler to build a budding lineup in Minnesota. The only problem is that the team is still young and a couple years away from possibly usurping the Warriors. The Nuggets have a centerpiece in Nikola Jokic, but still need to build. Same thing for the Lakers and Suns. They got their respective pieces in Lonzo Ball and Devin Booker. It'll be a matter of building in the next couple years. Utah looks decimated after seeing Heyward leave. The Pelicans have the towering twins in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins and added Rajon Rondo. But can they crack the playoffs? The Kings don't stand out to me. The Grizzlies are gritty, but their time may be near. The Mavericks are in the infant stages of a full-scale rebuild. Last year was the first step. Now they must forge ahead will the rebuilding process.
As for the rest of the Eastern Conference, this is the year that "The Process" starts to take fruition for Philadelphia. Adding three-ball threat J.J. Redick will help the Sixers immensely. Milwaukee should be a dark horse to be the Eastern Conference champ, as should the Miami Heat. The Wizards have a nice duo in John Wall and Bradley Beal, but need one more guy to put them over the top. The Knicks are still a circus. The Pistons are enigmatic. Toronto is good, but not good enough. Charlotte should be an interesting bunch, especially after adding Dwight Howard. But will Howard be a distraction for the Hornets? The Hawks are taking a step back. Everyone else is mired in the basement of the Eastern Conference.
It seems unorthodox that I'm doing the NBA Preview before my NHL Preview, especially since the NHL regular season is nearby. But it's best to just get this out of the way and get what you're thinking out in the clear. The Warriors are going to win the title again.
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