Tonight the NBA is finally back, bringing with it a season of excitement and intrigue. Some of the biggest names in the league are in new locations and the race for the NBA title seems as wide open as ever. This should be a year of incredible storylines and tense drama. Let’s make 10 bold predictions about the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season!
1. The San Antonio Spurs finally miss the playoffs
The Spurs have an incredible 22-year playoff streak dating back to 1998, but this will be the year it finally ends. For the past several seasons, many have predicted the Spurs missing the playoffs, but each year the team has somehow found a way to sneak in.
This year, however, its luck should finally run out. The Spurs return a similar team to last year and therein lies the problem. While other Western Conference contenders took steps forward this offseason, the Spurs stayed largely quiet — leaving this team caught behind a bevy of good ones on the come up.
This team just doesn’t have the offensive firepower or marquee superstardom to hang with the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams. With Gregg Popovich at the helm you can never count San Antonio out, but this may be the year the Coyotes find themselves on the wrong side of the playoff bubble.
2. The Golden State Warriors continue to be a threat in the Western Conference
Most people expect the demise of the Golden State Warriors after the loss of Kevin Durant this offseason and Klay Thompson’s injury. The Warriors are still a really good team, however. Stephen Curry could put together an MVP-caliber season, supported by Draymond Green and newcomer D’Angelo Russell, an all-star in Brooklyn last year.
The Warriors may not have the depth that other teams have, but the team’s star power is unquestionable — especially if Klay Thompson returns before the postseason. This is a team no one should want to see come playoff time. And while this team may not be as dominant as it has been the last few years, it still has the capability to make some serious noise this season.
3. The Boston Celtics disappoint in the Eastern Conference
The Celtics are expected to take a step forward in a wide open Eastern Conference. Many think the team has a shot at making it out of the East. Instead, the Celtics will disappoint and have a season worse than last years. The addition of Kemba Walker after the failed Kyrie Irving experiment is a good one, but he’s not on the level of some of the other talent in the East. Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum are nice pieces of the team, but they’re still young and developing. What will hurt this team the most, however, is the loss of Al Horford. He was a critical, veteran piece holding the Celtics together and they will suffer greatly in his absence. Boston still has a bright future, but this year will not be as successful as fans are expecting.
4. The Miami Heat will be a top-four team in the East
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks are clearly the favorites for the top two spots in the East, but after that, the picture is less than clear. The Indiana Pacers, Celtics, Toronto Raptors or even Brooklyn Nets are expected to make a run at the East’s next playoff spots — but the Heat is a team everyone is sleeping on. This is a well-coached team with several nice pieces, and the addition of the elite Jimmy Butler is exactly what Miami needed to get to the next level. The Heat should be a top four seed in the East this year.
5. The Denver Nuggets will be the first seed in the West
There may be flashier teams in the West like the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, but none can match the depth of Denver. The Nuggets have been improving each year under head coach Mike Malone and have both skilled supporting players like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, as well as an MVP-caliber talent in Nikola Jokic.
Other Western Conference contenders have to deal with fitting new pieces into their system while the Nuggets return a similar, young team which has already proven itself. That should be enough for Denver to finish first in the Western Conference this season.
6. The Atlanta Hawks make the playoffs
The Eastern Conference has room for a few surprise teams to make the playoffs and one of those teams will be the Hawks. This team has a dynamic young core led by the duo of Trae Young and John Collins, who will be supported by players like Kevin Huerter and 2019 lottery picks De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish. Atlanta still has questions on the defensive end of the floor, but a thriving youth movement with just enough veteran experience should put the Hawks rebuild ahead of schedule and lead the team to the playoffs
7. The Houston Rockets thrive with James Harden and Russell Westbrook
The Rockets offseason was dominated by its trade for Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder, setting up one of this season’s boldest on-court experiments. Westbrook has incredible talent, but he’s also notoriously hard to play with and has had trouble fitting in on teams. The biggest question is how he will fit in with James Harden, the other ball-dominant player in Houston. The duo could implode spectacularly, but the Rockets needed to make a move, and bringing in Westbrook should lead to a successful season in Houston.
8. The Dallas Mavericks make the postseason
The Western Conference also has room for one surprise team to make their way into the playoffs. It could be the Sacramento Kings or New Orleans Pelicans, but the Mavericks are the team most poised to take that spot. This is a well-run team and I personally believe in the special talent of Luka Doncic and newcomer Kristaps Porzingis. The Mavericks will find a way to make it into the playoff dance this season.
9. The Los Angeles Lakers fail to make it past the second round of the playoffs
The Lakers enter the season with the most hype and anticipation the team has had in a number of years. The Lakers will fall short of those incredible expectations and fail to make it past the second round of the playoffs, however. There is no doubt the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be elite, but can they stay healthy and will they be able to gel with a team full of new faces? Growing pains will cause the Lakers to enter the playoffs as a lower seed than expected, and a number of extremely talented Western Conference squads will be standing in the team’s way. This will mean the Lakers won’t even be able to make it to the Western Conference Finals this season.
10. The Milwaukee Bucks will win the NBA Championship
There are several teams who have legitimate cases to win the NBA championship this season, but my pick is the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks may not be the favorites, but have the perfect mix of pieces necessary to win the title: great coaching, a deep supporting cast and a generational talent in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who should repeat as MVP. The Bucks will match up against the new look of the Los Angeles Clippers in the finals, but this time Giannis will get his revenge on Kawhi Leonard and lead the team to its first title since 1971.
Benjamin Coleman writes for Bear Bytes. Contact him at [email protected].