LeBron James scores 57 as the Cavs drop the Wizards 130-122

Bradley Beal said earlier this morning that he thought Washington was ‘the best team in the east.’ This past postseason, Beal and Richard Jefferson got in a Twitter beef because he thought the Cavs were ducking them. Well, LeBron James set the record straight tonight.

James scored a season-high 57 points to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists as the Cavs beat the Wizards 130-122 and stop their four-game skid.

Bradley Beal was terrific tonight scoring 36 points on 12-19 shooting tonight however his performance was clearly overshadowed. John Wall had a very rough shooting night as he was just 4-13 from the field for 13 points but did dish out 15 assists.

Washington has struggled mightily on the defensive end this season. And tonight, James and the Cavs blew the lid off.

Washington’s defense was abysmal

The Wizards gave up 121 points to the lowly Suns the other night and you knew that if they didn’t clean things up and quickly, it would be an uphill battle. Well, they did absolutely nothing to make one think they care the slightest bit on the defensive end.

Cleveland was scorching hot from the field in the first quarter going 17-22 from the field as they scored 42 in the opening period. Washington wasn’t locked in, they weren’t rotating, weren’t boxing out, and well, weren’t really doing anything well defensively tonight.

Late in the game, John Wall was the primary defender on James. And although he did an ok job on him, the Wizards never opted to double-team him until after the game was already out of hand. Couple that with coach Scott Brooks’s decision to go with an all-reserve lineup really made you scratch your head at times.

When you give a defensive effort like this, of course, you’ll give up 130 points.

Something is not right with John Wall 

Don’t let Wall’s stat line fool you, he didn’t play that great of a game tonight. Wall’s struggles from the field continue as he was just 4-13 and missed all three of his three-point attempts.

There were a couple of occasions where Wall drove and didn’t get the call so he continued to try and force the issue. As a result, he missed guys for open shots as his head was down trying to barrel through the lane for a call.

Things got uglier when he got to the line. Wall was just 5-12 (42 percent) from the free-throw line tonight. That’s bad. Really, really bad.

Tip Ins

  • Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a career-high 21 points while also knocking down a career-high five three-pointers. Oubre was terrific off of the bench for the Wizards and added a much-needed scoring punch. However, it looks like Oubre might be a little lighter in the wallet after tonight.
  • Mike Scott continued to play well scoring 12 points off the bench. Scott’s hot streak started in Sacramento and has carried over into these past two games. Having an extra big man could be very valuable down the road.
  • Ian Mahinmi is a lost cause and he probably shouldn’t be seeing too much more action. Mahinmi played just 12 minutes tonight but committed two turnovers and racked up four fouls in his limited play. No need to beat a dead horse, you already know, there’s not a whole lot that Mahinmi can do well right now.

Up Next

The Wizards head north of the border to take on the Toronto Raptors Sunday night.


The Warriors are sitting back laughing as the rest of the NBA is in scramble mode

The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time in three years on June 12th. And ever since that day, every team not named the Warriors is scrambling to try and play catch up. The blueprint is out on how to win a championship. Just years ago, a “Big 3” would be enough to get the job done. But as we just recently saw, having three all-stars including LeBron James, was barely enough to keep the Cavaliers from getting swept which would have been the ultimate embarrassment.

A “Big 4” is now required to compete for a championship. And as a result, teams are in full-on scramble mode in trying to orchestrate a team that will give them a fighting chance against the Golden State Warriors over the next few years.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have made three-straight finals appearances and won one of them. However, in the owner, Dan Gilbert’s mind, that plus “disagreement on the direction of the future” led to the termination of General Manager, David Griffin.

Let’s think about that. A General Manager who made the finals three straight times and under extreme circumstances (having to consult LeBron James on every decision) still wasn’t enough to warrant an extension.

Now that Cleveland is aware that a “Big 3” of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving isn’t enough to compete with the Warriors, they’ve started reaching out to the Pacers and Bulls to gauge the interest of Paul George and Jimmy Butler respectively.

Even with Cleveland’s success, the Cavaliers are still left scrambling as they were trying to acquire star Jimmy Butler from Chicago. After it felt like Kevin Love had found his niche with the Cavs, he’ll now be the centerpiece in all trade talks that the Cavs are involved with.

And remember the Lakers? The lowly Lakers who finished 26-56 this past season? Well, they’re just as much in the mix as Cleveland is. Just last night, The Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov (salary dump) to the Nets in exchange for Brooke Lopez and their first round draft pick.

This is significant because with the Lakers expected to draft Lonzo Ball on Thursday night’s draft, they’ve now cleared up roughly $60 million in salary cap space which will allow them to sign one and potentially two max deal free agents in the summer of 2018.

Now that Paul George has made it clear that he’s leaving the Pacers after next year to go to the Lakers, teams are in a bind debating whether they should take a shot on the all-star for one year knowing that he’ll leave or just stay away altogether. About a half a dozen teams are interested in George but realistically, he’s going to be in either a Pacers, Cavaliers, or Lakers uniform next year.

And remember that Lebron James guy? He can also opt out of his deal in the summer of 2018 and has been linked to the Lakers on several occasions. Now the Lakers have the cap space necessary to sign both James and George next summer including other aging stars if they are willing to take pay cuts to form yet another super-team.

To recap: A GM who won a title just one year ago has been fired. The best player in the league is unsettled with the firing of his GM and now looks more likely than ever to leave for L.A. after next year. A perennial all-star has demanded out of his current situation. The Lakers have cleared an enormous amount of cap space to make a run at one, maybe two more free agents. And the NBA season ended just nine days ago.

Not to mention, the Celtics could potential land Blake Griffin or Gordon Hayward. The Clippers are now shopping De’Andre Jordan. And the Knicks (yes the Knicks!!!) have started shopping Kristaps Porzingis to gauge the interest level of other teams.

And why all the chaos? Because how the hell else are you going to beat the Golden State Warriors?

Wizards at Cavs Final: Wiz too much for the Cavs in 127-115 win.

Seven Wizards players scored in double-figures — led by John Wall with 37 points andBradley Beal with 27 — as Washington defeated Cleveland, 127-115. Kelly Oubre also chipped in 16 points on 7-8 shooting as the Wizards picked up one of their best road wins of the season to kick off a brutal five-game road swing.

Washington started the game by turning in one of their best quarters of the season, thanks to the hot shooting of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Wall came out looking for his jumper early on and he was knocking them down. Once Wall was in a rhythm, his backcourt mate, Bradley Beal decided that it was his turn to get going. Beal connected on two very tough step-back jumpers as the Wizards started 13-17 from the field.

But John Wall wasn’t done there. Wall stayed in attack mode and finished the quarter a perfect 8-8 from the field with 18 points and five assists as the House of Guards combined for more points (27) than the Cavaliers scored in the quarter (26) as the Wizards took a 40-26 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The hot shooting carried over to the second quarter as the Wizards were able to stretch the lead out to 17. But as expected, the reigning champs would counter. The Wizards had a few lapses on the defensive end leading to two open threes for Kyle Korver in the corner. Then, LeBron started doing LeBron things, driving to the hole for poster dunks and finding his teammates for open shots as the Cavs were able to cut the lead down to six midway through the quarter.

Washington responded with a run of their own as the starting unit came back in to finish the half. The Wizards shot 70 percent in the first half and 5-9 from three-point range as they led 71-61 going into the break.

Again, the champs wouldn’t go down easily. With James on the bench, the Cavs’ reserves made a run to cut the Wizards lead down to 5 heading into the fourth quarter.

The teams traded baskets to start the fourth quarter but the Wizards would clamp down on the defensive end. Kelly Oubre led the charge, turning Cleveland turnovers into points on the other end. His signature play came midway through the fourth quarter as he gathered a Markieff Morris miss for a putback layup to put the Wizards up 10, 117-107.

The Cavs would waive the white flag at the two-minute mark and empty their bench as the Wizards pulled away for an impressive, 127-115 win.

Incredible first quarter from John Wall

We’ve seen some incredible performances from Wall over the years and the first quarter of tonight’s game was right up there. Wall was a perfect 8-8 from the field including 2-2 from three-point range as he scored 18 points and dished out 5 assists in the first quarter. Wall did most of his damage from deep and in the midrange during the first quarter and then attacked the hole later in the game. Wall either scored or assisted on 28 of the Wizards’ 40 first quarter points.

Kelly Oubre’s offense reappears 

Defense hasn’t been the issue for Oubre, his struggles have been on the offensive end. Oubre scored 16 points off the bench, the most he’s scored in months, with most of them coming either on transition layups or putbacks for second chance points. Oubre was a huge spark off the Wizards bench and they needed it considering Bojan Bogdanovic missed the game with back stiffness.

Defense steps up when it matters most

Washington’s defense through the first three quarters was not very good. However, the Wizards stepped up defensively in the fourth quarter when it mattered most. Wall played with intensity, they locked down LeBron James (as much as you can), and turned the Cavs over to seal the victory.

The Wizards’ best fourth quarter defense came with the small lineup of Wall-Beal-Porter-Oubre-Morris on the floor.

Cavs drop the Wizards, 140-135 in an overtime thriller

Where do you even begin with this one? The Cavaliers top the Wizards 140-135 in an overtime, instant classic and probably the best regular season game so far this season. LeBron James had a near-perfect game with 32 points and 17 assists but it was Kevin Love who was the high-scorer for the Cavs with 39 points. Bradley Beal led the way for the Wizards with a game-high 41 points while John Wall notched his 31st double-double of the season with 22 points and 12 assists.

This had the feel of the playoff game and you could hear the Verizon Center crowd buzz right from the tip off. Otto Porter’s hot shooting was on display early as he knocked down his first two three-pointers to get things rolling for the Wizards. Beal chipped in with 10 first quarter points as the Wizards led 32-26.

The Wizards were able to stretch the lead to eight at one point in the second quarter but the Cavs responded. Tristan Thompson fhad some nice finishes around the rim en route to a season-high 22 points as they trimmed the Wizards lead to three at halftime.

Things started to heat up beginning in the third quarter. The Wizards pulled away from the Cavs but the champs responded with a 9-0 run of their own. Bradley Beal got isolated on Shumpert and shook him so bad that he literally broke his ankle.

The teams traded baskets to end the quarter but now the Cavs led 86-82 entering the fourth.

The fourth quarter was a wild one. The teams continued trading baskets to start the period. Satoransky scooped up the loose ball in transition and found Oubre for a dunk as the Wizards regained the lead. But James and Love came to play in the money quarter. James went a perfect 4-4 from three-point range in the period. Kevin Love was also Johnny on the Spot as he knocked down timely three-pointers to give the Cavs a 116-112 lead.

The Wizards would fight back as Wall found Beal for a transition three to tie the game only to have Morris put a Wall miss back in for a Wizards 118-117 lead with just seconds to go. The next time down, LeBron James got a running start only to miss a WIDE OPEN layup. Wall would get fouled and knock down both free throws on the other end.

Then the miracle happened, Kevin Love threw a touchdown pass to LeBron James who caught it and hit a fadeaway bank three with .3 seconds remaining.

We’d be going to overtime tied at 120.

Gortat got an easy layup to get things going for the Wizards in the extra period. The next time down, the Wizards threw the ball to Beal who was fouled by James, his sixth of the contest. With a four-point lead and James on the sideline, you’d think the Wizards would take care of business, right?

And that’s when Kyrie Irving took over. Irving hit tough shot after tough shot as the Cavs’ closer. He put the cherry on top with a three from nearly the same spot he hit the winner in game 7 against the Warriors.

The Wizards would miss the next time down and that would be that. Wizards fall to the Cavs in a thriller, 140-135.

The Wizards run out of gas late, fall to the Cavs 105-94.

John Wall led the way for the Wizards with 28 points and Markieff Morris chipped in with 20 but it wouldn’t be enough as the Wizards run out of gas late and lose to the Cavs, 105-94.

Wall came out on fire tonight connecting on 6 of his first 8 shots to begin the game as the Wizards shot 62.5 percent and led 31-26 after one quarter. Wall took it upon himself to take on the scoring load as his backcourt mate in Bradley Beal was sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Kelly Oubre was a spark for the Wizards tonight hitting his first four field goals and finishing the night with 10 points to go along with six rebounds.

Even though the Wizards played a nearly flawless first half, they still found themselves down, 58-56.

Things fell apart for the Wizards in the third quarter as they had tons of trouble guarding the three-point line. Kyrie Irving and JR Smith connected on deep three-pointers as the Cavs lead ballooned out to nine, 84-75.

The Wizards went on a bit of a dry spell to start the fourth quarter. Shots that were falling early, stopped falling. Whenever the Wizards made a run at the lead, the Cavs would answer.

Even though the Wizards played one of their best games of the season, it wouldn’t be enough, as they’d fall 105-94.

Three-point shooting: The Wizards were 3-15 from three-point range tonight and hit just one three-pointer in the second half. Without Bradley Beal, the Wizards didn’t have any scoring threats from deep and the Cavs knew that, often batting them into threes.

On the other side, the Cavs knocked down 14 threes on 33 attempts. You aren’t going to win many games when you get outscored 42-9 from three-point range.

The jig is up for Marcus Thornton and Jason Smith:

Thornton and Smith have become major liabilities for this team. Thornton, getting the start due to Beal’s injury, scored just two points in 21 minutes on 0-5 shooting. He was yanked in the fourth quarter in favor of Sheldon McClellan. Smith was equally as bad as he didn’t score and gathered just three rebounds. Surprisingly, Andrew Nicholson logged his second straight DNP. Not sure what the coaching staff sees in Smith but there’s no way that they really think Smith is the better option over Nicholson right now.

John Wall’s lack of assists:

John Wall dished out just three assists tonight, the fewest of the season. It was clear that the Cavs were content with letting Wall score and take jump shots rather than creating for others since Beal was out. Wall was forced to carry this team offensively and at times, forced things resulting in six turnovers. It’s clear that Wall knows he has the weight of the world on his shoulders as there aren’t any scorers around him. And that’s not a good thing.

10 Predictions for the 2016-2017 NBA Season

The NBA season is right around the corner. Some things are a sure lock yet others remain a complete unknown. Without further ado, let’s go over 10 predictions (I hopefully don’t get too wrong) for this NBA season.

1.  The Warriors and Cavaliers will meet in the finals for a third straight year – Please name one team that has a shot of taking either of these two down. Yeah… that’s what I thought.

2.  The Warriors will win 70+ games – When the over/under odds came out in Vegas and Golden State’s win total was set at 66.5, I did a double take. This team won 73 games last year and they ADDED Kevin Durant. Anytime the Warriors lose this season it will be a major upset and will be all over ESPN and the other sports networks. Barring a major injury, I don’t think 70 wins will be a problem for this team.

3.  The Cavaliers will coast to 60+ wins – Another surprisingly low over/under was Cleveland’s as their win total was set at 56.5. The thing about Cleveland is, even though they won the championship, all of the focus will still be on Golden State this year. With a watered down Eastern Conference that will be worse than it was last year, I don’t think LeBron James and the Cavs will have any troubles eclipsing the 60-win mark. The only way they don’t get to 60 wins is if LeBron James frequently sits out games for rest.

4.  The Houston Rockets will average 112 points per gameThe Rockets averaged 106.5 points per game last year; good enough for the 8-seed out west. I don’t forsee any scoring setbacks now that Mike D’Antoni is head coach of the Rockets. D’Antoni is an offensive minded coach and will be using James Harden at the point guard position this season. Not only will this team score a ton, they won’t be playing any defense as that’s not really D’Antoni’s M.O. Since they won’t be too worried on the defensive end, they’ll be forced to put up gaudy offensive numbers just to stay competitive in games.

5.  The Heat and the Hawks will miss the playoffs – The Heat and the Hawks finished third and fourth in the Eastern Conference last year. The Heat lost the face of the franchise in Dwyane Wade and also lost Chris Bosh due to medical complications. The Hawks, on the other hand, lost Jeff Teague and Al Horford to the Pacers and Celtics respectively in free agency. Both of these teams lost two of their top players and signed average to slightly above-average players to bandage the wounds. Expect both teams to take a major step backward and miss the playoffs.

6.  The Knicks will make the playoffs – I went back and forth on this one. I don’t think Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are able to stay healthy for an entire season but the thing is, the Eastern Conference isn’t going to be as good as it was last year. If Carmelo Anthony can play in 70+ games and Kristaps Porzingis continues to develop as scheduled, that should be enough for the Knicks to win about 40 games and get into the playoffs.

7.  Joel Embiid will win Rookie of the Year – Too bad for all of the guys who got drafted this season as Joel Embiid is the initial favorite to win rookie of the year. He’s on a bad team so he’ll get plenty of playing time. He’ll have free reign as the 76ers will be losing most games. Oh, and let’s not forget, he’s talented as hell. The only thing holding the big man back is injuries. I really hope Embiid can stay healthy because he has the potential to be a special player .

(Vine by cjzero)

8. John Wall will be a top-5 MVP Candidate – Outside of Damian Lillard, John Wall might be the most underrated player in the NBA. Wall averaged 19.9 points and 10.2 assists last season coming up just .1 point shy of becoming the eleventh player in NBA history to average 20 points and 10 assists for a season. He was the only constant for a Wizards team that likely would have only won 25-30 games last season without him. I expect Wall to put up similar numbers this year and because the Wizards should have a better record than last season (41-41), that should get him more recognition and into the top-5 in MVP voting.

9. The Oklahoma City Thunder will barely make the playoffs – The Rockets, Jazz, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers all got better during the offseason. The Oklahoma City Thunder took a step back as they lost Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. Russell Westbrook will be a man on a mission and will likely put up monster numbers every single night. The issue is, When Kevin Durant went down during the 2014-2015 season, Westbrook put up monster numbers and the team still missed the playoffs. The talent around Westbrook is solid but Durant leaving will leave a bigger dent than people wish to believe. As a result, the Thunder will have to sneak into the playoffs with either the seventh or eighth seed. A Warriors-Thunder first round matchup would be a pretty nice start to the playoffs, no?

10.  Giannis Antetokounmpo will win Most Improved Player – The Greek Freak is entering the fourth year of his NBA career. He’s increased his scoring, rebounding, and assist numbers every season he’s been in the league. Now that he’ll be playing point guard in Jason Kidd’s offense, this is the year the Greek Freak catapults himself onto the scene, maybe even making an All-Star appearance. He’s got the tools to be a Kevin Durant-type player, and this is the year he puts it together.

Bonus: The Warriors will win the championship – They’re pissed about blowing a 3-1 lead in the finals last year. On top of that, there’s no team out west who’ll test them prior to the finals.

A way too early ranking of the Eastern Conference

Last week we took a look at how the teams stack up early in the Southeast Division.

Now let’s see how the entire Eastern Conference stacks up now that free agency is in the rearview mirror.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs just won the championship. Cleveland just re-signed LeBron James to a three-year deal. Not much else to discuss here. Let’s keep moving.

2. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are here by default. After making their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in team history, the Raptors are looking to build on that momentum to carry them even further. They re-signed All-Star DeMar DeRozan to a five-year $145 million dollar year to keep the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan intact.

Bismack Biyombo played out of his mind during the playoffs earning him a large payday but with the Orlando Magic. Many think that Biyombo’s departure could potentially set the Raptors back. I disagree. Biyombo is a backup center and a rim protector. He averaged 5.5 points and eight rebounds during the regular season but those numbers jumped 6.2 points and 9.4 rebounds during the postseason. Biyombo is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end but is very limited on the offensive end. He’s a classic energy guy who happened to explode on a national stage at the right time. Yes, they’ll miss his defensive presence and shot-blocking; it’s just, I don’t think that’s enough to set the entire team back.

The Raptors replaced Biyombo with the acquisition of Jared Sullinger. As a starter last season, Sullinger averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Celtics. However this year, he’s expected to come off of the bench for the Raptors. Sullinger’s playing style is the opposite of Biyombo. Sullinger is shorter in stature but throws his weight around to gain position in the paint. Sullinger can stretch the floor and is effective in doing so as he shot 44.1 percent from shots 5-9 feet from the basket and 44.9 percent on shots 20-24 feet from the hoop.

He isn’t a great three-point shooter but is capable of knocking them down as he shot a modest 28.2 percent from distance last season which is better than most centers.

The Raptors did what they had to do to stay at the top of the Eastern Conference. They may not scare Cleveland, but keeping DeRozan and other key players intact will make them a force to be reckoned with next season.

3. Boston Celtics

The Celtics return four of their five starters from last season. They upgraded at the center position in acquiring Al Horford to fill the void left by Jared Sullinger. Although Horford is 30 years old, the former All-Star is an instant upgrade over Sullinger as he averaged more points (15.2), shot better from the field (50.5 percent), and shot better from three-point range (34.4 percent).

Plug in rookie Jaylen Brown and now the Celtics have another long wing to go alongside Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Gerald Green.

Additionally, according to ESPN.com, the Celtics are projected to have the easiest schedule in the league next season.

This team still lacks an “alpha dog” as I don’t believe Isaiah Thomas has reached that level yet. However, they still have a very good roster and one of the top coaches in the NBA. The arrow continues to point up for this team.

4. Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers didn’t get much publicity but positioned themselves very well for next season. The Pacers upgraded at point guard acquiring Indianapolis native Jeff Teague from the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team trade. Teague and Hill shot almost identical shooting percentages from three-point range and from the field, however,Teague averaged more points (15.7) and assists (5.9).

Us Wizards fans know that Ian Mahinmi is now gone from the Pacers. The Pacers seem very pleased and confident to move forward with second-year player Myles Turner at center and they also signed a Swiss Army Knife player in Thaddeus Young.

The Pacers secured up the center position with Al Jefferson and it’s very clear that Paul George is back to his superstar ways. The Pacers do have a new coach in Nate McMillan to get used to, however; this team looks poised to take a step forward after getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

5. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons bring back essentially the same roster that they had last season after re-signing All-Star center Andre Drummond. In somewhat of an under the radar move, the Pistons acquired Boban Marjanovic from the Spurs to play the backup center position. He is still somewhat of an unknown as he didn’t get too much playing time in San Antonio, however, he’s coming from the best culture in the NBA and will practice against one of the best centers in the NBA in Andre Drummond.

Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris will now have the entire offseason to get acclimated with the team rather than learning on the fly in just 30 games prior to the postseason. The Pistons have a nice core of players and young guys such as Stanley Johnson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who should continue to get better with time.

Expect a big step forward from the Pistons this season.

6. Charlotte Hornets

The losses of Jeremy Lin, Al Jefferson and Courtney Lee sting; No doubt about it. But as Kemba Walker enters his sixth NBA season, I feel that he’s on the verge of a breakout year. Walker scored a career-best 20.9 points last season. After getting snubbed from the All-Star game, Walkers’ numbers ballooned to 25.2 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.6 rebounds in the three weeks afterward. Walker has had his superstar moments evidenced by his 52-point game against the Jazz last season. We’ve seen Walker perform at All-Star levels in stretches; now’s the time where he does it for an entire season.

Outside of Walker, the Hornets kept many key guys intact by re-signing Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still around along with young, fresher guys in Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky, and Jeremy Lamb to round out the roster. That’s enough to make the Hornets the early favorites to win the Southeast division.

7. Washington Wizards

The Wizards return their starting five (after the All-Star game) from last season. The big X-factor this season will be Bradley Beal. Will he stay healthy? That’s the $128 million dollar question. Although he feels his injury woes are behind him, the elephant in the room will remain until Beal proves that he can stay healthy as the four-year player averages just 62 games played per season in his short four-year career.

Another uncertainty for the Wizards is Otto Porter’s development. He has continued to develop over the past three seasons, however if the Wizards are going to be relevant in the playoff race again, they’ll need Porter to take yet another step forward. He needs to continue to increase his scoring as the front office is all in on him and Kelly Oubre at the small forward position.

John Wall on the mend from knee surgery and Bradley Beal’s health are a constant question mark, so if Porter can take on more of a scoring load for this team early; that will pay dividends down the road.

8. Miami Heat

Let me preface this by saying this ranking assumes Chris Bosh DOESN’T play next season.

The Heat lost key players in Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Joe Johnson to free agency. That hurts. The team will now be counting on Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside and up and comer Justice Winslow to carry the torch for this team.

The Heat should be just fine defensively as Eric Spoelstra is known for his defensive schemes however the offense is another question. Hassan Whiteside is limited offensively, the team replaced Wade with Dion Waiters, but will count on Goran Dragic to carry the scoring load. Dragic has averaged 20 points for a season just once in his career and if the Heat are going to be competitive this year, he’ll need to do that again.

The wildcard here is Chris Bosh. As mentioned, Bosh has been dealing with blood clots over the past two years causing him to miss 67 games over the past two seasons. If Bosh is cleared to play and can stay healthy, that should be enough for the Heat to make the playoffs. If he can’t, the Heat will probably be on the outside looking in.

9. Chicago Bulls

Will the Bulls make any three-pointers next year? It can be assumed that Rondo, Wade, and Butler will be starting at the point guard, shooting guard, and small forward positions. None of them shoot threes very well. That leaves Nikola Mirotic, the team’s power forward, as the Bulls’ best three-point option.

10. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks lost Jeff Teague and Al Horford in the offseason. Yes, they signed Dwight Howard but he has proven that he’s not the easiest teammate to play with. In addition, Dennis Schroder will now be counted on to lead this team. There’re too many unknowns right now. Expect the Hawks to fall out of the playoffs.

11. New York Knicks

Derrick Rose was right. The Knicks did form a “Super-Team”…… if the year was 2011. The Knicks should have an improved record now that there’s more talent surrounding Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. It’s just the players they signed in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee are injury prone or are already past their prime.

12. Milwaukee Bucks

I thought the Bucks would break out last year but they didn’t. They have youth, size, athleticism, and a good coach (so we think). They fooled me last year. Now I need to see the improvement to believe it.

13. Orlando Magic

The Magic added size and athleticism in the offseason. Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka are good players; however, scoring is not their strong suit. Scoring for this team will be difficult.

14. Philadelphia 76ers

They went 10-72 last season and drafted the preseason favorite for rookie of the year in Ben Simmons. Can only go up from here, right?

15. Brooklyn Nets

Close your eyes Nets’ fans.