Six Teams I Expect to Make the NBA Playoffs in the 2018/19 Season
Published on October 16, 2018
If I’ve learned anything these past few years, it’s that the Golden State Warriors are a step ahead of the competition in the NBA.Everybody else is looking up at the standings.
That’s it!There’s no counter to that argument.
LeBron James went to Hollywood. Kawhi Leonard got traded out of the country and is now riding through the “six” with Drake. Houston and OKC will still hang around to be a thorn in the Warriors’ side, but neither team has what it takes to truly knock off the champs.
Unless you really believe that an aging Carmelo Anthony will be the missing piece that Houston needs to dethrone the Warriors.
However, although the chances of a three-peat for the Warriors to happen is pretty high, it doesn’t mean that the NBA won’t be exciting. The West in particular will still be really competitive. The East will won’t be as highlighted, but there’s still plenty of talent spread out through the Atlantic.
Here are my six teams that I expect to make the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
Note that I won’t include the obvious teams like Houston and Boston. Instead,I will make my case for a few “lottery” teams that, with all due respect, the big four-letter network is throwing dirt on.
When you sit back and think about it, can you ever recall a time when LeBron James went to a new team and had his current squad ranked outside the top eight seeds?
You can’t. More than likely, it would be his former team that was going to have a rough time bouncing back without The King.
Surprisingly, just like the Lakers, Cleveland is basically being left for dead.
I get it. How does a team bounce back after literally almost stealing game one on the road in the Finals, only to have J.R. Smith forget about the time clock in one of the most important games of his life?
I’m not ready to throw dirt on this Cavs team just yet. Kevin Love is a five-time NBA All-Star. He knows what it takes to play in big games and win them.
Collin Sexton is a clear-cut candidate for rookie of the year. Ty Lue can use LeBron’s departure as fuel to motivate guys like George Hill and Jordan Clarkson to keep this team relevant. Look for Love to takeover and put up similar numbers to his early days when he was with Minnesota.
If you need more convincing, go look up the hideous roster from the Cavs’ 2010–2011 post-LeBron James era. Guys like Ramon Sessions, Antawn Jamison, and Joey Graham were starting.
They also only won a whopping 19 games.
If you’re a Timberwolves fan, let’s pretend that we live in a perfect basketball world. Jimmy Butler is not requesting to be traded publicly, nor is he beefing with promising All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.
You’ve got possibly one of the top defensive and scoring teams in the league. Tom Thibodeau is not only a good coach, but he’s even better when it comes to defense.
Now, I know Coach Thibbs has a lot to prove to the Minnesota faithful this season. Just the other day, during intros, he was being booed at home!
With such a talented roster at their disposal this season, it’s hard to imagine Minnesota finishing outside the eighth seed. That’s exactly where they finished at last season.
This time around, Derrick Rose could be in for a bit of a resurgence. Karl-Anthony Towns also had his best season to date, so even if he and Butler aren’t getting along, his talent won’t leave the court.
Towns alone helped carry the Timberwolves to their first playoff appearance in 14 years. I wouldn’t be too worried if I was a T-Wolves fan.
Once the season comes along, winning is the best cure for any situation.
LeBron James is no stranger to making history, and he could find himself in the history books yet again if he becomes the third player in NBA history to win a title with three separate teams.
Remember the dominant duo of Kobe and Shaq? The 2000-2002 Lakers were the last NBA team to three-peat.
Not only did LeBron James join the same conference, but he also went into the same division of the current team that’s trying to three-peat.
To think that 2019 will feature eight teams in the West that won’t include The King is pretty bizarre.
When you go back and look at his last year with Cleveland, one of the main concerns was who else on the Cavs roster could score in double-digit points that’s not named Kevin Love.
Nobody. At least not consistently.
Now on the Lakers, LeBron has Lonzo that he can rely on to push the ball up court. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma could easily find themselves in double-digit scores night in and night out. LA only won 35 games last season.
Injuries lingered over the Lakers last season. Ingram and Lonzo both missed over 20 games. LeBron, at age 32, did not slow down one bit when it came to putting the Cavs on his back.
Since 2010, LeBron has been used to playing with All-Stars such as Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving. Now on the Lakers, there are no All-Stars featured here, but the team is loaded with young talent. It benefits everybody when it comes to health and minutes.
This time around, LeBron will have to occasionally put the Lakers on his back on some nights, but there’s enough balance on the Lakers for LeBron to not kill himself just to make the post-season.
The Brooklyn Nets are destined for a breakout in the upcoming season. If this exciting young core can stay healthy and continue to get better, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for them to win near 40 games.
This is a team that has been waiting for its huge moment.
Brooklyn showed some flashes last season with Jarrett Allen and Allen Crabbe. Jeremy Lin is no longer on the team, but Kenneth Faried, Ed Davis, and Shabazz Napier were added in the off-season.
This is a team that hopes to lean on D’Angelo Russell this year. Russell looked amazing at times last season, but there were also times when he was very inconsistent and made crucial mistakes.
I stand by my words that, as an organization with their backs against the wall, this team is ready to prove people wrong and turn heads. Not only is this a meaningful season for Brooklyn, but with LeBron gone from the East, a shakeup is looming.
Russell will come in more polished, but more importantly, I have faith in their coaching staff.
Kenny Atkinson has been around for two years already.When he first came in, the Nets were a hard team to watch, only winning 20 games.
Looking back at last season, Atkinson did some great things. When Jeremy Lin went down, Spencer Dinwiddie got some great exposure to fill the back-up role to where Dinwiddie was being mentioned in the conversation for most improved player.
That’s not all, though. Atkinson did a great job working with big man Jarrett Allen, and that relationship is only improving.
The Nets improved by 8 games last season, but this year, I expect them to add ten to twelve more wins under Atkinson.
It amazes me that the Spurs get written off just about every year. They’re too “old” or “boring” is what you usually hear.
Each year, the Spurs prove everybody wrong. They’ve been doing it for the past two decades.
They proved they could make the post-season without Tim Duncan. Now ask yourself, why can’t they do it without Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker?
They still have Gregg Popovich. LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star. Dejounte Murray was getting ready for his breakout season, but a knee injury that he suffered in the preseason will hold him out for a bit.
Still, they have solid role-players who have won championships in Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills.
Going back to last season, the Spurs still managed to make the playoffs without Kawhi Leonard. Albeit, it was the first time in a long time that the Spurs didn’t scratch the 50-win mark, but this is a team that has a championship mentality.
Now you throw in an absolute All-Star in DeMar DeRozan to pair up with LaMarcus Aldridge, and all of a sudden, 50 wins and a trip to the post-season doesn’t seem so out of reach now.
The Hornets are due for a post-season appearance in 2019. They have the veteran leadership in the locker room. With the addition of a six-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion in Tony Parker, retooling is the best description, at least for this season.
Head coach James Borrego will have some familiarity here. Having spent time with Parker in his tenure with the Spurs, it allows Borrego to ease into his role until he’s fully accustomed to the team.
One of the main reasons I believe that the Hornets will make the playoffs is because Kemba Walker will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. He will have to push himself and his teammates.
Walker is getting older, but he still has a few seasons to show that he’s elite. Especially coming out of a smaller market that hardly gets any televised recognition.
I loved the acquisition of Mitch Kupchak to pair with Borrego. It shows that the front office wants to put themselves in the best position to win.
The Hornets find themselves in multiple back-to-back games this season, but Borrego has plenty of players who could score double-digit points outside of Walker.
Marvin Williams doesn’t come to mind when you think of a superstar, but he’s been consistent for a very long time. Nicolas Batum is also a solid, versatile veteran that will continue to get better under head coach Borrego.
Young players to keep on your radar this season are Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham. Graham can be a really interesting player with seasoned vets all around to help him develop. If Kemba does, in fact, walkout next summer, then Graham could be the center of attention to lead the future for Charlotte.
A lot can happen in one off-season, but I’m not crazy enough to bury all those teams like the majority of the bigger networks. We’ve seen plenty of parity in the NBA throughout the years.
I understand the possibility of not all my teams making it to the playoffs, but I’m very confident that those teams won’t just lay there to be a stepping mat for their opponents.
I chose wild-cards like Charlotte and Brooklyn because of what I’ve seen from both front offices. It’s enough to make me trust their process. No pun intended.
On the Pacific side, I’m not fully sold that the Jazz and Nuggets are both top-five teams just yet. Yes, those are other teams headed in the right direction, but to writeoff LeBron and the Lakers and a heavily storied franchise like the Spurs is just plainly absurd.
But this is what makes the NBA very entertaining.You just never know which team will make a run and which team will come in with some steam only to sink.
If you’re looking for some betting picks before of the start of the new season, be sure to check out my colleague Noah’s latest NBA post. He’s compiled a list of his top NBA betting picks ahead of the opening night games. We may have some differing opinions on how this season will pan out, but I can assure you he knows how to find the betting value.