With the Summer Basketball doldrums finally coming to a close and the preseason in mind, we can look ahead to the 2016-17 NBA season and see which teams will come out on top. (Featured picture courtesy of Scorebored Sports)
By Neal Doshi (’17)
- Philadelphia 76ers: It wouldn’t shock anyone if the 76ers managed even slightly after losing #1 pick Ben Simmons to injury. However, that will only keep the team in the Eastern Conference’s basement. The 76ers have some hope for finding an additional franchise player in forward Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, but lack stability in regards to every other spot in their lineup. Veterans Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson should help Brett Brown mentor these young players, but it will be quite some time before the 76ers can expect to compete.
Projected Starters: PG: Jerryd Bayless, SG: Gerald Henderson, SF: Robert Covington, PF: Nerlens Noel and C: Jahlil Okafor
- Brooklyn Nets: The Nets have hit the near bottom and should get used to it; the club does not control its first round pick until 2019. General Manager Sean Marks has done his best add youth by drafting Caris LeVert, and signing restricted free agents Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson to massive offer sheets (though their respective teams matched their offers). Despite not being able to get Crabbe or Johnson, signing Joe Harris and former top pick Anthony Bennett are smart low risk-high reward moves that can give the team some hope.
Projected Starters: PG: Jeremy Lin, SG: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF: Bojan Bogdanovic, PF: Luis Scola, and C: Brook Lopez
- Miami Heat: After being a perennial playoff team, it might be time for a rebuild. The losses of Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng will hurt, and blood clots have prevented Chris Bosh from playing for the Heat. There is hope for the future as Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson stepped up last season, and the club paid handsomely to retain Tyler Johnson and Hassan Whiteside. The Heat lack the firepower they have had in previous seasons, but restocking the team with younger players will help them become competitive in the future.
Projected Starters: PG: Goran Dragic, SG: Tyler Johnson, SF: Justise Winslow, PF: James Johnson and C: Hassan Whiteside
- Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are doing the right things to return to relevancy. Drafting Thon Maker is the necessary high-risk high-reward move that the team needed to make in order to solidify the center position for years to come. Signing Matthew Dellavedova and Miles Plumlee are great deals to augment the team’s current core. However, the loss of Khris Middleton for most of the season will hurt and the team needs to continue to build chemistry and surround themselves with the right veterans to maximize its potential.
Projected Starters: PG: Matthew Dellavedova, SG: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF: Jabari Parker, PF: Mirza Teletovic and C: Greg Monroe
- Orlando Magic: After losing Dwight Howard in 2012, the Magic have never recovered. Though they have continually collected young talent in the draft, the club has grown impatient and traded away some of their best long-term pieces (Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo) for a short-term gain (Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green). The Magic cannot expect their core to grow if the roster continues to be overhauled every offseason, so expect the club to remain mediocre until the front office sticks to a plan.
Projected Starters: PG: Elfrid Payton, SG: Evan Fournier, SF: Aaron Gordon, PF: Serge Ibaka and C: Nikola Vucevic
- Chicago Bulls: After being considered the Cavaliers’ top threat last season, the Bulls stumbled to the finish line, and lost the final playoff spot to the Detroit Pistons. General Manager Gar Forman decided to reboot the team by trading hometown favorite Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant. The Bulls continued to make free agency splashes by signing Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. While, on paper, the team looks like it could be one of the NBA’s best, the pieces do not fit, potentially costing the team another postseason berth.
Projected Starters: PG: Rajon Rondo, SG: Dwyane Wade, SF: Jimmy Butler, PF: Nikola Mirotic and C: Robin Lopez
- Washington Wizards: Despite the benefit of roster continuity, the Wizards should be a stagnant team. Despite the bench being significantly upgraded, Bradley Beal and John Wall have had publicized issues off of the court. Though Andrew Nicholson should be a bright spot off the bench as an underrated stretch-4, and Ian Mahinmi can completely change a team’s defense, chemistry and health have been plaguing the Wizards since last season. Expect the Wizards to continue to disappoint heading into this season and barely miss the playoffs again.
Projected Starters: PG: John Wall, SG: Bradley Beal, SF: Otto Porter, PF: Markieff Morris and C: Marcin Gortat
- New York Knicks: If the Knicks had their current roster in 2011, they would have been title contenders. However, this is 2016, and a lot has changed since then: Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings have torn their achilles, Joakim Noah has been riddled with injuries, and Carmelo Anthony is on the wrong side of 30. Despite the abundance of past stars, there is still youth on this roster as Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez are only in their early 20s. The Knicks are talented on paper but need health and chemistry to return to the playoffs.
Projected Starters: PG: Derrick Rose, SG: Courtney Lee, SF: Carmelo Anthony, PF: Kristaps Porzingis and C: Joakim Noah
- Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets had a solid postseason run last season, but the club cannot be expected to repeat its success. With so many of its rotation members heading into free agency, the team had to make some tough decisions. Despite losing a lot of their offense in Courtney Lee, Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, the Hornets made the right choices, retaining Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. Looking towards the end of last season, Kemba Walker appears to be on the cusp of a breakout season and should keep the Hornets in the playoffs.
Projected Starters: PG: Kemba Walker, SG: Nicolas Batum, SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, PF: Marvin Williams and C: Cody Zeller
- Indiana Pacers: The Pacers were extremely active in the offseason. On draft night, the club traded for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. After draft night, the team bolstered their bench by signing Aaron Brooks and Al Jefferson. These moves will make the team faster and improve the offense, but they gave up quality defensive players to do so. George Hill (traded for Jeff Teague) was a staunch defender and Ian Mahinmi gave the Pacers quality rim protection. Nonetheless, the Pacers will be an improved team and be fun to watch.
Projected Starters: PG: Jeff Teague, SG: Monta Ellis, SF: Paul George, PF: Thaddeus Young and C: Myles Turner
- Atlanta Hawks: Despite failing to improve the roster in the short-term, the Hawks improved their long-term outlook. Dealing Jeff Teague for Taurean Prince gives the team their small forward of the future, while promoting Dennis Schröder to be their starting point guard. Re-signing Kent Bazemore is another smart move to provide wing stability. Signing Dwight Howard is questionable, as the Hawks could have instead re-signed Al Horford. As a result, the Hawks should fall in the standings, but eventually reap the benefits of forward thinking.
Projected Starters: PG: Dennis Schröder, SG: Kyle Korver, SF: Kent Bazemore, PF: Paul Millsap and C: Dwight Howard
- Detroit Pistons: The Pistons quietly had a phenomenal offseason. Drafting Henry Ellenson was a steal as he was projected to be a mid-lottery pick in the 2016 draft. The Pistons also addressed key bench needs by signing Ish Smith and Jon Leuer to a 3-year $18 million and 4-year $42 million deal respectively. Though the temporary loss of Reggie Jackson will cost the Pistons a few wins to start the season, Ish Smith will ensure the dropoff is not too steep since was a quality starting point guard last season. Expect the Pistons pick up where they left off last season and contend for home-court advantage during the playoff race.
Projected Starters: PG: Ish Smith, SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF: Marcus Morris, PF: Tobias Harris and C: Andre Drummond
- Toronto Raptors: Going into the offseason, the Raptors had to figure out a way to repeat the past season’s success. Drafting Jakob Pöltl was a smart replacement for Bismack Biyombo, due to his contract stability. Re-signing DeMar DeRozan was a must, and signing Jared Sullinger with the mid-level exception is an absolute bargain. Despite being hard pressed for cap space with the Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross extensions kicking in, Masai Ujiri did a great job to put the team in a position to at least match last year’s win total.
Projected Starters: PG: Kyle Lowry, SG: DeMar DeRozan, SF: DeMarre Carroll, PF: Patrick Patterson and C: Jonas Valanciunas
- Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge has one of the best collections of assets and young talent in the entire league. The Celtics owned 8 draft picks to start the draft, and failed to package them into an established star. Taking Jaylen Brown with the 3rd pick is a good fit, but seems like a reach. Their best move of the offseason was signing all-star Al Horford to a 4-year maximum contract. Despite being the 2nd best team in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics will not be true title contenders until Ainge turns his assets into another impact player.
Projected Starters: PG: Isaiah Thomas, SG: Avery Bradley, SF: Jae Crowder, PF: Al Horford and C: Amir Johnson
- Cleveland Cavaliers: The 2016 NBA Champions have done a great job preparing to defend their title for the upcoming season. Letting Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova leave were necessary moves as the price to retain them was too high. Trading for Mike Dunleavy gives the Cavs another reliable 3-point option. Re-signing LeBron James to a 3-year contract was a formality but gives the team future cap certainty. Expect the Cavaliers to be a super team and attempt to spoil the Golden State Warriors’ bid as title favorites.
Projected Starters: PG: Kyrie Irving, SG: JR Smith*, SF: LeBron James, PF: Kevin Love and C: Tristan Thompson