1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Defending Champions)
The Big 3 effect will obviously be a huge part of the Cavs success. The Cavs are reliant on the offensive capabilities of the Big 3, Kyrie, Love and LeBron and if they do come through they’re going to be a handful. Remember Love was struggling right throughout the playoffs and yet proved to be effective, but this season we are seeing a ‘Back-to-his-Old-Super-Star’ level Love with a more confident and polished game.
The hustle of Tristan Thompson on the Offensive glass as usual will be very decisive factor which will help Cavs get second chance points. Despite being a bit under-sized for a Center at 6’9” his work rate in the offense around the Paint and his Defense will contribute immensely. JR ‘Swish’ is back in the team and we all know what that man is capable of doing as a Shooter. I personally feel JR has developed more into a 2-way player which helps the Cavs case further.
During the last season we clearly saw GSW’s bench outwork the Cavs bench right throughout the Finals series except in the last few games. But this season with Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Anderson, Kay Felder and of course, the veteran who decided against retirement, Richard Jefferson, the bench has been putting off some great work during matches. Then of course you could always go to Jordan McRae or Mo Williams to produce some instant offense if required.
The Cavs players have a great chemistry and trust with their coaching staff and management led by Tyronn Lue. They are fresh from winning the 1st NBA championship ever for Cleveland and ending a 52-year Sporting title drought for the city and I believe Cleveland Cavaliers have what it takes to repeat.
2. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors were the number 1 team in the NBA last season until that disastrous NBA finals series where they blew a 3-1 lead. They had a 73-9 regular season which was a record for the most number of wins in a single season. Just when we thought this team had reached its ceiling, Kevin Durant joined their ranks making the GSW a true Super-power to reckon with.
Some people think that with KD’s addition, former unanimous MVP of the league, Steph Curry would have to take a back seat. However in my opinion, KD’s inclusion takes away only a shot each from Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, not a huge sacrifice considering what they get in return for it – A 2 Way Super star (2014 NBA MVP) who can win matches on his own.
Golden State Warriors also has a very strong bench as usual of which Andre Igoudala, Shawn Livingston, Anderson Varejao, David West are the most important players. Then of course we have Steve Kerr, a laser sharp coach and a very good coaching and management staff not to mention an electrifying home crowd.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
Time and again the LA Clippers have made deep runs into the play-offs until adversity has struck them in one form or another. They have either lost in a Game 7, blown leads or have had key players going down with injuries.
Chris Paul, the veteran Point guard will be the floor general once again for the ‘Other team’ from LA and who better to lead the Offence of Lob city. Speaking of lobs, Deandre Jordan will once again be at Center and Blake Griffin at Power Forward.
LA Clippers also will also have the services of the Dynamic Shooting guard duo of J.J. Reddick and Jamal Crawford. Luc Mbah a Moute is going to play a pivotal role this season for the Clippers as he is a very aggressive Small forward who prefers finishing at the rim over shooting the long-ball.
Future Hall-Of-Famer Paul Pierce and Marreese Speights with his rebounds and outside shooting as a Big Man, Brandon Bass and the gritty Raymond Felton will also provide the experience to the team. Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson are up and coming players who will play an important role for the team off the bench.
The Team is coached by Austin’s father Doc Rivers who has Championship experience as both a Player and Coach.
To reward all the hard work the Clippers have put in the last few seasons and to make up for all the misfortunes they had faced, maybe this 2017 is the year of the Lob City.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The growth of Kwaihi Leonard from a shy, lock down defender in the Spurs starting line-up to taking over the role of the main Go-To Guy in the team has been excellent. Also part of their starting line-up is the All-Star DeMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs also have the services of the veteran duo of Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker who have been part of 4 NBA championships thereby providing the team with the mentor-ship that you could expect from Champions.
The Spurs have a worthy substitute for Tony P in the form of the Australian Point guard Patty Mills who is a very capable offensive player and who is more keen in shooting the 3-Ball than the Frenchman and can create offense on his own when its required. Danny Green who plays at the Shooting guard has seen his numbers declining over the last 2 seasons but has developed a good 2-way game (Offense and Defense) to make up for it.
Coming from the bench are the very gritty Argentine Manu Ginobli and the Frenchman Boris Diaw who are excellent at executing game plans and leading that 2nd unit.
To cap it all off, the Spurs have the services of the legendary Greg Popovich who has 5 NBA championships under his belt as a Coach and has the coaching prowess and experience that is required to push teams towards a Gold this season.
5. New York Knicks
I have a feeling this final pick of mine might be having a few members of the Basketball fraternity scratching their heads. Sure the Knicks have a star-studded lineup but is this team going to click? Derrick Rose joined the ranks of the Madison Square Garden based team and will play in the Point Guard position. With the 9 Time NBA All Star and 3 time Gold Medalist Carmelo Anthony at the Small Forward position, the ever active Courtney Lee and their new found Golden child Kristap Porzingis at the Power Forward, the Knicks pose a very real threat to all 29 of their opponents.
One of the reasons I have included the New York Knicks as a Top 5 candidate to win this NBA season is the sudden and meteoric rise of the Sophomore Latvian Kristap Porzingis. He shoots the 3 ball, drives and dunks, has very good passing and ball skills and an unreal basketball IQ for a 21 year old! We all know what players like Carmelo and D.Rose bring to the table, but I am going to put the Latvian with these other 2 established and proven superstars as the ‘Knicks Big 3’.
The Knicks also have a decent bench with Brandon Jennings coming on as a Guard; he is a Star/Starter level player on any other team. When Rose and Jennings are on the court at the same time, we can see some proper fireworks as has been evident in the first few games of the new season. The Lithuanian Small Forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas has been really productive off the bench for the Knicks putting up good numbers. Kyle O’Quinn, Justin Holiday and Guillermo Hernandogomez have been the others who have been getting good minutes off the bench.
One can’t forget that this team is being groomed by their new Manager the Legendary Phil Jackson. The Knicks have good coaching staff and a solid celebrity-packed fan base.
Apart from these 5 teams that have the potential to do well are the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors. Let us know your top5 picks in the comments section.