Better late than never, we take a look at all 30 NBA teams and give you the real-talk on what to expect this year.
The Celtics are still in the process of redefining themselves, after shifting from an all-star packed team of old-timers to a young team ready to put their emerging talents together and make some noise. One person to watch is David Lee, an athlete seen with a wealth of potential if utilized in the right way, but who has yet to fully deliver. The young guard Marcus Smart is an aggressive and scrappy defender, and will become an even more dynamic player if he can raise his ppg a few. However, with Avery Bradley leading the offensive charge at 14 ppg, though commendable, they have a few voids to fill. This will likely be a development year for the Celtics, but an important one at that.
Noticeably absent from the Nets roster this year will be Deron Williams, who, much to many people’s surprise, was bought out on the two years left of his contract. Center Brook Lopez is a high scorer, and could be a potential threat. If he improves his defensive game, he could be a strong asset to the Nets. Jarret Jack will be taking over the starting point guard position. He hasn’t been the lead point guard for a few years now, and it will be interesting to see how he handles the new pressure and team dynamics. Joe Johnson will be back in the last year of his contract and people will be curious to see if takes a more central offensive role. Even if things pan out for the best the Nets have a long way to go in terms of structure, stability, and growth.
With names like Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher on the management side, and Carmelo Anthony leading an offense, one would think there is a great deal of potential for success. However, the Knicks have a track record of not finding the right recipe to mix these ingredients for success. But following up on a 17-65 record, and with Anthony recovered from his knee injury, the Knicks have nowhere else to go but up. Fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft, Latvian Rookie Kristaps Porzingis, will be an interesting player to watch. The 7’1” 20 year old is expected to play a big role down low. The rest of the players have decent ppg averages, but will each need to contribute a bit more if they want to make some real noise this season.
On paper, Philadelphia is not a team to be afraid of. The coach, Brett Brown, has a mere combined 37 wins in his first two seasons, but with most of their players getting healthy, and with Jahil Okafor joining the roster, they may finally start seeing some growth. The 19-year-old Okafor was one of the most talked about draft picks. The Sixers nabbed him as the number 3 and he is expected to lead the offense after winning his national championship with Duke. The Sixer’s previous leading scorer, Tony Wroten, is recovering from a knee injury. If he, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid can all get healthy and begin understanding each other’s game, in a year or two we could see substantial improvement from the Philadelphia team.
Although the Raptors have won the Atlantic Division titles the past two years, in the NBA that doesn’t hold much prestige. In the post season, Toronto has not been able to deliver, failing to get past the first round. Following a very low defensive ranking, the team is bringing on DeMarre Carroll, a notable defensive force. If Carroll can lead the defense, and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan can continue maintaining double-digit ppg averages, Toronto may be able to add another dimension to its game. As the team knows well, winning the Atlantic Division means next to nothing; they have to step it up on the league scale.
The Bulls have one of the most fun-to-watch, innovative, and skilled players in the NBA. Unfortunately, point guard Derrick Rose has had a difficult time staying healthy in the past few years, not even appearing one-third of the team’s total games. If Rose can stay healthy, he’ll have a lot of help down low. Joakim Noah, coming off a knee injury, is a force to be reckoned with defensively. And Pao Gasol, who is coming off an impressive simmer league season, appears to be getting better than ever. If Jimmy Butler and Rose can work together well in the backcourt, as in the past few years, the Bulls have the ability to take on anyone.
There are few players that get as much criticism as Lebron James. And there are few teams that get as much criticism as the team that James is on. Such was the case last year, when they failed to take home the championship, falling short by one spot. However, if this is anything like James’ stint on the Heat, the rest of the NBA teams have much to fear. The Cavs will have a few key players returning from injury – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – plus the newly injured Iman Shumpert, who will take a few months to get back. But a fully healthy Cleveland starting five, with J.R. Smith becoming more comfortable in his supporting role, should definitely be in a position to contend up until the end.
Stan Van Gundy has some good pieces in front of him. If he can make the right moves, and assemble his players effectively, we might see some serious growth from the Pistons this year. Andre Drummond of course is the name to fear. The young 22 year-old big man is a force to be reckoned with on the offensive boards. However, if he hasn’t been working on his detestable free-throw shot, the Pistons may run into trouble late in the game. Reggie Jackson, who is making more money than he probably knows what to do with, has to prove his worth. The point guard will be expected to do a lot – both maintain a high scoring average as well as run a composed Pistons offense. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ersan Ilyasova, and Marcus Morris, will all need to continue putting up double digits to make Detroit a real threat.
Indiana has a strong and solid defensive lineup, however, they’ll have to amp up their offensive game this season to make a substantial improvement. The big name to watch out for is for rookie, Myles Turner. Larry Bird, president of basketball operations, sees a lot of offensive potential in the big man, and is hoping he and Monta Ellis can lead a strong offensive charge. Paul George is an interesting character as well; after a brutal injury last year he’s someone who has lacked a fair evaluation. If he proves to be a serious asset, the Pacers should be able to move up in the rankings.
Whenever a team is given a chance for a fresh start, excitement abounds and good things can happen. Such is the case with Milwaukee, who are under new ownership, a new coach, new players, and a soon-to-be new arena. Michael Carter-Williams may come off stronger than expected after being traded last year. Now that he has adjusted, it will be interesting to see if he can successfully feed the ball to his fellow teammates like Giannis Antetokounmpo. The European has allegedly been developing his outside shot this summer, and time will be the only test if he has truly improved. Of course, down low, Jabari Parker is no one to overlook. Much will depend on his surgery recovery, and if he can mount a strong comeback.
There should be no problems within the leadership of this Atlanta team, as Mike Budenholzer has taken over the role of both head coach and president of basketball operations. And with four All-Stars beside him, the Hawks have a chance to go far. Kyle Korver shot 67.1 percent from the field last season, good for second in the league. If he can come close to repeating that, and if Jeff Teague, Al Horford, and Paul Millsap can put up some good numbers, the Hawks should fare well. With a great transition defense and a strong offensive presence, they have the chance to reassert themselves as a top team this year.
The Hornets will be composed somewhat of a motley cast of characters. And it will be surprising if they come together and immediately mesh well. With a number of roster changes throughout the past few years, the team has not been able to find stability. And there’s nothing to really suggest that this year will be any different. Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lamb and rookie Frank Kaminsky, will join the returning Nicolas Batum. A few of these new guys will need to help Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson out with the scoring if this team wants a chance to be taken seriously.
Although many will doubt the Heat’s ability to rise back to the top with the never-forgotten absence of Lebron James, the team still boasts a highly skilled lineup that could go very far. With Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade healthy, working alongside fellow starters all averaging double digits, they will be an offensive powerhouse. Their bench is strong as well, with Amar’e Stoudamire and rookie Justice Winslow ready to step in and take both offensive and defensive burdens off the backs of the starters.
Suffice it to say that Orlando has had a rough few years. Also, suffice it to say that there’s nothing really indicating that this year will be markedly different. A potential glimmer of hope is the number five draft pick, Mario Hezonja, who looked in good form during Summer League. Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, and Victor Oladipo have all been scoring well into double digits; offensively, the Magic have a lot of potential. However, their defensive presence is notably absent, and it has cost them, and will continue to cost them, potential wins. If they can remedy their defensive weaknesses, Orlando has the potential to improve, but there’s no indication that is about to happen.
The Wizards come into this season with varying views on their expected outcomes. Although they’ve had two trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals, the exit of Paul Pierce is reasonably concerning to Washington fans. Hope will be placed on the young and developing guards, John Wall and Bradley Beal, who will need to start proving themselves to be the potential legends that some believe they will come. The big men – Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, and Nene, will need to step up with Pierce now gone, if the team wants another shot at the Conference final.
Dirk Nowitzki is 37, and it’s beginning to show. This is bad news for the Mavericks, who have centered their team around the all-star big man for many years. With their star slowing down, Monta Ellis leaving, and with DeAndre Jordan not coming, they will need to make strategic adjustments to become a threatening team once again. That said, many of the elements are there. Deron Williams is a three-time All Star and, although that was a while ago, he’s still a player who has the potential to score a lot and make a lot of assists. The rest of the supporting cast will have to up their games – especially Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons. They’re capable of doing so, so only time will tell.
Teams in the west may fear the Rockets this season, and they have good reason to do so. Coming off a season of averaging 27.4 ppg, James Harden will be back, and likely better than ever. Dwight Howard too will be present, and although he’s slow down, will do some serious damage on the boards. The dynamism comes from the depth in the Rockets roster. Ty Lawson is joining the team, and he joins two other bench players who average double digits, along with the entire starting lineup. In short, the Rockets should be in it for the long haul.
With the public unsure of whether Marc Gasol and Mike Conley would return to the Grizzlies, their potential standing was equally as dubious. However, now that the duo are set to stay, Memphis is likely a team that others will be concerned about. Zach Randolph is undeniably consistent and effective, and Courtney Lee is a great outside shooter who has the potential to score much more. Known for their aggressive style of play, if the Memphis squad can add some finesse to their game, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Anthony Davis is the man that comes to mind when the Pelicans are mentioned. At just 22 years old and with only three years of professional experience under his belt, this dynamic young player could become something remarkable. If new coach Alvin Gentry is right, that Davis has much more to improve upon, rival defenders are going to have a tough time shutting down this dynamic player. Whether or not the supporting cast will rise to the challenge is another story. Tyreke Evans is a consistent scorer, but Eric Gordon and Omer Asik need to bring a little more to the table offensively to make the Pelicans a top team.
Few teams or players or players in the sporting world embody consistency to the level that the Spurs do. Of course the old timers – Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker – will be back. Although they score less and are not as quick on their feet, Gregg Popovich’s real strength is he knows how to use them for that they are. Their experience and composure, mixed with the likes of younger up and comers like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and of course, LaMarcus Aldridge, make the Spurs the most dynamic team in the league. If they can maintain a fast enough speed, they should be in it until the end.
Often a rut in basketball can be revitalized with a promising rookie. Emmanuel Mudiay may be that sense of hope for the Nuggets, who have failed to finish the season well the past few years. However, their roster holds some promise. Mudiay will join Wilson Chandler in the backcourt, a reliable and well-rounded player. Danilo Gallinari’s stats don’t make him appear as a threat, however, this is in large part due to a number of injuries. If he can get back to the form he was in a few years ago, when Denver was a team to be taken seriously, he might be able to bring them up a few notches.
After a time of being seen as a lost cause, this may be the Timberwolves’ year to establish a new reputation for themselves. Minnesota has a trio of promising players coming in, who, although might not be able to take their team straight to the top, if they develop slowly and progressively, could be a team in contention in a few years. Dunk champion Zach LaVine, and previous Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, and the overall number 1 draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky, could lay a serious foundation for years to come. If these young players decide to begin laying the foundation in Minnesota, this team could be a real future threat.
Supposedly Kevin Durant is back and fully healthy. If this is true, Oklahoma City will be roaring hard from the beginning to be a championship team. However, Durant’s health seems to be an unpredictable factor, which certainly shifts the Thunder’s post-season prospects. Russell Westbrook, who has certainly stepped up in Durant’s absence, will likely be scoring less with his healthy teammate, but the statistical change should yield more wins. With Serge Ibaka down low, and Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter each putting up respectable numbers, it will be interesting to see if the new coach, Billy Donovan, can take this team to achieve its full potential.
Portland will essentially be a new team this year, with four of their starters having left due to free agency status. Joining the team with a contract for five years at $120 million is Damian Lillard, with whom the new Trail Blazers will be structured around. C.J. McCollum will be leading the offense at point guard. Though his ppg average is not high, he does have a history of putting up some big numbers in important post-season games. With McCollum and Lillard leading the offense, the obvious offensive gap remains with the big men. Mason Plumlee and Al-Farouq Aminu are not bad on the boards, but will need to help out offensively if this Portland team wants to see a substantial amount of wins.
The Jazz sit in the middle of the NBA rankings. They don’t pose a serious post-season threat, but they are certainly not a team to count out, either. Gordon Hayward is a player with strong statistics and a potential for growth. If he and Trey Burke can work the backcourt together, the Jazz should be in pretty decent shape. Derrick Favors will lead the down low charge. He’ll need to increase both his scoring and his rebounding, which he is capable of doing, to make a difference. A past problem for Utah has been staying healthy. However, if they’re able to do so, it could be an important building year for this mid-level western team.
While nothing will be handed to them, the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, are naturally the team to beat coming into this season. That said, their legitimacy is still in question after beating teams that suffered some serious setbacks. They do have Stephen Curry, one of the most respected players in the league right now, fully healthy and ready to lead the charge. Curry didn’t even perform his best in the championship series, which speaks to the Warrior’s depth. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green are all still going to be on the starting lineup, and all have potential for growth. What Golden State has, that so few other teams do, and what they proved last year, is an ensemble cast of characters willing to step up and different times and for different reasons.
Looking at the Clippers starting five for the upcoming season might be scary to the teams in the west. DeAndre Jordan re-signed, and will likely continue to lead the league in rebounds, as well as offering the Clippers some offensive power. Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, and Blake Griffin are all players regularly scoring high into the double digits, and have big game performances at opportune times. Joining the starters will be Paul Pierce, who may be showing his age, but has yet to fail to find a way to contribute in a big way. Bench players Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, and Lance Stephenson, are why this Los Angeles team is capable of taking on anyone for a ride. On paper, the Clippers are as good as anyone.
More than whether or not the Lakers will have a chance at making the playoffs or not, most people will likely be focused on whether or not this will be the last year to watch Kobe Bryant live in action. As we might say goodbye soon to one of the best players of all time, the Lakers will also welcome number two draft pick, D’Angelo Russell, who is a sea of potential. Roy Hibbert will make his way over from Indiana, leading the boards for Los Angeles, and Julius Randle may make for an integral part of the starting five, as someone who is seen to be heading in the right direction. The Lakers will not be a serious threat in the west this year, however, they have the potential to lay the foundation to be in contention for years to come.
Once could definitely say that the Suns 2015-2016 season looks grim. Although they picked up Tyson Chandler, a strong defender, and will have Eric Bledsoe back in action to put up some points, Phoenix simply does not have enough good elements to make a strong team. With a big contract and being the only big name, most eyes will be on Chandler and what he can do with a limited supporting cast. Bledsoe will be accompanied in the starting lineup with a fellow point guard, Brandon Knight, which might make for an interesting dynamic in the backcourt. However, Markieff Morris, who made it clear that he wanted to be traded, is still on the team – a situation that always makes for an uncomfortable dynamic.
Although no one has soaring expectations for the Kings this season, they’re not a lost cause either. Rajon Rondo, who gained a lot of attention a few years back for his quickness and aggressiveness on the Celtics, has yet to establish himself as a consistent high-performing point guard. If he does, and fellow guard Ben McLemore continues improving, then the Kings’ backcourt will be up to par. With number three rebounder DeMarcus Cousins leading the offensive charge and rookie Willie Cauley-Stein ready to be a force on defense, many see promise in this Sacramento team.