Tag Archives: San Antonio Spurs

2017-2018 NBA Playoff Projections

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Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Washington Wizards

3. Boston Celtics

4. Toronto Raptors

5. Detroit Pistons

6. Milwaukee Bucks

7. Miami Heat

8. Charlotte Hornets

First Round

Charlotte Hornets vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs win series 4-1)

The road to a fourth consecutive Eastern Conference Championship continues for the Cavaliers.

Miami Heat vs. Washington Wizards (Wizards win series 4-2)

The size and defensive ability of the Heat will frustrate the Wizards, but not enough to eliminate them.

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (Celtics win series 4-3)

It will be a fierce battle between Bucks small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.

Detroit Pistons vs. Toronto Raptors (Raptors win series 4-3)

The Pistons are a go-to player away from being a consistent force in the Eastern Conference.

Conference Semifinals

Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs win series 4-1)

It’s the same old song for the Raptors as they’ll once again come up short versus the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards (Celtics win series 4-2)

The Wizards have the talent, but they lack the mental makeup to that the next step.

Conference Finals Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs win series 4-2)

The Cavs will advance to the NBA Finals, but not without getting a fight from  the Celtics.

 

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors

2. San Antonio Spurs

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

5. Los Angeles Clippers

6. Houston Rockets

7. Denver Nuggets

8. Portland Trail Blazers

First Round

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-1)

The Trail Blazers will only be a speed bump for the Warriors in their quest to win another NBA Championship.

Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs (Spurs win series 4-0)

There is something about the Spurs excelling in the spring.

Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder win series 4-2)

This will mark the second consecutive year in which these two teams met in the first round, but things have changed as Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook now has reinforcements.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (Timberwolves win series 4-2)

The Timberwolves could be one of the most dangerous teams in the postseason due to the mismatches that they can create.

Conference Semifinals

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-2)

The Timberwolves are closing the gap, but they are still not in the class of the Warriors.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs (Spurs win series 4-3)

This could be one of the greatest playoff series’ in NBA history.

Conference Finals

San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-2)

The Spurs will put up a valiant fight, but it won’t be enough to get the best of the Warriors.

NBA Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-1)

It’s time to look at this Warriors team as one of the best to have ever done it.

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2017-2018 Southwest Division Projections

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X-San Antonio Spurs 61-21 (2)

There is consistency and then there is what the San Antonio Spurs have been able to accomplish. Since the Spurs joined the NBA in 1976, only four seasons have gone by where they have not reached the playoffs, and in each of the last 20 campaigns they’ve been postseason bound. Last season saw the Spurs win 61 games in the regular season as another deep run in the playoffs appeared to be in the works. The Spurs would advance to the Western Conference Finals where they were seeking to unseat the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs were able to build a 25-point lead on the Warriors in the third quarter of Game One on the road, however the series would change when small forward Kawhi Leonard was lost for the remainder of the series after he re-aggravated an ankle injury that he initially sustained during the Western Conference Semifinals versus the Houston Rockets. The Spurs would go on to get swept by the Warriors who went on to claim their second NBA Championship in the last three years as we’re only left to ponder what could have been for San Antonio.

Gregg Popovich is set to begin his 21st full season as the head coach of the Spurs and he is not showing any signs of slowing down. When watching the Spurs it is quite clear who is the boss and that is Popovich. With Popovich it is always about the team and not the individual as they are the New England Patriots of the NBA. And Pop’s philosophy means that anyone on the Spurs roster can get 20 points on any given night.

Kawhi Leonard

But Leonard is the engine of this squad as he makes this team go. In each of Leonard’s six seasons with the Spurs, his production has increased. Leonard is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, as well as being a two-time NBA All-Star. And aside from Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James, Leonard is the best two-way player in the game as there are not that many flaws in his game which will keep him in the discussion to be the NBA’s MVP this season.

However as good as Leonard is, he cannot carry the Spurs team by himself. The summer of 2016 saw the Spurs sign power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to a four-year deal for $80 million. But in two seasons with the Spurs, Aldridge has underachieved which includes him failing to provide San Antonio with a consistent post presence. Aldridge was able to average 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Spurs, but he has been too inconsistent which has not won him over that many fans in San Antonio. And if Aldridge continues to fail to meet Popovich’s expectations, don’t be surprised to see him traded.

Rudy Gay

Throughout the 11-year NBA career of small forward Rudy Gay, he has continued to put up quality numbers. The Spurs will be the fourth different NBA team that Gay has played for as he has gone on to average 18.4 points per contest. I don’t expect to consistently see Gay in the starting lineup for San Antonio, but what he can provide San Antonio with is a quality veteran scorer off of the bench who will be instant offense, while providing San Antonio with length that can be utilized at each end of the floor.

San Antonio continues to employ a selfish cast of veterans which includes point guard Tony Parker, shooting guard Manu Ginobili, and center Pau Gasol. Parker and Giniboli are legends within the Spurs organization, and although that each player is in the twilight of his respective Hall of Fame career, they know how to use craftiness in order to get the best of players who are least 10 years their junior.

Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge

Like Ginobili and Parker, Gasol will be headed for Springfield when his playing career is over, and at the age of 37 he is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Popovich has been one of the best in regards to keeping his veteran players fresh for the stretch run. Gasol is still a player that can average at least 15 points per game, while also providing the Spurs with 7 or 8 rebounds per game as well the ability to pass and consistently block shots.

The Spurs are a team that could get off to a slow start, but this is a team that typically doesn’t get its stride until March which should once again be the case this season as San Antonio will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Y-Houston Rockets 50-32 (6)

Each of the last five NBA seasons have seen the Houston Rockets reach the playoffs, but they’ve been unable to break through and get back to the NBA Finals since their last championship in 1995. By the time that the Western Conference Semifinals rolled around last spring, the Rockets were decimated by injuries as they would eventually succumb to the San Antonio Spurs. And after the Rockets fell to the Spurs, you had to expect that Houston would make a few tweaks to their roster, but not a mega trade.

Over the summer the Rockets were able to acquire All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. However the acquisition of Paul was a costly one as Houston sent eight players as well as a first-round pick to Los Angeles. But what the Rockets now have is a back court that will help them keep up with the top teams in the Western Conference.

Chris Pail

Paul will team with guard James Harden who is coming off of his best season in the NBA as he averaged 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, while his 11.2 assists per contests led the league. Harden was able to accomplish this in his first season as a point guard, bur now the acquisition of Paul will not see him as Houston’s primary ball handler. However regardless if Harden is the Rockets primary ball handler or not, it does not take away from the fact that he is one of the game’s best scorers. For Harden’s eight-year NBA career he has averaged 22.1 points per game, while in five seasons with the Rockets that number is 27.4. Last season Harden scored at least 40 in 11 games and he should continue to flourish by playing alongside Paul in the offense of Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.

The Rockets will become the third different NBA team that Paul has played for and at the age of 32, he is still one of the top points guards in the league. Paul has led the NBA in assists on four separate occasions and he has a solid chance of doing so once again this season due to his ability to penetrate the lane as well as playing alongside Harden.

Two key players who were not traded to the Clippers were power forward Ryan Anderson and small forward Trevor Ariza who will once again be important to what the Rockets want to do. D’Antoni’s uptempo offense is all about spacing the floor and finding open shooters which is right up Anderson’s alley. For Anderson’s nine-year NBA career he has made more than 42% of his three-point shots, and that trend should continue now that he is playing alongside both Harden and Paul.

Ariza will once again be important to the Rockets due to his perimeter defense which will be important versus the top wing players that the Western Conference has to offer; especially since Houston was 26th in the NBA in points allowed last season.

With the Rockets losing their depth to acquire Paul, while also missing out on acquiring small forward Carmelo Anthony, as well as D’Antoni’s not being known for defense, they will come up short of being a championship team. The Rockets will be exciting, but the struggles of Paul when he faces Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry will once again be exposed as the furthest that this team will be able to advance in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks 41-41

After being one of the top teams in the Western Conference since 2000, the Dallas Mavericks took a huge step backwards last season as they lost 49 games for the first time since 1998. The Mavericks lost their first five games of the season and they were never able recover in the Western Conference Playoff race. And for Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, will he be able to reverse the fortunes of this franchise heading into a new season?

Dirk Nowitzki

For the Mavs, power forward Dirk Nowitzki has been the face of this franchise for nearly two decades. Hands down Nowitzki is the most prolific player in franchise history, but as he is 39-years of age, he isn’t the player that he once was. However Carlisle has done a solid job in recent years in regards to managing Nowitxki’s minutes which should once again be the case for the upcoming season. And it would not surprise me to see Carlisle utilize Nowitzki off of the bench at some point this season. But as Nowitzki is on the downside of his Hall of Fame career, the Mavs have begun the process of building towards to future.

Last year saw the Mavericks acquire small forward Harrison Barnes from the Golden State Warriors. Barnes was a member of the Warriors team that won the NBA Championship in 2015, but his skills at the offensive end of the floor were never going to be fully recognized as he was playing in the shadow of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. However Barnes’ first season would begin to see his potential recognized as he was able to average 19.2 points which led the club. And the good thing for the Mavericks is that Barnes has the potential to get better.

Barnes gives the Mavs a solid perimeter scorer, while he also knows how to get to the basket. And as Barnes and Carlisle are getting to get more acquainted with one another, the results will only be good for Dallas.

Dennis Smith Jr.

The Mavericks are high on point guard Dennis Smith Jr. who was their first-round choice this year. Throughout the NBA’s Summer League as well as training camp, Smith has shown that he has what it takes to be a solid floor general for Dallas as he has the ability to get his own shot, while also making the people around him better.

Shooting guard Wesley Matthews continues to be a solid perimeter defender, while both center Nerlens Noel who can clean up on the boards as well as being a rim protector and shooting guard Seth Curry who continues to improve as a three-point shooter could each be in the running to be the NBA’s Most Improved Player this season which fits into the Mavericks identity of being underdogs this season. However Curry’s season debut will be delayed after he suffered a stress reaction in his left tibia during the preseason. It will be important for Noel to remain healthy as he is a big part of what Dallas wants to do on defense as they were fourth in the NBA in points allowed last season and he can be an anchor on their back line.

Five of the Mavericks first six games this season will be against teams that made that playoffs last season. And the last thing that Dallas needs is another slow start as it would derail their season before it even starts.

Memphis Grizzlies 40-42

Each of the last seven NBA seasons have seen the Memphis Grizzlies qualify for the postseason which is the third longest current playoff streak in the league behind the San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks. But unlike the Spurs who have gone on to win five NBA Championships during their postseason streak, the Grizzlies have only been able to advance to the Western Conference Finals once, while they were eliminated in the first round in each of the last two seasons. David Fizdale led the Grizzlies to a winning record as well as a playoff berth in his first season with Memphis. Fizdale did this with a veteran team that he inherited as it was vital for him to manage the minutes of the Grizzlies as the season progressed. But as Fizdale is set to begin his second season with the Grizzlies, his team will have a different feel to it as they look to make it eight consecutive trips to the postseason.

Power forward Zach Randolph spent the last eight seasons with the Grizzlies and in the process he became one of the best players in franchise history. Randolph averaged 16.8 and 10.2 rebound during his Grizzlies career. Randolph also became the franchise’s all-time leader in rebounds, while being third in points. Randolph turned 36-years of age this past July and he decided to join the Sacramento Kings on a two-year deal that is worth $24 million.

Marc Gasol

During Randolph’s time with the Grizzlies, his tag-team partner in the frontcourt has been center Marc Gasol. At the age of 32, Gasol is still one of the best all-around big men in the NBA as he it the total package due his ability to score, pass, facilitate, block shots, rebound, and defend. When Gasol is on the floor, the Grizzlies have the benefit of another point guard, while his blocked shots in the paint tend to lead to fast break opportunities on offense. And with Randolph no longer will the Grizzlies, Gasol will be more important that ever to what Memphis wants to do.

Mike Conley

The summer of 2016 saw point guard Mike Conley Jr. cash in as he and the Grizzlies came to an agreement on a five-year that is worth $153 million. Conley did his part to live up to his inflated contract as he averaged a career-high 20.5 points to go along with 6.3 assists. Conley began to take more ownership on offense for the Grizzlies as he connected on 46% of his field goals which was a career-high, while he shot more than 40% from downtown for just the second time of his NBA career. But whereas that Conley is not considered a top-tier point guard in the NBA, will he be able to elevate his game once more in order to make Memphis a threat in the Western Conference?

In 2010, swingman Tyreke Evans was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year as he was able to do a little bit of everything for the Kings. That season Evans was able to average 20.1 points per game, however he has never been able to match the production that he had as a rookie. Since then Evans has bounced around with several teams, each time he has found himself that did not properly suit his skill set which is him playing in the point forward role. But Evans has an opportunity to do something special with the Grizzlies due to his ability to get to the basket, facilitate, and rebound as he should be able to play off of both Gasol and Conley.

Times have changed in the NBA as scoring is up. The Grizzlies were third in the NBA in points allowed last season in spite of the fact that they surrendered 100 points per game, and they should once again be one of the top defensive teams in the NBA due to the mindset of Fizdale, as well as having players such as Gasol leading the way.

The Grizzlies will be an up and down team this season, but they will continue to be a tough for their opponents.

New Orleans Pelicans 37-45

Five of the last six NBA seasons have resulted in the New Orleans Pelicans failing to make the playoffs. And ever before the start of a new campaign, the Pelicans find themselves at the crossroads.

Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins

Last season saw the Pelicans acquire All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings with part of the compensation seeing New Orleans part with both of their draft picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Cousins’ arrival in New Orleans saw him team with power forward Anthony Davis to give the Pelicans one of the top front courts in the NBA, but their presence wasn’t enough to get to the postseason.

However heading into a new NBA season, Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has a tough task ahead of him which includes being able to utilize both Cousins and Davis, while keeping the other players involved.

What the Pelicans have in Davis is the best big man in the NBA as well as a player who will be an MVP candidate this season. There is not anything that Davis cannot do on the basketball court as he is the total package at both ends of the floor. The ability of Davis to score in the paint as well as on the perimeter will now be magnified as he is playing alongside Cousins which means that opponents of the Pelicans can no longer solely focus on trying to stop him.

Like Davis, Cousins is one of the better big men in the NBA, but he just does not have the perimeter game of that his fellow former Kentucky Wildcat possesses. Cousins is at his best when he plays angry as you can pencil him in for 25 points and 15 rebounds when that is the case. At the conclusion of the 2017-2018 NBA season, Cousins will be a free agent which means that he should have a big season as he is looking to get paid by the Pelicans or another team.

Jrue Holiday

The Pelicans do have a pair of quality ball handlers in veteran point guard Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans will mark the fifth different NBA team that Rondo has suited up for which is a reflection on his attitude. Rondo has led the NBA in assists on four separate occasions, however he been known to clash with his head coaches which has made him expendable. Rondo is 31-years of age and the Pelicans need him to be a leader for this team as opposed to being a combustible element like he has been in the past.

For Holiday, his passing ability should be magnified alongside both Davis and Cousins. Rondo will miss the beginning of the season due to sports hernia surgery. However when Holiday and Rondo are each healthy and with both players projected to be in the Pelicans starting lineup, who will be the primary ball handler for this club?

Veteran guard Tony Allen comes to New Orleans and he can provide the club with some much needed toughness. The upcoming NBA season will mark Allen’s 14th year in the league which has been highlighted by him being a three-time All-Defensive First-team member as well as winning a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. At the age of 35, Allen still has the ability to slow down and frustrate perimeter scorers, and his experience in the NBA should benefit New Orleans.

Last season saw the Pelicans give up 106.4 points per game which was 17th in the NBA. However New Orleans needs to have a change to philosophy in order to maximize the ability of their personnel. With Davis and Cousins in the front court, New Orleans needs to run more half-court sets with their two All-Star big men in the paint as much as possible. And if done properly, Davis and Cousins could have a huge impact for the Pelicans. Defensively the Pelicans need to take more pride being that both Cousins and Davis are shot blockers as well as possessing the ability to clean up on the boards.

However the Pelicans have too many combustible elements on this team, while Gentry is not the right head coach to reign everyone in which means that the upcoming NBA season will be a train wreck on the Bayou.

X-Division Winner

Y-Playoff Berth

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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On Cruise Control

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The Golden State Warriors are heading back to the NBA Finals, while the San Antonio Spurs are attempting to pick up the pieces.

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Boring Basketball At It’s Best

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At 31-6, the Golden State Warriors have the best record in the NBA. But the Warriors cannot take their foot off of the throttle as the NBA’s most consistent team is right in their rear-view mirror. Through 37 games the San Antonio Spurs are 30-7 and they are on pace for their 20th consecutive winning season. But aside from winning, it is how it has come for the Spurs as all but one season over this stretch has seen San Antonio win at least 50 games. The Spurs are a team that is full of interchangeable parts that is led by a head coach in Gregg Popovich who has consistently adjusted his coaching style which has led to five NBA Championships. And just like the last 19 seasons, the Spurs are once again in line to contend for another NBA Title.

Last summer saw the Spurs bid farewell to power forward Tim Duncan who in 19 years in San Antonio became one of the best winners in which professional sports has ever seen. There was never a season with Duncan in which the Spurs didn’t make the postseason and they were only unable to get past the first round of the NBA Playoffs four times.

It’s impossible to replace to contributions of Duncan who was a leader for the Spurs on and off of the court. But credit to Spurs general manager R.C. Buford and Popovich for going out in the off-season to sign center Pau Gasol. Gasol came to San Antonio as a six-time NBA All-Star, while he also won a pair of league titles as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. In 17 NBA seasons, Gasol has averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds. Gasol knew when he came to San Antonio that he would not be the focal point of the Spurs offense, but at 36-years of age he simply wants to win another NBA Championship.

Pau Gasol

This season Gasol is averaging 12.1 points and his 7.8 rebounds lead the team. Gasol gives the Spurs another leader, while he is one of the better passing big men of the era which is evident by his 3.3 career assists average. And if Pop needs it, Gasol can still put up quality numbers as he got the Sacramento Kings for 24 points and 7 rebounds on November 16.

The summer of 2015 saw the Spurs agree to a four-year deal with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge that is worth $80 million. The 2015-2016 NBA season was an adjustment for Aldridge as he had to get acclimated with how the Spurs go about their business. But Aldridge still managed to average 18.0 points and 8.5 rebounds as he played alongside a legend in Duncan. Aldridge is averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, and like Gasol, you never know when he is going to explode for a big game.

Point guard Tony Parker and shooting guard Manu Ginobili may not have the explosiveness that they had when they were key cogs in four of the Spurs five NBA Titles, but they are still key contributors which includes providing a wealth of experience. The Spurs once again have tremendous depth which includes the likes of point guard Patty Mills and power forward David Lee. The Spurs also continue to find diamonds in the rough as youngsters such as center Dewayne Dedmon and shooting guard Jonathon Simmons are turning into quality role players off of the bench. But the epicenter of the Spurs success in recent years has been small forward Kawhi Leonard.

Kawhi Leonard

Leonard was the 15th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, but by the Indiana Pacers who immediately traded him to the San Antonio Spurs. And in each of Leonard’s six seasons with the Spurs, he has continued to improve his all-around game which was highlighted by him being named as the NBA Finals MVP in 2014, along with being selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year twice. This season Leonard is averaging 23.9 points which leads the Spurs. Leonard has eight, 30-point games to his credit this season which includes getting 35 points against the Warriors to begin the season that resulted in a Spurs road victory. And once you put it all together, the Spurs are once again in a familiar spot.

The Spurs are not only a model franchise for other NBA organizations, but all of professional sports. The Spurs don’t have any “me” guys on their team that are worried about how many touches that they receive on offense, and you never hear about any players in San Antonio having an issue with the way that the team is structured. The Spurs preach ball movement as rarely does a possession go by in which all five players do not touch the basketball, and defensively they rarely beat themselves. There isn’t a player on the Spurs roster who cannot score 20 points on a given night which gives their opponents something to always think about. And the scary parts about this is the Spurs have not drafted in the NBA’s Lottery since obtaining Duncan as they know how to scout and develop talent. Popovich has also become the king of knowing when to rest his players in order to keep them fresh for the stretch run in the regular season and for the playoffs as his teams are always ready to perform when the chips are pushed to the middle of the table.

The Spurs do find themselves facing some strong opposition right now from the Houston Rockets for first place in the Southwest Division as they are only a game behind San Antonio for first place. However the Spurs are currently 10th in the NBA points per game at 106 per contest which includes them connecting on nearly 48% of their shots as that happens to be the second best mark in the league. Defensively the Spurs are allowing 97.5 points per game which is second in the league and that strong defense will help them in the playoffs; especially in the fourth quarter against quality teams such as the Warriors and Rockets, or the Cleveland Cavaliers should both of these teams meet in the NBA Finals.

When the Spurs were eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals last spring at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, you knew that they would be a team on a mission this season, and so far they have yet to disappoint as fundamental basketball continues to rule the roost in San Antonio.

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2017 NBA Playoff Projections

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Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Indiana Pacers

3. Toronto Raptors

4. Boston Celtics

5. Detroit Pistons

6. Atlanta Hawks

7. Chicago Bulls

8. Washington Wizards

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

(8) Washington Wizards vs. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers win series 4-0)

The Washington Wizards won’t be able to derail the express that is the defending NBA Champions.

(7) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Indiana Pacers (Pacers win series 4-2)

The Chicago Bulls will spend most of this NBA season not being on the same page which will finally catch up to them against the Indiana Pacers.

(6) Atlanta Hawks vs. (3) Toronto Raptors (Raptors win series 4-2)

The Atlanta Hawks will be tough, but the Toronto Raptors are looking to build off of their momentum from making the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

(5) Detroit Pistons vs. (4) Boston Celtics (Pistons win series (4-2)

The size advantage of the Detroit Pistons will be on display in this one as the Boston Celtics are still unable to win a playoff series under head coach Brad Stevens.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers win series 4-2)

The Pistons are an improving team under head coach Stan Van Gundy, but they are still not on the level of the Cavaliers.

Toronto Raptors vs Indiana Pacers (Pacers win series 4-2)

This is a rematch of a gritty first-round series from last spring, but this time around, Pacers small forward Paul George has more help around him which should be the difference.

Eastern Conference Finals

Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers win series 4-2)

Pacers small forward Paul George still will be unable to solve the riddle that is Cavaliers small forward LeBron James.

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors

2. San Antonio Spurs

3. Los Angeles Clippers

4. Portland Trailblazers

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

6. Dallas Mavericks

7. Memphis Grizzlies

8. Utah Jazz

Western Conference Quarterfinals

(8) Utah Jazz vs. (1) Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-0)

The Utah Jazz won’t be a match for the Golden State Warriors as they will merely be happy to have their first postseason appearance since 2012.

(7) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs (Spurs win series 4-1)

It’s that time of the year when you have to be weary of the San Antonio Spurs as they are simply laying in the weeds for another title run.

(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers (Clippers wins 4-3)

The Dallas Mavericks have the heart and determination, but it won’t be enough to overtake the Los Angeles Clippers.

(5) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (4) Portland Trailblazers (Trail Blazers win series 4-3)

Hands down this will be the toughest first round series in the playoffs as it can go either way.

Western Conference Semifinals

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-2)

The Blazers are an improving club, but they still aren’t on the level of the Warriors.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs Spurs (Spurs win series 4-1)

The Clippers are a good team, but right now they have to take a backseat to the Warriors and Spurs who are clearly the two best teams in the Western Conference.

Western Conference Finals

San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-3)

The Spurs defense will slow down the Warriors, but it won’t be enough to stop them.

NBA Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win 4-3)

The hunger of losing the NBA Finals last summer to the Cavaliers will be enough for the Warriors to get back to the top of the mountain.

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2016-2017 Southwest Division Projections

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X-San Antonio Spurs 63-19 (2)

Last season saw the San Antonio Spurs win 67 games, but they were a team that most people were not talking about since the Golden State Warriors set an NBA single-season record for victories with 73. The Spurs were poised for another title run until they ran into the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals who knocked them out in six games. The loss to the Thunder signaled the end for power forward Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. For the last 19 seasons Duncan has been the face on Spurs franchise. With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs never missed the playoffs en route to winning five NBA Championships. But under the guidance of head coach Gregg Popovich, don’t expect the Spurs to slow down now that Duncan has retired.

In order to attempt to replace Duncan, the Spurs signed free agent center Pau Gasol. In 15 NBA seasons Gasol has averaged 18.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists as his skill set is an ideal fit for the Spurs system. Gasol is also a two-time NBA Champion and his leadership and knowledge of the game will be welcomed with open arms in San Antonio.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard

Gasol will team in the Spurs starting front court with small forward Kawhi Leonard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to give San Antonio one of the toughest trios in the NBA to match up against. In each of Leonard’s five seasons with the Spurs, his numbers have improved and he is becoming one of the best two-way players in the league. Last year Leonard averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals as he finished second in the NBA’s MVP voting. Leonard should once again be a force to be reckoned with this time around. As for Aldridge, his numbers were slightly down in his first year with the Spurs which was the result of the constant ball movement that is orchestrated in San Antonio. However you can pencil in Aldridge for another All-Star caliber season, and he should also benefit from playing alongside Gasol who is one of the better passing big men in the NBA.

Tony Parker

Veteran point guard Tony Parker has seen his fair share of the NBA’s grind as he is set to begin his 15th season with the Spurs. And even at the age of 34, Parker isn’t showing any signs of slowing down as he is still one of better guards in the NBA when it comes to penetration. Veteran shooting guard Manu Ginobili is 39-years of age, but he will still be a vital member coming off of the bench for San Antonio, while shooting guard Danny Green is looking to bounce back after a subpar campaign last season from downtown. Power forward David Lee is set to begin his first season with the Spurs, and as he has averaged 14.2 points, along with 9.2 rebounds during his 11-year NBA career, he will be a valuable player coming off of the bench for the Spurs.

 

The Spurs are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, and being that they are led by Popovich, I don’t expect this team to take their eyes off of the prize as they will once again be a very formidable team when the playoffs roll around.

Y-Dallas Mavericks 49-33 (6)

The past five years have been a rough go at it for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks do have four playoff appearances over that stretch, but they’ve been unable to advance past the first round of the NBA Playoffs. After winning the NBA Championship in 2011, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been hell bent on getting back to the promised land. And after Cuban and the Mavs were spurned several times recently in free agency, they could be ready to re-emerge as a contender in the Western Conference.

Dirk Nowitzki

Power forward Dirk Nowitzki is set to begin his 19th season with the Mavericks and he is still playing at a quality level. Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points per contest last season and you can expect another quality campaign from him due to the talent that has been assembled around him.

In four seasons with the Golden State Warriors, small forward Harrison Barnes saw his points per game average increase, but he was still under utilized. With the Warriors, Barnes took a backseat to shooting guard Klay Thompson and point guard Steph Curry. But after the Warriors signed small forward Kevin Durant over the summer, Barnes became an afterthought there. And once Barnes hit free agency, the Mavs welcomed him with open arms to the tune of $94 million dollars over the next four years. Barnes will definitely see more shots per game and he should be able to average at least 16 points per game in Dallas.

The Mavericks also landed another player formerly with the Warriors in center Andrew Bogut. The Mavericks acquired Bogut from the Warriors over the summer, and like Barnes, he saw a dip in his production there. Bogut won’t look to be a scorer in Dallas, but what you can expect from him is a solid rebounder, while he is also a quality facilitator from the center position.

Wesley Matthews

The summer of 2015 saw the Mavericks sign shooting guard Wesley Matthews, but he spent his first season in Dallas attempting to get back on track after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the previous season as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. However Matthews is now healthy and he should able to contribute as a solid wing player; especially at the defensive end of the floor.

 

In 65 games with the Mavericks last season, point guard Deron Williams showed flashes of what made him a three-time NBA All-Star. And even at the age of 32, if Williams is once again motivated, it will be a huge plus for the Mavericks.

 

Rick Carlisle

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best in the business when it comes to dealing with different personalities while getting the most out of his team. And the Mavericks could be set up to have a very productive NBA campaign.

 

 

Y-Memphis Grizzlies 46-36 (7)

The past six NBA seasons have seen the Memphis Grizzlies be the little engine that could of the Western Conference. The Grizzlies have made the playoffs in each of the last six years, and although that they have been unable to advance to the NBA Finals, they continue to be a tough out in the postseason. But things are once again changing for the Memphis Grizzlies as after compiling a 147-99 record over the last three years, Dave Joerger was fired as the team’s head coach.

Dave Fizdale

Joerger was replaced in Memphis by Dave Fizdale who has spent the last 14 years as an assistant coach in the NBA; most notably as an assistant coach with the Miami Heat for the last nine seasons. Fizdale has inherited a veteran team that he must find a way to keep healthy for the riggers of the long haul that is the regular season in the NBA.

A broken foot forced center Marc Gasol to miss 26 games last year, along with the playoffs. Gasol is a catalyst for the Grizzlies at both ends of the floor as he is an all-around player. In 2013, Gasol was the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, while in each of the last four seasons, he has averaged nearly 4 assists per contest. Gasol has good court vision which can see him pass the basketball from the top of the key as well as in the post equally which always keeps an opposing defense on its toes.

Zach Randolph

Like Gasol, power forward Zach Randolph has been a recent fixture for Grizzlies basketball. In seven seasons in Memphis, Randolph has averaged 17.2 rebounds and 10.5 rebounds as along with Gasol, they give the Grizzlies one of the better front courts in the NBA. But at the age of 35, Randolph has 15 years worth of mileage on his legs from playing in the NBA. Fizdale understands that and he is looking to preserve Randolph which will see him come off of the bench this year, but he can still be extremely effective in that role.

Point guard Mike Conley Jr. has spent his entire nine-year NBA career with the Grizzlies and this past summer saw him become a very rich man as he signed a five-year, $153 million deal to stay in Memphis as it was one of the largest contracts in league history. For Conley’s career he has averaged 13.6 points and 5.6 assists, and now the pressure is going to be on him to increase those statistics due to the lucrative deal that he agreed to.

In two years with the Dallas Mavericks, a bad knee kept small forward Chandler Parsons from reaching his full potential. But if Parsons is healthy, he could have a big impact in Memphis due to his shooting ability which compliments the playing style of Gasol, and Conley’s ability to penetrate into the paint.

Small forward Vince Carter is 39-years of age, and although that he isn’t able to crank it up and thrown down thunderous dunks as often as he once did, he is still brings a tremendous skill set to the table, along with a plethora of NBA experience. And along with guard Tony Allen who is still a solid defender, Carter adds to the Grizzlies depth off of their bench.

The Grizzlies will be a work in progress as the season goes along, but once the postseason rolls around, they will once again be a tough out.

Houston Rockets 40-42 

The past NBA season saw the Houston Rockets wilt under the lofty expectations that were thrust onto them. The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals in 2015 and there was hope within the organization that they could build off of that. But after a 4-7 start, the Rockets decided to part with head coach McHale. McHale would be replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff who was able to get the Rockets to the playoffs, but they could never rekindle the magic from the previous season.

Mike D’Antoni

The Rockets have now turned to Mike D’Antoni to be their next head coach. In 12 seasons in the NBA as the head coach of the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers, D’Antoni has a record of 455-426. D’Antoni has six playoff appearances to his credit as his teams have been known to very offensive oriented. The Rockets scored 106.5 points per contest last season which was fourth in the NBA, but they surrendered 106.4 points game which was 25th in the league. And being that D’Antoni is now running the show in Houston, you can expect that trend to continue.

James Harden

When you think of Rockets shooting guard James Harden, you think of instant offense. Harden is always in the MVP discussion as he is one of the best scorers in the NBA. Harden averaged 29 points per contest last season, and in D’Antoni’s “fun and gun” offense, you can expect him to be off to the races. Harden averaged 7.5 assists last year, and you can expect him to play the point guard position more this season which should be very interesting.

But aside from Harden, the Rockets don’t have any other players that can step up and put the team on their back. Small forward Trevor Ariza is a solid defender, and guard Patrick Beverly plays with tremendous heart, but will that be enough to make the Rockets a playoff team for a fifth consecutive year?

Daryl Morey

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is a huge proponent of analytics to build his team from which hasn’t been produced as many wins lately and it will once again be put to the test this season. Seven of the Rockets first eight games will be on the road which includes two meetings with the Dallas Mavericks, along with games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs which won’t be a picnic.

New Orleans Pelicans 38-44

In 2015, it appeared as if the New Orleans Pelicans were destined for greatness until they shot themselves in the foot. The Pelicans made the playoffs for the first time in three years and they appeared ready for an upswing under head coach Monty Williams. But surprisingly, Williams was fired by the Pelicans and replaced with Alvin Gentry. Under Gentry, the Pelicans got off to a slow start last season with a record of 1-11 and they were unable to recover as they only managed to win 30 games. The Pelicans were also done in by injuries with their best player in center Anthony Davis missing 21 games. But as a new NBA season is set to begin, will the Pelicans be able to pick up their production in the Western Conference?

Anthony Davis

Any chance that the Pelicans have for a turnaround begins with Davis. Davis is one of the NBA’s rising stars and he will be the MVP of the league at some point. If Davis is healthy, you can pencil him in to average at least 22 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest while he makes the players that are around him better due to the attention that he receives. Last year Gentry had Davis take more perimeter shots, but if he concentrates on his post game, there won’t be too many defenders in the NBA that will be able to stop him.

The Pelicans will definitely miss the contributions of point guard Jrue Holiday who has stepped away from the basketball team to care for his wife as she deals with a brain tumor, and although that it won’t be easy, New Orleans will have to find a way to replace his production as he averaged 16.8 points and 6 rebounds last season.

With Holiday away from the team, Tyreke Evans should see more time at point guard this year, and getting the basketball to Davis early and often should be his main priority.

Buddy Hield

Shooting guard Buddy Hield was the Pelicans first-round past June and he should have an immediate impact. Hield comes to the NBA as a very decorated player which included him being the Naismith Player of the Year as the nation’s top men’s basketball player during the previous college basketball season as he averaged 25 points per game in helping the Oklahoma Sooners reach the Final Four this past April. Hield is one of the players that can heat up from behind the three-point line rather quickly and playing alongside Davis should see them help each other.

The Pelicans should be a little bit better than last year, but being that the Southwest Division is one of the toughest in the NBA, they will be fighting an uphill battle as far as making the postseason in the spring.

Source: Basketball-reference.com

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A Southwestern Tussle

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Both the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are worthy of winning the NBA Championship, but only one team will make it to the Western Conference Finals.

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