NBA – the greatest basketball league ever. This is not a topic for a discussion. This is a statement that you can not argue with. Some of the top STATSCORE experts took their time to bring you their analytical expectations. Grab some good coffee, play a chilling out music and read everything that you need to know about what to expect from this season.
Piotr Jojko, Scouts Quality Controller
When you say NBA, you think Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant. When you think NBA Champions, you say Golden State Warriors and…? And here’s the problem for the current season’s competition for the best basketball league in the world. The champions from Oracle Arena have been unrivaled over the last few years. Someone can say “Cleveland Cavaliers won two years ago”. It’s hard to disagree because indeed they did, but how much of this was due to teamwork and how much to LeBron James and his basketball genius? He excelled in every position and he managed the team as if he was the coach himself. I am leaving it there – judge for yourself.
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Let’s take a look at the current season. The teams that disappoint so far, the teams with chances for the playoffs and the teams that will fight for the NBA championship.
Washington Wizards is the first team that catches the eye when you look at the standings. The team from the Capital that was supposed to fight for a place in the East Conference Final, are now outside the first 8 and are currently not even in the playoffs. Many people expected much more due to the amount of talent they have – Bradley Beal, John Wall or Dwight Howard who came in this summer. People are beginning to have doubts about the coaching skills of Scott Brooks.
Toronto Raptors – with new coach – Nick Nurse and one of the best NBA players – Kawhi Leonard, are showing the fullness of their capabilities. Kyle Lowry with an average 10 assist per game, Leonard with his average of 24 points and almost 2 steals per match. Add to this the fact this is a team of tall players who are collecting a large number of rebounds, not only in defense but also in offense. That makes the team from Toronto, a real pretender for the title.
Milwaukee Bucks – The star of the “Bucks” – Giannis Antetokounmpo is making huge progress, season after season. In this campaign he is also showing the skills of a future MVP, his average ‘triple-double’ stats make a huge impression. When you add the support from Kris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe or Brook Loper – all playing great basketball and racking up the points, you have serious contenders for the championship.
Boston Celtics – Kyrie, Tatum, Hayward, Smart, Rozier, Morris and Horford in one team. These players would not cooperate so well without Stevens management, the young coach is making huge progress and Boston are returning to the good old ways. They are slowly speeding up, but for now, it’s a matter of time. Will it all come together in time to allow the Celtics to fight for promotion to the Final?
Golden State Warriors – the starting 5 could all play in the “all stars game” without any problems. These players are absolutely unique. Curry – the best 3 point shooter in the NBA history. Durant – currently the top scorer. Thompson – just wait until he shoots his first 3 points, more will come with time. Green – a player with special skills, just like Denis Rodman in his prime. Cousins – all the fans are waiting for him. He will bring more energy and fight under the basket for sure. They all have to be favorites to win more rings.
Houston Rockets – currently outside the playoff zone, but it’s just a matter of time when they get to the top 3 and start to reach for the highest goals. Harden is coming back to his best form after an injury. Chris Paul with his experience and play making, makes a big difference as always. As if that was not enough, there’s also Eric Gordon throwing 3 points from all positions and Clint Capella, who has improved so much thanks to all the hard work with Hakeem Olajuwan.
Los Angeles Lakers – here we can say one name which explains everything – LeBron James. The player who could make any team contenders for the championship. Help from Kuzyma, Ingram or Javel McGee, who is producing incredible defense so far this season, will make it tough for all the competitors they will face.
Bartosz Dudek, Sports Data Editor
When you say NBA – you think of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. It used to be like this once. For a few seasons now we have seen a similar dominance from the Golden State Warriors. Nobody can imagine that they will not end this current season without getting the title again. A group of great players, perfectly managed by the famous 3 point shooter from Jordan’s era – Steve Kerr. Are you sure? Isn’t there any team that could threaten them this season?
I think, that this season could be different and there are some teams that can compete with Warriors. After the first batch of games, we can see some teams are playing very interesting basketball, there were also some curious trades and picks in the draft. Let me bring some teams that can surprise during this campaign.
Houston Rockets – very weak start with chimerical Carmelo Anthony who will not play for them anymore after buying out his contract from the Rockets. They are now playing better and I see them making it to the 2nd stage of the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers – amazingly team-playing a spectacular basketball. We can distinguish Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, but the real power of this team is collective and playing unselfishly. Will they keep up this great level? I think so and I believe they will reach the 2nd stage of the playoffs.
Memphis Grizzlies – quite a big surprise. Renaissance of form, great plays by Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. Some quality was also added with their 4th pick in the draft – Jaren Jackson Jr. A team that is hard working on defense. There is long way to the end of season and despite the great form at the beginning they could still have problems to reach the playoffs. They don’t have a long list of players to come in, and they play in a very demanding way. This could bounce on them towards the end of the competition.
Boston Celtics – last year’s Conference Final participants. They lost it with LeBron James. A young crew, it seems that they will be more experienced this season. Now the hype on them is a little less than at the start of season and they’ve had some weaker games. They have about a 50% win ration and that is not satisfying for the team from that Final, that hasn’t lost anybody and have Gordon Hayward back after injury. I think it’s only a temporary crisis and during the season we will see a fighting, energetic Boston with an iron defense. If they come back – for me a 4-5th place in Conference will be there for the taking.
Philadelphia 76ers– Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are playing awesome basketball. The first one is currently unstoppable. He has an incredible season. Superstar Jimmy Butler joined these two and he is the player who makes a difference, hungry for wins, gives 100% in every match. It seems like he has settled down and is coping well with Joel and Ben. That type of trade is a sign that they are playing all-in and are going to win the NBA. The weakness of the 76ers is squad depth, which is not so deep, and they could have problems at the end of season. I see them in ending up in 3rd place and with a very interesting fight for the finals.
Toronto Raptors – We were witnesses of the big exchange of 2 players who did not want to go where they ended up. I am talking about Demar DeRozan – legend of Toronto, who came to San Antonio Spurs. The other way round went Kawhi Leonard. This trade has one goal – to win the NBA title. GM of Raptors – Masai Ujiri goes va-banque. He sacked the best coach from the regular season and exchanges their best player – legend for a chimerical superstar troubled by injuries recently, who additionally has said to the press that he’d love to play for LA. A very big risk. Will it pay off? For now it looks good, Toronto had great start to the season. Kawhi is playing great, just like he did in his best years at San Antonio. Pascal Siakam, who was a reserve player, is now playing very well too. Toronto has a real chance to reach the Conference Final. If they reach it, anything will be possible.
Summarizing, if I have to predict the final results now, it would be:
Final of the West Conference
Golden State Warriors – Los Angeles Lakers
Final of the East Conference
Toronto Raptors – Milwaukee Bucks
Łukasz Kupiec, Product Owner
There can be only one major candidate for the championship. We are talking about the team that has won three of the last four titles in the NBA. Already they boast the likes of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in their roster, but Steve Kerr’s team made an amazing addition with DeMarcus Cousins. Even though he comes from having a major injury, he should still provide a great support for the team as one of the best centers in the league. We have seen many players who were not the same after they torn their Achilles. But let’s think – do Warriors really need Cousins at his best?
They have already won two titles without him using Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. Even if Cousins performs at 50% of his abilities, the Warriors are still better than they already were. In addition to that, rivals will have an even tougher challenge when defending. DeMarcus Cousins is going to be a threat both under the hoop and behind the 3-point line. That gives the Warriors a whole new dynamic to their attack. If you mix that with the experience of this team and coach Kerr, I cannot see anybody finding the answers to beat the Golden State Warriors to the title.
Los Angeles Lakers are still trying to bring back their glory days. How it’s going? Well… it is not perfect. 2017/2018 campaign? 11th place. 2016/2017? 14th. The previous few years were not much better, 15th, 14th, and 14th So why would I put them in my play-off predictions? The answer is simple – LeBron James. The King moved to California after his second spell with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only have the Lakers got themselves a great leader, but also a player that can be an amazing mentor for the likes of Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. James should also naturally improve the Lakers shooting stats.
Luke Walton has a decent play-maker in his team with Rajon Rondo, who can provide the ball to his colleagues. There is also Brandon Ingram who can be called a “Swiss Army knife” in offense. He can handle the ball and play off-ball. He could still work on his strengths, but I believe he will provide whatever this Lakers team needs.
Milwaukee Bucks are another team that will make it to the playoffs in my opinion. There is always a question mark about them as they have missed the play-offs in five of the last ten seasons. But I expect that this year their fans will have a reason to celebrate.
First reason for that is the so called “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo. Tricky name, huh? Spelling it is probably as hard as stopping him on the basketball court. A dynamic, powerful, brave player with good ball handling. Many experts point at Giannis when talking about candidates for the MVP award. Last seasons he averaged 26.9 points, 1.4 blocks, 10 rebounds and 4.8 assists. A star in the making!
A weak point in this team could be their play-maker. Last season the Bucks struggled to find someone to fill that spot and finally they got Eric Bledsoe. Even though his numbers were not bad (17.8 average points, 5.1 assists and 2 steals), it didn’t really translate into wins for the Bucks. When you look at the 2017/2018 play-offs, Blodsoe was easily outplayed by Boston Celtics back-up play-maker, Terry Rozier.
Bucks have a new coach in Mike Budenholzer. He’s been part of the NBA since 1996, so you can rely on his experience. I expect an interesting battle for the playoff spots in the East, but I am going for the Bucks!
Wojciech Augustyn, Scouts Coordinator
Winner? Boston Celtics! Blend of youth and experience managed by one of the best coaches in the league. They should reach the Conference Final without any problems (they are not showing their best so far). There are probably hard games to play against Toronto and then they will face the Golden State Warriors, which shows that after loosing their leader, they are team that anyone can beat.
Otherwise, I see the teams below making the playoff stage:
Minnesota Timberwolves – They will be fighting until the end of the regular season but they should reach the playoffs if only Derrick Rose can stay healthy.
Philadelphia 76ers – They were taken into account before the start of the season, when people were talking about who would make the playoffs. After Jimmy Butler joining the team their chances have increased. They will be very dangerous in the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks – This team amazes me. It doesn’t look good on paper, but the team that are commanded by the “Greek Freak” is doing very well. They are winning matches against theoretically much better teams, for example Toronto and GSW.
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