Despite all the blockbuster moves that were made this offseason, many experts believe that the NBA is still a two-team race between the Warriors and Cavs. The Warriors essentially have the same dominant team that won the NBA Finals last season. In fact, they improved their roster with the additions of Nick “Swaggy P” Young and Omri Casspi. On the other hand, Cleveland has a lot of questions that need to be answered before anyone can crown them the Eastern Conference Champions. Will Derrick Rose return to his All-Star form? Will Dwyane Wade mesh with the other Cavs? Can Isaiah Thomas get healthy in time to make a difference this season? Regardless, there is so much talent on Cleveland’s roster, it’ll be hard for any East team to surpass them in 2017. With that being said, here are my predictions for this season’s division, conference, and Finals winners.
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics
At the time this article is being written, Gordon Hayward had already broken his ankle; however, the Celtics still have enough talent and tremendous coaching. The Toronto Raptors have been one of the best teams in the East for the last few years, but Boston has the right balance of young stars and veterans to finish in the top four in the conference without Hayward.
Other Playoff Teams: Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers
Central Division: Cleveland Cavaliers
This one is simple. The Cavaliers are the best team in the East. In fact, they have gotten even better following the trade of Kyrie Irving. Cleveland has added Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Jeff Green this offseason. Those five players join a core of LeBron James, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Tristan Thompson to make up arguably the deepest NBA roster not in Oakland this season.
Other Playoff Teams: Milwaukee Bucks
Southeast Division: Washington Wizards
The Wizards have been on the cusp of contention in the Eastern Conference for years. Last season, John Wall became an MVP-caliber point guard, and Bradley Beal was probably the best non-All Star in the East. With Hayward going down, this could be the year that Washington takes a step forward. The only problem is Milwaukee looks like a team that can leap frog everyone and become the second best team in the conference. Only time will tell.
Other Playoff Teams: Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets
Northwest Division: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder made the biggest splash in the offseason, acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. It remains to be seen whether they will mesh with the reigning MVP. Truth be told, there is way too much talent on this team to finish in the bottom half of the West this season. Although they play in the toughest division in the West, OKC takes the Northwest crown in 2017.
Other Playoff Teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers
Pacific Division: Golden State Warriors
Other Playoff Teams: Los Angeles Clippers
Southwest Division: Houston Rockets
This division provides the best race to the top among Western Conference teams. The new-look Rockets are poised to make a title run, but Pop and Kawhi aren’t ready to hand over the division just yet. I think talent beats out the beautiful Spurs system this season, and Houston takes a step toward greatness in 2017.
Other Playoff Teams: San Antonio Spurs
Eastern Conference: Cleveland Cavaliers
To be honest, Cleveland is just better than everyone else in the East. Despite Giannis finishing in the top 5 in MVP voting this season, the Bucks just aren’t ready to take down the King yet. The Cavs advance to their fourth straight NBA Finals.
Runner Up: Milwaukee Bucks
Western Conference: Golden State Warriors
Again, there’s not much to say. It won’t be a cake walk for Golden State, but they have an advantage over every newly-constructed super team this year. Chemistry. It can never be overstated how important chemistry is in the NBA. Accepting roles, effortless movement, and managing egos plays a big part in professional basketball, yet it has never hindered the Warriors. On to the next one for the reigning champs.
Runner Up: Houston Rockets
NBA Champions: Golden State Warriors
In the fourth edition of Cavs vs. Warriors, Cleveland will have a much deeper team than last year, which is something that hurt them in their matchup last June. Nevertheless, Golden State checks all the boxes that are necessary to win championships. If it wasn’t already declared, 2017-18 will be the year that Golden State cements itself as a dynasty with their third title in four years.