Preview 2016-2017 NBA Season:Atlanta Hawks

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Can Dwight Howard elevate the Hawks?

The Atlanta Hawks have lost some key players from their roster. Former Center for the Hawks Al Horford would leave in the offseason, to go play for the Celtics. Also they would trade Jeff Teague to the Pacers in a three team trade for draft picks. In response to the loss of Horford and Teague, the Hawks would sign a underrated big talent in the offseason former Rockets Center Dwight Howard.

The signing of Dwight Howard in the offseason is a big deal. Howard who was considered at one point to be one of the best centers in the NBA, has not had the run in Houston which was expected. He would face injury and have to compete with his own teammate James Harden for scoring opportunities. During his time last season with the Rockets he played 71 games and stayed healthy for majority of the season. He would average 13.7 PPG and 11.8 RPG, but some feel he could have had a greater impact on the team. Under the Rockets offense last season, Harden was the primary target and everything had revolved around him. Howard would be open at times under the basket, while Harden would still try to score by himself.  Howard diminished role, had an impact on him leaving for Atlanta.

In Atlanta, expect Dwight Howard to have a bigger role and elevate his game. The Hawks still have impressive talent in the emerging Point Guard Dennis Schroder who took the position of Jeff Teague, as Teague game began to decline. Schroder averaged 11 PPG and 4.4 APG.  The Hawks also have  Power Forward Paul Millsap, who may benefit more having Howard on the team then Al Horford.  Millsap averaged 17.1 PPG and 9 RPG. The Hawks still have sharpshooter Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore and Tim Hardaway Jr. Howard will have more opportunity in Atlanta and will be more motivated to shut up his  critics from the past as well.

Prediction: Expect The Hawks to be in the Playoffs. They are not title contenders, but it is a step forward. Losing Al Horford and Jeff Teague doesn’t hurt the team and they were able to get Dwight Howard who will give Atlanta a spark both on the court and getting fans attention. He is back in his hometown and a motivated Howard is dangerous. He has a chance to remind us how dominate he can be and is going to be coached by Mike Budenholzer, who is a great coach and is very underated. Schroder is expected to improve now that he is the clear Point Guard of this team and Paul Millsap will play even better, if Howard can be dominate to give him more opportunities to score. The Hawks are a work in progress and I do expect more changes to the roster, through trades in the season. They are still missing key pieces to get them to a championship level, but they have the coaching and the talent to get into the Playoffs this season.

Atlanta Hawks: `Sixth Seed in the Eastern Conference

NBA Season Preview 2016-2017:Chicago Bulls

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Can the Bulls compete for a championship?

The Chicago Bulls have rebuilt the team in one off season.  The Bulls would let their two franchise players in Point Guard Derrick Rose and Center Joakim Noah go, to revamp the entire roster. In return the acquired former Heat Shooting Guard Dwayne Wade and former Kings Point Guard Rajon Rondo in the offseason. The Bulls still have an All Star Shooting Guard Jimmy Butler , who many can expect to improve as well.

Dwayne Wade coming back to his hometown of Chicago and playing for the Bulls, is a big deal. Wade brings championship experience to a relatively young and talented team. Dwayne Wade played 73 games last year and averaged 19 PPG, with 4.6 APG. What has always been a question with Wade is his health, but last year for the most part he was physically healthy and was a key player for the Heat in the Playoffs last season. At thirty four years old, Dwayne can still give a championship performance in big games and shouldn’t have to carry the team.

Rajon Rondo is a interesting acquisition for the Bulls. In 2014 he had signed with the Mavericks, after years with the Celtics. His tenure with the Mavericks was problematic, as he would have problems with the Coach Rick Carlisle. After the season ended he would go to the Kings and had some success, but wasn’t enough to get the Kings to the Playoffs. Now with the Bulls, people question if Rondo can get along with Dwayne Wade and elevate Bulls to title contenders. Rondo is also a NBA Champion and can be a great Point Guard, but he has to fit in with the team.

Jimmy Butler has emerged as a star player in the NBA and is making an argument for being one of the best Shooting Guards in the league. When Derrick Rose was struggling with injuries, he stepped up and took over Rose spot as being the leader of the team. Last season he would average 20.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG, but the story of the team was if their was problems between Rose and Butler. People questioned if Rose coming back was going to hurt the chemistry of the team. This season Butler will be the franchise player for the team, but will also have a more talented roster then last season. Expect Butler to be better then last season, with talented scorers like Dwayne Wade and Nikola Mirotic on the Bulls team to give him more open shots.

prediction: The Bulls are definitely a team that could challenge the Cavaliers in the Playoffs. The problem that they will have is, if they can have strong team chemistry and if coaching will be a problem. Losing Tom Thibodeau last season, had completely changed the style of play and the attitude of the team. They took their minds of defense and became more of an offensive team, which took away the aggression the team had. Losing that edge, had took away the mystique of playing against the Bulls and took away their identity. Head Coach Fred Hoiberg will have a challenge in making this team better, then last year and watching after Dwayne Wade to make sure he stays healthy. This team is going to take time getting their chemistry and figuring out what their identity of the team will now be. The upside to it is they have talent to do something special in Chicago and by the Playoffs can be considered a threat to the Cavaliers.

 

The Chicago Bulls: Fourth Seed in the Eastern Conference

Preview NBA Season 2016-2017: Indiana Pacers

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Can Indiana get back in the playoffs?

The Indiana Pacers are an interesting team in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have went through some changes in the off season, most notably the coach Frank Vogel. Vogel has been the head coach for the Pacers since 2011 and has helped the team to two Eastern Conference Finals. Even though the Pacers were in the playoffs, President of the Pacers Larry Bird decided to let Vogel go and move in a different direction. The Head Coach of the Pacers will be Nate McMillan, who has coached teams like the Trailblazers and was the Assistant Coach for the Pacers under Frank Vogel.  In retrospect this can be a breath of fresh air for this team.

The Pacers have changed their roster as well, as they acquired a veteran Al Jefferson from the Hornets and Jeff Teague.  Teague was traded to the Pacers in the offseason in a three team trade, that sent former Pacers Point Guard George Hill to the Jazz. Teague now playing the Point Guard position in Indiana, is a great opportunity for him to show what Atlanta will be missing. Atlanta decided to go a different direction with Dennis Schroeder as their starting Point guard. Teague averaged 15.7 PPG and 5.9 APG last season, which would be an improvement compared to what  Hill had done last year for the Pacers.

Al Jefferson is a interesting acquisition for the Pacers, as they get a productive veteran center they have needed for a long time.  Jefferson has been in the league for twelve years and is a tough center. Being with the Hornets for three years, he also has the ability to carry the team on several occasions as well. Jefferson at thirty one years old, may have the best talent around him in his career. With Paul George, Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis, it relieves the pressure of  Jefferson(who averaged 12 PPG) to score then with the Hornets. Playing for the Pacers gives Jefferson a fresh start, with a team that can make a run in the playoffs.

Paul George is also hungry to be a champion and gain respect as one of the best players in the game. After a horrific injury in 2014,  George is fully healthy going into the season and has got back into the flow of his game. Last season felt more like George getting back to the player he was prior to his injury, which he would average 23.1 PPG which is his career high. This upcoming season  George has a new array of talent with Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson, while still having likes of Monta Ellis and CJ Miles as well. Expect George to improve and try to take this team to a new level.

Prediction: The Pacers are a wild card in the Eastern Conference. They finally have a legit threat at the Center position in Al Jefferson.  They have also improved the Point Guard position by getting Jeff Teague, who is going to have a chip on his shoulder. Paul George is coming into the season hungry and wanting to prove to the world that he should be in the conversation as the best in the NBA. He is also coming off his best scoring season, which was his comeback season as well. This Pacers team has new life and has potential to be a threat in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana Pacers: third Seed in the Eastern Conference

Preview NBA Season 2016-2017 Preview: New York Knicks

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The New York Knicks are contenders again.

The last two years for the Knicks and the Knicks fanbase, has been rough and worth forgetting.  In 2014-2015 season, the Knicks had their worst record in franchise history with a 17-65 record. Although in 2015-2016 season the Knicks improved to 32-50, it still it not what many NBA fans are accustom to. Last season saw a team surrounded by controversy with questions of how committed President Phil Jackson was to the team to questioning if Carmelo Anthony is still hungry for a championship. The Knicks also had coaching issues with Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis and the lack of direction of how they were going to play.

Even though the Knicks season wasn’t worth remembering, what fans will remember is acquiring a prospect with a lot of potential in drafting Kristaps Porzingis. The 7ft 3in player from Latvia, has given the Knicks a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season. Porzingis can defend, can score inside and outside the paint and has shown toughness as well. Some of compared Porzingis to the great Dirk Nowitzki, which in retrospect can very well be a possibility. At twenty one years old, Porzingis still has room to grow and become the franchise of this Knicks team.

The Knicks this year have potential to do great things this season. In the off season they acquired former Bulls franchise point guard Derrick Rose and their center Joakim Noah. Derrick Rose career has not been easy, as the once MVP has been plagued with injury. Many have doubted if he will get back to that MVP style of play, that put him as the elite point guard in the NBA at one point. Last year he played in 66 games and averaged 16.4 PPG, which he will have to improve to help the Knicks capture a championship.

Joakim Noah has also dealt with injury and people wonder if he can give the Knicks the player that was once considered the best defensive player in the NBA. Noah wasn’t given a fair shot last year with the Bulls, as he became more of a bench player. He would average 4.3 PPG and 8.8 RPG last season, with the more concerning stat being his scoring. Even with the offensive weapons on the Knicks team, he will have to contribute a little more.

Carmelo Anthony is entering his 13th year in the NBA, with questions on if he will ever capture an NBA title. He has watched his friends Dwayne Wade and LeBron James win multiple championships, with Chris Paul always being contenders with the Los Angeles Clippers. Anthony has yet to get past the first round in the playoffs and people question his ambition on if he cares. Most recently was the remarks he made during the Rio Olympics about being okay, with not winning an NBA Championship after winning the gold medal. This year Anthony has arguably his best chance at winning an NBA championship,  than he has had in his career with the Knicks.

Prediction: The Knicks have the roster to be contenders in the Eastern Conference, but it depends on if they can stay healthy, have chemistry and figure out the direction of how they are going to play. This team is the most talented it has been in the last couple of years and it’s easy to see them as one of the teams in the playoffs this season. They have a new coach in Jeff Hornacek and has also acquired Courtney Lee, Brandon jennings and Justin Holiday in offseason. They have more options of how they want to structure their bench as well, then the previous seasons. I would also look out for Guillermo Hernangomez and Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who have both proven to have potential to impact the team. The Knicks are back and it’s up to them to see how far they can go.

 

The New York Knicks: fifth seed in the Eastern Conference

Preview 2016-2017 NBA Season: Toronto Raptors

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With the upcoming NBA season, we look at the Toronto Raptors.

In the last three NBA seasons the Toronto Raptors have made it to the playoffs, with last year being the better of the three appearances. The Raptors are another team that had went through a long rebuilding period, until the 2013-2014 season. Kyle lowry and DeMar DeRozan has been the backcourt duo, that has rejuvenated this franchise. Being in the playoffs and being defeated in the first round the last two years had actually proved to help make the Raptors better. Last season saw the Raptors more experienced and hungry to make a splash in the playoffs, which led them to the Conference Finals against the reigning champions The Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kyle Lowry at thirty years old has turned into a great Point Guard in the league and is almost in consideration for being one of the elite in the NBA. Last year he averaged 21.2 PPG which is his career high and 6.4 APG. Lowry has become a better player then what he was in the 2013-2014 season, having been criticized and taken out in the first round in back to back appearances. Last season he took his game to another level and arguably made a case for becoming the face of the franchise as well.

DeMar DeRozan had a great season last year and what was his best season of his career. He would average 23.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG, with both him and Lowry in consideration as one of the best backcourts in the NBA. He also showed his leadership as well, reminding everyone he has been a mainstay for the Raptors since 2009. Although injury has gotten in the way, DeRozan had a break out season and he is only twenty seven.  If healthy, DeRozan will score and might make a debate as one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.

Dwane Casey also deserves credit for coaching the Raptors. Although he has been criticized by the media and can be ill- tempered at times, he has brought toughness to this Toronto team and has made them hungry. Casey gives the Raptors team an edge even in media, when he talks about nobody respecting them as championship contenders. Casey has done a remarkable job as coach for the Raptors and has always been in conversation as coach of the year.

Prediction: I don’t expect the Raptors to be in the second seed again, because how much the Eastern Conference has change. Not much has changed about the Raptors roster except the addition of  Center Jared Sullinger, who they signed in the offseason. Although Lowry and DeRozan after their best season in their career respectfully, it’s going to be a hard road getting into the playoffs.

Toronto Raptors: Seventh Seed in the Eastern Conference

Preview 2016-2017 NBA Season: Boston Celtics

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With the NBA season almost upon us, we look at the Boston Celtics and their resurgence.

It took the Boston Celtics time to rebuild after the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allan era, but in the last two years they have surprised many by getting into the playoffs with their new young talent. Lead by Point Guard Isaiah Thomas and new signee Power Forward  Al Horford, this team is expected to make another consecutive Playoff appearance. The Celtics also have the rookie Jaylen Brown, a pick which many thought was going to lead to a trade for reigning champion of The Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love. At nineteen years old Jaylen Brown has potential and could be add a big help to a already talented bench.

Isaiah Thomas has come into his own this past season with the Celtics, after a trade with the Phoenix Suns in February 2015 .  He is a gritty, tough Point Guard that the Celtics needed and has also growing into a leader. Last year was the best season of his career in the NBA with Isaiah averaging 22.2 PPG and 6.2 APG. At twenty seven years old, Isaiah still has room to improve and possibly elevate himself as one of the elite Point Guards in the league.

Al Horford leaving the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason was definitely one of the game changing moves in the offseason. At thirty years old, he stills has a lot of game left in him. Horford adds a veteran presence with this young and talented team, which just adds more depth to this roster. Horford should start at Power Forward for the Celtics and if they wanted to can also move him to the Center position. Last year he averaged 15.2 PPG and 7.3 RPG, which he can do better. Although in Boston, he will not have to carry the team by himself with the array of younger talent around him.

The Boston Celtics are definitely a favorite to be in the Playoffs this upcoming season, with a young, tough and talented roster. If last year was an indication of the kind of depth the have, they just created more problems for teams in the Eastern Conference.  Coach Brad Stevens also deserves credit, for helping to rebuild this team as quickly as he did after Doc Rivers departure. Stevens has proven to be a great coach and now he has more talent to work with. Also Danny Ainge deserves credit for assembling this team together and keeping the Celtics as Playoff Contenders after a quick rebuilding period.

Prediction: The Eastern Conference has becoming very interesting in the offseason with new acquisitions. The number one spot still belongs to Lebron James and The Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Celtics will be a threat. With young talent, a gritty Point Guard in Isaiah that can score and the veteran presence of Horford, this team is the best it’s been in a while. Also Small Forward Jae Crowder will be back healthy to cover Lebron if they were to meet in the Playoffs and Horford can be on Lebron, if he moves to the Power Forward position.  This Celtics team will be a interesting team to follow and Boston fans are going to see the Celtics in the Playoffs for the third consecutive year.

The Boston Celtics: Second Seed in the Eastern Conference