Top spots will look familiar in NBA

By: Ben Boezing and Aaron Heimbuck

Eastern Conference

The closing seconds of the 2016 drop off the scoreboard, and the anxious crowd around  Quicken Loans Arena is barely able to contain its excitement. The promises of Lebron finally come true. The city’s sports championship drought ends. The Los Angeles Clippers somberly move up and down the court, in the undesirable position that the Cavs filled last year.

As the confetti gracefully drops from the ceiling, the Larry O’Brien trophy is escorted onto the court and the stage is overflowing with yellow jerseys and exhausted players filling those jerseys. With Lebron James’ sweaty hands grasping the NBA Finals MVP trophy for the second straight year, Kyrie Irving stands at his left with Tristan Thompson standing to Lebron’s right. Both had amazing NBA finals, with Thompson locking down the defensive side, along with shutting down DeAndre Jordan at the rim. The trophy gets hauled back to the locker room to get showered with champagne along with the players.

Now that you know how I think about the Cavs, let’s go through my predictions for the rest of the eastern conference. The Washington Wizards. I think that this season will be a renaissance for the Wizards. The 2010 first overall pick has slowly been progressing to an elite NBA level, and this, I think, will be when he finally crosses over the line for elite guards. With a 17.6 points per game average last season, I think that Wall with keep his PPG rising up to a 21 PPG average. With Wall constantly improving his three point shot ability and the veteran leadership of Marcin Gortat, Wall could prove to be one of the league’s most dynamic guards since Pistol Pete.

The team I have second in the Eastern Conference standings is the Atlanta Hawks. The only reason that I didn’t have them make it to the finals is because they’d have to go through the Cavs. They have an all around balanced lineup headlined by Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Their weapon of choice will definitely be the three ball, and when Korver is hot from beyond the three point arc with the rebounding duo of Horford and Milsap, nobody will be able to beat them. The only weak point that the Hawks will have this season is the lack of quality big men on the bench, but with Dennis Shroeder and Tim Hardaway, Jr., I think they’ll be able to make it up with this talented front court duo.

The Bulls this season will be rejuvenated. Derrick Rose is poised for a comeback after his seasons of injuries. Rose will have a season similar season to his 2010-2011 MVP season where he averaged 25.00 points per game. Along with the front court power of Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and including Jimmy Butler, the Bulls could be an extremely scary team come middle to late season. If the pieces fall right with the success of Rose, Gibson, Noah and Butler, the Bulls could really become a clutch team and run the table in the East,but only if things fall perfectly for the Bulls.

The Toronto Raptors could be a team to worry about for the top of the standings teams. A definite dark horse in the eastern conference, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors could give Lebron and company a run for their money. If like Rose, Lowry can have a great scoring season along with supporting cast like DeMarre Carroll and Demar Derozan the Raptors could be poised to be the Cinderella of the playoffs, a team that has potential similar to the Bulls could have renaissance similar to the Hawks in the previous season.

Western Conference 

The Los Angeles Clippers are looking like my preseason favorites for the western conference champs. With DeAndre Jordan returning, the physical presence of Blake Griffin, the skills that Chris Paul has with passing, scoring in the paint and from midrange, and the veteran leadership plus the great three point shooting of Paul Pierce, the Clippers will stay tops deep into the season. When it comes down to the postseason, the only team that will prove a tough matchup against the Clippers will be the previous champs, the Golden State Warriors. The reason I don’t think that the Warriors will be able to handle the Clippers is because of the lack of size and skills in the front court. Although small ball worked for them in the finals, against a great team like the Clippers, I just don’t think they can pull it off.

A team that will perform at the high level like they did last year will be the Houston Rockets. With free agents returning and the addition of a much needed guard in Ty Lawson, the Rockets are poised to be the third best team in the league. The only thing the Rockets don’t have offensively is a good shooting small forward. Even though Trevor Ariza has a good shot, he’s just not reliable and consistent enough to ride deep in the postseason.

After a disappointing season last year, pegged with injuries, the Oklahoma City Thunder might be the underdog in this year’s playoff race. Of course, all this relies on the health of their two main stars: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The two have run the western conference the past three years, but with the emergence of Steph Curry, ex-teammate James Harden over-powered Anthony Davis and even Andrew Wiggins along with the Timberwolves. Demarcus Cousins has been practically promising an MVP trophy to the city of Sacramento. I think that he is right to be arrogant. I think that he can help the Kings reach the playoffs for the first time in awhile. With the addition of declining Rajon Rondo, Boogie finally has a good teammate. Including guard and young blood Ben McLemore, the Kings could be the contender that no one is talking about. In fact, the only time the Kings have been counted as a contender is when the NBA was looking for who to send back to Seattle.

This season could be one of Renaissance in the NBA. This depends mostly on the resilience and clutch ability of the newer stars in the NBA, i.e. Anthony Davis. Or it could be continued to be run by the Hall of Fame veterans like Lebron James and Kevin Durant.

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