The 2018-19 NBA season is upon us following a very tumultuous off-season that seen the balance of power in the eastern conference shift, and the already deadly western conference get much much tougher. Lebron James took his talents to bright sunny Los Angeles, but that does not make the Lakers a shoe in for a title.
The off-season also seen the Spurs shake up at a level not seen since the 1990s. Hallmarks of the silver and black, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are now gone, and rising superstar Kawhi Leonard left the longhorn state for the icy waters of Lake Ontario and Toronto.
The eastern conference is going to be similar to what it was last year, but with one glaring omission. That omission of course will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. The loss of Lebron James will be too much for the Cavs to contend with and they will fail to make the playoffs after making the finals four straight years.
The Toronto Raptors had the best record in the east last year, and now with the addition of Kawhi Leonard the Raptors will add a new level of defensive intensity and will once again finish atop the east standings.
The Boston Celtics will battle the Raptors all season for the top spot in the east, but there are question marks on the health of both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Jason Tatum will continue his growth and will likely be the Celtics leading scorer.
The third place in the east will go to Philadelphia. The Sixers showed that when healthy they are a very good team, and if they stay healthy they will approach elite status. If however, Joel Embiid cannot stay healthy the Sixers should still make the playoffs, but could struggle.
The Greek Freak has been taking huge strides every season and will do so again this year when he powers the Bucks to the four seed in the East. Milwaukee will be very good, but there will be a significant drop between the quality of the Sixers and the Bucks.
Indiana finished fifth last year and will do so again this year. The Pacers will be good, but they lack depth and will be depending on player development once again.
The bottom of the east will really be up for grabs, and its going to come down to who stays healthy and who has a team that gels well together. Washington and Miami should make the playoffs and Detroit has a good chance if they stay healthy.
Chicago and Charlotte could be two teams who battle with the above mentioned teams to try and make the playoffs. The rest of the east will be pretty terrible and the Hawks could make a run at a new level of terrible. The Hawks will be lucky to win 15 games.
The western conference will once again be stacked, and there is a good chance that the 9th seed in the west will be better than the 4th seed in the east. Maybe not in terms of wins, but in terms of pure quality.
The Warriors will once again be the hot ticket in the NBA and the west. They finished second last year, but had a ton of injuries and rested down the stretch. A healthy Warriors team runs away with the west.
The Houston Rockets lost a lot of talent in losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, and Carmelo Anthony, while he can make up for them offensively, cannot replace their defensive. Still, the Rockets have Chris Paul and James Hardin. That alone will get them 55 wins.
From here until the 10th spot in the west will really be a mess. Each team is incredibly good and it will ultimately be decided by injuries who ends up where.
The third spot in the west will go to the Utah Jazz. They are banking on internal improvement by re-signing key guys and hoping Donovan Mitchell can take the next step to NBA stardom. They're also the best defensive team in the league when Rudy Gobert is healthy.
The four spot will go the Portland Trailblazers. A lot of people are sleeping on them, but they have a very solid core and Damien Lillard is a true blue superstar.
Fifth will be the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have one of the most stacked starting lineups, but really suffer depth wise and this will be a problem in an 82 game season. They are the team that is most likely to be affected by injuries.
The sixth spot will fall to the Los Angeles Lakers. Lebron James lifted a mediocre Cavs team to greatness, but he will not be able to do the same thing in this deeper western conference with the Lakers. He will make the Lakers the ticket in LA, and bring interest back to the team, but little else. The Lakers are biding their time until they can add a couple more superstars with the king to win next year.
Seventh will go to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Expect another hot start by the Wolves, but they will where down because Tom Thibideu does not know when to rest his players. Also, the Jimmy Butler situation could cause this team to explode mid-season
The last playoff spot will go to the Denver Nuggets. Denver has a lot of talent, but just does not seem able to put it all together. Still, they will make the post-season after a five year absence.
After 21 consecutive seasons in the post-season, the San Antonio Spurs will fail to make the post season. They will be good, but they will not be as good as the teams in front of them. Likewise, the 10th and 11th seeds Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans will finish above or at 500 but not have enough stamina to make the post-season.
The Memphis Grizzlies will finish 12th, but will actually be good if they keep this team together. They are a likely candidate to be parted at the trade deadline.
Another team that will improve from last year will be the Phoenix Suns, but they are too young to make the leap just yet.
The last two spots will be a tank fest near the end of the season with the Mavs and Kings throwing games to get a better draft pick.