In ESNY’s official 2017 NBA Season Preview and Predictions, we wonder if anyone stands a chance against the mighty Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors are undoubtedly the most talented basketball team of all time. Some would go so far as to say they are in fact the greatest team of all time. Better even than the Michael Jordan Bulls of the ’90s.

The addition of Kevin Durant last summer turned them from championship favorites into a potential unstoppable dynasty. Already armed with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green the Warriors had something no team could brag about before them.

The Warriors roster featured two of the league’s five best players (Curry and Durant), the best backcourt (Curry and Thompson), the best defensive player (Green) and four of the league’s best twenty players overall.



And the shooting. Oh, the shooting. Curry is the greatest of all time, and Thompson and Durant aren’t too bad themselves. The 2016-17 campaign was the fourth consecutive season that Curry and Thompson were first and second in three-point field goals made. Durant’s a 7-footer who shoots it at 38 percent for his career.

All this added up to one of the most dominant playoff performances in the history of the NBA. The Warriors steamrolled through the Western Conference without a loss and dismantled a great Cavs team in the Finals in just five games.

The fear that every NBA watcher had since Durant made his shocking announcement on July 4, 2016, was realized. This team could not be beaten. It makes you wonder if things can change this season.

The Warriors return virtually the same team. LeBron and the Cavs are breaking in multiple new parts. It’s the Warriors against the field, and the smart money is on the defending champs.

Here is ESNY’s official 2017 NBA season preview and predictions. We ranked each team by conference 1-15. Then we made our award predictions. Enjoy.


Eastern Conference Power Rankings

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: The Eastern Conference stinks, and LeBron James is on a mission to lay waste to it one more time before he moves to L.A. next year. The “LeBron doesn’t care about the regular season” narrative will be thrown out the window as he makes his campaign for MVP, and tries to keep the one seed away from the Celtics.

2. Boston Celtics: Speaking of the Celtics, let’s talk about Kyrie Irving‘s new squad. He’s poised to make a run at the King’s crown (see what I did there), but it’s too soon for him. Gordon Hayward and Al Horford aren’t enough to take down his old teammate. Not with James more motivated than ever for regular season dominance.

3. Washington Wizards: No surprises with the Wizards rounding out the top three. They didn’t add any critical pieces in the offseason, but they locked up John Wall long-term and held onto Otto Porter despite stiff competition from the Brooklyn Nets. Washington’s a good team, but they’re still a level below Cleveland and Boston.

4. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the league’s biggest stars after a breakout season in 2016-17. The Bucks finished as the sixth seed and lost a tough first-round series to the Raptors. Antetokounmpo, 22, is surrounded by talented young teammates and head coach Jason Kidd. This team will only get better. Especially if Jabari Parker returns healthy from an ACL tear.

5. Miami Heat: Some people might think this is too high for the Heat. They didn’t make the playoffs last year for just the fifth time in this millennium. But they did do something incredible. Erik Spoelstra’s team was 11-30 through 41 games but finished the season winning 30 of their final 41 games to go .500 and almost make the playoffs. They’ll build on that this year.

6. Toronto Raptors: This is the year the Toronto Raptors take a step back. The Kyle LowryDeMar DeRozan pairing has gone as far as it can go. When LeBron humiliated them last season in the playoffs, it took its toll on them. The Raptors will need to trade either Lowry or DeRozan and blow it up to start over if they want to be a real contender.

7. Charlotte Hornets: Last year’s dreadful 36-win season was an outlier season for the Hornets. Making the playoffs in the awful Eastern Conference, even without Nic Batum for the foreseeable future, should be easy. With that said, they won’t get far. Their biggest problem is still there: Outside of Kemba Walker, who can get them a bucket? They’ll be leaning heavily on rookie Malik Monk.

8. Detroit Pistons: Stan Van Gundy’s team wouldn’t sniff the playoffs in the vaunted West, but in the East, they sneak in. Van Gundy has made some questionable moves since taking over the dual head coach-executive role. Entering his fourth year, an eighth-place finish may put him squarely in the hot seat.

9. Philadelphia 76ers: It’s become blasphemous to say that the Sixers won’t make the playoffs. There’s never been a team with so much hype that hasn’t played together yet. These guys will have injury problems, problems with spacing, and just plain problems with being young. One day this team can be great. They’re just not close at all.

10. Orlando Magic: The Magic have been a trainwreck since trading Dwight Howard. They’ve missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. During that span, they missed horribly on all of their lottery picks. But there’s a new regime in place, and 2017 pick Jonathan Isaac looks promising. Orlando, one of the NBA’s worst offenses last year, will still have trouble scoring the ball.

11. Indiana Pacers: How do you rank the teams that are trying to lose? Well, let’s start with Indiana. They have the best roster of the four. Myles Turner has unicorn potential. If he played in a bigger market, everyone would know his name. He may also be on a different team in five years.

12. Brooklyn Nets: The Nets have no incentive to lose. They don’t have their pick. If anything, they should be trying to win to smite the Celtics. The last thing they want to see is another young star end up on another team in their division via their pick. Kenny Atkinson has this team playing hard. D’Angelo Russell has breakout season potential written all over him.

13. New York Knicks: Back to the tanking teams. If the preseason proved anything for the Knicks, it’s that their defense still stinks. That never changes. Not since the days of Jeff Van Gundy has New York had a respectable showing on that end of the court. While they may not have a problem putting the ball in the basket, the Knicks will need to score a lot of points every night to win. They don’t have that kind of firepower.

14. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are in the worst situation possible. They’ve entered the Knicks category. They’re like a car crash; you can’t look away. Their situation is eerily similar to the way things have recently been in New York. Most of their roster stinks, they have one young foreign star they hope to build around, and incompetent management and coaching running the show.

15. Atlanta Hawks: In the NBA you can’t be bad and boring. You can only be one. Unfortunately, for the Hawks, that’s not the case. They’re most definitely going to be bad and boring. Paul Millsap leaving was the end of an era. The Hawks don’t have an identity yet and until they do they’re going to tank to find one.


Western Conference Power Rankings

1. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are the Warriors. They’re the best team. See above.

2. Houston Rockets: Stop buying all this crap that Chris Paul and James Harden are going to fight over the ball like a couple of idiots. Paul wouldn’t have gone to Houston without there being an understanding first. This team will win 60 games. Harden has played off the ball before and he can do it again.

3. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs have finished first or second in the West in six of the last seven seasons. The 2017-18 campaign will make it six of eight. Saying “the Spurs are old” is as cliche as it gets, but seriously the Spurs are old. And if Kawhi Leonard misses time serious time with an injury they will be in trouble.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder: The OKC Thunder will get out of the gate slow. Getting Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony used to each other won’t be easy. Paul George will need to take on that Chris Bosh role at age 27. I don’t see them as a contender to the Warriors. There are too many big ifs. All three guys (used to being stars) need to adjust their roles. Not sure that’s possible.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler teaming up with Thibs was a genius move for both sides. They ripped off their old team and now they can take on the mighty West with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This team won’t make the absurd jump to 50 wins that some people are predicting, but they’ll be right in the middle of things at around the 45-48 mark.

6. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers were extremely difficult to pick. They’ve depended so much on Chris Paul in recent years that I don’t really know what to think of them without him. As much as Blake’s been their biggest star, Chris has been their heart. Still, it was time to move. That core group had gone as far as it could go, but you can argue both Paul and the Clippers needed a change.

7. Utah Jazz: People are low on the Jazz because they lost Gordon Hayward. That defense is still going to be elite and they have other guys who they expect to step up on offense. Rodney Hood is a great example. They also expect big things from rookie Donovan Mitchell and new point guard Ricky Rubio.

8. Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets are one of the more entertaining teams in the league. Adding Millsap to play alongside Nikola Jokic was one of the most underrated signings in NBA free agency. He can guard four positions and along with Jokic is one of the league’s best passing big men. That’s why Denver felt comfortable letting go of Jameer Nelson to make room for Richard Jefferson.

9. Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers are going to run it back one more time with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in the backcourt. This team just can’t stop anybody and they didn’t have any cap space to add defensive help this summer. This could be the last shot with that dynamic duo after they end up missing the playoffs.

10. New Orleans Pelicans: DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis will be on the trade block all season. Cousins to the Cavs to play with his buddy King James or Davis to the Celtics to play with James’ nemesis Kyrie. These rumors, combined with the unnatural fit of these two bigs and a weak supporting cast around them, will cause them to miss the playoffs.

11. Memphis Grizzlies: The Grit ‘N’ Grind Grizzlies are over and done with after they let Zach Randolph and Tony Allen walk in free agency this summer. Randolph, 36, and Allen, 35, belonged on different teams. Memphis should be trying to start over. The question is: Will they do it with both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol?

12. Dallas Mavericks: It’s hard to bet against Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. They’ve made the playoffs in seven of the nine seasons that Carlisle has been the head coach. Dirk’s only missed the playoffs four times over the span of his nineteen seasons in the NBA. Unfortunately, the franchise is in rebuilding mode while he makes his retirement tour.

13. Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers fans and some NBA experts would have you think that this Lakers team will compete for a playoff spot. Maybe even make it to the playoffs because of Lonzo Ball. It’s absurd. Not even LeBron went to the playoffs as a rookie. This isn’t happening. This team will struggle again, particularly on defense, and miss the playoffs.

14. Sacramento Kings: This was another hard choice because the Kings made some moves to try and be more competitive this past offseason. They added veterans George Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter to try and change the youthful and toxic culture that Boogie created there. That doesn’t mean it will add up to wins.

15. Phoenix Suns: This is what Phoenix wants. It will be a race to dead last in the league between Phoenix and Atlanta all season long. For the umpteenth time in a row, the Suns are tanking their season. They have some promising young talent, but they’re so far away that expecting them to win even 30 games in the loaded west is a long shot.


Eastern Conference Playoffs

First Round

  • (1) Cleveland over (8) Detroit in 4 games
  • (2) Boston over (7) Charlotte in 5 games
  • (3) Washington over (6) Toronto in 5 games
  • (4) Milwaukee over (5) Miami in 7 games

The only way Cleveland drops a game to Detroit is if LeBron gets hurt and has to sit out a game. Unlikely in the playoffs.

Charlotte is too well coached to get swept. They will steal one at home, but Boston’s roster is way too good.

It’s a situation similar to Charlotte’s. DeMar DeRozan wins the Raptors one game, but the Wizards are a much better team.

Miami is a tough draw for Milwaukee. Spo will have a great strategy to stop the Greek Freak, but ultimately the better team will win. Most of the time they do in the NBA.


Semi-finals

  • Cleveland over Milwaukee in 4 games
  • Boston over Washington in 6 games

Cleveland and Boston are destined for a rematch of last year. Especially after Kyrie bailed on LeBron and the Cavs for the rivals Celtics.


Conference Finals

  • Cleveland over Boston in 5 games

Just like last year, Boston gets a game against King James. Sorry Celtics fans, but he’s still the King. You don’t have enough to beat him yet.


Western Conference Playoffs

First Round

  • (1) Golden State over (8) Denver in 4 games
  • (2) Houston over (7) Utah in 5 games
  • (3) San Antonio over (6) Los Angeles Clippers in 6 games
  • (4) Oklahoma City over (5) Minnesota in 6 games

These games should be competitive, but Golden State will ultimately overwhelm this inexperienced Denver squad. Even with the playoff-tested Millsap, they’re not ready for this yet.

Utah steals one at home. They have one of the best homecourt advantages in the NBA, and they’ll have an elite defense.

The Clippers match up well with the Spurs. They beat them back in 2014-15 behind a massive series from Blake Griffin. They can do it again this year.

Minnesota is still a year or two away from beating a veteran team like Oklahoma City in the playoffs. They’ll fight hard against the Thunder, but those three scorers will be too much.


Semi-finals

  • Golden State over Oklahoma City in 5 games
  • Houston over San Antonio in 7 games

Golden State will drop a game in the second round this year. Some people think OKC can compete with the Warriors I’m not one of them.

Mike D’Antoni finally gets the better of Gregg Popovich. Houston has a better roster than San Antonio. The only thing that’s left to do is get it done on the court.


Conference Finals

  • Golden State over Houston in 6 games

Yes, Golden State drops two whole games in a series. They still won’t lose, but two games. That’s saying something. This team was set up to beat the Warriors, and they’ll do a good job trying.


NBA Finals

  • Golden State over Cleveland in 5 games
  • NBA Finals MVP: Steph Curry

So, was it all worth it? Same finals and same result. Literally same exact result. LeBron will win one game potentially all by himself. The healthy Warriors are just too damn good.

Last season it was Kevin Durant who stepped up and took over the finals with an all-time great performance. Steph Curry can take over this time.


NBA Awards

  • Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant
  • Rookie of the Year: Lonzo Ball
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
  • Most Improved Player: Rodney Hood
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
  • Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
  • Executive of the Year: Sam Presti

LeBron and Durant will compete for the MVP all season long. It’s going to be a fun race to watch. LBJ hasn’t compared about the MVP in years, but KD plays on a better team. That will get him the nod.

Lonzo is one of the most popular players in the league without ever playing an NBA game. He plays on the most popular team, and even his dad is a celebrity. Any production will yield an award.


ESNY Staff Picks

Rob Sabo, Founder

  • Eastern Conference Finals: Cavs over Celtics
  • Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Spurs
  • NBA Finals: Warriors over Cavs
  • NBA Finals MVP: Steph Curry

 

  • Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
  • Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr.
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
  • Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
  • Coach of the Year: Jason Kidd
  • Executive of the Year: Danny Ainge

Michael Dolan, Contributor

  • Eastern Conference First Round: 1. Cleveland over 8. Charlotte; 5. Milwaukee over 4. Toronto; 2. Boston over 7. Philadelphia; 3. Washington over 6. Miami
  • Eastern Conference Semi-finals: Cleveland over Milwaukee; Washington over Boston
  • Eastern Conference Finals: Washington over Cleveland
  • Western Conference First Round: 1. Golden State over 8. Utah; 2. OKC over 7. Denver; 3. Houston over 6. NOP; 5. Minnesota over 4. San Antonio
  • Western Conference Semifinals: Golden State over Minny; OKC over Houston
  • Western Conference Finals: OKC over Golden State
  • NBA Finals: OKC over Washington in games 6
  • NBA Finals MVP: Russell Westbrook

 

  • Most Valuable Player: James Harden
  • Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon
  • Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
  • Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
  • Executive of the Year: Sam Presti

Zach Cronin, Nets Writer/Staff Editor

  • Eastern Conference First Round: 1. BOS over 8. CHA; 2. CLE over 7. DET; 3. WASH over 6. MIA; 5. MIL over 4. TOR
  • Eastern Conference Semifinals: 1. BOS over 5. MIL; 2. CLE over 3. WASH
  • Eastern Conference Finals: CLE over BOS
  • Western Conference First Round: 1. GSW over 8. POR; 2. HOU over 7. LAC; 3. SAS over 6. DEN; 4. MIN over 5. OKC
  • Western Conference Semifinals: 1. GSW over 4. MIN; 2. HOU over 3. SAS
  • Western Conference Finals: GSW over HOU
  • NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 5
  • NBA Finals MVP: Steph Curry

 

  • MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith JR.
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala
  • Most Improved Player: D’Angelo Russell
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
  • Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens
  • Executive of the Year: Sam Presti

Robbie Stratakos, Knicks Writer

  • Eastern Conference First Round: 1. Boston over 8. Charlotte; 2. Cleveland over 7. Detroit; 3. Washington over 6. Miami; 4. Milwaukee over 5. Toronto
  • Eastern Conference Semifinals: Boston over Milwaukee; Cleveland over Washington
  • Eastern Conference Finals: Cleveland over Boston
  • Western Conference First Round: 1. Golden State over 8. Portland; 2. Houston over 7. Minnesota; 6. Memphis over 3. San Antonio; 4. OKC over 5. Denver
  • Western Conference Semifinals: Golden State over OKC; Houston over Memphis
  • Western Conference Finals: Golden State over Houston
  • NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in 4 games

 

  • MVP: Blake Griffin
  • Rookie of the Year: De’Aaron Fox
  • Sixth Man of the Year: Emmanuel Mudiay
  • Most Improved Player: Buddy Hield
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
  • Coach of the Year: Billy Donovan
  • Executive of the Year: Daryl Morey
 

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