2015-2016 NBA preview

2015-2016 NBA preview

Carson Field, Sports Editor

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

The Atlantic Division was dominated last season by the Toronto Raptors and that is not expected to change this year. Toronto made a significant offseason move in signing breakout player DeMarre Carroll. The Raptors also signed veteran players in Cory Joseph and Luis Scola. I do expect the Celtics to also improve this season, as they traded for star forward David Lee. While the Raptors and Celtics should be solid this season, the bottom three teams, the Nets, 76ers and Knicks, should be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Projected Champion: Toronto Raptors

Central Division:

The Central Division is likely the best division in the Eastern Conference, but there should be no question of who wins the division this season. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost in the NBA Finals last season, are back and better than ever. The Cavs return their “Big Three”, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who were a pivotal part in winning the Eastern Conference last season. While the Cavs should definitely win the division, they have some solid competition. The Chicago Bulls are also in the Central. Chicago is a team that will be a major threat to the Cavs this season, as they have a combination of veteran players and solid young players such as Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott. The Pacers, Bucks and Pistons should compete for third place in the Central this season, but should not compete with the Cavs and Bulls.

Projected Champion: Cleveland Cavaliers

Southeast Division:

Last season, the Atlanta Hawks finished the regular season with a 60-22 record, which was the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks did not have much competition last year, but I expect that to change this season. The Washington Wizards have some of the best young talent in the NBA, and this should help them compete with the Hawks this year. I expect Otto Porter Jr., John Wall and Bradley Beal to help lead this Washington team to a great season. While the Hawks and Wizards are the two main teams competing for the Central, the Heat have a chance to have a good season this year. While Miami retained veterans Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, the Heat also have a solid supporting cast with Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng and Goran Dragic.

Projected Champion: Washington Wizards

Western Conference

Pacific Division:

The Pacific Division was dominated by the Warriors last season, and I don’t expect that to change this season. Golden State won the NBA Finals in June and should still be a great team. Although they lost big man David Lee, the Warriors return key players Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. The team that will likely finish second in the Pacific, the Clippers, should have a solid season. The Clippers return Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, plus the addition of forward Lance Stephenson. Although I don’t see the Clippers competing with the Warriors, there is a good chance that they could finish in the top four of the Western Conference.

Projected Champion: Golden State Warriors

Southwest Division:

The Southwest Division is once again the deepest division in the NBA, as I expect four of the five teams to make the NBA playoffs. The two main competitors for the division are likely Texas rivals San Antonio and Houston. The Spurs once again return a deep lineup filled with superstars. They return the original “Big Three” in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilii, plus the addition of star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. On the other hand, the Rockets return stars James Harden and Dwight Howard. They also traded with Denver in the offseason to acquire point guard Ty Lawson, who should play a pivotal role in the team’s scoring. The other two teams from this division I think will make the playoffs are New Orleans and Memphis. The Pelicans should be solid once again, as they return star center Anthony Davis and a young supporting cast. The Grizzlies return a solid young team that is backed by veterans Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Projected Champion: San Antonio Spurs

Northwest Division:

The Northwest Division should not be competitive this season, as the Thunder should cruise to a division title. Oklahoma City returns star veterans Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who are two of the best players in the NBA if they can stay healthy. While the Thunder didn’t make the playoffs last year, I expect them to be much improved and either be the two or three seed in this year’s playoffs. The Trail Blazers and Jazz could be solid enough to make the playoffs, as they are filled with young talent, but I don’t see these teams capable of competing with Oklahoma City. The bottom of the division is weak because the Timberwolves and Nuggets are two of the worst teams in the entire NBA. However, I expect the Nuggets and Timberwolves to be two of the best teams in a few years, as they are very young and always get high draft picks.

Projected Champion: Oklahoma City Thunder

Projected Eastern Conference standings:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Chicago Bulls
  4. Washington Wizards
  5. Atlanta Hawks
  6. Miami Heat
  7. Boston Celtics
  8. Indiana Pacers

Projected Western Conference standings:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder
  3. San Antonio Spurs
  4. Houston Rockets
  5. Los Angeles Clippers
  6. New Orleans Pelicans
  7. Utah Jazz
  8. Memphis Grizzlies