Are You Ready for the NBA?

Tony Calderone

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

MVP: LeBron James

X-Factor: Kevin Love

Somehow this team came within 2 wins of the NBA finals last season without their 2nd or 3rd best players in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. They seem to have one of the easiest roads to the Finals in year, as the East is once again very weak.

  1. Miami Heat

MVP: Chris Bosh

X-Factor: Hassan Whiteside

Two big questions loom over the Heat this season: Is Hassan Whiteside for real? and Can Wade and Bosh stay healthy? If the answer to either is no, the Heat will be much worse than expected.

  1. Atlanta Hawks

MVP: Al Horford

X-Factor: Jeff Teague

The Hawks were one of the biggest surprises in the league last season thanks in part to their talented front court of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. If they want to become an elite team they need Teague to become a top-tier point guard.

  1. Chicago Bulls

MVP: Jimmy Butler

X-Factor: Derrick Rose

The decline of Derrick Rose has removed the Bulls from championship contender status, but Jimmy Butler is one of the top young stars in the NBA. If their aging frontcourt can perform, this team could be dangerous.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

MVP: Khris Middleton

X-Factor: Michael Carter-Williams

Probably the longest team in the league, we know the Bucks will be a nightmare for opposing offences. What we don’t know is if they have the shooting to keep up in today’s NBA.

  1. Toronto Raptors

MVP: Kyle Lowry

X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas

The loss of Amir Johnson hurts, but a backcourt of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan should be more than enough for a playoff spot in the east. Not much upside here.


  1. Washington Wizards

MVP: John Wall

X-Factor: Otto Porter

John Wall and Bradley Beal are great players, but their big men are only getting older and their bench is a major issue. Wall will need to takeover a lot of games for this team to be successful.

  1. Boston Celtics

MVP: Isaiah Thomas

X-Factor: Marcus Smart

The Celtics are a team built for the regular season because of their depth but their lack of a real number 1 option on offence limits their ceiling. Brad Stevens will ensure this team plays hard.

  1. Indiana Pacers

MVP: Paul George

X-Factor: Jordan Hill

Even if Paul George comes back to full health (which I don’t think he will), this team is far from the one that challenged the Lebron James Heat. The frontcourt is a glaring issue.


  1. Orlando Magic

MVP: Nikola Vucevic

X-Factor: Elfrid Payton

The Magic have a great young core, but they are probably a year or two away from being a legit playoff team. They need Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton to become a 3-point threat.


  1. Charlotte Hornets

MVP: Al Jefferson

X-Factor: Nic Batum

The loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to injury hurts a lot. Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are nothing too special, and they probably won’t be enough to drag this team to the playoffs.


  1. Detroit Pistons

MVP: Andre Drummond

X-Factor: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Stan Van Gundy is trying to build this team like the Dwight Howard Magic teams, with a big in the middle and shooters around him. He has his big in Drummond, but the team is lacking shooters.

  1. New York Knicks

MVP: Carmelo Anthony

X-Factor: Langston Galloway

Carmelo is still probably a top ten player in the league, but the rest off the roster is rough to say the least. Melo will probably quit on this team before Christmas.

  1. Brooklyn Nets

MVP: Brook Lopez

X-Factor: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

This franchise is in big trouble for the foreseeable future. They are one of the worst teams in the NBA, their “core” is old, and to top it off they barely own any of their own draft picks.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

MVP: Nerlens Noel

X-Factor Nik Stauskas

Their frontcourt has been shaping up respectably, but the backcourt is the worst in the NBA. Their staters would not make most rosters. Hopefully Nik Stauskas can thrive with a change of scenery, but even if he does, GM Sam Hinkie will just trade him for draft picks.


While the Eastern Conference is clearly inferior to the Western Conference, there are many intriguing teams that can make some noise this season.

Western Conference

  1. San Antonio Spurs

MVP: Tim Duncan

X-Factor: Tony Parker

Father time is undefeated, but Tim Duncan is giving him a run for his money. The additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West make their front court the best in the league. They might not finish with the best regular season record because their starters will rest, but they will still be the team to beat in the West.

  1. Golden State Warriors

MVP: Stephen Curry

X-Factor: Andrew Bogut

The reigning NBA didn’t do much this offseason, but they didn’t really need to. The loss of David Lee creates more of a reliance on Andrew Bogut to perform and stay healthy. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson form the best shooting backcourt in NBA history, and they will ensure the Warriors will have a chance against anybody.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

MVP: Chris Paul

X-Factor: Lance Stephenson

            The Clippers were plagued by a weak bench last season, but the additions of Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson should help fix that. He’s not as flashy as Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry, but Chris Paul is still the best pure point guard in the NBA. Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin are a great frontcourt combination. This team is a title contender.

  1. Houston Rockets

MVP: James Harder

X-Factor: Ty Lawson

            Everyone seems to forget Dwight Howard is still a very good NBA center. He is nowhere near where he was in his prime on the Magic, but he doesn’t need to be for this team to succeed. James Harden seems poised for another big season, and he is a great source of instant offence. If new addition Ty Lawson can move on from his off the court issues, this team becomes extremely dangerous.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

MVP: Kevin Durant

X-Factor: Steven Adams

            Last year despite Russell Westbrook playing the best basketball of his life, the Thunder failed to make the playoffs. Kevin Durant comes back this year. And will instantly turn Oklahoma City into a contender. Locking up Enes Kanter long-term was ill-advised, as he is one of the worst post defenders in the league, and while he is a great scorer, that is not what this team needs.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

MVP: Marc Gasol

X-Factor: Jeff Green

            The Grizzlies have been good but not great for the last couple years, and they did nothing to change that this offseason. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are a great one-two punch, but Zach Randolph isn’t getting any younger. They could win a playoff series, but are not real contenders.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

MVP: Anthony Davis

X-Factor: Jrue Holiday

            Anthony Davis is the best young player in the league, but almost his entire supporting cast was hurt last year. They need guards Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday to stay healthy and space the floor so teams can’t always double Davis down low. New Orleans has the ability to pull off a playoff upset.

  1. Utah Jazz

MVP: Rudy Gobert

X-Factor: Trey Burke

            Rudy Gobert was one of the biggest surprises last season, as he became the heart and soul of the Jazz defense. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors continue to develop into perennial All-Stars. They need a point guard after the injury to Dante Exum. They might be a year or two away from making some serious noise

  1. Phoenix Suns

MVP: Eric Bledsoe

X-Factor: Markieff Morris

The addition of Tyson Chandler helps, and their backcourt is rock-solid with Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. Outside of those three the roster is very weak, as their next best player Markieff Morris has had off the court issues after his brother Marcus was traded to Detroit.

  1. Sacramento Kings

MVP: Demarcus Cousins

X-Factor: Rajon Rondo

The Kings have a lot of talented players on their roster, but there are serious chemistry concerns. Star player Demarcus Cousins and coach George Karl have a major feud, and he could very well be traded at the trade deadline if things aren’t working out. If things come together, this could be a playoff team, but if they trade Cousins they could be a bottom feeder.


  1. Dallas Mavericks

MVP: Chandler Parsons

X-Factor: Deron Williams

The loss of Tyson Chandler really hurts. With Dirk rapidly declining as a defensive player, they need him to man the middle. Now they are very reliant on Chandler Parsons and Wes Matthews to be two-way players. It will be a surprise if Dallas reaches the playoffs


  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

MVP: Andrew Wiggins

X-Factor: Ricky Rubio

Every year is “the year” for Ricky Rubio to break out and he never does. If the Timberwolves want to compete this season they need him to be an outside threat. Even if he isn’t, with a core of Zach Lavine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the future is bright.


  1. Portland Trail Blazers

MVP: Damian Lillard

X-Factor: Meyers Leonard

The Blazers were picked clean this offseason, save for star Damian Lillard. They lost 4 out of 5 starters from last season, and are in complete rebuilding mode. They need some of their young talent to develop to help get this franchise back on the right track.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

MVP: Kobe Bryant

X-Factor: Julius Randle

If everything goes right for this team, they could be in the hunt for a playoff spot. That is a huge “if” though, as Kobe and Randle are very injury prone, Roy Hibbert is coming off an awful year, and rookie guard D’Angelo Russell might not be able to contribute right away. This could be a rough season for the Lakers

  1. Denver Nuggets

MVP: Kenneth Faried

X-Factor: Emmanuel Mudiay

The trade of star guard Ty Lawson proves the Nuggets are giving up on this season. Kenneth Faried leads a weak cast of veterans, and outside of Mudiay they have very little young talent. The Nuggets need some serious help.


It is highly likely that this years NBA champion comes from the West, the conference is clearly superior from the top to the bottom.




First Round

Cavs over Celtics

Heat over Wizards

Hawks over Raptors

Bucks over Bulls

Second Round

Cavs over Bucks

Hawks over Heat

Eastern Conference Finals

Cavs over Hawks


First Round

Spurs over Jazz

Warriors over Pelicans

Grizzlies over Clippers

Thunder over Rockets

Second Round

Spurs over Thunder

Warriors over Grizzlies

Western Conference Finals

Spurs over Warriors

NBA Finals

Spurs over Cavs