I’ll openly admit that I am hedging my bet on the Miami Heat with this selection. I have no idea what to make of the team as currently constructed. Pat Riley let Dwyane Wade walk, Hassan Whiteside is their highest paid player, and Chris Bosh might never play a game in the NBA again. Unless Tyler Johnson is able to live up to his four-year $50 million dollar deal he signed this offseason it could be a long season in South Beach. Ultimately, it comes down to whether or not Bosh is able to suit up for the Heat again. If he is this team could challenge for a top six spot, if not they could be watching ping pong balls in May.
After surprising many with their run to the sixth seed in the 2015 NBA Playoffs a lot of expectation was placed upon the Bucks shoulders heading into the 2015-16 season. Yet, without some of their veteran leadership from the year before Milwaukee was unable to take the next step forward as a franchise, finishing an underwhelming 33-49 on the year. Jason Kidd might have unlocked a cheat code when he inserted Giannis Antetokounmpo as the team’s starting point guard. At 6’11” the Greek Freak could see over the defense and tallied numerous triple doubles during the second half of the season. With a core of Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Kris Middleton, the Bucks should once again be in the hunt for the post season.
Outside of Kevin Durant skipping town in Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors, Dwyane Wade leaving South Beach was the most surprising move of the offseason. Wade seemed guaranteed to be a lifer in Miami, however, “Wade County” is no more. The Bulls also brought in Rajon Rondo to assemble one of the most confusing backcourts in the NBA. None of the Rondo, Wade and Jimmy Butler trio is a knockdown shooter from the perimeter and it is likely opposing teams will pack the paint and dare Chicago to beat them from behind the arc. As a rookie head coach Fred Hoiberg had a difficult year adjusting to the NBA life and the roster he’s been given for this season won’t make it any easier on him.
The Orlando Magic are an unknown in the Eastern Conference heading into 2016. They have some intriguing young players (Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, and Evan Fournier) and quality veterans (Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks, and Nikola Vucevic), but the big question hanging over this team is if the parts are all compatible. How will the Vucevic/Ibaka/Biyombo/Gordon rotation work out? Will Payton be able to be enough of a threat as a shooter to occupy defenders? can Hezonja and/or Gordon develop into future studs? It is now the task of ex-Pacers coach Frank Vogel to make it work. Any man that can get Lance Stephenson to play productive basketball surely has a chance of making the impossible happen.
CRYING JORDAN LIVES ON! In all seriousness though, the Hornets lost two of their five best players in the offseason (Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson) and that doesn’t really spell out success in the NBA. Kemba Walker and Nic Batum will be the leaders of this team and if that sentence didn’t make you cringe you are either French or a UCONN alumnus. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returns from a shoulder injury that kept him out for most of last year, but there really isn’t much else in terms of help coming for the Hornets. Reshaping this team’s identity is going to be a full year job for Steve Clifford. I predict we won’t be seeing many shots of Jordan hanging out with the team on the bench this year,
Ben Simmons could dime his way to winning Rookie of the Year. Dario Saric is actually coming to America. Joel Embiid will finally play an NBA game, knock on wood. “The Process” is finally starting to prove trustworthy for Sixers fans, however Sam Hinkie will not be around to see the end result of his tanking. Brett Brown still has some Popovich fairy dust on him and even when they rolled out a collection of 10-day players Philly played hard for 48 minutes a game. Figuring out who out of Saric, Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel deserves to stay will be a fun side story to follow throughout the season. It is highly likely that all of Philadelphia will be paying more attention to the Rookie of the Year race than the actual standings.
It pains me to do this, but it’s going to be a long year in Brooklyn once again. However, there’s a new sheriff in town for the Nets and his name is Kenny Atkinson. A New York native, Atkinson is best known for his time as a assistant coach under Mike Budenholzer and Mike D’Antoni where he helped develop Jeremy Lin and Kent Bazemore into the pros they are today. Lin was very fond of his time with Atkinson and that ultimately led him to sign with Brooklyn as a free agent. Lin’s hairstyles will be the most intriguing thing to follow about the Nets for the 2016-17 season.