NBA predictions 2019-20: Final standings, playoff projections, NBA Finals pick

first_img (Getty Images) NBA predictions: Eastern Conference lottery teams9. Detroit Pistons10. Chicago Bulls11. Atlanta Hawks12. New York Knicks13. Washington Wizards14. Cleveland Cavaliers15. Charlotte Hornets— Blake Griffin is capable of carrying Detroit to the playoffs. Only five players have hit averages of 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists while shooting at least 36 percent from 3-point range over a full season: Larry Bird, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Griffin in 2018-19. The depth for the Pistons, though? Not great.— The Bulls and Hawks will be feisty, but it’s a lot to ask for 22- and 29-win teams to make the playoff leap. Expect win totals in the mid-30s with plenty of highlights and not much defense.— A note to David Fizdale: Play all the forwards at the same time.— Washington… uh… hey, Bradley Beal got paid!— I’m sorry, Hornets fans. This isn’t going to be pretty. (Getty Images) (Getty Images) (Getty Images) (Getty Images) NBA predictions: Eastern Conference playoff teams1. Milwaukee Bucks2. Philadelphia 76ers3. Boston Celtics4. Miami Heat5. Toronto Raptors6. Brooklyn Nets7. Indiana Pacers8. Orlando Magic— The Bucks and Sixers should be stuck in a battle for the No. 1 seed throughout the season. With reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way and the same team (mostly) returning, Milwaukee will rack up a few more wins than Philadelphia.— Good luck figuring out the middle of the East. The bet here is that a Celtics team devoid of drama will surge to the third seed, followed by the Heat and offseason acquisition Jimmy Butler. The Raptors could choose to move some of its veterans ahead of the trade deadline, but it seems more likely they try to compete as the defending champs.— Indiana is a major wild card. There is no precise return date for Victor Oladipo, and the Domantas Sabonis-Myles Turner frontcourt feels like a square peg-round hole situation. The Pacers remain a playoff team in these standings, but don’t be surprised if they are fighting for their spot until the last week of the season.— A note to Steve Clifford: Play all the forwards at the same time. — Midway through a tight series, Rivers employs a strategy of letting Embiid have as many post-up and isolation opportunities as he likes. Embiid falls into the trap, tiring himself out with inefficient possessions. His shooting percentage drops in each game.Leonard puts the clamps on Simmons, who barely finishes with more assists than turnovers overall. George is the second-best player in the series with impressive shooting numbers, though Horford and Tobias Harris perform admirably in a 4-2 Finals loss.Ballmer screams so loud all of the champagne bottles explode before the Clippers reach the locker room. (He’s a billionaire, so it’s not a big deal.) The contracts have been signed. The trades have been completed. The preseason is over. Bring on the real basketball.Following one of the wildest summers in league history, the NBA kicks off the 2019-20 regular season Tuesday night. With Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson sidelined until at least the All-Star break, the Warriors are no longer the heavy title favorites. The championship chase is wide open. 2020 NBA Finals predictionClippers over 76ers (Getty Images) NBA predictions: Western Conference playoff teams1. Denver Nuggets2. Los Angeles Clippers3. Utah Jazz4. Los Angeles Lakers5. Houston Rockets6. Portland Trail Blazers7. Golden State Warriors8. Dallas Mavericks— Denver surges to the top of the West behind an MVP-caliber season from Nikola Jokic, who could finish in the top 10 in points, rebounds and assists per game. Much like Milwaukee, the Nuggets benefit from another year of consistency.— Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are going to miss a few games here and there, but the overall talent on the Clippers’ roster along with Doc Rivers’ coaching should keep them close to the Nuggets. Remember, Los Angeles went 48-34 without a true superstar. Bumping that closer to 60 shouldn’t be a huge challenge.— Some Lakers fans may freak out over the fourth seed, understandable considering, you know, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are playing together. However, new coach Frank Vogel will need time to fit odd pieces together, and the ultimate mission for LA is never about games in January. Give a strong Jazz squad the slight edge at No. 3. Utah already has its defensive identity established, and an upgrade at point guard with Mike Conley should do wonders for the offense.— Houston will be really good, but there are question marks. How will James Harden and Russell Westbrook handle sharing the backcourt duties? Is this really Mike D’Antoni’s last year with the Rockets? Will there be any hangover from the team’s trip to China and the chaos caused by Daryl Morey’s tweet? Will PJ Tucker let me borrow some of his shoes?— Damian Lillard just won’t let the Blazers go home after Game 82. Same rule for Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.— LUKAMANIA RUNNIN’ WILD! THE NBA PLAYOFFS ON TNT! Dallas is the crash-the-party team in 2020. (For what it’s worth, FiveThirtyEight gives the Mavericks a 60 percent chance to reach the postseason.) Eastern Conference finals picks76ers over Bucks— Philly’s overwhelming size and athleticism on the defense is too much for Milwaukee to overcome in a physical, six-game series. The Sixers throw Ben Simmons, Al Horford and Joel Embiid at Antetokounmpo to slow him down, and the Bucks’ supporting cast fails to step up. Eric Bledsoe disappears… again.Simmons hits a few jumpers to ignite the crowd at home, and Josh Richardson shines on both ends of the floor. Embiid’s celebration trends on Twitter for the next two days. NBA predictions: Western Conference lottery teams9. San Antonio Spurs10. New Orleans Pelicans11. Sacramento Kings12. Oklahoma City Thunder13. Minnesota Timberwolves14. Phoenix Suns15. Memphis Grizzlies— Putting San Antonio in the lottery is just wrong, isn’t it? Predictions are dumb. Already feeling bad about this.— The Pels will be missing Zion Williamson for the start of the regular season. If other health issues flare up for even a few games, that could set New Orleans back too far in the unforgiving West. Whatever happens, Alvin Gentry’s group will be fast and fun to watch.— Oklahoma City’s roster could be filled with new pieces by February. Too much uncertainty to pencil in the Thunder for the playoffs.— Wins won’t come easy for the Grizz, but man, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. should provide excitement on a nightly basis. And that’s what makes this year’s prediction game so difficult. A number of contenders could realistically find a way to reach the 2020 NBA Finals. What should hoops fans expect given all of the recent roster turnover?Let’s take a shot at forecasting the entire 2019-20 season.MORE: Ranking the top 15 NBA players for 2019-20 Western Conference finals picksClippers over Lakers— It’s the battle for LA! With the easiest travel schedule in NBA history, the stars stay fresh for a seven-game slobberknocker at Staples Center. Rivers is content to keep George guarding James to start the series, until Games 6 and 7, when he unleashes Leonard to reduce LeBron to a mere mortal.Lou Williams’ pick-and-roll work with Montrezl Harrell is unstoppable against bench units. Davis scores at least 30 points and grabs 10-plus rebounds in every game, but it’s not enough to prevent elimination. Billy Crystal hugs Clippers owner Steve Ballmer as time expires.  (Getty Images)

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