With MLB crowning a new World Series champion Sunday Night, all focus will be left on the start of the NBA season and finish to the NFL season.
Firstly, Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for their World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a Dodgers fan, it was tough for me to watch, but I have hope for the rest of the LA teams in sports. With that, let’s get this article rolling. We will now be more focused on the National Basketball Association and which teams will make an impact this season.
Since the season tipped off on October 16th, all eyes have been on the reigning back-to-back NBA Champions, Golden State Warriors and how their new addition will help them make it back to the Finals again!
In fact, it’s all the new additions to teams that have all of us waiting to see what happens in this long season. The most interesting factor will be which team steps up in the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James is in Los Angeles with the Lakers.
Let’s also not forget the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors made a trade for their two All-Stars Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan. Leonard looks to lead the Raptors to the finals as they got off to a quick 6-0 start over these first two weeks.
Can the Boston Celtics or Toronto Raptors finally make the finals in the East? Most of the writers at Fourth Quarter Sports thought so in our predictions. But since then we have added a few new members and their opinion is important to us as well! So let’s get one of our new writers (Kevin Dannaher) thoughts on the playoffs as he and I break down the league every two weeks and tell you about the teams we expected more from and those teams who are on the rise. We will also tell you who the surprisingly hot and cold teams are.
So let’s get this one started. As of Sunday, October 28th, this is what the playoff standings look like, but of course, we expect this to change a lot throughout the season and we will keep you updated every two weeks.
1. Bucks(6-0) 1. Warriors (6-1)
2. Raptors (6-0) 2. Pelicans (4-1)
3. Pistons (4-1) 3. Nuggets (4-1)
4. Pacers (4-2) 4. Jazz (4-2)
5. Celtics (4-2) 5. Trail Blazers (3-2)
6. Heat (3-2) 6. Grizzlies (3-2)
7. Sixers (3-3) 7. Clippers (3-2)
8. Hornets (3-4) 8. Spurs (3-2)
As you can see from the early standings, some of the favorites aren’t on here yet, but let’s see which teams we expect more from.
The Jazz were one of the surprising teams last year, as they still managed to make playoffs without Gordon Hayward. Last year they drafted Donovan Mitchell late in the first, and he quickly became a fan favorite and Rookie of the Year candidate. This year, the Jazz haven’t changed much of anything.
They’ve added another physical guard in Grayson Allen from the draft, who they may end up using more down the stretch of games, but with a 4-2 record thus far, the Jazz are expected to be another 50 plus win team this year. A lot of people have them in the top three or four in the standings, so let’s see how the next few weeks go for this young Jazz team led by Rudy Gobert and Mitchell.
The Sixers are 3-3, but those three losses are against top playoff teams from last year in Milwaukee and Boston. The other loss came to Detroit, who you can read more about in the “On The Rise” section. We expect Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to continue playing great as they make their way into the playoffs again this year. But with high expectations, the rest of the team will have to figure out a way to contribute.
After their big loss to the Celtics on opening night, all fingers were pointed at Markelle Fultz. Fultz is the one player who needs to improve and help Embiid and Simmons get to the next step. He didn’t really get much experience last year, being hurt most of his rookie season, but showed some light in the playoffs until that playoff series with the same Celtics who have found a way to shut him down. So let’s continue to watch how he progresses over the length of the season.
Not sure what their plan is with Jimmy Butler anymore, but the Houston Rockets have offered four first-round picks for him. Not only that, but the Timberwolves just locked up a deal with centerpiece Karl Anthony-Towns, who continued where he left off in the playoff series against Houston….. Struggling. Even Lakers’ Center JaVale McGee is averaging more points per game than KAT. I do believe they can be better than what they have shown so far this season. When the right move for Butler is available, they will take it and it will be a difference maker in whether or not the Wolves make the playoffs.
The Heat could end up winning their division and making the playoffs earlier than expected if the Washington Wizards continue to be cold. Kevin will give you more on them in the “Cold Teams” section. The Miami Heat are not cold nor hot right now, which is what’s expected from them. This year is suppose to be the Dwayne Wade Farewell tour, as he announced he’ll retire after one more season with the Heat. But their focus should be on making the playoffs and having one final run at the title during the Wade era. They have the pieces to make the playoffs and make a big run, but they will need to focus and hopefully find a way to get Jimmy Butler in a trade that will really help set them up for some big things this season.
Los Angeles Lakers:
Any team LeBron James is on will always be expected to do more. The Lakers are still trying to get things figured out. They started off 0-3 after losing to Portland, Houston (only win so far) and San Antonio. Then they got their first win over Phoenix and handed Denver their first loss. The Lakers also had a fight with Houston’s PG Chris Paul, which caused them to play without two key players (Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram) for multiple games. With everyone due back for the Lakers, let’s see how they continue to improve.
There are other teams who we look forward to watching as they try to make it in the playoffs:
On The Rise
The Bulls like to tease us with early strong starts or large chunks of wins at one time, but this could be the year we see them in the playoffs again. They’re currently 2-4 on the season. During that time, guard Zach LaVine has averaged nearly 30 points a game. The Bulls have benefited enormously from trading Jimmy Butler. Once all their guys get back in the rotation, we can see them fight for a final spot in the playoffs.
In what could be Dirk Nowitzki’s last season, the Mavericks are pushing to be better than last year. They have Dennis Smith Jr. and rookie Lucas Doninic playing well together with Nowitzki and DeAndre Jordan. Yes, Jordan finally joined the Mavericks and they look to make things interesting.
The Hornets are currently in 8th in the Eastern Conference standings, but it’s going to be a long season. If they want to have any chance at the playoffs, they will need to find a way to win more than 40 games and let Kemba Walker do what he does best. This is a contract season for Walker, so he’ll have to prove he’s worthy of it by leading his team into the playoffs. Come on Walker, let’s make MJ’s decision harder.
Grizzlies are surprising everyone so far, but as long as everyone is healthy and happy they should be a good team anyways. In a tough Western conference, they will need to keep up the quick pace they have started with. Currently in 6th, how low or high will the Grizzlies be this year? That will largely depend on the health of this team.
The Hawks are aiming for a better season than last. They have added a lot of veteran pieces like Vince Carter and Jeremy Lin to help the younger guys out. They also added more depth at each position and drafted rookie Trae Young, who is coming along well for them so far. Don’t expect a playoff run from the Hawks this season, but maybe they can find themselves in the 30 to 35 wins category, especially if they play teams like the Cavaliers, who are still struggling to win a game.
There are also good teams who have gotten off to a slow start and look completely ice cold.
The Wizards should be pretty concerned with the start of their season. I know things could change with a healthy Dwight Howard, but right now the core of Porter, Beal and Wall don’t look championship caliber. They look like a mid-tier team. On the bright side though, John Wall looks healthy and Bradley Beal is still a great shooter and scorer. Their bench has upside with Austin Rivers and Kelly Oubre Jr. When healthy, they are certainly better than their 1-4 record, but not a realistic Finals contender.
The Houston Rockets lost a total of 17 games last year. This year they have already lost 4. The Rockets lost two key glue guys in Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza this offseason and they are already feeling the consequences. The stat sheet doesn’t exemplify how much these guys impacted their team. They spaced the floor and worked their butts off in the Rockets’ switch everything style of defense.
Replacing them with James Ennis III and Carmelo Anthony is starting to show how important they were to the team. However, with the reigning MVP and two first ballot Hall of Famers, there is still an enormous amount of talent on this team. A Western Conference Finals appearance against the Warriors is definitely not out of the picture.
New York Knicks:
The Knicks are without their star player Kristaps Porzingis, so a 1-5 start is not as
surprising as these other teams. However, there is still talent on this team and they should not be so reliant on their star player. Tim Hardaway Jr. has played well this year, and other young players like Alonzo Trier and Kevin Knox have showcased talent. This team needs to show free agents like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or Kyrie Irving they can win with this supporting cast. This is an important year for the Knicks’ future.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
It seems like this team has made all the right moves since having a disappointing loss to the Jazz in last year’s playoffs. They got rid of Carmelo Anthony and got a great backup point guard in Dennis Schroder. They kept a player who can guard every position in Jerami Grant, signed a low floor/high ceiling player in Nerlens Noel, and now have a healthy Andre Roberson.
This team should be winning now, right? Well apparently not. Like the Wizards and Rockets, they are 1-4. I can’t imagine Paul George and Russell Westbrook struggling all season and I wouldn’t be concerned yet as a Thunder fan.
Cavs fans have to be thinking “Oh boy, not again”. LeBron James leaves and this team goes from good to most likely getting the first overall pick. When LeBron dragged this team to the Finals, we knew he had a bad supporting cast, but we didn’t know it was this bad. Tyronn Lue lasted six games without James on his team, losing all of them. Kevin Love is only 28, and when the offense ran through him in Minnesota, he was an MVP type player. Also, it should be noted, ninth overall pick Collin Sexton has struggled to earn minutes on a depleted team.
With the cold, there is the hot! And apart from teams we expected to start strong, there are more!
With their head coach and star player being fired and traded, there were a lot of questions for this Raptors team. The 6-0 start doesn’t promise anything, but it is definitely encouraging. Kyle Lowry looks like an unquestionable all-star, Kawhi Leonard looks a little rusty but very healthy, and new head coach Nick Nurse has proven he can win games. There is a lot to be cautiously optimistic about.
The Nuggets are a young and very talented team. Offensively, the Nuggets have a starting five that has proven it can run with anyone in the league. Once the youngsters learn how to defend consistently, the sky is the limit for this team. After barely not making the playoffs last year, a 4-1 record with wins over the Warriors and Clippers looks very promising. If everything falls according to plan this season, the Western Conference Finals is not out of the question for this squad.
My biggest cause for concern with this organization is not even with the team. I am worried about the owners trading away good talent like Wilson Chandler just to stay under the NBA salary cap. The owners of championship contenders like the Warriors and Celtics understand that salary taxes are going to need to be paid. The Denver Nuggets can’t get thrifty as they take a step further up in the league hierarchy.
Another team with a new head coach. This is another team with a perfect record, but something is going to change when the Bucks play the Raptors Monday night. The Bucks look good with head coach Mike Budenholzer. He has this team shooting more corner threes and his defensive schemes are working. Led by the “Greek Freak”, this team is playing great basketball right now. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe are playing very well alongside Giannis. Brook Lopez looks like a great signing for a team who was very weak at the center position. It is a good time to be a Bucks fan.
New Orleans Pelicans:
This Pelicans team plays fast. They run up and down the court with their foot on the gas the whole time. Putting up 149 points in a game is absurd, even if that team is the lowly Sacramento Kings. Anthony Davis is the best player on the court almost every night the Pelicans have a game. Mirotic and Randle are playing great and they seem to fit perfectly as the fast power forwards needed in Gentry’s system. Jrue Holiday always plays at a high level, but continues to be underrated because of all the amazing point guards in the West.
This Pelicans team has a lot to be excited about, but they are missing a key piece to make them contenders. In today’s NBA, every contender needs switchable wings and 3 and D players. The Pelicans have E’twuan Moore and Solomon Hill, but they can struggle and get exposed some nights. If they can fix this problem with a trade (looking at you Jimmy Butler) then they’ll be ready to battle the Warriors.
Last year the Detroit Pistons made the headlines by trading for Blake Griffin.
Immediately I thought it was a fun trade for Pistons fans and would sell a lot of tickets, but ultimately wasn’t a good trade for the team. They failed to make the playoffs and I was proud I was right. Now they sit 4-1 and I am second guessing myself. Maybe it is because of Coach of the Year Dwane Casey or just Blake Griffin needed a full offseason with the team, but everything is clicking right now.
Griffin dropped 50 points in a gritty overtime win against the Sixers. Andre Drummond is scoring efficiently and rebounding everything from the moon and back. Reggie Jackson is shooting more than seven three pointers a game and hitting at above a league average rate. The cause for concern for me is after these three players, there is a big drop off in talent. Players like Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock haven’t started the season too hot. As the season rolls on, the role players will need to step up their game or this team will struggle.
In case you’re wondering, here’s Kevin’s playoff picks:
1. Celtics. 1. Warriors
2. Raptors 2. Rockets
3. Sixers 3. Jazz
4. Bucks 4. Thunder
5. Pacers 5. Nuggets
6. Pistons 6. Pelicans
7. Wizards 7. Lakers
8. Heat 8. Blazers
Let us know how you feel about your favorite team and where they are right now. Also, don’t forget to visit us again in two weeks for an update on the season and how each team is doing!