2016–2017 Season Preview (Part 2)

Miami Heat — With the departure of arguably the greatest Heat of all time (only argument I can make is Lebron) in Dwayne Wade, and the health concerns of Chris Bosh, the Heat look to begin their rebuild. With Hassan Whiteside as a cornerstone, they are on the right track. Speculation is you shouldn’t expect to see Goran Dragic in a Heat uniform. Justice Winslow will take over more of a leadership role and Dion Waters and Tyler Johnson will have to step up to carry the load that was once Dwayne Wade’s. Projected W-L -42–40

Milwaukee Bucks — #OwntheFuture is the official hash tag of the Milwaukee Bucks this year. The future they will definitely own if they keep their core intact. However, for me this season it is more about them finding themselves. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a bona fide superstar in the making, along with Jabari Parker and promising rookie Thon Maker. The future for Jason Kidd and the Bucks is very bright. Projected W-L 41–41

Minnesota Timberwolves — THE BEST YOUNG CORE IN THE NBA. These guys are going to a be a force to be reckoned with reigning rookie of the year Karl –Anthony Towns and former rookie of the year Andrew Wiggins, along with 2x Slam Dunk champion Zach Lavine. It is hard to see how you can bet against them, not to mention the other young assets they have. Although I think they are one year removed from the payoffs, Tom Thibodeau will have these guys competing and defending at the highest level this season. Get ready to see Minnesota back on top in the next few seasons. Projected W-L 40–42

New Orleans Pelicans — The Pelicans look to bounce back after an injury stricken year last season. With potential MVP candidate Anthony Davis ready to take the next step, I think it will be interesting to see how they pan out over this season. With sharp-shooting rookie Buddy Hield at the two guard along with Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday (when he returns), you could be looking at a playoff bound team this season. Projected W-L 45–37

New York Knicks — Basketball is exciting again in The Mecca, with off-season additions Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, and Courtney Lee. The Knicks have created a team that can become competitors in the East. It will be interesting to see how new coach Jeff Hornaceck uses these guys and to what extent Phil Jackson is present. With all that taken into account, I expect them to make the playoffs this year at the middle of the pack. Projected W-L 46–36

Oklahoma City Thunder — The post-Kevin-Durant era has begun in OKC and Russell Westbrook is looking to show the league exactly why he is considered a superstar. With new back court mate Victor Oladipo and Head coach Billy Donovan in his second year, I expect for the Thunder to show up and show out all season. Steven Adam and Enes Kanter are also well-respected big men in this league who always show up during playoff time. If they start clicking, this should be truly entertaining basketball. Projected W-L 45–37

Orlando Magic — To me, the Magic are always in the rebuilding stage. With an onslaught of bigs after signing both Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo, along with Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon, it should be interesting to see how they use those bigs (almost similar to the situation in Philly). Laos with Mario Hezonja, Evan Fournier, and Elfrid Payton, they have some promising young talent at the guard. I still don’t think they have what it takes to make the playoffs, although they will give a few teams a run for their money. Projected W-L 39–43

Philadelphia 76ers — “The Process” has begun in Philly. With Joel Embiid finally healthy, Sixers fans can set their eyes to the future and look forward to enjoying this young big man as he helps rebuild the franchise. Although #1 pick Ben Simmons and Nerlens Noel are out for the time being, I think the Sixers have enough figure power with Embiid and Jahlil Okafor to make an improvement on last season’s win total. Projected W-L 26–56

Phoenix Suns — Another team on the rebuild with a lot of promise in the very near future. With Devin Booker, who is a star in the making, and first round picks Dragan Bender and Marquees Chris, it is easy to see why Suns fans are excited about this upcoming season. A few years removed from the playoffs… but their growth as individuals and a team this year will shock a lot of the basketball world. Projected W-L 38–44

Portland Trailblazers — Portland had a fabulous run last season even though most expected them to be done after the departure of Lamarcus Aldridge. Dame Dolla has stepped up and solidified himself as one of the top point guards in our game today. Alongside CJ McCollum, they create one of the best back courts in the NBA. With the off season pick up of Evan Turner and Fetus Ezili, as well the resigning of Allen Crabbe, Terry Stotts and company won’t remain below the radar this season. However, I expect a lot of the same success as last year.- Projected W-L 49–33

Sacramento Kings — Where do I start?? On paper they look as good as any other team with one superstar (i.e. Rockets, Thunder, Pelicans). Demarcus Cousins will remain a dominate force as he has been in the past couple seasons. However, he will need his team to step up in order for them to make a push at the playoffs. Rudy Gay has made it clear that he wants out, so it should be interesting to watch how that saga unfolds during the season. Outside of him, they have Willie Cauley-Stein, Matt Barnes, Ty Lawson, Aaron Afflalo, and Ben McLemore, to name a few. All of these guys are average to above-average NBA players. If they are to have an actual shot at the playoffs, they will have to have a lot of help from the bottom of the pack in the west. Projected W-L 40–42

San Antonio Spurs — The standard of the way basketball should be played is the correct definition of the San Antonio Spurs. In a season where the Warriors’ 72–10 was the best record in the league, it went slightly unnoticed that the Spurs went an amazing 67–15, which is the best record in Spurs franchise history. Although I don’t see it happening again with the departure of Tim Duncan, the Spurs can definitely win 55+ games this season. I expect Kawhi Leonard to be the league top defender, as well as a serious contender in the race for MVP; a race in which he finished 2nd last year. Lamarcus Aldrigde will now be more comfortable in the offense and take on a bigger role while his starting front court mate, huge off-season pick up Pau Gasol, will add to their championship contender status. Projected W-L 62–20

Toronto Raptors — Building on last year’s franchise record in wins, All-Stars Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan look to take that next step in the East. With the Eastern Conference Finals defeat by the Cavs still fresh on their minds, expect the Raptors to be in attack mode from the gate, especially considering newly-drafted rookie Jakob Poetl and the signing of Jarred Sullinger. The Raptors look to add some size to their front line. Corey Joseph Norman Powell and Demarre Carroll are at the guard/wing position, so the Raptors have a very good line-up top to bottom. Dwayne Casey will definitely have these boys ballin this year. Projected W-L 52–30

Utah Jazz — Basketball is exciting once again in Utah. Rudy Gobert, A.K.A. the Stiffel Tower, has become one of the league’s premier rim defenders and the anchor of Utah’s stellar defense. With Dante Exum coming off of injury alongside Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, and George Hill, Utah looks to end its long playoff drought. Quinn Snyder will have them ready to do just that and it should be interesting to see if they end up playing for their playoff lives in the last week of the season, as they did last year. Projected W-L 44–38

Washington Wizards — John Wall and company look to bounce back after a disappointing season last year. With new head coach Scot Brooks and some new faces like Trey Burke and Ian Mahimi, I think we will see an improvement from last season. The biggest question for this team to me is … Will Bradley Beal stay healthy and plays at an All-Star caliber level? If this is the case then I think they will be in the running. If not, they can start getting ready for the lottery. Projected W-L 43–39

Stay Tuned for Season Award winners coming up later this week