BASKETBALL IS BACK BABY. Okay, not really. The regular season is still about a month away but preseason games are starting to happen! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a football fan, but nothing compares to the NBA (for me). I figured I’d be ignorant and make declarations before any team has played a single second this season. Follow me down into the madness.
1. Philly will earn a top 3 seed…and lose in the first round
The 76ers made awesome roster moves this offseason. They got the only center that can truly lock down Embiid in Al Horford. Those two together is probably the best defensive front court in the league. They traded Jimmy Butler for Diet Butler (Josh Richardson) and a pick. Their starting lineup figures to be Ben Simmons, Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Joel Embiid. That is a top 3 defensive unit in the league, easily. They are tall and fast. Their guards can defend big men and their big men can defend guards. They’re going to run that defense to a top 3 seed in a different Eastern Conference. There are massive holes (that people aren’t really talking about) that will be exploited in the playoffs, though.
Who’s creating their own shot? This was last year’s Achilles Heel as well. Ben Simmons has been removed from game plans in the playoffs and he’s really the only passer in the starting lineup. Jimmy was the only player creating his own shots and successfully running the pick and roll in the playoffs. He looked easily like their best player because of it. Embiid is a beast in the post but you can’t chuck it down there for the entire game. Their defense is going to produce limit teams but their offense will limit themselves almost the same in the playoffs. Speaking of that defense, they still don’t have a ball hound who can guard the Kembas and Kyries of the world. This killed them last year and will kill them again. If they meet a team like Brooklyn or Boston in the first round, bet on an upset.
Markelle Fultz will be good…not great
There’s a lot of resurrected hype surrounding Fultz right now after the Magic released a training camp video on him. He’s finally healthy, he’s participating fully in camp, and his shot looks not horrible. He’s still the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple double, we know he has game. He ought to supplant himself as the best point guard on this roster and take over the starting lineup early in the season. He’s going to look like a star in the making, but he won’t take the league by storm.
There are issues with this Magic team considering Fultz. Their lineup has very little shooting and Fultz isn’t going to be a consistent shooter this season, regardless of how his shot looks. This will make life a lot harder on Fultz. Secondly, Evan Fournier showed he was capable of being the lead scorer on a team and a dangerous pick and roll handler in his time with France in the World Cup this summer. It would be irresponsible for the Magic to not try to work that into their game plans. That’s going to take touches away from Fultz. Fultz is going to look like a competent NBA player this season and even have some big games, but don’t expect him to be an All-Star or even in the running for MIP.
2. The Warriors will make the WCF
Here we go baby, let’s get crazy. Clippers, Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets. All teams expected to be better than the Warriors this season. And for good reason. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant and the other teams made extensive improvements to their rosters. Even Klay Thompson is expected to miss at least the first 55 games of the season. However, everyone is way too low on the Warriors. They still have Steph Curry who is still in the late stages of his prime. They’ll have a rejuvenated Draymond Green with a chip on his shoulder. Kevon Looney is back after a mini breakout season. Did I mention D’Angelo Russell? Coming off his first All-Star appearance? If you’re worried about his fit with the Warriors, don’t be. Steve Kerr made Nick Young, Ian Clark, Quinn Cook, and more look like much better NBA players than they were. Kerr’s gonna make Russell explode. D-Lo showed a willingness to be coached in his time with Brooklyn and if he just adopts the Warriors’ mentality, he’s gonna be awesome. Steph running pick and rolls with D-Lo in the corner? The other way around? How are teams going to defend that? Once they get Klay back, they’ll be lock down on defense as well. That continuity and their new All-Star will carry them to the Western Conference Finals (but no further).
3. The Pacers will not make the Playoffs
Or they’ll scrap for the eight season. Basically, I think they’re going to massively under perform. The Pacers were really good last season. A borderline contender even (when Oladipo was healthy). They even replaced Darren Collison (retired) with Malcolm Brogdon. That’s a significant upgrade. However, they didn’t address their other losses. Jeremy Lamb and TJ Warren are expected to replace Bojan Bogdanovic’s production. Barring a massive leap from either player, that’s not going to happen. The biggest issue I have with this roster, is the failure to address the loss of Thaddeus Young. Young was one of those players who was immensely important to his team without it showing up in the box score. He was the linchpin (not Myles Turner) of their strong defense. Can Sabonis work out as the starting power forward next to Turner? Yes, but there hasn’t been much evidence of that yet. And what if it doesn’t work out? They have three power forwards on their bench, only TJ Leaf has seen NBA time before. Neither of their back up centers have played an NBA minute. Their options are very, very limited. That lack of depth will kill them in the regular season. The lack of wing defenders, frontcourt depth, and that the infrastructure that held down the fort when Oladipo went down is now gone, has me convinced they’re going to drop off the map this season. They’re one injury away from the cellar of the NBA.