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Know Your Competition: The Rest of the NBA

How the league shapes up ahead of the 2018-19 season

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here we go. The grind is back. The quest to knock off Golden State starts now.

With the NBA set to tip off tonight, here’s my preview of the rest of the league. You can check out my thoughts on the rest of the Grizzlies’ division check here, here, here, and here. My thoughts on the Grizzlies are at the bottom.

Let’s get into it.

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Portland Trail Blazers

2017-18 Record: 49-33, 1st in Division, 3rd in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 42-40, 4th in Division, 10th in Conference

Rumored to be interested in a deal for Jimmy Butler, but otherwise there’s not much happening for the Blazers. No real impact additions to a team that was bounced quickly from the playoffs. I don’t see the Blazers being at the level they were last season.

Oklahoma City Thunder

2017-18 Record: 48-34, 2nd in Division, 4th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 47-35, 2nd in Division, 6th in Conference

Somehow the Thunder managed to rid themselves of Carmelo Anthony’s giant contract, re-signed Paul George, and picked up Dennis Schroeder in the deal that saw Anthony leave OKC. That sounds great until you see that Russell Westbrook will miss at least the home opener from his knee scope in September. Andre Roberson also suffered a setback in his knee surgery recovery and will be out until January. OKC should still manage to stay close to a 6 or 7 seed.

Utah Jazz

2017-18 Record: 48-34, 3rd in Division, 5th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 53-29, 1st in Division, 3rd in Conference

Utah got a draft night steal in Duke’s Grayson Allen, and re-signed Dante Exum and Derrick Favors. Add in the emerging Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz are poised to make life difficult for Golden State and Houston at the top of the West.

Minnesota Timberwolves

2017-18 Record: 47-35, 4th in Division, 8th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 36-46, 5th in Division, 12th in Conference

If Jimmy Butler is off the team, the Timberwolves aren’t very good. With him, they’re alright. The Wolves barely squeaked into the playoffs last year and aside from adding a good draft pick in Josh Okogie, there’s not a whole lot else to be excited about in the Twin Cities.

Denver Nuggets

2017-18 Record: 46-36, 5th in Division, 9th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 46-36, 3rd in Division, 7th in Conference

Denver is another one of those teams that while yes, they shed some players that needed to go (Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur), did they really improve their team that much? Yes, they added Isaiah Thomas and drafted Michael Porter Jr. but what do they have in those guys? There’s definitely a chance that I’m way off on this prediction, but there’s too many what-ifs to say the Nuggets are much if at all better than last season.

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors

2017-18 Record: 58-24, 1st in Division, 2nd in Conference,

2018-19 Prediction: 62-20, 1st in Division, 1st in Conference

What else can be said about Golden State? Regular season records clearly don’t matter to the Warriors. Again, the Dubs found a way to hold fast after winning a title adding DeMarcus Cousins. Sure, they lost Patrick McCaw, Javale McGee, Zaza Pachoulia, and the retiring David West, but if they get a decent amount of production from Cousins, I can’t see how they are much worse off from last year.

Los Angeles Clippers

2017-18 Record: 42-40, 2nd in Division, 10th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 43-39, 3rd in Division, 9th in Conference

This Clippers isn’t the same old Lob City anymore. Deandre Jordan is gone. Austin Rivers is gone. Luc Mbah A Moute returns after a spell in Houston, and Marcin Gortat came West in the deal that sent Rivers to Washington. The fun part for LA will be the addition of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to a team that next summer will probably be in the mix for one or two big name free agents.

Los Angeles Lakers

2017-18 Record: 35-47, 3rd in Division, 11th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 49-33, 2nd in Division, 5th in Conference

At this point you probably know what’s going on with the Lakers. LeBron James. That’s all you need to know. The Lakers will be better but probably won’t compete for the West title this year. LA may still need a better presence down low (Marc Gasol?) to compete for the West title this season.

Sacramento Kings

2017-18 Record: 27-55, 4th in Division, 12th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 26-56, 5th in Division, 15th in Conference

The Kings may be the worst team in the NBA. Yes, they drafted Marvin Bagley III. But this is also the same team that traded Garrett Temple for Ben McLemore. Sacramento should be in line for a top-3 pick in the NBA Draft next April.

Phoenix Suns

2017-18 Record: 21-61, 5th in Division, 15th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 33-49, 4th in Division, 14th in Conference

The Suns shouldn’t be the worst team in the league this year. That said, they have a lot to figure out. Phoenix drafted 5 players including #1 pick DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, and added Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. How these players all fit together remains to be seen but the Suns should be a little better than last year.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Toronto Raptors

2017-18 Record: 59-23, 1st in Division, 1st in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 58-24, 2nd in Division, 2nd in Conference

Obviously this Raptors team is a bit different. Are they better? I don’t know. I think Kawhi Leonard is a better overall player than DeMar Derozan. But is Kawhi a better fit for Toronto? He could be, but I’m a little cautiously optimistic. Danny Green will be a nice addition, and depending on which Greg Monroe shows up he could add some nice depth to the Raptors.

Boston Celtics

2017-18 Record: 55-27, 2nd in Division, 2nd in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 60-22, 1st in Division, 1st in Conference

Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are back to start the season. They are undoubtedly better than last season as long as they figure out how to work Hayward into things. Jayson Tatum and the rest of the Celtics young core will benefit greatly just from Irving and Hayward being on the floor. Boston could be the best team in the NBA barring any severe injuries.

Philadelphia 76ers

2017-18 Record: 52-30, 3rd in Division, 3rd in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 54-28, 3rd in Division, 3rd in Conference

Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz spent a lot of time working on their shots in the offseason, with Fultz looking to be a big part of the Sixers as well. Joel Embiid should come into his own even more and ascend into the upper level of stars in the NBA. Philadelphia lost some of their perimeter depth with Marco Bellinelli heading back to San Antonio and Ersan Ilyasova heading to Milwaukee, but made some good moves in the draft. Landry Shamet will probably contribute right away this season and Zhaire Smith will look to do the same when he returns from injury.

New York Knicks

2017-18 Record: 29-53, 4th in Division, 11th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 20-62, 5th in Division, 15th in Conference

The Knicks are going to struggle a lot this season under new coach David Fizdale. Kristaps Porzingis will miss most of the season. Honestly, even if he is “healthy” enough to play, he shouldn’t. Really, what the Knicks have to look forward to is the idea that Kevin Durant may be interested in joining the team this summer. Add that to a potential top-3 pick, and there’s some hope on the horizon, but not for this season.

Brooklyn Nets

2017-18 Record: 28-54, 5th in Division, 13th in Division

2018-19 Prediction: 35-47, 4th in Division, 10th in Conference

Brooklyn had a TON of roster turnover this offseason. Oddly enough, the Nets are much better this season. hey are still not going to make the playoffs, but they’re getting there. The Nets added Kenneth Faried and Jared Dudley via trade, and picked up Ed Davis as a free agent. The team also got my favorite player in the draft, Dzanan Musa. It won’t be a history-altering season for Brooklyn, but it’ll be better.

Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers

2017-18 Record: 50-32, 1st in Division, 4th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 35-47, 4th in Division, 11th in Conference

The Cavs won’t be very good. That’s the simple explanation. Collin Sexton could be a gem down the road, but this season will be a lot different from the last several. This will also be another chance for Kevin Love to be back in the lead of a team with LeBron James in LA. Love will have the recently re-signed Larry Nance Jr. coming back with him this season, along with Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, and J.R. Smith. The core of the LeBron Cavs is still there, but don’t look for them to be anywhere near as good as last season, or the last several.

Indiana Pacers

2017-18 Record: 48-34, 2nd in Division, 5th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 52-30, 2nd in Division, 5th in Conference

The Pacers added some scoring in Tyreke Evans, who will do for them what he did for the Grizzlies last season for the second unit. The Pacers have a chance to build on the success they had last season and could be a dark horse in the East.

Milwaukee Bucks

2017-18 Record: 44-38, 3rd in Division, 7th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 53-29, 1st in Division, 4th in Conference

How Giannis Antetekounmpo goes, so does the fortunes of the Bucks. Giannis looks to continue his development into being one of the premier young players in the league. The Bucks lost Jabari Parker but added Ersan Ilyasova. Fair tradeoff. Eric Bledsoe has a full season with Milwaukee under his belt now, and throw in the potential wild card of Donte DiVincenzo and the Bucks could be a very exciting team this season.

Detroit Pistons

2017-18 Record: 39-43, 4th in Division, 9th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 41-41, 3rd in Division, 9th in Conference

Detroit and Blake Griffin were middle of the pack in the East last season and should be again this year. There’s not much to be excited about with their offseason aside from the drafting of Khryi Thomas, their potential 2 guard of the future.

Chicago Bulls

2017-18 Record: 27-55, 5th in Division, 13th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 32-50, 5th in Division, 13th in Conference

The clock has got to be ticking for coach Fred Hoiberg as the Bulls will probably have another season well out of playoff contention. Wendell Carter should be a bright spot, along with the returning Zach LaVine, but that’s where the excitement dies. It should be another season building towards the future, whether that’s with or without their coach or GM moving forward after this year.

Southeast Division

Miami Heat

2017-18 Record: 44-38, 1st in Division, 6th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 45-37, 2nd in Division, 7th in Conference

Miami is another team that made some moves but didn’t necessarily get better. Yet. It appears that the Heat are the most likely destination for Jimmy Butler if he’s moved, but it all depends on what you have to move to get him as to whether the team will be that much better with him. Otherwise, the Heat had zero draft picks this year and are bringing back roughly the same team.

Washington Wizards

2017-18 Record: 43-39, 2nd in Division, 8th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 48-34, 1st in Division, 6th in Conference

The Wizards definitely upgraded by adding Austin Rivers. I wouldn’t say the same for Dwight Howard but that remains to be seen for sure. I’m still not the biggest believer in John Wall, and the dynamic between he and Bradley Beal will say a lot as to whether this team succeeds or fails.

Charlotte Hornets

2017-18 Record: 36-46, 3rd in Division, 10th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 43-39, 3rd in Division, 8th in Conference

Charlotte has the chance to improve the most out of the top-3 in the Southeast, adding Tony Parker and Bismack Biyombo, and drafting Miles Bridges. Overall, they will be better but not that much better. Parker is aging, Biyombo is overrated at times, and Bridges is a rookie. Kemba Walker will keep doing Kemba things, and Nicholas Batum will be look to have a rebound season and lead the Hornets into the playoffs.

Orlando Magic

2017-18 Record: 25-57, 4th in Division, 14th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 28-54, 5th in Division, 14th in Conference

Orlando will not be very good. Not this year at least. Mo Bamba should have plenty of opportunity to see the court. The Magic will give the Kings and Knicks a run for their money for the title of “Worst Team in the NBA.”

Atlanta Hawks

2017-18 Record: 24-58, 5th in Division, 15th in Conference

2018-19 Prediction: 32-50, 4th in Division, 12th in Conference

The decision to trade for Trae Young is a curious one, but with the trade of Dennis Schroeder, Trae will get the chance to be the man early and often. The Hawks added the legendary Vince Carter to help nurture the young team, but don’t expect this team to do anything special this year. Better than last, but still not very good.

NBA Finals Prediction

Golden State over Boston in 6. Warriors over Utah in the WCF and Boston over Philly in the ECF.

Grizzlies Predictions

Even with all of the additions to the team this offseason, and fully committing to Grit and Grind, does it really make the team better? Any time that Tyreke Evans or Mike Conley missed time last season the Grizzlies had difficulty scoring. If Marshon Brooks is your “Tyreke” this year, what happens if he goes cold?

I worry that the defense isn’t strong enough to try to limit the opponents to 85 points. The other team scores over 90 and the Grizzlies may have trouble keeping up at times. Are they better? Yeah, I’ll give you that. How much better? Not enough to me. If things play out like I worry they will, we could be looking at the last few months of Mike Conley or Marc Gasol or both in Grizzlies colors.

Prove me wrong, Grizzlies.

Record Prediction: 34-48, 5th in Division, 13th in Conference

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