October 25, 2016

✖︎ NBA Preview 2016

As a Bulls fan I have pretty mixed feelings going into 2016. The moves the team made don’t seem to support the direction they were supposedly going in with the signing of Fred Hoiberg. He was supposed to be a run and gun offensive coach who would maximize the potential behind the three point line. However, the roster changes and additions suggest this will be a team with three players who historically need the ball in their hands at all times to score and have an impact. Not to mention the fact that none of those three players, Butler, Wade, and Rondo, have proven to shoot the three ball with any consistency.

At this point, I believe it is pretty much a consensus that Robin Lopez will be joining the three alphas at the center position. What this starting four does is force you to put Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup to have some sort of deep threat. What it also does is make you weak on defense. If you decide to follow suit with what has happened in the preseason and start Taj Gibson, you end up with no deep threat, which crowds the paint, resulting in a lot of long possessions that go something like this: drive, kick, pump fake, drive, kick, and on and on until someone is forced to take a tough shot at the end of the shot clock.

If Rondo can play to his potential he may be able to open some things up for Gibson trailing behind in the lane for some dump offs but in the end it will be hard for the Bulls to score with their starting five. This, is nothing new though. Last year, this tended to be the case as well where, when healthy, Rose and Butler would essentially trade possessions and the second unit would come in and pick up the slack. Hoiberg’s incessant dribble hand-off could potentially work with Wade and Rondo, being intelligent players who will actually know when to put their heads down and go but they still lack that deep threat to kick it out to.

With all that said, I still think the Bulls can end up around .500 which, in the Eastern Conference, tends to get you a seven or eight seed in the playoffs, which leads us to my preseason NBA rankings by conference.

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
    • It should come as no surprise. The Cavs are the reigning champions and it sounds like Kevin Love will be in better shape to provide some solid paint protection moving forward.
  2. Boston Celtics
    • The addition of Al Horford should help solidify a team that plays fundamental basketball. As long as he fits in chemistry-wise, I see the Celtics moving up the ladder to be a real contender.
  3. Toronto Raptors
    • I don’t know if the Raptors will be able to continue the success that they had last year but in a weak East, they should still be able hover around a top four spot.
  4. Indiana Pacers
    • The Pacers are the last team that I think has any actual talent and contrary to most who follow basketball, I think the trades they made actually made them a worse team. The only benefit they have going is the rest of the East has gotten just as bad.
  5. New York Knicks
    • I have pretty much zero confidence in the remaining four playoff spots in the East. I do think, that even without the moves the Knicks made, they should be a better team as Porzingas heads into his sophomore year. Courtney Lee is a solid addition as someone who tends to fit into any system he enters into and Joakim Noah will be a phenomenal addition. I just hope he can stay healthy.
  6. Detroit Pistons
    • Drummond and Jackson proved to be a potent combination last year in the pick and roll. Tobias Harris, a player I am not very fond of, is a decent addition to the roster and KCP and Stanley Johnson continue to gain experience and will continue to play well off of the Drum/Jack PNR.
  7. Atlanta Hawks
    • Another questionable pick but I think if Dwight Howard has a decent point guard and works hard he may be able to help the Atlanta Hawks stay a playoff team. It’s going not be tough but the running theme tends to be a weak East and I don’t see that changing.
  8. Chicago Bulls
    • Like I said earlier, this is such a weird team but I think they find a way to hit .500 and squeak into the playoffs. It may not even take going .500 to get to this spot.
  9. Milwaukee Bucks
    • In all likely hood, I think Milwaukee will be a better team than Chicago but the lack of experience could harm them enough to fall a little behind in the playoff race.
  10. Charlotte Hornets
    • The Hornets are a team I really want to see do well, especially Kidd-Gilchrest but I don’t know that they will have enough to outpace the teams above them.
  11. Washington Wizards
    • Washington is a complete mess. I don’t think Scott Brooks is going to be able to do anything to help this team turnaround. Wall and Beal are solid guards but they need to stay healthy and find a way to be more consistent.
  12. Orlando Magic
    • Orlando made some moves bringing in Ibaka and Biyombo but losing Oladipo will be a significant loss and I don’t think Vogel is going to be able to bring much more to the table than Skiles.
  13. Miami Heat
    • No Wade, no Bosh. It is going to be hard to build a team around the likes of Whiteside, Winslow, Waiters, and Tyler Johnson. It just doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.
  14. Philadelphia 76ers
    • It’d be nice if this team could finally figure some things out but with so many young big men, and not much else, it is going to be difficult to build any chemistry and pull out close games.
  15. Brooklyn Nets
    • The continued demise of the Nets should be no surprise to anyone. It is a complete mess.

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors
    • I have the Warriors coming back and winning the championship this year. Not that this is a unique pick. Durant is a huge upgrade over Barnes. The bench may be a little weaker, but they won’t fight to win 73 games and will have enough depth to get through the playoffs and the Cavs.
  2. San Antonio Spurs
    • The Spurs are the epitome of what every basketball franchise wants to be. The big three of Leonard, Green, and Aldridge will only get better and as much as I hate to say it, an aging Pau Gasol is probably a slight upgrade over last years Duncan.
  3. Houston Rockets
    • The three and four picks in the West are tough for me because I hate both of these teams but I think they should come back a little better than last year and I don’t think the young teams behind them have quite enough to get themselves into a top four spot. Next year beware.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers
    • See above.
  5. Memphis Grizzlies
    • I’m a big fan of the way the Grizzlies play basketball. I’m just wishing Chandler Parsons is able to mesh well and put together a decent season to keep the Griz chugging along as they tend to do.
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves
    • This is the pick everyone wants to see and I wouldn’t be surprised if they go even higher than this. Thibs is one of, if not the best, coach in the league. Kris Dunn is a fantastic addition, and Wiggins and Townes are another year older and ready to take it to the next level.
  7. Utah Jazz
    • I don’t really know what to think of the Utah Jazz. I’m just hoping they can keep things interesting and battle with Portland and Dallas to make it a little interesting at the end of the year.
  8. Portland Trailblazers
    • Centered around their two guards, I am really interested to see how they fair again this year as I think they exceeded a lot of expectations last year. They added Ezeli and Evan Turner, which should be a slight improvement but I don’t know if they will be able to do much more than squeeze by into the playoffs.
  9. Dallas Mavericks
    • There is something that I can’t quite put my finger on but I love the idea of Bogut playing next to Dirk. I wish I could give Dirk the benefit of the doubt and slot them into the eight spot but I think they end up just missing it.
  10. Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Westbrook can’t carry a team. He, like Carmelo Anthony, will never win a championship as the best player on their team. Playing at full speed at all times may be exciting basketball but it is not winning basketball.
  11. Denver Nuggets
    • The Nuggets are one of those teams that just hover around average all the time. They can’t seem to get out of it since they never get a high enough pick, where they could potentially make the playoffs in the East, but being in the West, they continue to miss out on that opportunity year in and year out.
  12. Los Angeles Lakers
    • This is probably way to high for the Lakers but I’m in on Ingram being a better NBA player than Simmons. Put him next to Randle and Russell, I think they have the makings of something that could be special.1
  13. New Orleans Pelicans
    • Last year was abysmal and I don’t think the Pelicans management has done anything to help surround Davis with decent talent that can get them back into the playoffs, which is really sad because he was a potential MVP candidate not too long ago and now his team has completely fallen off the map.
  14. Phoenix Suns
    • The Suns have some really nice talent at the guard position but I don’t see them putting together a cohesive team that can actually compete every night. They will get some good wins when their guards are having great nights but other than that, they have some work to do.
  15. Sacramento Kings
    • The mess that is the Kings will continue to be that mess. Cousins will be a devastating player on the court to opposing teams but also a devastating player to his own team off the court. Once he matures he could potentially be a top ten player in the league. We are far from that moment though.

  1. In the relatively distant future.

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