Y’all know the drill by now. This is the second-to-last edition of my NBA Season Preview and today has one of my takes that people may find the most controversial. If you’d like to check out any of the other divisions, they can be found below:
NBA Season Preview – Northwest Division
NBA Season Preview – Central Division
NBA Season Preview – Southwest Division
NBA Season Preview – Southeast Division
And of course, gimme a follow on the Tweet Machine. I promise that is the (second to) last time I will plug my Twitter. On with the preview…
New York Knicks
2018-19 Season Finish: 5th in division, 15th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 5th in division, 12th in conference
Ceiling: If everything goes right; that means Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr take a leap in progression, Kevin Knox isn’t terrible, Randle becomes an all-star and Barrett ends up as a total stud, then this team could be the 8th seed. But it’s more likely that the Knicks sign Giannis in a couple years…meaning it’s not happening.
Realistic Finish: I have the Knicks moving up three spots but not because they got better or anything. Maybe they did a little but it’s more that the bottom of the East is a total fucking dumpster fire. I believe the Knicks to be in that dumpster fire tier along with Charlotte, Cleveland and Washington. So anywhere from 12th to 15th is realistic
Star In The Making: I was going to pick Julius Randle here but I do think that he is pretty much at his ceiling now, which feels weird to say considering he is only 24. Regardless, I am going with Mitchell Robinson. I don’t think he will ever be an offensive force but M-Rob definitely has ‘Rudy Gobert’ potential. He’s a great rebounder and is near-elite defensively. Not even the shot-blocking, which is ridiculously good. His defensive +/- and steal rates are also above average. This isn’t a case of Hassan Whiteside where he hunts blocks and hurts his team doing so.
Under The Radar: Once leading the league in “punches to Nikola Mirotic’s face”, Bobby Portis has shown promise in his short tenure in the NBA so far. He is a solid rebounder and plays well inside, but is also a surprisingly efficient 3P shooter. In 28 games with the Wizards last season, he shot 40% from deep on 4.3 attempts a game. His issue seems to be that he just can’t secure a permanent starting gig wherever he ends up and is amongst the logjam of bigs in New York this season, but there is no reason why Portis can’t be the main backup 4/5 for NYK this year.
Make Or Break: It’s hard to imagine what Frankie Smokes did to piss off the Knicks brass but he just can’t seem to get regular playing time, only playing in 43 games last season. Once labelled as the Knick’s point guard of the future, Frankie lost his job last season and now is buried on the depth chart of a team that will be terrible and rebuilding. I mean, they gave Elfrid Payton $16m to fill Frankie’s role.
Anything Else?: As far as the Knicks free agency went, yeah, it was a complete failure. You see people say “but we got Randle and Gibson and Morris and…” and I get that. But they signed literally four people that play the exact same position and are paying them a combined $60m this season to fight over the same role. I really like the Randle signing and I like Portis as well but the other signings make no sense. It’s like when you give a kid $20 and send him into a shop and he is determined to spend EVERY. LAST. FUCKING. CENT. The Knicks were that kid in free agency, spending all of their money on shit they didn’t need rather than trading for bad contracts in return for young assets/draft picks.
2018-19 Season Finish: 1st in division, 2nd in conference, NBA Champions
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 4th in division, 10th in conference
Ceiling: In all of the previews I’ve read, I seem to be the only person with the Raps so low so maybe the ceiling is the 5th seed? I don’t see the Raps being better than the Celtics, 76ers, Bucks or Pacers though.
Realistic Finish: Realistically, the Raps could finish as high as 7th and what I am predicting is probably worst case scenario.
Star In The Making: The reigning Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam surprised a lot of people outside of Toronto last season. This season, all eyes will be on him and he will have every opportunity to take that next step and become a legit star. In the playoffs his numbers went up but efficiency took a dive. With Kawhi not being there to take the defenses focus this upcoming season, it’ll be up to Spicy P to take smarter shots and keep that efficiency up while carrying this Raptors team
Under The Radar: He may have been terrible in the playoffs up until halfway through the Milwaukee series, but Fred VanVleet is and will be an important piece of this Raptors roster. The guy has a reputation as being a bit of a chucker, and while he has ‘heat check’ moments, that is simply not true. FVV has a solid assist rate (roughly 7 assists per 40 minutes). Add that to his 3 point shooting and underrated rebounding for his size and FVV could be a capable starter if the Raps decide to part ways with Lowry
Make Or Break: This may seem harsh but I don’t think Stanley Johnson belongs in the NBA. Offensively, he sports shooting stats below Terry Rozier, although a plus is that the Raptors didn’t pay Stanley $58m. What’s that? But he’s a defensive specialist? Okay random voice in my head. The simple fact is, up until this point, he has been an inconsistent defender AT BEST. At his worst, he makes Andrew Wiggins look like Joe Dumars. As always, if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to put my hand up but I don’t think Stanley is anything more than what he has shown us so far in his career.
Anything Else?: This isn’t really basketball related but he is the Raptors ambassador or some bullshit so it counts; Drake is far and away the most overrated rapper of all-time. How his albums outsell the likes of Eminem, Kanye and anyone else is beyond me. He doesn’t even write his own fucking raps! Okay, I better stop as this is not the time or place, but fuck Drake.
2018-19 Season Finish: 4th in division, 6th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 3rd in division, 5th in conference
Ceiling: Without Durant, their ceiling is the 5th seed, maybe the 4th seed over Indiana…maybe. With Durant back, they’re a title team for sure
Realistic Finish: Anything 5-8 wouldn’t be too surprising but I think this team is substantially better than anyone I’ve ranked 9th or lower
Star In The Making: Until his devastating injury last season, Caris LeVert was putting up all-star caliber numbers. He lost his groove after coming back and his averages dropped drastically but the LeVert “of old” showed up for the playoff series against Philly, averaging 21 points and 5 boards while shooting 46% from 3 in just 26 minutes a game. With KD out for the whole season, LeVert has every opportunity to regain that form as BKN’s #2 option
Under The Radar: Now his progression depends on how serious the rumours are that he will be backing up DeAndre Jordan but Jarrett Allen has shown serious potential as an interior defender and rebounder. He did get shown up a bit in the playoffs by Embiid last season but in his defense, he was concussed from that absolutely deliberate elbow from Embiid. I hope Allen has been in the gym because if the Nets use DJ as a mentor to Allen, he could be an all-star in the near future
Make Or Break: Wilson Chandler’s numbers have been steadily dropping each of the last three seasons, and while he seems fine as a 12-15 minute per game contributor who will provide gritty defense and good rebounding, the fact that his numbers are steadily dropping, mixed in with this 25 game suspension for PED’s, even if it was an accident as he states, means Chandler may struggle to even crack the rotation when he is back
Anything Else?: I may be in the minority but I really like the new Statement uniform. It’s no Biggie inspired uni, but it’s still fire.
2018-19 Season Finish: 2nd in division, 3rd in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 2nd in division, 3rd in conference
Ceiling: If everything clicks with this team, they could be one of the best defensive teams ever, no hyperbole. Which means a #1 seed and the championship
Realistic Finish: I think there will be issues with the fit of this team. It is down to the coaching to make it work and, quite frankly, I don’t think Brett Brown is a good coach or at least good enough to make it work
Star In The Making: He only played in 6 regular season games last season so I had to do some research but Zhaire Smith looks to have what we call in the business, ‘the goods.’ He’s a very athletic, high motor guy with a long wingspan (6’10), a must in Philly these days. He has also been working on his 3-point shot and looks to have the potential to be at worst a solid 3 & D guy, and at best, a star.
Under The Radar: With how big Philly are this season, it might be hard for Jonah Bolden to get more minutes than last season (14 p/gm) but when he played last season, he impressed with his shooting, even though it’s a little streaky, as well as his shot-blocking and rebounding ability. Hopefully Brett Brown is a little smarter with Embiid this regular season, meaning more minutes for Bolden.
Make Or Break: At this point, he probably doesn’t care because he’s “an all-star” but Philadelphia’s favourite cuck, Ben Simmons really, and I mean really needs to develop a 3-point shot. Even if he is like what Giannis was last season, at least if he shoots it and maybe hits a couple, it’ll keep defenses honest. But with his humongous ego, I feel like as long as the media keep bringing it up, he isn’t going to shoot them and will just keep evolving as an internet meme. BuT hE’s An AlL-sTaR s0o0o0o0…
Anything Else?: I’m very curious to see Joel Embiid’s season as the Sixers signed the best defender of him in Al Horford. You still have Gasol and maybe a couple of other guys that can somewhat slow him down but nobody defended him like Horford. $110m well invested I’d say
2018-19 Season Finish: 3rd in division, 4th in conference
2019-20 Predicted Finish: 1st in division, 2nd in conference
Ceiling: I think 2nd in the conference is a pretty bold prediction so maybe that’s the ceiling but I could also see the C’s in 1st if Tatum and Brown take a leap
Realistic Finish: Top 4 in the East
Star In The Making: I know he is the most overrated player on the internet and he was poisoned by the Mamba, but Jayson Tatum still has serious talent. On what many considered a down year, he still hit 37% of his 3-point attempts and he is also still a great rebounder and defender, when focused. I truly believe the issue was Kyrie last season, not in that he fucked this team up, but more that he is so iso-reliant that it didn’t mold with Tatum’s game. I do believe that with a more playbook-oriented system this season, we will see Tatum make that leap
Under The Radar: With his crazy hair and Academy Award-worthy acting abilities when it comes to flopping, Marcus Smart is anything but under the radar. However, I don’t think people realise just how good of a season he had last year. Sure, he only had 9 points a game but he did also average 1.8 steals, 3 boards and 4 assists while shooting career highs from the floor and from 3. All of this while playing First Team All-Defense (for the record, I do think Jrue was robbed but I think he would’ve taken Bledsoe’s spot. I was happy for Smart, or Pat Beverly, to be alongside Jrue).
Make Or Break: Yeah, Gordon Hayward definitely had a pretty down season in terms of scoring and I’d imagine his confidence is a bit shook as well. While I don’t think his season was as bad as people say in terms of overall contribution (on a per minute basis, he was a good rebounder and playmaker), but that’s not what you pay $30m for. Hayward is at risk of a Nick Anderson level collapse; if he doesn’t get his swagger back this season, he probably never will.
Anything Else?: People may think I’m crazy for having Boston over Philly, especially after Philly took Bostons only weapon to stop Embiid. However, I am banking on Tatum taking a big leap plus there just being more chemistry, more harmony in the locker-room now that it isn’t so ‘Woke Central’ with Kyrie being replaced by resident nice guy, Kemba Walker. Maybe part of it is I just want good things for Kemba, who carried my shit-show of a franchise and was thanked with a horrible lowball offer. But I genuinely believe in the coaching powers of Brad Stevens.
There it is; perhaps my most controversial takes yet. Think I’m dumb? Think the Knicks are a playoff team (KNICKSLOL)? Let me know on the Tweet Machine. Stay tuned for my final division preview, the Pacific division, over the next few days.
Thanks for reading, loveyoubye.