NBA Eastern Conference Preview

eastern conferenceAs promised, here is the review of the Eastern Conference for the 2014/15 season.

Atlantic Division

philadephiaPhiladelphia 76ers

Really not much to write here. Sixers tries to lose as much as they could, but still watched Bucks finishing ahead of them… I meant below them and then Cleveland came out of nowhere, with third first pick in 4 years and Sixers really understood that being worst in the league is not enough, so they became even worse, getting rid of anyone who isn’t very young and very cheap and can do anything good with a basketball.

Player to watch: My advice is don’t. Don’t watch Sixers games. This is not NBA, this is a whole other league with their own rules.

But, if you happen to watch, you will see two (or maybe three young talents). Rookie of the year last year, Michael Carter – Williams (picked 11th last year), Nerlens Noel (6th pick last year), who missed the entire last season with injury and maybe, Joel Embiid (3rd pick of this year’s draft) who is injured and probably will miss the entire season (not because he can’t play, but because Sixers don’t want him to). Sixers will have no less than 6 rookies this season on their roster and most of them will get minutes.

If you like to watch bad basketball, but maybe the next hot talent – you are in the right place (but than again – don’t watch Sixers games this season).

X – Factor

League tries to fight tanking and passed (or trying to pass) anti Sixers rule… I’m sorry, anti tanking rule that will mean that no longer the worst record in the league will have the best chances in the draft. “Surprisingly” Sixers are fighting this rule. The outcome can be crucial to Sixers rebuild plan.

Prediction

Things will be really bad, before they will get any good. Will win even less this season than last season.

bostonBoston Celtics

Boston try to go to post Rondo era with Rondo still on the roster and yes, it looks just as weird as it sounds. Smart was picked as 6th pick this draft and he has the same skill set as Rondo (just Rondo obviously does it better at this point in time).

They got rid of all the bad contract, besides Wallace and Bass (and we can add contracts of Green and Rondo – not because they bad, but because they try to get rid of them).

Stevens proved to be a decent coach for a rookie in the league and that was their biggest accomplishment of the season (and Green’s buzzer beating three pointer to win the Heat).

Player to watch

Jeff Green. Not many exciting players on Boston’s roster, so Green is the default option here, but he deserves this spot. He was suppose to be Pippen to Durant’s Jordan in Seattle… I meant Oklahoma…Injuries didn’t help him, but he wasn’t Pippen in any sense even before that. Oklahoma didn’t think twice before trading him for Perkins. Since then, he was the x-factor for Boston. The player that can be the difference between Boston’s decline due to veteran’s age and being still relevant and contenders.

This time, he is the star of the team and becomes a player to watch. He has the right skill set to be a star player or at least number two on a title contender. So why is he in Boston and they try to get rid of him? I honestly don’t know, but clearly he just can’t bring his skill set to work to the fullest in a course of the season. Still, he can do some very nice things and I’m sure he will give us 10 – 15 highlight moments this season.

One interesting fact is that Green was picked by Boston and traded to Seattle as part of Ray Allen trade.

X-Factor

Rondo’s trade. Boston won’t be in the playoff and they don’t want it. Rondo is their best trading chip and next summer he will be a free agent. If Boston want to get some assets for him, it has to be now.

Prediction

Boston are bad, but probably not as bad as last season. 25 wins last year. 27 – 30 this season.

brooklynBrooklyn Nets

Nets gave up their future to get Garnett, Pierce (and Terry) and for now or never season. After the season ended in the second round of the playoffs, what do you do next? (No, selling the team for now is not an option according to Nets owner).

This is the question that Nets try to answer. Last year, with Hollins and George being on the market, Nets decided to trust the team with the highest salary in the hands of a rookie coach, that just finished a season as a player of Dallas Mavericks, Jason Kidd (yes, both teams from New York, decided one after the other, that’s the best idea is to bring an active player, directly from the court to the bench as head coach).

This year, Kidd left to Milwaukee and Nets corrected the wrong they did last year and hired Lionel Hollins.

To add to that, they got rid of both Pierce and Terry, so while they did give their future to Boston, at least they are trying to improve their present.

Player to watch

Brook Lopez is my player to watch on the Nets. I read sometime ago, an article that compared Gasol before and after Hollins coached him and Lopez and Gasol was very similar to Lopez in his strengths and weaknesses, only worse. If Hollins can do the same work with Lopez, that he did with Gasol… Lopez maybe won’t be Defensive Player of the Year, but he can be the face of the Nets in the next decade.

X-Factor

Last year, Livingston’s move to the starting unit, resulted in amazing run by the Nets. Livingston was a free agent this summer and decided to sign with Golden State, that were seeking a replacement for Jack Jarrett that left a season before that. Nets took Jack Jarrett himself.

Jack and Livingston are completely different players, but Jack is the ultimate guard on a bench. A good player, volume shooter (and scorer) that can turn the game around.

Williams won’t play 82 games and even not 75 games. Jack’s ability to fill his shoes when he is out and Livingston’s shows when Deron is healthy, can determine the outcome of the season for the Nets.

Prediction

The team got slightly worse this summer, but will get Lopez again so that evens things out. I think that Hollins is a huge upgrade over Kidd, so I expect a big improvement from the Nets and for them to get some style of play that we can recognize.

45 – 47 wins is my prediction here.

new yorkNew York Knicks

Last season Knicks continued the trend of being inconsistent. You could always bet that a good streak will follow a bad one and the other way around.

Result was a long fight against themselves and in the end, they lost and were left out of the playoffs.

In the summer we saw a revolution. Phil Jackson came as a GM with huge freedom in managing things in MSG and pulled Fisher right of the court (the rumors are that he was approached while still playing in the playoffs woth the Thunder) and made him a head coach, that will try to install a triangle offense – the only one that Phil knows.

Player to watch

Carmelo flirted with many teams, but in the end, signed with the Knicks, saying that Phil sold him his view of the Knicks. I know two things, Carmelo wants a ring (or at least a shot at it) and Phil sure as hell doesn’t want Knicks to play the style of play they played since Carmelo came to the team.

Carmelo is one of the best players in the game, but his weaknesses are almost as big as his strengths and his terrible shot selection and the volume of his shots needs to be turned down.

It’s interesting to see if Carmelo was sold enough on Phil to change his game and Carmelo is a player that always fun watching (even if you a Knicks fan and throw stuff at TV for him jacking another bad shot, after just missing the last three bad shots on last three possessions).

X-Factor

Phil Jackson. Zen Master. If he isn’t GOAT coach, he is sure top three coach of all time. How will he be as a GM? Will his ability to win titles rub on the Knicks? Jackson always took a great team and made it in to champion. He usually didn’t want to have nothing to do with bad projects. What did he see in Knicks?

But the main x-factor is what Jackson going to do? For now, all his changes were small, mostly to get rid of Felton’s terrible contract.

Jackson has no problem to take risks and has few good things to trade (expiring contracts of Amare and Bagniani for example). How will he be as a GM is the x-factor not only for this season, but maybe for Jackson’s era in the Garden (where he won two titles as a player – though didn’t play in the first championship season due to injury).

Prediction

I don’t know why, but everyone is optimistic. I know it sounds dumb, but so am I and I also don’t know why. Phil isn’t going to play. Hell, he isn’t even going to coach. Still, somehow, to see him as the man in charge, brings confidence that things will get better. Is it true? I got no idea, but we will see.

For this season I predict small step forward with 40 – 44 wins.

torontoToronto Raptors

Here we got very similar situation as in the Knicks. Almost no big changes and the big news were the resigning of Lawry. But somehow, my feeling (I know that many will disagree with me) is that Toronto going to fall flat.

Gay’s trade was made to shed some salary, but somehow, pieces connected and made a whole that was much bigger than the parts individually. DeRozan, Lowry, Valanciunas and even Ross, had a career break through season.

I just can’t see them being that healthy again, all the players to take another step forward and in the NBA, if you don’t step forward, you go back.

Player to watch

DeRozan and Lowry. Both had amazing breakthrough season. DeRozan played like an All Star and got his first invite to AllStar game and had his first playoff game, in a series where they almost won the experienced Nets.

Lawry was talented PG for years, but last year, was the first one where he managed to be that good and dominant the whole season.

Both are really fun to watch and during that, to ask yourselves, can they be better than last season? Worse? The same? Toronto has many good players, but without them, Toronto won’t go far.

X-Factor

Jonas Valanciunas. DeRozan and Lowry don’t have much room to progress. But Jonas is young, good and just starting to take over the league. He can make at least two more steps forward and if he will make one of them this year, he can keep Toronto at least in the Top 4 in the East, if not more.

Without him making this step, this team will have problems to stay relevant.

Prediction

As I said, I don’t have a good feeling here. Too many things can go wrong, too little can go right. They won’t be a bad team, but they will be another team in the East, battling for playoff spot.

Last year they won 48 games. This season they won’t reach that.

47 – 43 wins is the most I expect from them.

Central Divison

chicagoChicago Bulls

Chicago had a strange season last year. Rose played 10 games and then had a season ending surgery. As a result, Bulls decided to do a revolution and shed some salary and traded Deng (Thibodeau’s favorite player) for Bynum, who was released from the team (had a non protecte3d contract), but Thibodeau managed to turn things around and not only make it to the playoffs, but also did it with home court advantage.

But, there it stopped, with 1 – 4 loss to the Wizards, with Bulls losing both first games at home.

Now, with Pau Gasol signing with them (giving up money to do so), Rose healthy and bringing two interesting rookies, McDermott and Mirotic, Chicago has amazing shot at the East, if they get past Cleveland.

Player to watch

After not playing (almost) for two seasons, Rose is back and obviously the player to watch. Both basketball wise, since he is the most talented player on the roster and also, to see how good is he off the injury.

Rose of 2011/12 season was amazing to watch with his crossover and he doesn’t have to be the same player as back then. Even 90% of the old Derrick Rose will be enough to put Bulls in a great position to get to the Eastern Conference Finals

X-Factor

While we can’t ignore what we said about Rose, Pau Gasol is the x-factor of the team. Between him and Noah, they create the best passing frontcourt in the league. Two international players, both can play (and prefer to play) in the paint, but have no problem playing pivot as well.

If Gasol plays at the same level as he played in this summer’s World Championship for Spain, he will get the starting gig ahead of Gibson of course and can be the difference between getting to the Eastern Conference Finals (and if they are healthy, they will be there) and winning it.

Prediction

The East is very weak and Bulls are good enough, so that even few injury problems (as long as they aren’t too bad), they will still reach EC Finals. Bulls are deep with the addition of McDermott from the draft – a shooter and a scorer that should even out Butler and Snell who are more defensive experts and Mirotic brings amazing depth to PF position, while also being able to play SF.

Let’s not forget, how long Bulls waited for Mirotic and what amazing two seasons he gave for Real, both in Spain (second best league in the world after the NBA) and in the Euroleague.

Can they win the Finals? If both teams are healthy and in good form, Cleveland will win in 4 out of 5 times at least.

But, as always, there will be health issues, form issues, so it’s going to be interested.

For now, in the weak East, I predict 56 – 62 wins and a loss in the EC Finals.

clevelandCleveland Cavaliers

The most intriguing team in the league this season, without a doubt.

There is really not much to say about last season, besides that Cleveland owner spend a lot of money trying to get Cleveland to the playoffs and failed.

Another thing worth mentioning is the locker room problems, especially around Waiters and Thompson.

But after that, Cleveland hit jackpot after jackpot. First, Cleveland signed David Blatt, the fresh Euroleague champion to a four year contract – hitting first jackpot. Blatt is not only amazing coach, but he is also a coach – teacher kind of coach, great to teach new talent and the type of coach, that LeBron should really love and respect. Then, Cleveland took their 1.7% shot of winning first pick in the draft and hit the second jackpot, sending Detroit (and Sixers, Bucks and Orlando) crying. They selected the most talked about player coming to the draft, since LeBron, Andrew Wiggins.

After that, LeBron announced in the letter to the fans, that he is coming back home. That’s obviously the third jackpot and the biggest one of all, since it was a true game changing move.

No need to elaborate how Bron’s return shifts the balance of power not only in the East, but in the whole league.

Cleveland didn’t stop there, but hit the fourth jackpot (and Minny’s first jackpot) with the trade that brought Kevin Love. We can argue if it was a good trade for Cleveland and I personally believe that Cleveland shouldn’t have made it, because of the salary cap and room to improve and the level of talent in Wiggins.

One thing is 100% certain, for the next two seasons, Bron’s prime years, it’s a huge and major upgrade, since Love is an Allstar already, while Wiggins is possible Superstar in the making.

Player to watch

LeBron James. No need to say anything here. How will he be after coming back home a grown up, being in 4 NBA Finals in a row (and 5 overall) and two times champion? How will he get along with Blatt? With Love? With Irving?

If you don’t know why you should watch Cleveland games this season, you probably not that big of a basketball fan or at least not an NBA fan.

X-Factor

Wow, team that had so many changes and still has that much ambitions (nothing short of Eastern Conference Finals will be huge failure and the goal is the title of course), has so many question marks and x-factors…

I will list all I could thought of (I’m sure there are more) and will focus on one.

How Love will adjust playing second fiddle? He already said that he isn’t happy with his position on court. How Irving will react playing the third fiddle? He is All Star Game 2014 MVP and Mondebasket MVP as well, but he plays much better around other stars (that’s why he won the MVP titles), than a lone star that should carry the team on his back.

How Blatt, best coach in Europe, will adjust to the NBA (I think he will be more than fine).

Boston of the big trio, had Rondo and Perkins coming and delivering (and others). Heat had Huslem (and others). Who will be the fourth in Cleveland? Waiters fits it best, since he is the only player that still got the potential to take a big step forward, but he needs to adjust his attitude and realize that he needs to be more humble.

I’m not sure that he can, but with Blatt wanting to give as much rest as possible to LeBron and given the fact that Kyrie is yet to play a full season since coming to the league, Cavs will need help if they want to finish with the best record in the league and have HCA all through the playoffs and for that, Watiers will need to make the adjustment.

Prediction

Cleveland with this roster, can go down in history as the best offensive team to ever play the game or at least in the last 20 years. They got defensive problems and will need to gel and find their game in the course of the season, but only huge collapse can stop them from getting to the Finals.

I believe they will win the title in one of the next two seasons. If it will be this season? I will go with the answer “Yes”.

60 – 63 wins in the regular season and title celebrations in June is my prediction here (though I’m more sure about getting to the NBA Finals, than winning it).

detroitDetroit Pistons

Last year was the absolutely horrible for Detroit by any standards. The trade of point guards with the Bucks, that sent Knight for Jennings and the signing of Josh Smith failed, as two of them are terrible from three point range, but yet insist to shoot from there, instead of going to their stronger things.

On top of that, they traded their draft pick in 2014 draft to Charlotte, but made it Top 8 protected.

When it was obvious that they won’t get to the playoffs, they focused on losing enough, to finish in the bottom 8, below Cleveland that had 9th worse record in the league.

But, in the end, we all know how it ends. Cleveland won the first pick and Detroit was left without draft pick in one of the best drafts in the last decade.

That was enough for Detroit, as they fired Dumars and hired Bowers and more important, Stan Van Gundy, as their head coach and president of basketball operations.

Player to watch

Andre Drummond is my player to watch this season. Drummond started last season as the fourth best player in Detroit, but finished it as the best. Great defense, effective on offense. What more can you expect from second year player (was selected 9th in 2012 draft) than 13.5 points (62.3% from the field) and 13.2 rebounds and on top of that 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals?

With SVG as head coach, Drummond is compared with Dwight Howard that also had SVG coaching him in the beginning of his career.

SVG already tries to do the same thing that was done with Dwight and that’s surround him with three point shooters.

X- Factor

I wanted to talk about Josh Smith/ Greg Monroe situation, but instead, decided to choose SVG as the x-factor.

In the end, he made the only right decision, to stop playing Smith as SF and decided in the end, to prefer him over Monroe and tried to shop Monroe, but failed.

That resulted in Monroe signing a qualifying offer of 5.5 mill and in the end of the season, he will be a free agent.

Monroe was labeled as franchise player, flirting with double double average for three straight seasons, averaging 9.7, 9.6 and 9.3 rebounds.

I think he is better than Josh Smith and unlike Josh Smith, that had no problem attempting 3.4 three point shots last season, despite hitting them in 26.4% only, Monroe does only what he knows how to do and much more effective than Smith.

Bottom line is simple. SVG came with a game plan, to try to do something similar with what done with Dwight in Orlando. This is also why I guess Smith was chosen over Monroe (hint, Smith isn’t Rashsard Lewis or Ryan Anderson and SVG needs to wake up).

SVG have coached in this league for 8 seasons already and not always had a contender to work with. Still, he has yet to finish the season below 50% success. If he will be able to do it with the Pistons, it will be amazing success.

Anyway, he been given the keys to the team and how he will use them, will determine how Detroit will look.

Prediction

I’m optimistic. We could see how Rivers on Clippers bench, made a difference for them and I expect SVG to have the same effect in Detroit (Hollins to have in Brooklyn and to lesser extent, Jackson’s presence in NY).

I don’t know if it will be the first season that SVG will finish below 50%, but after a season of 29 wins, even 38 – 40 wins will be refreshing for the Pistons and will give them huge hopes for the future.

I will be even more optimistic and predict them a season of 37 – 42 wins.

The talent is there, the potential is really big. Finally it appears they got the right coach as well.

indianaIndiana Pacers

If anyone thinks to look at Pacers last season, as any indication to this one, please stop.

Unless you want to talk about Hibbert’s collapse in the playoffs last season and now he will be the only star on the team and the go to guy.

Lost Lance Stephenson because they didn’t really want him. Lost Paul George for the season, the star of the team, due to horrible injury during a training game in Team USA.

On top of that, George Hill will miss at least one month with injury, Stucky, Stephenson’s replacement, injured and will miss the first game of the season (at least), David West, team’s veteran and leader of the locker room is injured and will miss at least 3 games.

Things will be really bad.

Player to watch

I want to select Rodney Stucky, but will go with Roy Hibbert. Stuckey’s first seasons in the league, made many declare that we see the next Billups.

This summer, Stuckey signed a minimum salary contract till the end of the season, trying to rebuild his career.

He will get plenty of playing time with Stephenson and George out.

But, I want to choose and focus on Roy Hibbert. He started last season as best Center in the league, without a doubt – surely in the East. He starts this season, with a question, is he still a legit NBA player.

What happened in the final 5 months of last year’s season? No one knows. It’s anyone’s guess, but Hibbert was unhappy, frustrated, liability on defense (a season a go, was the best defender in the league that was robbed in favor of Mark Gasol) and the famous zero points and zero rebounds game against the Hawks.

Now, without George and Lance and with many others out with injuries, he will have to carry this team on his back, at least the first games.

Can he do that? A great season from him will make him relevant again.

A poor season can turn him in to another overpaid Center that got big contract after one good season.

It will be interesting to watch.

X-Factor

Frank Vogel. He was mentioned as one of the best in the game, but he couldn’t stop Pacers wagon from falling apart in the second half of the season and was really too late in making needed adjustments in the series against the Hawks and Spoelstra destroyed him in coaches battle in the series against the Heat.

He now gets a team that really needs a guiding hand and his ability to control the locker room and coach his players, will determine if they will battle Sixers for the worst record in the league or will present a competitive team, that won’t reach playoffs, but will play with pride.

Prediction

Pacers were title contenders and now they are in the bottom of the league. That’s not what players expected and I’m not sure how veterans like West and Scola will react or even starters like Hibbert and Hill.

Vogel lost a lot of respect in the eyes of many, including myself and I predict dark season for the Pacers and hopefully it will be a dark season only, not a dark future.

30 – 35 wins was my prediction, but given their injury list. 27 – 32 wins looks much more accurate.

milwaukeeMilwaukee Bucks

Last season, Bucks built what they thought a playoff team, but ended up as worst team in the league, record wise.

The good news were that Bucks got a new owner that will try to improve things and got the second draft pick that turned in to Jabari Parker, a player that was second most talked about player in this year’s draft.

Player to watch

Jabari Parker/ Giannis Antetokounmpo. Young, talented and will get the keys to the team this season already. Parker is a scorer – Carmelo’s type. Volume shooter that likes the ball in his hands and like to shoot.

The young Greek can do about everything, but Kidd, the new coach, wants to try him as a point guard, at least partially. 211cm point guard with hands swing that can block sunlight? I really want to see that.

Two of league’s top 20 prospects are on one team and both will get all the time to shine. Who wouldn’t want to watch that?

X-Factor

Obviously the progress of the two young potentials will also determine team’s future, but also, Kidd as second year coach and Bucks as a franchise, all are x-factors. Usually new owner spends money and tries to do the best he can.

Just look how GSW transformed with the new owner or Oklahoma City Thunder or Brooklyn Nets (and don’t look at New Orleans – maybe this season though).

Bucks have not that bad of a roster for the East and with their amount of talent, if they get the right help and guidance, can easily be the rising force in the East two years from now.

Prediction

Right now, the potential is there and the roster is decent, but they aren’t in a position to do something this season. I’m not sure about Kidd as a coach, but so far, he made some really ugly moves in one year’s career, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but not too much.

26 – 30 wins is my prediction here.

Southeast Division

atlantaAtlanta Hawks

Mike Budenholzer got his first chance to coach, after being for two decades almost a member of Spurs franchise and joins a long list of coaches coming out of Spurs school.

You could see the same ideas that Pop has in Spurs, applied in Atlanta. Ball movement, three point shooters at 4th position (and 5th as well in Atlanta).

Till Horford’s injury were third in the East, but with his injury, went down fast and finished 8th.

Played with five three point shooters against Indiana and it was enough to stretch the series to 7 games and they had amazing chance to win the series, leading in the fourh quarter, in Game 6, leading 3 – 2.

Player to watch

Al Horford. He is team’s star and has a big variety of moves, including good mid range jumper. With Teague and Millsap, he creates a team that is very tough to guard.

He was really great, till his injury and as long as he is healthy, Atlanta will be fun to watch and a good team.

X-Factor

Hawks been too long in a middle and that’s the worst possible place to be. Sixers and Bucks were the same, till they decided to dive down and try to become good now. Pacers managed to make few very good picks and became relevant for three years.

Hawks need to decide, if being in the middle of the pack is something that suits them.

Prediction

Sefolosha came to the team and he fits the system well. Payne was selected in the draft and he should be a decent player. Bottom line, Hawks stayed the same, but got back Horford.

38 wins last year. 42 – 44 wins, as long as Horford is healthy should be a reasonable goal.

miamiMiami Heat

No reason to talk about last season. Heat lost and really badly in the Finals and Bron took his talents to Cleveland. Before that, Wade and Bosh decided to use early termination option on their contracts and Riley decided to try whatever he can to keep LeBron and signed Grange and McRoberts.

When Bron announced he is leaving, Riley didn’t wait too long and instead of using it as great chance to rebuild (as Cleveland did), he resigned Wade and Bosh and signed Deng to replace LeBron.

He resigned everyone that he could and that didn’t leave with LeBron or retire, including Huslem (why?!), Chalmers and Anderson.

So Heat have similar roster like last season with one “small change” Deng instead of Bron.

Player to watch

Chris Bosh. The moment Bosh signed max contract with the Heat, Morey surely considered hara-kiri. He gave up on Lin, Asik and Parsons to get him and failed.

Two teams offered max contracts to Bosh and others would have if could. He suppose to be the star of the team and lead the Heat to post LeBron era.

He was amazingly good in the games that Bron missed and Bosh can shoot from every distance and while he is a terrible defender, it will be interesting to watch him as the franchise player again.

X-Factor

Dwayne Wade. How many games can he deliver at elite level this season? 10? 20? 40?

Bosh, Deng and Wade trio is good enough to not only make the playoffs, but also get to the second round.

But when I’m saying Wade, I’m not talking about Spurs series Wade, but Wade that we all know (and some like).

His health and form will determine what Heat can do this season.

Prediction

No doubt that Riley chose not to rebuild, but to continue from where he left (or was left with) and hope for the best.

But, how many wins best player in the league worth? How many wins motivation of playing for the contender worth?

I don’t know, but my guess is a lot. Wade missed one third of the season last season and no reason to think it will be different this season.

That means that in 20+ games, we will see Mario Chalmers & Shannon Brown starting back court and without Bron to complete it.

38 – 43 wins is my prediction here.

orlandoOrlando Magic

Orlando is in full rebuilding mode and continue with it this season as well.

Not too much to say about last season. Oladipo was a decent rookie (second pick in 2013 draft) and proved to be Afflalo type of player, so Afflalo got traded in the summer.

Harris and Harkless took a step forward, Vucevic took three steps forward in the last two seasons and proved to be the center of the future for the team and team’s best player.

This summer, Orlando got rid of all veterans that were with the team and got few new ones. Got few promising youngsters (Fornier is a good SG, Payton was selected at 10th pick in 2014 draft and maybe he is the best PG in this draft and Gordon was selected in the 4th place in 2014, but he is a project for the future).

Interesting fact

Frye is a cousin of Tobias Harris and was the one that Harris learned the most from and has a similar game. Frye is a great addition as he is a veteran with plenty of good years to give, not too much ego and is a great addition to the locker room with veteran presence.

Player to watch

Many youngsters, but Vucevic is the one I obviously choose. Great player, can do everything and has amazing numbers both in points and in rebounds. He is an AllStar material, but his test will be if he can be the best player in a decent team (like Orlando will be a season or two from now).

Anyway, Orlando has a lot of great youngsters that will be fun to watch.

X – Factor

Orlando has no ambitions, so no real x-factor. I have to note that Orlando has a very interesting conception. They pick good defenders and try to teach them offense. If they will manage to turn good defenders to good attackers, it will be a very good team. If not, they will become a mediocre team with no future.

Prediction: Orlando very young and even with the loss of Afflalo, they should be good enough to add few more wins to their column. They won’t be fighting for a playoff spot, but can have a solid 26 – 30 wins season with big hopes for the future.

washingtonWashington Wizards

Wizards had a great season that gave them plenty of hope for the future. Suns looked to shed salary and give Len playing time, so Wizards got Gortat. Nene got injured, so Wizards brought Gooden. Shaw lost the locker room and had a fight with Ander Miller, so Wizards picked him up.

Result? Very strong starting unit. Veteran leadership and deep bench.

Wall was second in the league in assists to corner three pointer, leading to Ariza having his second career season, both in his contract season.

Beal proved to be a killer from all ranges, despite young age.

This summer, Wizards lost Ariza (not a big loss) and added Pierce (not a big addition).

Humphries and Blair great addition to front court, especially since Nene can’t remember the last time he played a full season.

The only bad news – Beal injured for the next two months.

Player to watch

John Wall. There were some question marks around Wizards giving him the max. Now there are zero of those. He is a leader and a star. But, he is young enough to take another step forward, making him a possible MVP candidate.

He is amazing player to watch and see, if he got more room to progress.

Also, interesting to watch Pierce and to see if he will be able to contribute.

X-Factor

Wizards are a great team. Talented, deep and on paper, their starters can go toe to toe with anyone.

But at least my feeling is that second round of the playoff is the most they can go.

I don’t know even what’s the x-factor, but it has to be something that will give the feeling that Wizards can, at least potentially take the next step, without anyone on Chicago getting hurt.

Prediction

Beal’s injury is a big blow for the Wizards, since he has the most room to improve and his injury is also the reason he isn’t the x-factor.

It will cost them a few wins, but they are a good team, even very good one.

44 wins last season and I predict that they can hold the ground or even take a small step forward. 43 – 47 wins is my prediction (would have been more if Beal didn’t start the season injured already).

charlotteCharlotte Bobcats

How do you build one of the best defensive teams in the league, with your star player one of the worst defenders? Morey and McHale still wonder, but Clifford found the answer I guess.

Charlotte had tons of good defenders, one elite offensive player and it was enough to be one of the more pleasant surprises of the season, but Jefferson’s injury in the playoffs made their series against the Heat to 0 – 4 sweep.

Offseason was very interesting. They lost McRoberts, PF that can shoot three pointer and pass the ball really well (especially to Big Al), but took Marvin Williams from Utah that also can score, but not as good of a passer. But, the main move of the summer in Charlotte and maybe the biggest in the league, after LeBron’s, was the signing of Lance Stephenson. 9 mill a season for three seasons (third one is player’s option) is a great deal for one of the most intriguing players in the league.

King of the triple doubles in the league and “Born Ready” as he called himself, has ton of upsides and just as many downsides. He has a poor shot selection, but he can hit those jumpers, that can drive any coach crazy. He is a great defender, but can easily go overboard.

As long as the screws in the head remain tight, Charlotte won the jackpot of the summer (again, after Cleveland). If the screws become loose, they tied their future for the next three years to a nut job.

Player to watch and X – Factor

You guessed it, Stephenson. He can done incredible things, but also incredibly dumb things as well. Charlotte needed to take a risky move to try and take a step forward and it was a move I applaud them for. He can pass, defend, score, grab rebounds, steal – he can do everything, including blow in best player’s in a league ear.

He and George were without a doubt, the most fun players to watch and I’m so curious to see if any other coach can get more out of him than Vogel (and Clifford gets tons of my respect for last year’s work in Charlotte).

He can be a cancer in a locker room and drag the team down, but he also can become the star of the team and take this team to second round of the playoffs and HCA in the first round.

For better and for worse, Charlotte put a lot of eggs in Lance basket and will succeed with him or fail with him.

Prediction

I can’t help but feel that things will be just fine in North Caroline. I love the Stephenson move and have a lot of respect for Clifford. Walker, Gilchrist, Handerson and others (Jefferson obviously still the star of the team) turn Charlotte in to amazingly athletic team, that can do a lot of damage.

If Gilchrist can improve his three pointers and Lance will do more good than harm, Charlotte can be a hell of a team that will be really fun to watch and root for.

43 – 47 wins this season is my prediction.

Easter Conference Predicted Standings

Here is my view of the Eastern Conference:

1 – 2 places

  • Cleveland
  • Chicago

3 – 6 places

  • Washington
  • Brooklyn
  • Charlotte

7 – 9 places

  • Toronto
  • Atlanta
  • Knicks

10 – 11 places

  • Miami
  • Detroit

12 – 14 places

  • Orlando
  • Boston
  • Indiana

15 place

  • Philadelphia

I believe that every team till 11th place will fight for the playoff and can easily see Toronto/ Hawks/ Knicks or all three miss playoff in favor of Miami or Detroit.

We also get at least 4 teams that not really want to win games and that’s a shame. 

Anyway, yesterrad was a tip off of the league and we will be able to watch 5 Western teams and one Eastern team and start to get the feel for the new NBA season.

For those that are interested in my subscription, please see the details here

I wish to all of us a great basketball season of the best league in the world both basketball and bets wise!

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