#NBA Playoffs Predictions for 2015-16

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The real season has officially started and it's time to make more predictions (and guesses) on what could happen in 2015-2016 for our beloved NBA teams. It's great to dream and fantasize while it's early and most teams still have realistic chances to make the playoffs.

Who will make the playoffs and what seeds will they get? Will the Warriors repeat or will the Spurs find themselves at the top again? Will LBJ bring the Cavs all the way this time? Will Kobe play after this year and will Kevin Durant leave OKC? All these questions and many more make the NBA interesting and entertaining every year. So, on to the predictions!

EASTERN CONFERENCE
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs simply need to be healthy to achieve the top spot in the East. However, they aren't starting the season healthy since Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert are hurting. Even LBJ has some minor injuries that limited his preseason preparation. On the bright side, Kevin Love looks ready to play and Tristan Thompson has been renewed, albeit quite overpaid.

2. Chicago Bulls
They have a rookie coach in ex-player Fred Hoiberg whose coaching style puts more weight on offense rather than defense. Hoiberg was cited as being creative offensively so expect the Bulls to run more sets and score more points. They are already putting more emphasis on offense to start the game because Joakim Noah was sent to the bench and more shooting/offense was inserted into the starting lineup with Nikola Mirotic.

3. Miami Heat
Miami feels that they can compete with the Cavs. They certainly have the talent to do so (Gerald Green, Justice Winslow, Amare Stoudemire) and they have a better coach as well. D-Wade is entering this season in the "best shape" of his career so maybe he won't miss 20 games or so which will help their overall record. The wildcard is Hassan Whiteside. Can he improve from last year's breakout campaign?

4. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are no longer under the radar and teams will not underestimate them. They also lost a key guy when DeMarre Carroll bolted to join the Raptors. The injury to Thabo Sefolosha will also hurt them. To replace Thabo, Kent Bazemore will be their starting SG/SF. I'm not sure that Bazemore is ready to be an everyday starter for the Hawks. Still, they are good enough to be in the top 4 in the East.

5. Toronto Raptors 
Carroll and Cory Joseph are a good pickups for them and they strengthen an already solid perimeter team who has DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, James Johnson and Kyle Lowry who has significantly trimmed down. However, a major barometer for their success should be Jonas Valanciunas. Can he be a top center in the East? I think he can.

6. Washington Wizards
John Wall and Bradley Beal are among the best young back court tandems in the NBA (aside from Curry & Thomspon). Wall is their leader and the former ROY is ready to accept the challenge. The Wiz are also expecting Otto Porter Jr. to improve a lot this season after having a somewhat disappointing 2 years with them.  

7. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have anointed Giannis, the Greek Freak as their best player who will guard multiple positions and play PG from time-to-time. The addition of Greg  Monroe will bolster their front court because this guy can collect double-doubles instantly. The Bucks are also awaiting the return of Jabbari Parker from an ACL injury.

8. Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond has upped his points and rebounds every year in his first 3 years with the Pistons. Coach Van Gundy is hoping that Drummond can do that in 4 straight years. They have new additions in Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova to flank Drummond at the middle while the back court is still a work in progress with young guns Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson.

WILDCARDS - Pacers and Magic
The Pacers only got 6 games from Paul George last year but they still made the playoffs. Thus, the Pacers still have the ammunition to make the playoffs again with a healthy Paul George and Monta Ellis. As for the Magic, they have a very good starting lineup of Vucevic, Harris, Payton, Fournier and Oladipo. Their bench is okay with Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja and CJ Watson. These guys might surprise a few teams and make the playoffs.

WESTERN CONFERENCE 
1. Golden State Warriors
Repeating as champs is no easy task but the Warriors are coming back with an intact lineup and they still have last season's MVP to lead the charge. However, the absence of coach Steve Kerr might cost then a few losses but they should still finish at the top of the standings because they know how crucial homecourt advantage is in the playoffs.

2. San Antonio Spurs
LaMarcus Aldridge fits their offense but can his defense be sufficient enough in the Spurs' system? In any case, the presence of Tim Duncan and current DPOY, Kawhi Leonard can hide most of the defensive deficiencies by the rest of the Spurs. They just need to stay healhty.

3. OKC Thunder
The best duo in the NBA is Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That is a certainty. Both guys can win games alone or together. Yikes. Still, the problem lies with their supporting cast. How reliable and consistent are these guys? By the way, they also have a rookie head coach.

4. LA Clippers
The Clippers have a deep bench this season that includes Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Jamal Crawford and Lance Stephenson. DeAndre Jordan is back with them plus Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still there. Can they finally reach at least the Conference Finals?

5. Memphis Grizzlies 
The core of Grizzlies are still here (Gasol, Conley, Randolph, Lee, Green and Allen) and they added minor pieces with Matt Barnes and Brandan Wright. They are good enough for the playoffs and can make it to the top 4 but they need more firepower to unseat the other teams above them.

6. Houston Rockets
Ty Lawson is an upgrade over at PG and he has the mentality of a pass-first PG. That bodes well for James Harden who always needs the ball in his hands. Look for Harden to improve on his stats from last year. The Rockets also need to make a concerted effort to involve Dwight Howard more offensively because he sulks when he doesn't get touches.

7. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have a new head coach, George Karl and Rajon Rondo is in town to try and help the Kings reach the playoffs. It also helps that the best big man aside from Anthony Davis plays for the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins apparently has a three-point shot now so that spells troubles for opposing teams.

8. Utah Jazz
The Jazz found their new defensive center in Rudy Gobert. His pairing with Derrick Favors gives the Jazz a strong front court who are very good defensively including wing players Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward. But, can the Jazz score enough points to carry them to the playoffs?

WILDCARDS - Pelicans and Timberwolves
Originally, I had the Pelicans making the playoffs but a slew of injuries (Evans and Cole) to start the season should cost them a few wins, thus, dropping them in the standings. However, the brilliance of Anthony Davis just might be able to carry this broken team to the playoffs. As for the T'wolves, the new blood of Towns, Muhammad and Wiggins should catapult them to more wins this season. Can those extra wins allow them to sneak into the playoffs? We shall wait and see.

PLAYOFFS
1st Round
Cavs over Pistons
Bulls over Bucks
Heat over Wizards
Raptors over Hawks

Warriors over Jazz
Spurs over Kings
Thunder over Grizzlies
Clippers over Rockets

2nd Round
Cavs over Raptors
Heat over Bulls

Warriors over Clippers
Spurs over Thunder

Conference Finals
Cavs over Heat

Spurs over Warriors

Finals
Cavs over Spurs

*** My apologies for not being able to post the predictions before the start of the season. I got too caught up with watching a lot of NBA games! hehe

Follow me on twitter: @rolly_hoopnut




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