Full 2018-19 NBA Standings Predictions
In wake of the NBA season kicking off today, it's time to break each conference down to the tee and see where each team will rank when the year ends.
Boston leads the way undoubtedly in the Eastern Conference, and with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning to the team, their ceiling is exceptionally high. It'll be interesting to see if this team can be a 60-plus win team, which is likely if they all stay healthy.
Then comes Toronto and Philadelphia, who come in at second and third, respectively. Kawhi Leonard's one-year rental will be fun to watch in year one, and seeing the growth of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will be a treat. Although, the 76ers are the team that's most vulnerable in the East. Simmons might not have his jumper just yet. Embiid played a full healthy season last year, but can that continue?
Victor Oladipo and the Pacers finished last season just one game away from eliminating LeBron's Cavs in the first round. They're hungry for more this season and Myles Turner needs to take a step forward in order for them to do so. A Pacers-Bucks first round playoffs would be really entertaining.
Now that LeBron is out of the East, is it time for Giannis Antetokounmpo to have a breakout season and chase an MVP award? I think it could be. Giannis became one of the league's most elite defenders last season and if he can get consistent wins for the Bucks -- and get them a three-seed -- he'll make a strong case for an MVP top-three finish.
Washington and Miami might be the most bleh teams. While Washington has high hopes after signing the likes of Dwight Howard, a less than fourth-seed finish is another down year for the backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Might be time to blow the team up. Miami's a salary cap nightmare. They didn't bite at looming prices for Jimmy Butler, and rightfully so. It'll take about three years before Miami can make enticing moves, but if they do trade some expensive assets this season, it may speed up the process.
Cleveland is my biggest surprise of the season. The LeBron-less Cavs are coming into this season with a shiny new contract for Kevin Love, which could be tradeable if Cleveland looks like a dumpster fire by December. But I'm optimistic for the Cavs. Rookie Collin Sexton could be the right fit the team needs at the guard position. Without LeBron, guys like Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood can thrive on their own and can spread the floor more.
Detroit and Charlotte are the two teams that just miss the playoffs. Detroit's first year under Dwane Casey will be promising, if Blake Griffin can stay healthy. (How funny would it be if by January everyone in the NBA is talking about Blake Griffin?) Charlotte is hoping for Kemba Walker's biggest year yet, which I think he accomplishes. The question will be, can the Hornets and Michael Jordan sell Kemba on Charlotte to re-sign after the season? Or will players like LeBron and/or Kevin Durant influence him to sign elsewhere to chase titles?
- Golden State
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Oklahoma City
- New Orleans
- San Antonio
Oh the tight West, how exciting you'll be this season.
Golden State and Houston are set to win more than 60 games. Not a surprise, nor stretch there. However, it'll be fascinating to see how well Carmelo Anthony does with James Harden and Chris Paul. And, everyone's sure to watch and see how Boogie Cousins does with the already loaded Warriors.
But we all know the most exciting team to watch will be the Lakers and the countless storylines they have. I'll list five right off the bat:
- How does LeBron do in phase four of his career?
- What jump does Lonzo Ball make in his game for year two?
- Can Brandon Ingram be elite and contend for NBA honors?
- Where does coach Luke Walton stand after this year?
- Can Kyle Kuzma co-exist with LeBron on offense?
Not enough for you? I'll list five more:
- Can this team sneak in the top three of the West? (My preseason rankings say yes)
- How do the recent signings (JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Rondo) fit with this team by the end of the season?
- What does LeBron need to do to earn his fifth MVP?
- Who do the Lakers target in potential trades/free agency?
- Is there a chance that this team can knock off Houston or Golden State?
I've got Utah and OKC at No. 4 and 5, respectively, which could be interchangeable. Donovan Mitchell might decline a little statistically, but the Jazz overall are talented enough to win games. Even without Melo, OKC is better than they were last year. Paul George's extension serves its purpose and maybe Russ and company can win a playoff series this year.
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans will have to do without Rondo this season, and if they get over the hump of not having a true point guard, maybe they can hang with teams. Julius Randle will be a great addition for the team, but he's no Boogie. As Philly is in the East, AD's Pelicans are the most vulnerable team in the West.
With numerous additions and a true basketball culture being set, Denver could have a big season. Giving Nikola Jokic an extension was deserving for a future All-Star. Mixing blue collar players like Will Barton, Gary Harris, Isaiah Thomas and Jamal Murray should be fun to watch. Add Michael Porter Jr. in the pot and we've got maybe a team with the largest upside in the West. Although they missed last season's playoffs by a game, Denver can burst through this season as a strong contender.
San Antonio rounds out my pick as the eighth best team in the West, but should Jimmy Butler remain in Minnesota, the T-Wolves could probably take No. 8. Portland will suffer for not building more assets for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. The Clippers are a season away from making the playoffs, assuming they make some nice signings.
Although Dallas and Phoenix look promising on paper, they're both about two years away from the postseason. It would take monstrous, historic performances from Luka Doncic and Devin Booker to get their teams in the playoffs.