NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions

NBA Playoffs: First Round Predictions

With the 2018 NBA playoffs set to start today, what are the first round matchups and who will be moving on to the conference semifinals?

 

 

Durant and Curry after last year's playoffs.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

 

Eastern Conference:

(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards

Derozan and Wall during a free throw.

Photo Credit/raptorshq.com

 

The first place Raptors will take on Washington in the first round this year. Toronto, who’ve never been the number one seed in the postseason, will be looking for more than just a first round win this year. The story here is the matchup of the two elite guards for each team. The experienced and talented backcourt tandems will look to better the other. While Toronto is much deeper than Washington, the Wizards may find a spark in their team with John Wall’s return. Still though, despite their postseason troubles, the Raptors will take this one.

Prediction: Toronto Raptors; 4-1

 

 

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Pacers

James backing down Oladipo.

Photo Credit/zimbio.com

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their regular season struggles yet again this season, barely hanging on to a home playoff spot in the East. Right behind them, the revamped Indiana Pacers stunned the whole league as Victor Oladipo came home and turned in his first All-Star year in the league. While it’s tempting to pick the Pacers to make the upset and defeat the defending conference champions, the Cavs still have LeBron James and it’d be surprising to see a young team take down The King still in his prime. Cleveland may struggle but they should be fine here.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers; 4-1

 

 

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat

Simmons chasing down a ball in front of Whiteside.

Photo Credit/nbcsports.com

 

Finally back in the playoffs, Philly will need Ben Simmons to carry them through the first round without Joel Embiid. The team recently reinforced their back court by getting Markelle Fultz back from injury who could even start beside Simmons against the Heat. If Simmons stays on the roll he’s on, they’re gonna be hard for Miami to stop. While the Heat are again in the postseason, they have no real star expect for possibly Goran Dragic but that’s a stretch. While Whiteside may be a top NBA center, Erik Spoelstra doesn’t play him like one. Although, without Embiid this round, he could be a factor. Either way, the Sixers should handle this easily.

Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers; 4-0

 

 

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis and Horford fighting over a rebound.

Photo Credit/celticsblog.com

 

This will be one of the more interesting matchups of the playoffs. Though Boston again looked elite this year, they’re now without their two All-Stars, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Though they’re still one of the deepest teams in the playoffs, Giannis and the Bucks have a talented enough offensive lineup to take down the Celtics. Al Horford now becomes the best player on Boston’s available team and several young stars will have to step up for the Celtics to have a chance. Never doubt Brad Stevens but with Antetokounmpo playing like an MVP along with Middleton and Bledsoe, Milwaukee is the favorite here.

Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks; 4-2

 


 

Western Conference:

(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

Butler driving on Harden.

Photo Credit/cbsaustin.com

 

After getting Jimmy Butler back just a few games ago, Minnesota downed the Nuggets Wednesday to clinch a postseason birth for the first time since KG was there. While making it is an accomplishment in the West, they’ll be running into a buzzsaw in Houston in the first round. With likely MVP James Harden and future hall of famer Chris Paul, It’ll be a tough series for the Wolves. Karl- Anthony Towns will need to show he has an ability to excel against Clint Capela down low and Andrew Wiggins will have to shoot above 40% from 3 for the Timberwolves to have a chance. Even then, it’s unlikely they get past The Beard.

Prediction: Houston Rockets; 4-1

 

 

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Utah Jazz

Mitchell guarding Westbrook.

Photo Credit/thehoopdoctors.com

 

After OKC barely grabbed a home postseason spot at the four seed, they’ll attempt to take down rookie standout Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs. While the Thunder have the big names and star power, Utah has quietly crept up the Western Conference standings in the toughest division in basketball and has the shooting, defense and chemistry to make some noise in the postseason. If Mitchell catches fire and Gobert continues his dominance on the defensive end, winning the matchup with Steven Adams, look for the Jazz to pull off the upset.

Prediction: Utah Jazz; 4-3

 

 

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans

Lillard shooting a layup over Davis.

Photo Credit/oregonlive.com

 

After MVP caliber seasons from both these team’s stars, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, the two will duke it out in the first round of the playoffs. With the loss of Boogie Cousins earlier in the year, Davis will have to do it all for the Pelicans and hope Jrue Holiday can handle backcourt duties. For Portland, they’ll rely on their two offensive weapons in the backcourt, Lillard and McCollum, to carry the load. With the roll the Blazers have been on, it’s tough to see New Orleans having enough on offense or being able to stop Portland’s explosive guards.

Prediction: Portland Trail Blazers; 4-2

 

 

(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

Durant driving to the basket against the Spurs.

Photo Credit/cbssports.com

 

With no Curry or Leonard, the excitement that would’ve come with this series after last year’s controversial matchup isn’t as strong. San Antonio always seems to have a shot in every series they play, but they don’t have the offensive firepower to compete with Golden State. Lamarcus Aldridge is by far their best scorer but he isn’t versatile enough to concern Warriors defenders. As long as KD and Klay can catch fire at times and Golden State can prevent sneaky runs by the Spurs they should breeze through this one.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors; 4-0

 

 

 

Luka Doncic Scouting Report Here:

Marvin Bagley III Scouting Report Here:

DeAndre Ayton Scouting Report Here:

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How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference

How Jimmy Butler Injury Affects Western Conference

With Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler recently tearing his meniscus, another NBA star has gone down to injury. How will Butler’s absence affect Minnesota and the rest of the West?

 

 

Butler after injuring his knee.

Photo Credit/si.com

 

 

Wolves superstar shooting guard Jimmy Butler will be out for 4-6 weeks due to a meniscus tear. Minnesota is currently battling with every team in the Northwest for first and may have just forfeited the division with this injury. How does Butler going down affect the Timberwolves and the rest of the league?


Possible First Round Trouble for Golden State or Houston

Curry guarding Butler.

Photo Credit/startribune.com

 

With the Warriors and Rockets currently neck-and-neck for first in the West, the rest of the conference is double-digits back of the two juggernauts. Seeds 3-8 are up in the air with San Antonio currently leading the pack. Without Butler, Minnesota may find themselves fall a bit, and a bit is a lot with the current state of the Western Conference playoff picture. Avoiding a tear of the ACL, Butler has the potential to be ready for the beginning of the playoffs, and if the Wolves have dropped down to 7 or 8 and get back Butler for a series with Houston or Golden State, that’s a tough start to the postseason for either team.

 

 

 

Race to the Finish in the Northwest Division

Westbrook dribbling against Minnesota.

Photo Credit/newsok.com

 

The Northwest currently has 4 teams in the playoff picture and a fifth challenging for one in Utah. Any one of Portland, Denver, OKC, and Utah could surpass Minnesota if they go on a run. A playoff appearance still isn’t a lock for the Timberwolves especially in this division. KAT will have to have an MVP caliber end to the year if they expect to finally clinch a spot in the postseason. Getting all 5 teams in the playoffs is definitely possible here which puts pressure on Minnesota to stay competitive without Butler. Though it’s hard to believe, Minnesota could finish the year last in the Northwest Division.

 

 

 

J-Crossover gets his shot

Crawford during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

It’s been no secret that Coach Thibodeau has overplayed his starters this season, opting to sit some talented bench players like Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, and Jamal Crawford more than most expected after Minnesota spent so much on their bench in the offseason. With Butler out of the lineup for a month or two, Crawford should be called up to the starting lineup and may be able to find his Clipper self as the season comes to a close. The ageless scorer can put up 30 on any team on any night which gives Minnesota life if Towns or Wiggins can’t carry the load. We saw Crawford lead Los Angeles when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were down last year, so the 37-year old is completely accustomed to stepping up when injury occurs. Though he was underutilized during the season, Crawford will finally get a chance with Butler down for now.

 

 

 

 

Why Paul George Would Ruin the Lakers:

 

Expendable Players for Each Team at the Deadline

With the trade deadline now just hours away, who are some of the guys on each team who could be in a new jersey come their next time on the court.

 

 

Griffin at his introductory Pistons press conference.

Photo Credit/detroitnews.com

 

 

Atlantic Division: 

Smart during a dead ball

Photo Credit/usatoday.com

 

Brooklyn Nets: DeMarre Carroll, Joe Harris

After a bad stint in Toronto, Carroll has played his way into starters minutes in Brooklyn and despite his overpriced contract, should be an option for contenders. Harris is no star for the Nets but he’s been a surprising bright spot for the young team, stroking it from deep almost as good as anyone in the league. With a low salary at $1.5 million, any contender would be happy to have Harris’ sharpshooting in a offense-driven league.

New York Knicks: Courtney Lee, Michael Beasley

Lee is having likely the best season of his career and with Hardaway Jr. set as the future 2 in New York, look for the veteran to possibly be moved. Despite his tunnel vision and lack of defense, Beasley is one of the best bench scorers in the league, something several teams are looking for.

Philadelphia 76ers: Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot

The Sixers are likely to stand pat at the deadline this year having already moved Okafor to Brooklyn, but if there was a moveable piece on the team that could attract buyers, Luwawu is the most likely candidate.

Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas

Valancunias’ playing time has been dropping over the past few years and with the coming up of young big men Poeltl and Nogueira, the Raps could deal him, though with the season they’re having it’s likely he’s in Toronto until at least the summer.

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier

The Celtics could make a number of moves on Thursday but Smart is the most likely player to be headed out of Boston. It’s highly unlikely Rozier is going anywhere as Danny Ainge loves the young guard but if a superstar deal is in place it’s possible he’s involved.

 

 

Pacific Division:

Randle and Clarkson after a play.

Photo Credit/sportingnews.com

 

Sacramento Kings: George Hill

The Kings may opt to move their veteran point guard to acquire a few assets and move forward with De’Aaron Fox for the future.

Phoenix Suns: Alex Len

After several years in Phoenix, Len has yet to fully grab hold of the starting job. He’s not being thrown around in too many trade rumors but he’s a possible trade piece for the Suns.

Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson

Randle and Clarkson have been involved in rumors for months but Magic and the Lakers haven’t come up with a deal yet. The two could garner attention from several teams and result in some young assets and draft picks for LA.

Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Avery Bradley

DJ and Lou should be moved by LA by today along with possibly Avery Bradley in a different deal. The Clippers could end up with some high draft picks to get their rebuild on if they sell a few of their older starters.

Golden State Warriors: Javale McGee

Though it’s likely McGee stays with the Warriors given rookie Jordan Bell’s current injury, he’s been on the trade block for a while and may be in a different uniform in a few days.

 

 

Southeast Division: 

Walker, Howard, and Batum on the bench.

Photo Credit/swarmandsting.com

 

Atlanta Hawks: Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova

Both these players have shooting ability that any team would love to have and should be on the move if the Hawks are smart.

Orlando Magic: Everyone

The Magic are loaded with talent but have yet to fully find an identity. Aaron Gordon is clearly their most valuable piece but even he shouldn’t be untouchable at this point. With  new front office in place Orlando should be selling at the deadline.

Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Nic Batum

Though at this point it seems unlikely, Charlotte could move their top 3 players in an attempt to gain a top draft pick or a few young players. Michael Jordan doesn’t seem keen on the idea but it’d be smart for the mediocre franchise to shift in a different direction.

Miami Heat: James johnson, Justise Winslow

It’s likely one of these forwards are moved at the deadline. The Heat would receive more for Winslow but could dump the contract of Johnson while he’s still moveable.

Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre Jr. 

The Wizards are another team that will probably be quiet tomorrow but with Otto Porter ahead of him for the future and the fact he’s still on his rookie deal, the Wizards should listen to offers for Oubre.

 

 

Central Division: 

Photo Credit/factoryofsadness.com

 

Chicago Bulls: Justin Holiday

The Bulls have already made the trade they needed to make by moving Mirotic recently. If they were to deal someone else, Holiday is a possibility with Zach Lavine just coming back.

Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson

Detroit has also made a recent trade with the acquisition of Blake Griffin. The team should now listen to offers for Stanley Johnson as the young forward hasn’t exactly panned out how they wanted it.

Indiana Pacers: Darren Collison, Thaddeus Young

These are two veterans who can still contribute as starters or off the bench. The Pacers are actually looking at a playoff spot this year but with some young stars ready to step up they may deal some older players if the right offer comes.

Milwaukee Bucks: Mirza Teletovic

Teletovic isn’t a highly desired player but his shooting ability could make him available for a low 2nd round pick at a deadline deal with a contender.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Everyone but LeBron

The Cavs have clear problems right now and to fix it, no matter what direction they decide to go in, anybody but the King should be available.

 

 

Southwest Division:

Evans dribbling.

Photo Credit/sbnation.com

 

Dallas Mavericks: Wesley Matthews

Despite his contract, several teams may be interested in a 3 and D guard who can come off the bench or start for a contender.

Memphis Grizzlies: Tyreke Evans, James Ennis III

The Grizzlies have recently stated that they’d like to keep Marc Gasol rather than dealing him, but they should listen to offers for these two cheap but valuable forwards, especially Evans.

New Orleans Pelicans: None

After the Cousins injury, New Orleans has already transformed their roster a bit and it’d be a surprise to see them move anyone else unless a drastic change in direction would be in place.

San Antonio Spurs: Danny Green

The Spurs rarely make mid-season trades but reports are that they are currently in talks with the Clippers to try to acquire Avery Bradley with Danny Green and a pick.

Houston Rockets: Ryan Anderson

There’s speculation that Houston is interested in George Hill, but the deal seems to have not gained much traction. They would likely need a 3rd team if they wanted to move Anderson’s contract and bring in a different player for the playoffs.

 

 

Northwest Division: 

Mudiay dribbling up the court.

Photo Credit/nba.com

 

Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson

Hood and Favors are both players that could bring in a first rounder for the Jazz and allow them to fully start the Mitchell-Gobert era. Johnson has reportedly been looking for an exit from the team, but expect him to be more likely bought out in a few weeks rather than traded at the deadline.

Portland Trail Blazers: Shabazz Napier

Napier is having the best season of his career and has been in trade rumors for months. If Portland does deal him they can expect a lot in return.

Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Kenneth Faried

The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league and could benefit from letting go of some of these bench players that could get them multiple draft picks or talent in return. They’ve been in some talks with Cleveland about sending a few key role players to the Cavs if the Nets pick is in play.

Oklahoma City Thunder: None

OKC is an expensive team with key players that they won’t trade right now so it’s unlikely to see them move anybody even if they wanted to.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammed

After a few years in Minnesota, Muhammed has yet to develop much and will be out of Minnesota by the summer if not now. He’s a good scorer who could benefit a contender off the bench if the Wolves find a partner to take him at the deadline.

 

 

 

With Boogie Out, do the Pelicans Move Davis?

 

Top 15 Power Forwards in the NBA Heading into next Season

The power forward position features some of the most versatile guys in the NBA. Who cracks the top 15 heading into the season?

 

Just missed the cut:

Patrick Patterson

Taj Gibson

Jon Leuer

Thaddeus Young

Larry Nance Jr.

 

 

 

15. Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried hammers down a one-handed dunk for the Nuggets.

Photo Credit/www.autodo.info

 

Faried was involved in some underground trade rumors earlier in the summer but it looks as though he’ll begin the season in Denver. The Morehead State product hasn’t exactly improved much since his first few years in the league but remains a guy who could be an important energy guy for a playoff team, and with the Nuggets improvements this offseason, it looks like he has the opportunity to have that role off the bench. Look for slightly worse numbers this year from Faried, but he will surely be an important piece for Denver behind Paul Millsap.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.5   RPG: 8.7   APG: 1.2   BPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 8.2  RPG: 7.6  APG: 1.4  BPG: 0.7

 

14. JaMychal Green – Memphis Grizzlies

JaMychal Green attempts a layup over Spurs guard Manu Ginobili.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Green is currently in a sticky situation heading into next season. He and the Grizzlies didn’t come out of the summer with a contract extension as Memphis tested the market, winning big by now being able to bring Green back for next year on an RFA contract and giving themselves a year to decide whether to give him a long-term deal next summer. The 27-year old is coming off easily his best season as a pro and with Zach Randolph out of Memphis, could be set for an even bigger year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 8.9   RPG: 7.1   APG: 1.1   SPG: 0.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.7  RPG: 8.3  APG: 2.4  SPG: 0.9

 

13. Ryan Anderson – Houston Rockets

Ryan Anderson celebrating after hitting a 3.

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

Like Green, Anderson was involved in some trade rumors this summer, mostly related to Carmelo Anthony. Assuming he’s in Houston at the start of the season, he’ll likely start again at the power forward position and be another floor spacer for James Harden and Chris Paul. Anderson shot an impressive 40.3% from deep last season and will be expected to carry that percentage into this year and help the Rockets grab a home playoff spot in the West.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.6   RPG: 4.6   APG: 0.9   SPG: 0.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.9  RPG: 5.2  APG: 1.1  SPG: 0.3

 

12. Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers

Julius Randle takes a jumpshot over Spurs guard Tony Parker.

Photo Credit/www.lakersnation.com

 

Randle will start at the 4 again this year ahead of Larry Nance Jr. The new-look Lakers now feature a new point guard in Lonzo Ball and will look to further develop talented starters in Brandon Ingram as well as Randle. The 22-year old is currently in the best shape of his young career and after coming off another strong rebounding year, could become a top 10 power forward by midseason.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.2   RPG: 8.6   APG: 3.6   SPG: 0.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.1  RPG: 9.7  APG: 3.9  SPG: 0.8

 

11. Gorgui Dieng – Minnesota Timberwolves

Gorgui Dieng attempts a left-handed layup above the rim.

Photo Credit/www.minnpost.com

 

Dieng enters this year as the Wolves likely starting power forward over Taj Gibson. Coming out of Louisville, his athleticism and defensive potential were his calling cards, though over the last few seasons he’s showcased an improving 3-point shot and with a Minnesota team expecting to contend this season, Dieng will need to keep his percentage from deep up close to 40%. The T-Wolves aren’t exactly a bad team from behind the arc, but if you look at other top teams around the league, the shooting ability in Minnesota is a bit below average. If Dieng can become almost a stretch 4 for the team, he could be looking at a starting job alongside KAT in the frontcourt for years to come.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 10.0   RPG: 7.9   APG: 1.9   BLK: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 9.6  RPG: 8.1  APG: 2.4  BLK: 1.6

 

10. LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs

LaMarcus Aldridge high-fiving Kawhi Leonard in a game against the Sacramento Kings.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Aldridge has just moved farther and farther down this list over the past couple years. He’s still a valuable piece for the Spurs and likely the second most valuable player in San Antonio, but he’s not the perennial All-Star he used to be. Aldridge’s defense has never been a strength of his, much like his playmaking ability. For the former Texas big man to stay out of the rumor mill and help San Antonio keep a top spot in the West, he needs to post tremendous mid-range shooting numbers and be stronger inside on offense.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.3   RPG: 7.3   APG: 1.9   BLK: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 15.8  RPG: 7.1  APG: 1.9  BLK: 1.0

 

9. Serge Ibaka – Toronto Raptors

Serge Ibaka celebrating after a play against the Cavaliers.

Photo Credit/www.thestar.com

 

Ibaka came to Toronto in a midseason trade from the Orlando Magic. He joined Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan to form a big 3 in the East and the team was able to keep the crew together to contend again this year. Ibaka came into the league as an elite defender and shot blocker and still carries those attributes, though over the past few years he’s improved his three point shot immensely. The Spanish big man shot around 40% from deep last season and has become one of the best stretch 4’s in the NBA. If he keeps his defensive intensity and 3-pt% up expect the Raptors to be a top team in the East again.

16-17 Stats (TOR): PPG: 14.2   RPG: 6.8   APG: 0.7   BLK: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 13.9  RPG: 7.1  APG: 0.8  BLK: 1.6

 

8. Harrison Barnes – Dallas Mavericks

Harrison Barnes attempts a jumpshot against the Bucks last season.

Photo Credit/www.mavsmoneyball.com

 

Barnes had a career year last season in his first campaign with the Mavs as he posted nearly 20 points a contest and was arguably the most important player in Dallas. After years in Golden State playing at the 3 for the Dubs, Barnes logged several minutes at the 4 for the Mavericks this past season. His size, athleticism, and shooting ability seem perfect for a modern day NBA power forward, and Rick Carlisle used him there efficiently. With a young Mavs team around him, I can only see Barnes going up and again setting career highs this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 19.2   RPG: 5.0   APG: 1.5   SPG: o.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7  RPG: 6.2  APG: 1.9  SPG: 1.1

 

7. Jabari Parker – Milwaukee Bucks

Jabari Parker sets to take a free throw in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

After a strong start with Milwaukee this past year, Parker suffered a season ending injury, the second big road block he’s had to go through in his young career. Despite another hiccup, expect him to come back strong and ready to help Giannis lead the Bucks this season. The Duke product has proven himself to be a young star as he continues to showcase his efficient scoring ability and all-around game while Milwaukee continues it’s rise in the East. If IT4 is out for an extended period or the new Boston stars can’t figure it out right away, watch out for Parker, Giannis, and the Bucks as a possible dark horse in the East.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.1   RPG: 6.2   APG: 2.8   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.3  RPG: 6.7  APG: 3.2  SPG: 1.4

 

6. Paul Millsap – Denver Nuggets

Paul Millsap driving to the rim.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Millsap comes to Denver this season after a sign-and-trade during the summer. He joins Nikola Jokic in the Nugget frontcourt to form a dynamic duo in the West. After several years with the Hawks in Atlanta, Millsap heads back West and it looks as though Denver is primed for a playoff appearance this season. The 32-year old power forward’s offensive versatility and outside shooting ability make him a perfect fit and if he’s able to keep up his All-Star level play this year, look for Denver at the top of the standings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.1   RPG: 7.7   APG: 3.7   SPG: 1.3

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7  RPG: 8.1  ARPG: 4.2  SPG: 1.3

 

5. Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis flying in for a dunk.

Photo Credit/www.hoopshabit.com

 

With Carmelo Anthony’s future still uncertain, it’s unclear whether Porzingis will be fully handed the keys to the franchise this season or not. Whether Melo is in a Knicks jersey come opening night or not, expect Kris to put up career highs across the board this year. The 22-year old Latvian has been working out with Dirk Nowitzki this summer and has also showcased his skills for his National team during the offseason. If Hornacek makes Porzingis the number one option flat out this season, look for him to make his first All-Star appearance in the NBA.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.1   RPG: 7.2   APG: 1.5   BLK: 2.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.3  RPG: 10.7  APG: 2.1  BLK: 2.2

 

4. Blake Griffin – Los Angeles Clippers

Blake Griffin being guarded by Jazz' Joe Johnson.

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Griffin recently signed a new 5-year deal with LA this summer shortly after the departure of Chris Paul. Blake and DeAndre still form one of the best front courts in the league and with new guys around the perimeter, the Clippers could possibly find a way back to the postseason, though the chances aren’t great by the looks of it. Griffin was absent from the All-Star game last season and struggled with injuries again. Despite this, the former OU star maintained solid numbers and did enough to get the Clippers a home playoff spot in the West. It’ll be an adjustment for Griffin this year as he learns to play again without Paul at the point, but look for similar numbers from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 21.6   RPG: 8.1   APG: 4.9   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.4  RPG: 8.7  APG: 4.3  SPG: 0.8

 

3. Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love talking with teammate LeBron James during dead ball.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

With Kyrie out of the Land and Isaiah Thomas likely out for an extended period, Love will start the season as the #2 option for the Cavs. After a few down years to start his career in Cleveland, Love came into his own last season and tallied the votes to be an All-Star starter before getting hurt. It was his first double-double average since joining the Cavs and many began to find more confidence in the UCLA product. If LeBron puts more trust in K-Love this year and Love is able to sustain his percentage from deep while avoiding injury, the Cavs are likely the favorite in the East again.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 19.0   RPG: 11.1   APG: 1.9   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.3  RPG: 10.7  APG: 1.8  SPG: 0.9

 

2. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors

Draymond Green celebrating after a play against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Photo Credit/www.espn.com

 

Green helped his Warriors get their 2nd NBA title in 3 years back in June. The Dubs are again expected to dominate and are favorites for the Ship in 17-18 as well. Green may be the least talented of the Golden State big 4 but you can make an argument that he’s the most important. While he won’t give you 20 points a night, the 27-year old can guard all 5 positions and play point guard on offense at 6’7″. Green has the ability to put up a triple double on any given night and posted the second best plus/minus in the league last year only behind teammate Stephen Curry. Look for Green to again help lead the Warriors this season and be in the conversation for DPOY.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 10.2   RPG: 7.9   APG: 7.0   SPG: 2.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 11.7  RPG: 8.8  APG: 7.5  SPG: 2.2

 

1. Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis throws down a dunk over Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Photo Credit/www.complex.com

 

Unlike previous years, Davis starts this season with high expectations. He and his frontcourt partner Demarcus Cousins are the best pair of big men we’ve seen in years and with newly re-signed point guard Jrue Holiday, should challenge for a playoff spot this year. The Pelicans didn’t live up to expectations post All-Star break last season but now that they’ve had time to gel, all the pressure is on them to compete in the stacked Western Conference. AD carries a set of skills that are rare to see in a big man as he’s able to use his length and athleticism to dominate on defense and offensive versatility to put up big numbers on that side of the floor. After logging a career high 28 points a game last year and taking home the All-Star game MVP in New Orleans, look for huge numbers again from him and better team success from the Pels.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 28.0   RPG: 11.8   APG: 2.1   BLK: 2.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.6  RPG: 11.9  APG: 2.7  BLK: 2.8

 

Here are my top 15 small forward rankings:

Here are my top 15 shooting guard rankings:

Here are my top 15 point guard rankings:

 

Top 15 Small Forwards Heading into Next Season

The small forward position is one of the most star studded in the league today. Who makes the cut for the top 15 leading into the season?

 

Just Missed the Cut:

Evan Turner

Wilson Chandler

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Robert Covington

Joe Ingles

 

15. Trevor Ariza – Houston Rockets

Trevor Ariza taking the ball up the floor to make a play for the Rockets.

Photo Credit/www.thedreamshake.com

 

Ariza may see his role decreased a bit this season as Chris Paul and P.J. Tucker settle in Houston. However, his versatile defense will be counted on by Mike D’Antoni to keep opposing offenses in check to allow Harden and Paul to do their thing on the offensive end. The 32-year old shot 34% from the arc last year and will need to at least sustain that rate this season to give the Rockets any chance of dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the West. Expect another solid season from Ariza and possibly a couple DPOY votes.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 11.7   RPG: 5.7   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 9.8  RPG: 5.3  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.7

 

14. James Johnson – Miami Heat

James Johnson looking to drive past his defender into the paint to make a play for the Heat.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

With Kelly Olynyk now in Miami, I suspect Johnson will start at the three this season. He had a breakout year for the Heat in 16-17, putting up career highs across the board and being an advanced metrics superstar, having a more positive plus/minus than star teammate Hassan Whiteside, leading the team. Johnson’s defensive versatility and offensive playmaking ability make him extraordinarily valuable in today’s NBA. Miami came just short of a playoff appearance last season after turning it on post All-Star break and challenging for the 8 seed. If Johnson and his fellow teammates perform as they did last spring, the Heat should be in the postseason this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 12.8   RPG: 4.9   APG: 3.6   BPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: 13.9  RPG: 5.2  APG: 4.3  BPG: 1.0

 

13. Andre Iguodala – Golden State Warriors

Andre Iguodala celebrating after hitting a three-pointer.

Photo Credit/www.warriorsworld.com

 

Iggy will again be an important piece to a star-studded Warriors roster this season. The 33-year old is one of the best bench players in the league and always seems to find his game come NBA Finals. Iguodala’s perimeter D and ability to run the offense when he’s on the floor should log him 20+mins a game again and get him into the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 7.6   RPG: 4.0   APG: 3.4   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 6.9  RPG: 4.1  APG: 3.8  SPG: 1.2

 

12. Danilo Gallinari – Los Angeles Clippers

Danilo Gallinari taking a fadeaway jumper over a defender.

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Gallinari joins the Clippers after being involved in the Paul Millsap sign-and-trade. Los Angeles lost Chris Paul this summer and in an attempt to continue to contend in the West, they put together a trade with the Hawks and Nuggets to acquire Danilo Gallinari. The Italian forward spent the last three years in Denver starting at small forward on a young Nugget team. Gallinari’s size and scoring ability will be valuable for The Clippers this season as they attempt to sneak into the playoffs for the 7th straight time.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.2   RPG: 5.2   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.9  RPG: 5.7  APG: 3.8  SPG: 0.5

 

11. Rudy Gay – San Antonio Spurs

Rudy Gay during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/www.slamonline.com

 

Gay recently signed a two-year deal with the Spurs after spending the last four seasons with the Sacramento Kings. The Connecticut product will likely come off the bench for San Antonio and give Pop and the Spurs much needed scoring in the second unit. It’s possible we see him play some power forward beside Kawhi Leonard as well, which could be a scary duo. With the Rockets becoming so much stronger this offseason, San Antonio will need Gay’s offense to win the Southwest division again.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.7   RPG: 6.3   APG: 2.8   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.9  RPG: 5.5  APG: 3.1  SPG: 1.2

 

10. Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony taking the ball up the floor and directing the rest of the offense.

Photo Credit/www.blazersedge.com

 

We’ll have to wait and see whether Melo is still in the Big Apple come opening night, though as of now he’s an aging above-average starter on the most dysfunctional team in the league. The Anthony-New York homecoming years ago has obviously not ended up panning out ideally. It’s fair to say Anthony is a bit “overrated” at this point in his career, though some of the criticisms applied to him are somewhat ridiculous. Under the right system (Mike D’Antoni), I believe Melo could be one of the best stretch fours in the league where his spot-up shooting would be showcased and his defense would be less susceptible to being exposed. The smart move for the Knicks would be to trade Anthony. If he stays, expect a similar, inefficient year. If gone, he likely will see a number decrease, though will enjoy more team success away from New York.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.4   RPG: 5.9   APG: 2.9   SPG: 0.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 19.7  RPG: 6.5  APG: 3.1  SPG: 0.9

 

9. Jae Crowder – Cleveland Cavaliers

Jae Crowder celebrating after converting an and-one against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Photo Credit/www.celticsblog.com

 

Crowder was just traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a piece of the Isaiah-Kyrie deal. The forward out of Marquette shot an impressive 40% from deep last year and will be expected to bring that efficiency to the land. We all knew of Crowder’s elite defense before, but his jumpshot is really starting to come into fruition. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts at the 2 or backs up King James off the bench.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.9   RPG: 5.8   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 12.8  RPG: 5.9  APG: 2.7  SPG: 1.3

 

8. Andrew Wiggins – Minnesota Timberwolves

Andrew Wiggins during a dead ball.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Wiggins enters his 4th NBA season on one of the most star-studded teams in the league. We’ll likely see the Kansas product put up 20+PPG for the third straight year in 2017-2018. The new big three of Butler-Towns-Wiggins should get the Wolves back in the postseason for the first time in a while. For Wiggins, he’s got all the tools to someday be an MVP but must improve his shooting percentages and turnover efficiency to get to the very top.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.6   RPG: 4.0   APG: 2.3   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 24.1  RPG: 4.7  APG: 3.9  SPG: 1.6

 

7. Otto Porter Jr. – Washington Wizards

Otto Porter Jr. pointing as he runs down the floor.

Photo Credit/www.thehoopdoctors.com

 

Porter recently signed a new 4-year max contract with the Wizards this summer. He’ll stay in Washington with star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal to try and avenge their game 7 loss in the 2016 playoffs. The Georgetown product had an incredibly efficient season in 16-17 as he shot over 50% from the field and improved his percentage from deep by nearly 7%. I think we could see an increase in his numbers next year and along with it see the Wiz grab another home court playoff spot.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.4   RPG: 6.4   AGP: 1.5   SPG: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.6  RPG: 6.9  APG: 2.4  SPG: 1.8

 

6. Gordon Hayward – Boston Celtics

Gordon Hayward attempting to drive around Hawks guard Shelvin Mack to get into the paint and make a play.

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

Like Porter, Gordon Hayward signed a 4-year max deal this summer, though in this case, Hayward signed with a new team. The Boston Celtics scored big on the Butler product as he will be reunited with his college coach Brad Stevens. As the Kyrie trade recently went down, The Celts now have a big 3 of Irving-Hayward-Horford to attempt to compete with Thomas and James in the East. Hayward seems to improve by the year and now finds himself with All-Star and playoff experience as he comes to Massachusetts. If Boston stays on its game we could see a new team representing the East in the Finals this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 21.9   RPG: 5.4   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.3  RPG: 5.8  APG: 3.7  SPG: 1.1

 

5. Paul George – Oklahoma City Thunder

Paul George driving by Julius Randle in a game against the Lakers.

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

George was another star dealt this summer as he was moved from the Indiana Pacers to join Russell Westbrook in OKC and form a new dynamic duo in the West. The Thunder now look destined for another playoff appearance with their two stars. It’s likely we see George’s numbers decrease a little due to now having the reigning MVP on his team, though he’ll be happy to experience more team success and space on the perimeter in Oklahoma. It’s highly doubtful we see a down year efficiency-wise from PG-13 given he stays healthy.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.7   RPG: 6.6   APG: 3.3   SPG: 1.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.9  RPG: 6.7  APG: 3.2  SPG: 2.1

 

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo dribbling on the perimeter while he scans the defense.

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

In my opinion, Giannis comes into this season with the best chance to win the league MVP. The Greek Freak has had a tremendous start to his career as the Bucks risky pick has turned into a superstar. There’s really nothing he can’t do as his body type and play style fit perfectly into today’s NBA, leading his team in all major statistical categories. The 22-year old has elite playmaking ability at nearly 7 feet tall and of course has the ability to block shots and rebound at a high level at his size. If he’s able to improve his 3-pt% as he did last season, expect Giannis to be #1 on this list in just a few years.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.9   RPG: 8.8   APG: 5.4   BLK: 1.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 25.8  RPG: 9.7  APG: 6.3  BPG: 2.2

 

3. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard getting ready to shoot a free throw.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Leonard and the Spurs nearly took a game against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before the superstar suffered an injury. Expect the Klaw to come back strong and ready this season to attempt to help San Antonio take home another Southwest Division title. Leonard seems to improve year by year and his scoring numbers have only gotten better as his young career has gone on. Most don’t think of Kawhi as a three point shooter, though his percentages would suggest otherwise. He’s shot an impressive 41.2% from deep over the last two seasons, improving on offense while maintaining his stellar defensive play. I’m expecting Leonard to finish at least top 3 in MVP voting this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.5   RPG: 5.8   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.2  RPG: 6.1  APG: 3.4  SPG: 2.2

 

2. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors

Kevin Durant running up the floor on offense looking to make a play for the Warriors last season.

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

KD got his title this past June when the Warriors knocked off the Cavs to win their second title in 3 seasons. The Dubs look primed to do exactly that again this year, led by their big 4. Durant had arguably his most efficient season in 16-17, making use of the space in the middle of the floor and open shots that weren’t always there for him in Oklahoma City. He again showcased his one-of-a-kind scoring ability and also introduced us to his shot-blocking ability, logging several minutes at the 4 for Golden State. Durant and the Warriors come into this year as the heavy favorites again and barring injury, expect KD to have another MVP caliber season and lead Golden State to another championship.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.1   RPG: 8.3   APG: 4.8   BLK: 1.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.3  RPG: 8.2  APG: 5.0  BPG: 1.7

 

1. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavs Small Forward LeBron James driving to the rim around new teammate Isaiah Thomas.

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Although the two guys listed above the King could easily hop into this top spot or already be there, LeBron is the best bet as the #1 small forward in the league. James shows every year why he’s one of the best to ever do it by posting stellar numbers across the board seemingly all year long while grabbing his team a top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. LBJ has some new teammates coming to Cleveland in Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. I’m sure he was fairly happy with the news they were getting an All-Star point guard and above average 3 in return for Irving. James will again be able to run the majority of the Cavs offense and find Thomas, Love, Smith, and Crowder out on the wing. After a messy and uncertain summer, Cleveland and LeBron look like they now have the team they’ll be going with this next season. Expect James to again have a tremendous year and for the Cavaliers to be the favorites in the East, though a second title seems like a stretch for this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 26.4   RPG: 8.6   APG: 8.7   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.9  RPG: 7.9  APG: 9.2  SPG: 1.0

 

 

Here are my top 15 shooting guard rankings:

Here are my top 15 point guard rankings:

Top 15 Shooting Guards Heading into Next Season

At this time in the league, some say there’s a disparity in star shooting guards. We’ll see who’s at the top of the list for the guys at the 2 leading into the 17-18 season.

 

Just missed the cut:

Seth Curry

Eric Gordon

Buddy Hield

Victor Oladipo

Evan Fournier

 

 

 

15. Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

You won’t see Danny Green put up 20 or more too often or be the number one option on any given night, though his relentless defense and sweet 3 point jumper get him into the top 15. The Spurs wouldn’t be nearly as good without Green. He’s one of the best backcourt defenders in the league and spreads the floor tremendously for LaMarcus Aldridge to work down low. Being on the Spurs will stunt Green’s numbers, but he’s definitely a huge piece for San Antonio.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 7.3   RPG: 3.3   APG: 1.8   SPG: 1.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 8.1  RPG: 3.2  APG: 1.9  SPG: 1.6

 

14. Gary Harris – Denver Nuggets

Photo Credit/www.denverpost.com

 

Harris will presumably fight for minutes with Jamal Murray this season, though I expect both of them to play 20+. Harris has tremendous offensive ability with a great jumper and solid quickness off the dribble, shooting above 50% from the field last season. If he improves his defense this year I think we could see him attain the starting shooting guard spot in Denver for good and spring himself into the top 10 on this list.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 14.9   RPG: 3.1   APG: 2.9   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.3  RPG: 3.4  APG: 3.1  SPG: 1.5

 

13. J.J. Redick – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.usatoday.com

 

Redick appears to be just the player and shooter that the young Sixers need. It’s assumed he’ll join rookie guard Markelle Fultz in the backcourt this season and will be expected to spread the floor for Joel Embiid to score and make plays in the paint. Redick will likely go down as one of the best 3 point shooters in NBA history and his range from deep will make him money well into his 30’s. He’ll be an important piece for a possible Philly playoff team this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.0   RPG: 2.2   APG: 1.4   SPG: 0.7

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.7  RPG: 2.1  APG: 1.8  SPG: 0.6

 

12. Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.twincities.com

 

LaVine was another young guy involved in a superstar trade this offseason. The UCLA product was sent to Chi-Town on draft night as the main piece in the Jimmy Butler-Timberwolves acquisition. He and Kris Dunn now join Dwyane Wade in the Bulls backcourt, though sources say the veteran guard and the Chicago front office will likely agree on a buyout in the coming months. If this happens, the reigns to the team will be turned over to LaVine, and he will be the new star of the Bulls. We’ll see how he handles the new freedom and spotlight of Chicago this season. His defense remains in question.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.9   RPG: 3.4   APG: 3.0   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.3  RPG: 4.1  APG: 4.7  SPG: 1.2

 

11. Dwyane Wade – Chicago Bulls

Photo Credit/www.businessinsider.com

 

According to CBS Sports, Wade is eyeing a return to Miami or a reunion with LeBron James in Cleveland if bought out by the Bulls. As of right of right now he is still in Chicago and if things stay the same he’ll be in a position battle with Zach LaVine for the starting job, unless Hoiberg sees LaVine fit to play the point. Over the past few years we’ve seen Flash slow down a little bit, losing some jump and quickness, though his basketball I.Q. is still amazing and he’s able to provide leadership to the young guys. We’ll see what uniform D-Wade is sporting come opening day.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.3   RPG: 4.5   APG: 3.8   SPG: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 16.7  RPG: 3.9  APG: 4.1  SPG: 1.2

 

10. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Booker is coming off of a breakout year last year, putting up over 22 a game and setting a career high of a whopping 70 points against the Boston Celtics. Defense continues to be the area Booker struggles in. With a better defensive efficiency rating he could’ve easily made his way into the top 6 on this list. There’s no questioning his shooting ability and star potential, but with the freedom of being the only guy in Phoenix last year came the laziness on defense. This problem must be tended to by Earl Watson to turn Booker into a superstar.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.1   RPG: 3.2   APG: 3.4   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.4  RPG: 3.6  APG: 3.7  SPG: 1.2

 

9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Los Angeles Lakers

Photo Credit/www.nba.com

 

Caldwell-Pope joins the Lakers this year on a one-year contract. He’ll likely beat out Jordan Clarkson to start at the shooting guard position and play alongside Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. Caldwell-Pope brings some of the best backcourt defense in the league as well as an improving offensive game and jumpshot. Being in new scenery this season, we’ll see how the new role affects him and whether the Lakers decide to re-sign Caldwell-Pope next summer.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 13.8   RPG: 3.3   APG: 2.5   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 15.2  RPG: 3.4  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.7

 

8. Nicolas Batum – Charlotte Hornets

Photo Credit/www.cbssports.com

 

Batum enters this season with a young guy in Malik Monk who’ll challenge him for minutes at the 2, though I’d expect the Frenchman to retain his starting position. He’s showcased his superb all-around game over the last few years and proven he can be used to guard the 2 and 3 and play multiple positions on offense. If Batum can avoid excessive shooting slumps and use his versatility to his advantage, look for another solid season from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.1   RPG: 6.2   APG: 5.9   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 14.9  RPG: 6.6  APG: 6.3  SPG: 1.4

 

7. Avery Bradley – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit/www.usatoday.com

 

Bradley comes into Detroit as Caldwell-Pope’s replacement and in my opinion, an improvement. We knew years before that Bradley was a tremendous lockdown defender but this year and especially in the postseason without Isaiah Thomas, showcased his improved offensive game and shooting ability. If he carries over that game and mentality to the Pistons, they’ll love him in Auburn Hills. If all goes well for Detroit next year, Bradley and Drummond could turn into a dynamic duo in the East.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 16.3   RPG: 6.1   APG: 2.2   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 18.7  RPG: 6.3  APG: 2.9  SPG: 1.6

 

6. Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards

Photo Credit/www.prioritysports.biz

 

Beal is currently in possibly the best backcourt in the East consisting of himself and John Wall. Both are 20+ point scorers, however Beal is clearly the better long range shooter. The Florida product has a career mark of 40% from deep and at just 23, can become a guy who shoots a plus 40% year to year. At 6’5″, Beal has the potential to become a better and more attentive defender to help the Wiz potentially get to a conference finals. We’ll see if he can keep his shooting percentages up while improving his D this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.1   RPG: 3.1   APG: 3.5   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 3.4  SPG: 1.2

 

5. C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

Like Wall and Beal, McCollum forms a pretty formidable backcourt himself with Damian Lillard. The former Lehigh star had a career year last year and comes into this season eyeing another playoff appearance with the Blazers. McCollum put up a career high in points last year and improved his shooting percentages significantly. He’s never been a great defender but he must continue to hold his own against most matchups in order to continue to be a co-leader in Portland and get them back to the postseason in a stacked Western Conference.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.0   RPG: 3.6   APG: 3.6   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 24.1  RPG: 3.7  APG: 3.8  SPG: 1.1

 

4. Jimmy Butler – Minnesota Timberwolves

Photo Credit/www.csnchicago.com

 

Butler joins the Wolves this season after being traded from the Chicago Bulls on draft night. It’s likely we see a slight drop in his personal numbers this year, though he will most likely find more team success now that he’s in Minnesota. We saw the keys to the franchise be handed over to him in Chicago over the last few years, and now he’s the leader of a young Timberwolves team who could make their first playoff appearance since the Kevin Garnett era. The thought of a Butler-Wiggins-Towns big three sounds great, but will it pan out?

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.9   RPG: 6.2   APG: 5.5   SPG: 1.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7  RPG: 5.9  APG: 5.8  SPG: 2.0

 

3. Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Klay could easily be number two on this list, but given his recent playoff slump I think this is the spot for him. We all know of his tremendous outside shot which could go down as the second best in history, but his defense is really what separates him from those just below him in this list. Despite what some metrics say, Thompson can lock down several guards, point or shooting, across the league and can slow down even the craftiest of players such as Kyrie Irving. This, along with his superb ability to play off the ball efficiently on offense put him at #3 in the rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.3    RPG: 3.7   APG: 2.1   SPG: 0.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 2.2  SPG: 1.1

 

2. Demar Derozan – Toronto Raptors 

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Derozan made major improvements in his game last season, solidifying his place as a top 3 shooting guard in the league. His points per game jumped nearly 4 points and he improved his rebounding, appearing in his 3rd All-Star game along the way. Derozan’s biggest flaw is clearly shooting from the outside. His 3-pt% dropped over 7% to an atrocious 26.6% from deep. If the Raptors are to have any shot at all at dethroning the Cavs in the East, Derozan must improve that shot as he enters his prime. I’d expect similar numbers this year, but if that 3-pt% drops anymore the California native may be moving back in the rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 27.3   RPG: 5.2   APG: 3.9   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.9  RPG: 4.7  APG: 4.3  SPG: 1.2

 

1. James Harden – Houston Rockets

Photo Credit/www.nbahoopsonline.com

 

Though Harden started at point guard for the Rockets last season, with Chris Paul headed to H-Town this year I decided to list him as a shooting guard. The Arizona State product had the best season of his career last year and could’ve easily taken the MVP over Westbrook in my opinion. The Beard put up numbers we haven’t seen in years and led what looked to be a messy Rockets roster all the way to third in the West. Now with Paul by his side, Harden could see his numbers drop just a tad, but none the less he’s the best shooting guard in the league and will have another MVP-like season this year.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 29.1   RPG: 8.1   APG: 11.2   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 28.3  RPG: 7.4  APG: 9.6  SPG: 1.8

Top 15 Point Guards Heading into Next Season

Top 15 Point Guards Heading into Next Season

The era of the point guard is here in today’s NBA, and the crop of players at this position have never been more talented. These are my predictions for the top 15 guys at the 1 heading into the 17-18 season.

*James Harden will be ranked in the shooting guard rankings due to the Rockets recent acquisition of Chris Paul.*

Just missed the cut:

George Hill

Jeff Teague

Patrick Beverley

Lonzo Ball

Derrick Rose

 

 

 

15. Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

Holiday recently signed a huge new contract with New Orleans to continue to be the leader of their backcourt. His time in the Big Easy hasn’t exactly been ideal, though he’s shown he’s still an above average guard in the league. His efficient playmaking ability coupled with solid scoring ability, including the capability to knock down a 3 from time to time (35.6%) and quickness off the dribble to slash, make him an offensive threat every night. Don’t expect All-Star numbers from Holiday, but if healthy he could finally come into his own for the Pelicans.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 15.4   RPG: 3.0   APG: 7.3   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.2  RPG: 3.6  APG: 7.8  SPG: 1.4

 

14. Markelle Fultz – Philadelphia 76ers

Photo Credit/www.celticshub.com

 

It’s rare that a rookie would make a list like this, but Fultz is the real deal. The former Washington star could come out putting up near All-Star numbers and majorly increase the Sixers win total from last year. If Fultz keeps his shot selection in check and trusts his teammates, expect a rookie of the year award to him and rookie point guard numbers that we haven’t seen since Lillard.

16-17 Stats: PPG: N/A   RPG: N/A   APG: N/A   SPG: N/A

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.9  RPG: 4.6  APG: 5.8  SPG: 1.4

 

13. Goran Dragic – Miami Heat

Photo Credit/www.cbssports.com

 

Dragic is the second piece of a star tandem in Miami with Hassan Whiteside. The team has assembled one of the best supporting casts in the league and should compete for an Eastern Conference playoff spot this season. Dragic hits threes at a pretty good rate for the Heat and is one of the best guards in the East driving to the rim. We’ll probably see a similar year from him this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.3   RPG: 3.8   APG: 5.8   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 19.6  RPG: 4.1  APG: 6.3  SPG: 1.2

 

12. Dennis Schroeder – Atlanta Hawks

Photo Credit/www.sbnation.com

 

Schroeder comes into this year expected to have a breakout season. With Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap leaving the Hawks, Schroeder now becomes the team’s number one option and on his way to his prime, we should see his shooting percentages rise. It’s possible the young German posts career highs across the board in 17-18.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 17.9   RPG: 3.1   APG: 6.3   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.6  RPG: 4.2  APG: 6.7  SPG: 1.2

 

11. Mike Conley – Memphis Grizzlies

Photo Credit/www.bleacherreport.com

 

Conley is coming off his best season as a pro, posting a career high PPG average. In my opinion he was one of the biggest MIP snubs last year. He and Marc Gasol will be carrying more of a load this season given the recent departure of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph to the Sacramento Kings. If the former Ohio State star is able to keep his percentages up, we could see Conley eclipse 20 points a game for the second straight season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 20.5   RPG: 3.5   APG: 6.3   SPG: 1.3

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.4  RPG: 4.1  APG: 6.2  SPG: 1.7

 

10. Eric Bledsoe – Phoenix Suns

Photo Credit/www.brightsideofthesun.com

 

Bledsoe is now one of the older guys in the Phoenix starting lineup. He comes into this season paired with Devin Booker in the backcourt, which could end up being one of the best guard duos in the league this year. Bledsoe has been involved in trade rumors regarding Kyrie Irving, though I’d expect him to be in a Suns uniform this coming season none the less. If the Kentucky product is able to avoid injury unlike the past, expect another near All-Star caliber season from him.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 21.1   RPG: 4.8   APG: 6.3   SPG: 1.4

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 20.6  RPG: 5.3  APG: 6.7  SPG: 1.9

 

9. Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Thomas has shown his offensive ability to be some of the best in the league and made himself a near MVP candidate last season. The  29-year old would be higher on this list if it weren’t for his two undeniable flaws, size and defense. He was ranked as one of the worst backcourt defenders last season and at just 5’9″ you can imagine how he has trouble keeping other guards under tabs. Thomas claims he had a “growth spurt” this summer, so we’ll see if this is true and if his defense improves, though he’s likely not a max player at this time.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 28.9   RPG: 2.7   APG: 5.9   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.7  RPG: 3.3  APG: 6.5  SPG: 1.1

 

8. Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors

 

Photo Credit/www.si.com

 

Lowry recently signed a 3-year deal to stay in Toronto. The Raptors will again have most likely the best backcourt in the East with Lowry and Derozan, and have another shot at the conference finals this season. The former Villanova Wildcat is now on the wrong side of 30 and we could see his numbers drop just a tad over the next couple years, though he should still be putting up All-Star numbers. Where we’ve really seen Lowry struggle is in the playoffs, where he seems to always go ice cold. It’ll be important he finds his game come next postseason or the Raptors potential will continue to sit at a conference finals ceiling.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 22.4   RPG: 4.8   APG: 7.0   SPG: 1.5

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 21.7  RPG: 4.6  APG: 7.3  SPG: 1.9

 

7. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets

Photo Credit/www.sportingnews.com

 

Kemba and the Hornets are coming off a disappointing year, missing the playoffs and not living up to preseason expectations. Their offseason additions of Malik Monk and Dwight Howard should help the team’s lone star, Walker, as we head into this season. The guard carries one of the largest loads of his teams offense in the league and has made himself into an All-Star with his unguardable ball-handling, solid outside jumper, and sweet slashing ability. Expect another 20+PPG season from Kemba and a playoff appearance for his Hornets.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.2   RPG: 3.9   APG: 5.5   SPG: 1.1

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 22.9  RPG: 4.2  APG: 5.7  SPG: 1.4

 

6. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers

Photo Credit/www.nypost.com

 

We’re all obviously hearing of all the rumors surrounding Irving, though as of now he is still a Cleveland Cavalier. Assuming he stays in the The Land, expect a similar season from him, though it’s not hard to see he looks to be out the door. Kyrie may just have the best handles in league history, though this will be debated for years, and has improved his jumpshot as his career has gone on. If Irving is still in Cleveland Cleveland come next June, it’s likely the Cavs are back in the Finals and Irving would’ve been coming off another 20+PPG season. We’ll see how this nightmare situation in Cleveland pans out.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.2   RPG: 3.2   APG: 5.8   SPG: 1.2

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.9  RPG: 3.8  APG: 5.7  SPG: 1.1

 

5. Chris Paul – Houston Rockets

Photo Credit/www.cbssports.com

 

Paul was involved in the first blockbuster move of the summer this offseason when he was granted a trade to the Houston Rockets. The new backcourt duo of James Harden and Chris Paul will be deadly in the West. With two elite ball-handlers and players now in the lineup, Houston could get back to the conference finals this year for a meeting with the Golden State Warriors. We’ll have to see how the two gel together, being that they were both considered point guards last year, and given his new team I’d say Paul’s numbers drop just a bit, though his importance doesn’t change.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 18.1   RPG: 5.0   APG: 9.2   SPG: 2.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 17.9  RPG: 4.8  APG: 10.3  SPG: 2.2

 

4. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers

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Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are coming off last season as the reigning top scoring backcourt in the league. The Blazers were previously in talks with the Knicks to acquire Carmelo Anthony to add to their star guard duo, though it seems these communications have stalled. Dame in my opinion is one of the most underrated players in the league and has done well leading Portland since the LaMarcus Aldridge departure. If he is again able to stay injury-free, look for big numbers from the Weber State product.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 27.0   RPG: 4.9   APG: 5.9   SPG: 0.9

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 27.6  RPG: 5.1  APG: 6.2  SPG: 1.3

 

3. John Wall – Washington Wizards

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Wall comes off a disappointing final game in last season’s playoffs, when his Wizards lost to the Boston Celtics in 7. Had the Wiz taken that decisive game, it would’ve been Wall’s first conference finals appearance, which he’s still now looking for. Washington re-signed young F Otto Porter this offseason, keeping help for Wall and Beal to lead the team. The one real flaw left in Wall’s game is his shooting from the outside. In my opinion, it’s the attribute that separated Chris Paul from him earlier in his career. If I were Scott Brooks I’d want to see at least a 37% mark from  Wall next year from deep. Even with this continued problem, the former Kentucky star has repeatedly shown his unbelievable playmaking ability and defense, slotting him in at #3 in my point guard rankings.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 23.1   RPG: 4.2   APG: 10.7   SPG: 2.0

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 23.4  RPG: 4.6  APG: 10.2  SPG: 2.3

 

2. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder

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Westbrook could easily be number one on this list for many reasons. My analysis really just came down to which player, between Russ and Steph, would I pick for a team I was looking to win a title with, and I’d take the latter. However, that’s no disrespect  to Westbrook. He could possibly be the best rebounding and athletically explosive guard in league history. A year after losing KD to the Bay, the former UCLA guard has a new superstar alongside him in OKC. With the Paul George trade, the Thunder get a guy to take some of the weight off Russ’ shoulders and create a new star duo in the league. Having to watch out for these two slashing to the rim and playing off each other will be a nightmare for NBA defenses. We’ll most likely see some dips in Westbrook’s numbers, but I predict more team success for Oklahoma City this season.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 31.6   RPG: 10.7   APG: 10.4   SPG: 1.6

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 28.7  RPG: 8.3  APG: 10.9  SPG: 1.8

 

1. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors

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Curry comes in at #1 in the point guard rankings. There will be guys who put up bigger numbers and throw down more thunderous dunks but much of what Steph does doesn’t show up in the box score. The two-time MVP  is one of the best screen-setting guards in the league and it’s not hard to realize the amount of space he opens up for Kevin Durant in the middle of the floor, drawing defenders attention out to the perimeter. His shooting percentages also illustrate his efficient offensive game. In my opinion, the biggest difference between Curry and Westbrook is their effect on their teams. Westbrook was there to do it all last season for the Thunder, not really allowing his teammates to have the ball in their hands or showcase their game. Curry has a much more positive effect on his team, mainly due to his ability to play off the ball. The way he commands attention on the court is easy to see even when he’s just running around in circles in the halfcourt, using his shooting prowess to make the game easier for others. It’s because of all these reasons that when trying to build a CHAMPIONSHIP team, Steph is the better bet.

16-17 Stats: PPG: 25.3   RPG: 4.5   APG: 6.6   SPG: 1.8

17-18 Projected Stats: PPG: 26.1  RPG: 5.2  APG: 6.9  SPG: 2.1