2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions: Who Becomes Title Favorite?

Free agency is just one day away, and this year brings us one of the most impactful free agency seasons in NBA history. Without the decisions of stars on the open market, it’s hard to tell who will win it all.

But generally, whoever dominates free agency and signs some of these elite players will have the opportunity to become a title contender. Which teams will dominate? Keep reading to find out what I think.

Graphics Key

  • Star = All Star Rights (A player I feel will be able to decide where they go)
  • (R) = Restricted Free Agent
  • (PO) = Player Option
  • (TO) = Team Option
  • No Parentheses = Unrestricted Free Agent

PG

img_4567

At this point, we should all just assume Kyrie Irving is leaving Boston. He has publicly noted that he doesn’t like it here, and plenty of teams would want a star like Kyrie, so it’s ultimately going to be Irving’s choice as to where he goes. I think it’s down to Brooklyn and the Lakers, but I cannot see Irving teaming up with LeBron James again.

With Irving leaving, the Celtics are frontrunners to sign Kemba Walker. This is a move I have been a fan of for a while now, and I see no problems with it. D’Angelo Russell has also been rumored to sign with Boston as well as the Lakers, but I think he’ll go to Indiana instead. The Lakers are prioritizing DLo’s return, but I just cannot see it happening after how he left the first time. Instead, LA will fill their need for a point guard with the duo of Eric Bledsoe and Elfrid Payton.  Meanwhile, I think veteran Ricky Rubio will be added in Denver for backcourt depth.

SG

img_4574

I don’t see too much movement happening in the shooting guard market. There’s no reason for Danny Green to leave Toronto and no reason for Lance Stephenson to leave LA. I think Butler will stay in Philly. Although he may be a shooting guard if he signs elsewhere, he fit well as a small forward in Philly last year, so I expect the same this year. With that being said, I see J.J. Redick returning to Philly as well to play shooting guard.

Klay Thompson is expected to stick with the Warriors, I could see him leaving for a rising team like Brooklyn if Kevin Durant leaves. Once he returns from his injury, Thompson and Kyrie Irving will make for another great backcourt duo. I have Matthews starting across from Rubio in Denver as he leaves Indiana to make room for Victor Oladipo.

SF

img_4581

Kawhi Leonard reportedly bought a house in Toronto, and after the amazing run last season, I think the Raptors, Leonard included, will stick together for this season. However, Leonard beat Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, so I think Durant will move on from Golden State, recovering from his achilles tear and putting together a playoff run with a new team. Brooklyn makes sense for him, but I don’t see them signing more than two max players, and the Nets won’t need a small forward if they re-sign DeMarre Carroll.

I think Durant will shock everyone when by signing in Portland. It is a perfect fit though. They need front court help, and with the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum already doing great things, the Blazers could be one front court star away from a title.

The Pistons have a similar need for a small forward. Chandler is no superstar, but he can make a difference for Detroit. The Clippers are also in on star small forwards like Kawhi and KD, but I think they’ll probably have to settle for someone like Harrison Barnes. The Kings should be alright without Barnes or Bojan Bogdanovic, so I have Bogdanovic returning to Indiana to team up with Russell and Oladipo rather than joining his brother Bogdan in Sacramento.

PF

img_4677

There aren’t many star power forwards on the open market. But there are a handful of capable players available. Millsap is far from a superstar, but with Michael Porter Jr. returning from injury, it’s time for Denver to move on, and he could be a good asset in Philly. Porzingis is a solid PF, so I think he will receive interest from other teams as a restricted free agent, and I don’t see the Knicks being ready to move on for good. Mirotic, another strong European player will also head to New York to join Kyrie Irving and others in Brooklyn.

Al Horford has been rumored to sign with the Mavericks or Clippers, where he would play PF. But I can’t see either team overpaying Horford. I feel Horford will eventually settle for less money to contend for a title with the Celtics. The Clippers will move on and instead sign Julius Randle, a different kind of player who can play a mix of SF and PF.  As for Markieff Morris, he has regressed, but he’s still a capable player who can share time with John Collins at PF for the Hawks.

C

img_4678

Cousins is not the same after his injury, but I still see him resigning with the Warriors and contributing even if KD and Klay Thompson leave. I have Noel and Brook Lopez returning to their 2018 teams as well, Noel on a player option and Brook as a UFA. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan will join Thompson, Irving, and company in Brooklyn. Robin Lopez will also head back to New York in a return to the Knicks. As Horford stays with Boston, I have the Clippers turning to Nikola Vucevic to complete their starting lineup.

————————————————————

That’s all for my 2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions. As you may have noticed, the graphics I used for my predictions have a currently blank column labeled “2019 Real Team”. I will be updating that column daily on Instagram (@bostonsportsmania) and Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). In addition, I’ll be posting more NBA content as we get closer to the regular season, so stay tuned.

Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

Screenshot 2019-06-26 at 9.15.09 AM.png

This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

Related image

The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

NBA 2019 Playoff Predictions: Who Finally Takes Down Golden State?

I know, it’s a little late.  But before we know the surefire winner of each series, I figured I’d share my NBA Playoff bracket.  Believe it or not, I don’t think Golden State’s championship-winning streak will stay alive.  But who could possibly beat the Warriors?  See my prediction below:

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 3.36.41 PM

I have the Celtics taking down the Warriors in a 7-game series.  But how will they get there?

I think Boston should easily take down the Pacers.  With Victor Oladipo out of the picture, I cannot see Indiana doing much in these playoffs.  Kyrie Irving ruined the Celtics’ chemistry during the regular season, but I don’t think this will be as apparent in the playoffs, where the whole team will be motivated and willing to do whatever it takes to win it all.

The Pistons may have Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond to lead them, but that won’t be enough to pull off a series upset over Giannis Antetokounmpo and a powerful Milwaukee Bucks team.  However, the Celtics have multiple star players on their roster who will outplay Greek Freak’s teammates and help Boston win in the Eastern Conference semifinals.  I can’t see anyone getting in Toronto’s way until they face the Celtics.  The Raptors are by far the strongest team in their quadrant of the bracket, led offensively by Kyle Lowry and defensively by Kawhi Leonard.

But I do see Boston riding the momentum and overcoming adversity as they take down Toronto.  Their roster is stacked, so if the Celtics are on the same page motivation-wise and get off to a strong start (as I see them doing against Indiana), they could be a threat to Golden State.

The Warriors should not have a hard time with Western Conference opponents though.  Besides Boston, the Warriors are the only team I have sweeping their first round opponent.  The Rockets won’t be as easy an opponent as the Clippers, but a healthy Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will outplay James Harden and Chris Paul.  I could see the Thunder, KD’s old team, making a run as well.  Portland is known for playoff choking, and Denver’s lack of experience could come back to haunt them.  I think they should be able to handle the San Antonio Spurs, but the Thunder might be a bit much for an inexperienced team like the Nuggets.

Golden State, however, will end Oklahoma City’s run.  With Marcus Smart back and the team united by a common goal, the Celtics should have a chance at Golden State and I’m staying optimistic with this bracket.  I’m sick of Golden State winning, and it would make it even better if the Celtics could be the team to finally beat them.  As long as Kyrie Irving’s selfish ways don’t come back to haunt them, the Celtics should have a chance.

That’s all for my playoff predictions this year.  Stay tuned for more Celtics playoff coverage soon.

NBA 2018-19 Predictions: Year of the Celtics

Welcome to my NBA 2018-19 predictions, where I will make my conference standings predictions as well as playoff predictions.  The Celtics made it very far last year, and that was with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving hurt.  With the full squad healthy and Jayson Tatum bound for a huge year, could this be the year when they finally make the NBA Finals and beat the Warriors?  Read below to find out what I think.

Eastern Conference

Playoff Teams

  1. Image result for celtics logo Boston Celtics (60-22)
  2. Image result for wizards logo Washington Wizards (52-30)
  3. Image result for raptors logo Toronto Raptors (51-31)
  4. Related image Detroit Pistons (49-33)
  5. Image result for cleveland cavaliers logo Cleveland Cavaliers (47-35)
  6. Related image Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
  7. Related image Charlotte Hornets (46-36)
  8. Related image Philadelphia 76ers (44-38)

I think this is the year for the east and the west to begin to look more balanced.  The Celtics have a championship-caliber starting 5 that can take this team very far.  I feel that despite Toronto’s addition of Kawhi Leonard, the Wizards, not the Raptors will be the #2 seed behind Boston.  After the signing of Dwight Howard, they filled their only major hole: center.  Their back court is stacked between John Wall and Bradley Beal.  The Raptors should also be in the mix, as well as the Pistons.  I think the acquisition of Blake Griffin is really going to impact Detroit this year, as Andre Drummond and Griffin make for a dynamic duo that leads the Pistons to a comfortable playoff berth under new head coach Dwane Casey.  Detroit lacks the depth of a championship contender, but they have what it takes to make a playoff run.

Most people immediately think that since LeBron James is gone, the Cavaliers are going to suck.  But I don’t think lack of talent was the problem with LeBron’s supporting cast.  I feel that the team relied way too heavily on LeBron James.  Expect Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and their teammates to lead the Cavs to a decent season.  You may be wondering, where are the Sixers?  I don’t think Philly will repeat what they had going last year.  I tend to trust veterans more than youngsters, but I don’t yet trust Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to lead the Sixers to two straight Top 4 seeds.  They may prove me very wrong this year, but I’m just not comfortable predicting that yet.  The Sixers will make the playoffs with a low-end seed, alongside the Bucks (Greek Freak and their young roster will bring them back to the playoffs), and the Hornets (I think this is the year for this young squad to finally breakthrough).

I do not have the Pacers, a popular pick to earn a Top-4 seed, making the playoffs, and I will explain why below.

Non-Playoff Teams

9. Image result for knicks logo New York Knicks (42-40)                                                                                             

10. Related image Chicago Bulls (41-41)

11. Image result for heat logo Miami Heat (41-41)

12. Related image Brooklyn Nets (37-45)

13. Image result for pacers logo Indiana Pacers (28-54)

14. Image result for orlando magic logo Orlando Magic (27-55)

15. Related image Atlanta Hawks (10-72)

I think this is the year that the Knicks (due to the return of Kristaps Porzingis) and the Bulls (due to a strong off-season) will go from the basement of the league to average teams that just miss the playoffs.  The Heat, who have a decent roster, but nothing that really stands out, are in the same situation.  The Nets should also get closer to that as their young core emerges.  Below those four teams, I have the Indiana Pacers.  I don’t see Victor Oladipo leading this team by himself like he did when he was traded last year.  I can’t see what he has around him that can lead to contention.  Bojan Bogdanovic and Oladipo are not enough to bring this team back to the playoffs, and I see the aforementioned teams as far more playoff-prepared.  I was shocked when they made the playoffs last year even.

I still see the Magic and Hawks finishing in the basement of the East, below Indiana.  Orlando had a versatile young core developing, but the losses of Oladipo and Elfrid Payton set them back.  The Hawks had a rough season in 2017-18, and they didn’t really do much to improve for this year.  They’re not rebuilding, but they don’t have any contending pieces either.  It’s time to go full rebuild for the Hawks, and I don’t expect much at all from them this year.

Western Conference

Playoff Teams

  1. Related image Golden State Warriors (66-16)
  2. Related image San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
  3. Related image Houston Rockets (54-28)
  4. Image result for thunder logo Oklahoma City Thunder (53-29)
  5. Related image Portland Trail Blazers (51-31)
  6. Image result for timberwolves logo Minnesota Timberwolves (48-34)
  7. Image result for lakers logo Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)
  8. Related image Dallas Mavericks (43-39)

The Warriors may have added a star center, DeMarcus Cousins this off-season, but I could see them regress mildly after losing a good amount of bench depth.  After Golden State, I have the Spurs.  I think they will benefit largely from the acquistion of DeMar DeRozan.  With a healthy core, they will be in the running for a high playoff seed.  The Rockets and Thunder will put up a fight for the second seed as well.  Houston has most of what they had going last year, and they added another key piece in Carmelo Anthony.  The duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook will boost the Thunder this year alongside off-season acquistions Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel.

The Blazers lack the front court talent to contend for a title, but the back court duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum should be enough to get them into the playoffs again.  I thought at first that this might be the year when the Timberwolves emerge as a title contender, but with Jimmy Butler leaving, I don’t see more than a low end playoff seed as this team will lack a true star.  I don’t think the Lakers will see much more than that either.  What key pieces around LeBron James that will help them contend?  When LeBron was in Cleveland, he had Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving alongside him, at least up until last year.  His signing with LA was a great personal move, but he shouldn’t expect to make it back to the NBA Finals just yet.  I have the Mavericks in the final Western Conference playoff seed.  With the additions of rookie Luka Doncic and veteran center DeAndre Jordan, they should at least contend for a back end playoff seed.

Non-Playoff Teams

9. Related image Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)

10. Related image New Orleans Pelicans (37-45)

11. Image result for jazz logo Utah Jazz (34-48)

12. Related image Phoenix Suns (31-51)

13. Image result for kings logo Sacramento Kings (23-59)

14. Image result for nuggets logo Denver Nuggets (15-67)

15. Image result for clippers logo Los Angeles Clippers (12-70)

Despite a weak 2017-18, the Grizzlies still have the same core from their playoff contention days.  I could see them making a run at a low end playoff seed.  Expect regression from the Pelicans with DeMarcus Cousins gone, but new acquistions in Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle will keep this team in the hunt for the playoffs.  With teams like the Mavericks and Lakers on the rise, I could see the Jazz slip a little bit this year.  They still have the same core from their run of playoff contention though, so they won’t be absolutely atrocious.

The Suns and Kings will improve slightly as the young talent begins to work in their favor, leaving the Nuggets and Clippers in the basement of the West.  Denver lost a lot in the off-season despite adding veteran Isaiah Thomas.  With a lot of the former basement dwellers of the Western Conference rising, Denver could regress significantly.  That leaves the Clippers, who will regress further with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin gone.  They are left with an aging, declining core, and will need to go full rebuild after this season.

The Playoffs

img_2031

Here is my projected bracket for the NBA 2019 Playoffs.  In the first round, I have all home teams winning.  The top half of the Eastern Conference bracket is a lot stronger than the bottom half.  I see the Celtics, Raptors, Wizards, and Pistons moving on with ease, but don’t be surprised if the Bucks upset the Raptors.

In the West, I have the Spurs continuing their bounce back from a rough 2017-18 with an impressive series win over LeBron James and the Lakers.  The Rockets and Warriors will win more easily.  It could be close between Oklahoma City and Portland, but the Thunder have far better front court talent, and that will work in their favor.

The Pistons may be my dark horse in the East this season, but I cannot see them beating this stacked Celtics squad in 7.  I also see this as the end for the Wizards, as Kawhi Leonard leads the Raptors past Washington’s all-pro back court duo.  In the West, I do see the Spurs’ magical run ending when they take on the 2017-18 Western Conference regular season champion Houston Rockets, who have not lost much since their 2017-18 dominance.  Golden State should take down the Thunder with ease.

In the Conference Finals, I have the Warriors and Celtics winning.  The Rockets couldn’t top Golden State last year, and now that the Warriors have added DeMarcus Cousins, I cannot see it happening this year.  The Celtics will have a close series against Toronto, but I think their young talent and dominant starting 5 will help them advance.

Now, we have the match-up we’ve been waiting for.  The dynasty (the Warriors) takes on the rising challenger (the Celtics).  This is bound to be one of the best playoff series’ in recent history.  But who will finish the job?  The Warriors may have a star-studded starting 5, but I see their lack of a bench hurting them here.  I think this is the year that the Golden State dynasty will be overthrown.  The Boston Celtics will win the NBA Finals in 2019, starting a new dynasty.

Who do you have going all the way in the NBA?  Comment with your thoughts below, and stay tuned for more Celtics and NBA coverage soon.

 

Bradley’s Buzzer Beater Leads Celtics to Victory

The Boston Celtics were trailing most of the game but came back to win 104-103 in the second half.  Evan Turner had a good night, earning himself a double-double (19 points, and a career high 12 rebounds), plus 6 assists.  Isaiah Thomas also contributed with 22 points, and Tyler Zeller had 16.

LeBron James also got 30 points for the opposing team, J.R. Smith had 20 and Kyrie Irving contributed 19 points plus 6 assists.  No Cavaliers players had double-doubles like Turner despite King James’ scoring showcase.  James honestly goes untouched cause the NBA wants to further promote their best stars like James, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.

For most of the first quarter, the Cavs were destroying the Celtics, making some amazing plays.  The Celts were down by 12 or 13 most of the 1st quarter, and they were down 32-20 when the quarter ended.  To make matters worse, Isaiah Thomas rolled his ankle.

The Celtics were still trailing in the second but began to come back.  Thomas was back but LeBron James took one little rest and Kelly Olynyk led the Celts on a 12-2 run.  It was easier on the defense without King James but he returned and the Cavs scored 5 unanswered points.  By the end of the half they had cut the lead from the end of the first half, trailing just 49-43.  From the end of the 2nd to the start of the 3rd, they went on a quick 21-4 run. The run lasted from 6:24 left in the 2nd to the first two minutes of the 3rd.

The scoring started to slow down at that point.  Kevin Love in the meantime hobbled off the court with an ankle injury.  By the last two minutes of the third the Cavs were once again up by six.  They had made a run gaining 9 on the Celts through most of the 3rd.  But Love being in the locker room wouldn’t help.  At the end of the 3rd, it was 73-65 Cavaliers.  The Celtics regained control in the 4th quarter.

With Kevin Love out, the Celtics started the quarter with a 10-0 run.  LeBron James ended it with some go-ahead free throws.  9 minutes left.  There wasn’t much scoring besides free throws for the few minutes after that.  The Celts had another 11-2 run from the 6.5 minute mark to the 4 minute mark.  After that, the Cavs surged back with 9 straight points to regain the lead, 93-92.  This is where it began to get exciting.

The Celtics tied it up, but the Cavs answered with two 2-pointers and a free throw.  The Celtics answered with a basket to make it 99-96 Cavs .     The Celtics called time with eighteen seconds to go.

The last 18 seconds were especially exciting.  The Celts were down 101-96.  The Celtics got the ball and Bradley missed a long three pointer off the in-bounds.  Sullinger quickly rebounded it and tossed it to Jae Crowder who made an amazing three pointer from the corner that cut the Cavs’ lead to two points with 8 seconds left!!  The Celtics immediately fouled and the Cavs made both foul shots.  103-99 Cavs.  The Celtics called timeout again to take the in-bound in Cavaliers territory.  Evan Turner got the layup in just four seconds!  This time the Cavaliers fouled on Turner’s layup.  With the Celtics down by two Evan Turner had to intentionally miss the shot.  The ball tipped off two Cavs players before going out of bounds. The Celtics had the ball with 4.1 seconds left.

The officials gave the ball to Jae Crowder in front of the basket they were shooting into, then he passed it to Isaiah Thomas and Thomas tossed it to Avery Bradley.  Bradley bobbled the ball momentarily but regained control with enough time left to attempt a shot.  Avery Bradley released the 3-point buzzer beater from the corner and made it as time expired!!!!

avery-bradley-buzzer-beater-2-5-16.jpg
Avery Bradley shooting the game winning buzzer beater

The Celtics came back from a six point deficit at the half to defeat the Cavaliers 104-103!  They were trailing by thirteen to start the first quarter and slowly but surely they came back to win!!!   The Celtics advance to 30-22, while the Cavs fall to 35-14.

The Celts next play today at 1, hosting the Sacramento Kings.  Hopefully I can catch that game.  The Celtics are on a 3 game winning streak and have won 8 out of their last 9.  Can they keep it up?