This upcoming basketball season is going to be special. More teams right now are getting better and gaining assets than others. However, obviously not all teams can succeed. So teams need to set realistic goals for themselves based off their roster. I am going to explain what I believe should be the goal coming into this season for half of the teams in the league. Stay tuned for Part 2 which will consist of the second half of the NBA.
Atlanta Hawks: Make the Playoffs
This offseason for the Atlanta Hawks was a very successful one. They drafted 2 players with extremely high potential. The 4th overall pick was Deandre Hunter. Coming out of Virginia he is one of my favorite players in this draft as he proved he can be a future weapon with his 3 point shot. He shot just under 44% in his last season at Virginia while also capturing a National Title. The 10th Pick was Cam Reddish who was voted in a pole by the players in his own draft class to finish with the best career. Cam was the 3rd ranked high school player coming into last college season. With a crowded Duke starting line up, his full potential didn’t show but he has the ability to shoot the ball as well as anybody in this draft. The future looks bright with their stud sophomore point guard Trae Young and the pieces around him could propel them to the 8 seed in the East. This gives the young guys the ability to gain more playoff experience in order to continue to develop for the future.
Boston Celtics: Win 50 games
The Boston Celtics are an interesting team because they did lose lots of pieces in free agency, but were blessed with a plethora of draft picks. They took Romeo Langford from Indiana with the 14th pick and I think his ceiling is very high. He can provide some good bench scoring for this season. Grant Williams was taken with the 22nd pick from Tennessee and they also added Carsen Edwards, a filthy point guard from Purdue who went off in the tournament last year. Not only that but they went out and got Tacko Fall, the 7’6 center from UCF. This team won 49 games last year and the losses of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will for sure show. I believe in this young team and I think this could be the year Jayson Tatum makes that leap we have been waiting for. However, I think a second round exit is warranted as they will miss the defensive impact of Al Horford in the playoffs and many are in question because we have never seen Kemba play with solid pieces around him.
Brooklyn Nets: Make Kyrie happy
This season is obviously not the season that the Nets will be contending. However they will still be a very solid team. As the 6 seed last year they were able to make some noise and show that their young core is solid too. Caris Lavert is an MIP candidate to look out for this season. The additions of Kyrie and Deandre Jordan will only help. I expect this team to be a top 4 seed in the east. The season of 2020-2021 will be when they contend with a healthy KD because that is when this team is the most dangerous. For now make Kyrie happy because Boston went wrong and you don’t want to lose a player of his caliber, at his age.
Charlotte Hornets: Get the #1 overall pick
This offseason was definitely a questionable one for the Hornets. The Hornets were stuck in a tough position on wether to give up on their star point guard Kemba Walker and start the rebuild, or resign him and try to find pieces. Ultimately they made the right decision(or he made it for them) by not resigning him. They gave Terry Rozier a huge contract and I don’t think that his averages of 9 points and 3 assists on 39% shooting last year is worth over $19 million a year. They luckily now have a couple young pieces like P.J. Washington, Miles Bridges and Malik Monk. PJ has a lot of potential. Defensively, he is athletic in his 6ft 8in stature. And was a solid three point shooter at Kentucky shooting 42% his Sophomore year. But they need to be patient and wait for their next couple of years of draft picks to develop and get better talent.
Chicago Bulls: Make the Playoffs
The Bulls got unlucky with the NBA lottery this year. Although they were projected the 4th pick, they fell all the way to 7 for the 3rd year in a row. The 7th Pick, however, has showed some promise for the Bulls. They took Lauri Markkanen in 2017 who set the record for most 3s made by a rookie while making all rookie 1st team. Wendell Carter Jr. Was picked out of Duke by the Bulls in the 2018 Draft. He showed the ability to protect the rim and be a solid all around player for the future. He fits perfectly into the new small ball center role. Lastly, in this years draft, they added Coby White who is a 6’5 point guard out of UNC who is a great scorer and has defensive potential because of his size and athleticism. They also got deep this summer by adding guys like, Thad Young to play defense and shoot the 3. Also Satoransky is a very solid point guard who filled in well in John Wall’s absence. If this team can stay healthy, I believe they can make the 8 seed lead by future first time all star, Zach Lavine. This will give the young guys experience to grow as a team.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Find your guy
Every NBA team has “their guy” and some even have multiple. Whether a team is bad and has a stud to build around or they are contending, every team has “their guy”. But this team is missing that guy. Similar to the Hornets situation. Darius Garland and Colin Sexton are both young prospects that could end up being pretty good. Sexton had a solid rookie season in which he averaged 16.7 points per game. We didn’t see much of Garland in college but we were able to see 5 games in which he averaged 16.2 points and shot almost 48% from three. The Cavs said their goal was to use them in a similar way to a back court duo like Lillard and McCollum, however I cannot see this working out. Sexton (6’3) and Garland (6’2) will have a very hard time guarding opposing teams back courts because of their size disadvantage. That’s why they need to find “their guy” and buy into him. If they find a solid piece to build around and still have a lingering trade asset in Kevin Love, this team could get good again soon. Obviously it could take multiple seasons to find “that guy” but during that time the best thing you can do is accumulate future assets and pieces for down the road.
Dallas Mavericks: Make a playoff push
Last season, Mavericks fans were lucky enough to witness “Luka Magic” which was the very special rookie season that Luka Doncic had. Doncic capped of his season averaging 21.2 pts 7.8 rebs and 6 ast all while taking home the rookie of the year award. Mark Cuban went out and made a move that set up a lethal young duo. The acquisition of Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks mid season last year shocked the entire NBA. Last time we saw Kristaps on the floor was when he was playing All Star level basketball. He averaged 22.7 points and 2.4 blocks as in just his 3rd season, made the All Star team. Having someone as young as Luka with that high of a ceiling is always a gift as he is even called a generational talent in some people’s eyes. If you add him alongside a 7’3 big that can shoot the ball and protect the rim all while remaining one of the most athletic guys on the court, fans could be in for a treat this season.
Denver Nuggets: Establish yourself as a true contender
The Nuggets have a great foundation, and one of the top young cores in the league. Nikola Jokic is one of my favorite players in the league to watch. He has the vision and passing ability of a point guard with the size and touch around the rim of an elite center. Michael Porter Jr. was a stud in highschool and after missing his entire first season, I’d love to watch him break out. Jamal Murray is a great young point guard who shocked me a lot in the playoffs. He showed the ability to come up in big spots as he went 37/38 from the line during the series against the Trail Blazers and also put up a 21 point 4th quarter to bring the Nuggets back and help them win. Unfortunately this was not enough for the Blazers as they lost the series in 7 in one of the most exciting game 7s I’ve ever watched. Many people last year were sleeping on the Nuggets because of their youth but with one year more of experience now, do not count them out. If they can get better on defense as a team I think they have a serious chance to win the Finals. Finals would set the bar too high as a goal because this team is not championship or bust because they have very young pieces that are still developing. They have a larger window than most NBA teams.
Detroit Pistons: Make some type of move
The Pistons have been one of those teams over the past couple of year who just hang around. Blake Griffin last year had a career year. He made his first All-Star game since the 2014 season and finished this year averaging 24.5 pts 5.4 ast and 7.5 rebs. This was good enough for an All-NBA third team selection. Reggie Jackson has not been the guy they expect him to be but he still has been solid. Drummond is always gonna be a horse on the glass and is a great piece to have on any team. But this team is still not in contention and cannot do much with their roster unless they trade. I liked their first round pick this year in Sekou Doumbouya from France. He is a nice player who can stretch the floor well. Also they signed Derrick Rose who will be a very quality scorer in the starting lineup or off the bench. The moral of the story is that if the Pistons want to be competitive, they need to make a move of some sort to get better because they are a borderline playoff team right now.
Golden State Warriors: Get Klay healthy
The Warriors have been the top contender in the league for the past 5 years. For the first time in a while they can call themselves the underdogs. Many people think that because Kevin Durant left that they are no longer contenders. However, this is not true. Many forget but in 2015, Curry, Klay and Draymond won a Finals by themselves. I know Klay will miss the majority of the year if not the entire year but this offseason they added a really nice asset in D’Angelo Russell. Russell-in just his 4th season-made the all star team for the first time and finished the year averaging 21.1 pts and 7 ast. Russell is only 23 and has a lot of room to grow as the former number 2 overall pick. If they don’t decide to keep him, he can always be traded and definitely will bring in a great haul for the Warriors due to his talent at such a young age. The dynasty is far from over but for this season the main focus should be getting Klay back to his old self.
Houston Rockets: Win NOW!!!!!!!
The Rockets are a fun team that personally, I love watching and I’m even more exited now that Russell Westbrook is there to join Harden. Mike D’antoni has always been a coach known for his offense. He created the seven seconds or less system with 2x MVP Steve Nash and the Suns. With the Rockets he created an offense based around the 3 point shot and iso ball. Harden either creates a shot for himself by stepping back or driving to the rim and then kicks out to one of his shooters. We have seen some historic scoring performances from him in the past because of this. Although we have seen them on top of the West as a 1 seed, they never could get over the jump of the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. James Harden is in his prime right now and the Rockets need to capitalize. They need to win now because compared to other teams they have a lot of smaller of a window due to the age of their players and lack of young assets to trade or develop.
Indiana Pacers: Be solid
The Pacers are a very interesting team because there was not much they can do to improve their team, but they did everything they possibly could to do so. Indiana is not a destination for big names, so it was expected that they wouldn’t be able to sign guys like Kawhi, KD and Kyrie. However, they were able to sign multiple solid players that will make immediate impacts on the team. The signing of Malcom Brogdon was one of the most underrated moves this offseason. He is a guy that any team could use because he can shoot the 3 and play defense. He had a historic season last season but not necessarily because of his numbers, it was his shooting percentages that went in the history books. Brogdon is one of 8 players ever to join the 50-40-90 club. This means that he shot over 50% from the field, over 40% from 3 and over 90% from the free throw line during the course of one season. The other 7 players on this list include names like KD, Steph, Larry Bird, Reggie Miller and Steve Nash who is the only player to do it more than once. It takes this list to truly show the impact that Brogdon has. Because the health of Oladipo is up in the air, the goal for this team is to just be the solid team that they are until he comes back. If he comes back to be as good as he was before the injury, I would love to see this team try to make a run at it all, but I don’t think that they have the star power to do so.
LA Clippers: Become LA’s team (for now)
Realistically we all know the ultimate goal for this team is to win a championship if not more. This being said, they have something to prove. The Clippers have been the little sibling to the Lakers ever since they made the move to LA in 1984. The Lakers have a rich history and it would take generations on top of more generations for them to catch up. Therefore, the Lakers are LA’s team even if they win a championship. But that is no saying that they can’t rule LA for a small period of time. The Western Conference Finals that most people expect in the West is to be Lakers vs Clippers. This is where you have to put your money where your mouth is and prove to the league that you are LA’s team. If Kawhi and Paul George leave the Clippers without a ring, than it is 6 first round picks down the drain. This was an all in move and I’m exited to see how it turns out.
LA Lakers: Championship or Bust
The Lakers have Lebron James. This automatically makes them a contender. Than, you add in Anthony Davis, some guys who can shoot, and you have arguably the best roster in the league. Lebron is getting older-as much as everyone hates to admit-but the league some time in the near future will see Lebron retire. I don’t know if it will be with the Lakers or with another team, but similar to the Rockets situation, their championship window is closing. What makes their situation better for the future than the Rockets, is that they have Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis is only 26 and can definitely attract future free agents after Lebron leaves. This offseason was a huge success for the Lakers because as I mentioned early, they signed a lot of 3 point shooters. Lebron plays best with shooters. He gets the majority of his assists from driving to the hoop and kicking out. This was most apparent in Miami. Looking at the Miami roster you see guys like Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and even Rashard Lewis could even knock down a shot. Comparing this roster to the Lakers, there are many similarities. Some of the shooters on the Lakers roster consist of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels, Jared Dudley and Danny Green. These players are similar to the players on the Heat team because they play similar roles and don’t demand the ball a lot. I think this team is set up for success extremely well and if they don’t win with Lebron than many might start to question his legacy.
Memphis Grizzlies: Give young players opportunities
The lottery treated the Grizzlies well as they moved up to the 2nd pick in the draft and took Ja Morant. They moved Mike Conley (who was solid but just didn’t fit the timeline) to the Jazz to make room for their new young center piece. The point guard from Murray State showed unreal potential last season. In college he showed off his freak athleticism buy constantly putting opponents on posters. He has a natural will to score the ball. He average 24.5 points and shot 36% from three. Not only is Ja a scorer but he possesses the ability to pass the ball with the best of them. He lead the NCAA by being the only player to average double digit assists with 10 a game. Other than him there are a lot more young players on this team that deserve playing time. Obviously they have Jaren Jackson Jr. who I think will be a great fit at the 4 or the 5 in today’s NBA. But many might overlook their later picks in the drafts over the past couple of years but I think they drafted well. Most fans know about Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant but I think Grayson Allen (23yrs), Dillon Brooks(23), Bruno Cabocolo(24), Brandan Clarke(23), Josh Jackson(22), Tyus Jones(23) and Ivan Rabb(22) all deserve quality minutes to try and prove themselves in this league. I would look out for one or more of these players to break out if given enough playing time. The goal here is think future, because you aren’t going to win now.
These are the first 15 teams in the NBA alphabetically. The second half of the league will be found in part 2. Feel free to leave any comments about anything you agree on or disagree on because I love to discuss.