NBA season preview: 2019-20 predictions for every team

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NBA season preview: 2019-20 predictions for every team

Bobby Zeffero, General Assignment Reporter

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Even though we are in the midst of football season, there’s nothing like talking some NBA hoops. This NBA season will be a lot different than last year. With the dispersal of the Warriors and their Justice League team, the title could be won by a number of teams. 

In this piece, I’ll give an opinionated season prediction for all 30 NBA teams, but I make my predictions as I see it. So step into my basketball noggin and see how I’ve predicted your favorite NBA team’s season.   

Eastern Conference

Central Division:

Milwaukee Bucks

Last Season: 60-22

Championship Odds: 6-1

My Prediction: 62-20

Yes, I understand it’s not a crazy bold prediction to have the Bucks being two games better than last year, but it’s also hard to be even better than they were last year. Despite Nikola Mirotic making an unexpected move to go back overseas and play, the Bucks managed to fill their roster with more shooters to pick up the production where Mirotic left off. 

Re-signing Khris Middleton was huge, and the signings of Kyle Korver, Wesley Mathews and Dragan Bender will help space the floor for the reigning MVP, who I haven’t even mentioned yet. Look for the Bucks to make some serious noise in the Eastern Conference again this year and to make a deep playoff run, and let’s see if they can win their first title since 1974.

Indiana Pacers

Last Season: 48-34

Championship Odds: 50-1

My Prediction: 48-34

I don’t know how many people realize this, but despite all the big changes the Pacers have undergone, they now don’t have a player older than 28 on their roster. The Pacers lost Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Corey Joseph, but brought in Malcom Brogdon, T.J. Warren, T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb and drafted Goga Bitadze. 

For those unfamiliar with Mr. Bitadze, he is a 6-foot-11 center from Sagarejo, Georgia, who can run the floor, has a nice touch inside and can take his game to the perimeter on occasion. On top of all that, he is only 20 years old. 

Plus, Victor Oladipo will be back on the court next year as well. With all the movement of the Pacers’s player personnel, I’ll be interested to see how they perform this coming year. I would expect a similar season to last year, but I’ll be curious to see how they perform.

Detroit Pistons 

Last Season: 41-41

Championship Odds: 300-1

My Prediction: 46-36

Now, having lived in Michigan my whole life, I will try my absolute best to keep my personal bias out of this prediction. But, when looking up the Vegas title odds, I noticed that the Magic, Bulls, Pelicans and Heat all had better championship odds than Detroit, which blows my mind. 

Even though they were swept in the first round of the playoffs last year by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, they only improved their roster from last season. The Pistons added Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, Tony Snell and drafted the youngest player in the entire NBA Draft, Sekou Doumbouya. 

In a best case scenario, I can see the Pistons placing as high as a fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but I would definitely expect them to make the playoffs again this season. 

Chicago Bulls

Last Season: 22-60

Championship Odds: 200-1

My Prediction: 30-53

How’s this for a hot take: The Bulls will be better than last year. Daring, right? Players on the Bulls last year racked up a total of 290 missed games all together last year, which adds up to about three and a half seasons worth of injuries. 

A lot of those injuries occurred to big contributors too, such as Zach LaVine (10 games missed), Otto Porter Jr. (11 games), Kris Dunn (8 games, 62 missed in two years), Lauri Markkanan (33 games), Wendell Carter Jr. (38 games) and Denzel Valentine, who missed the entire season. 

I would expect another year without a postseason spot for the Bulls, but the future looks bright with Markkanen and Carter on the front line. Expect a jump from Markanen’s production, and an even bigger one from Wendell Carter Jr.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last Season: 19-63

Championship Odds: 1000-1 

My Prediction: 22-60

As we well know, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been rebuilding since the King packed his bags for Hollywood. This year will be another struggle for them, but this season could also help with the rebuild process.

Colin Sexton will gain another year of experience, and I will be very curious to see how Sexton and the Cavs first-round draft pick Darius Garland play together. Also, I will be keeping my eye on another Cavaliers rookie, Dylan Windler, the 26th pick of the NBA draft. 

After watching him myself through Belmont’s conference tournament run as well as their Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament, I saw that this guy can play. People might be skeptical because Windler didn’t play for a Power 5 school, but he still shot 54% from the field, 42.9% from 3-point range and 84.7% from the free throw line. 

Plus, he is 6’8”, which is a great size for an NBA shooting guard. I’ll be watching the Cavs to see how their young talent develops over the course of the season.

Atlantic Division:

Philadelphia 76ers

Last Season: 51-31

Championship Odds: 8-1 

My Prediction: 59-23

Philadelphia was one of the craziest bounces I’ve ever seen away from going to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, and this year, that baaaaad man who hit that shot is no longer in the East. 

With that being said, Philadelphia should be considered as one of the top candidates to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this season. Ben Simmons reportedly now has a jump shot, and I think Joel Embiid will have an even better season then he had last year, granted he stays on the court. 

I have not even mentioned the fact that they signed Al Horford to gain some frontcourt depth, and they signed Trey Burke to get a solid backup to Ben Simmons at point guard. Burke can even be on the floor at the same time as Simmons in whatever situation arises because Simmons has very few limits to who he can guard on the floor with his height and athleticism.  

In the 2019 NBA Draft, the 76ers picked Matisse Thybulle with the 20th pick as a result of a trade with Boston. He could prove to be a great player for them as a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with a 7-foot wingspan, who also was back-to-back PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year and last year’s Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. 

He didn’t show a lot of offensive prowess in college at Washington, but he was in a limited offensive role. The bottom line about Philly is this: they should not plan any early golf trips, because they will be making a deep run again this year.  

Brooklyn Nets

Last Season: 42-40

Championship Odds: 40-1

My Prediction: 50-32

Unless you live under a rock, you might have heard about Brooklyn’s offseason. Even though Kevin Durant will not be playing this season, they still add Kyrie Irving to a roster that gave Philadelphia a tough five-game series. 

Caris LeVert was having a breakout season before he got injured, and center Jarrett Allen is only 21 years of age. They also added Deandre Jordan this offseason, who boosts frontcourt depth and adds another rim protector, rebounder and finisher to split or share time with Jarrett Allen.  

The Nets will come into the season with a solid roster and won’t contend for a championship this year, but should expect at least a trip to the second round of the playoffs. When next year comes around and Kevin Durant is healthy, then I’ll start talking about a championship for Brooklyn.

Boston Celtics

Last Season: 49-33

Championship Odds: 25-1

My Prediction: 51-31

The Celtics have fallen largely under the radar this offseason after they made a big splash in free agency, signing Kemba Walker. Their projected starting lineup this season will be Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter. 

If I was an opposing team, that lineup would make me a little nervous, not to mention Jaylen Brown coming off the bench. Their draft pick this season, Carsen Edwards, a point guard out of Purdue, has a lot of things I saw in a young Kemba Walker: a little undersized, but a great scorer and a guy who can hit the big shot. 

Just like Walker, I can see Edwards developing into a good playmaker as well and becoming a great offensive guard. I would not put the Celtics as a tier one title contender, but I would put them near or at the top of tier two.

Toronto Raptors

Last Season: 58-24

Championship Odds: 100-1 

My Prediction: 42-42

After losing a top-three player in the NBA, most teams would be expected to experience a tremendous dropoff from the prior season, but it won’t be as bad for Toronto. They still bring back Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol, along with adding Rondae Hollis-Jefferson this offseason. 

Also, head coach Nick Nurse will find a way to put his players in the best position to succeed and to reach their max potential. OG Anunoby is only 22 years old and is projected to start for the team, and I’ll be watching to see how he develops with starting minutes this season. 

The Raptors will be competing in a tough division this year with Philly, Boston and Brooklyn, so I would expect them to be a bubble team come playoff time.  

New York Knicks

Last Season: 17-65

Championship Odds: 1000-1 

My Prediction: 21-61

Now, despite the horrendous season the Knicks produced last season, they still have a roster with an average age of about 24.5. Drafting RJ Barrett was a good move to get the franchise moving in the right direction, as I think he will end up being a star player in this league. 

Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox will have another year of experience under their belts, and they are still just 21 and 20 years old. Acquiring Dennis Smith Jr. was a big move from my perspective, as I think he also will be a big time player in the NBA. 

The Knicks have a lot of solid pieces moving forward, but I would expect to see growing pains for at least a few more seasons, or how ever long they decide to let James Dolan run one of the most historic sports franchises into the dirt. 

Southeast Division:

Miami Heat

Last Season: 39-43

Championship Odds: 100-1

My Prediction: 45-37

The Miami Heat made a big splash this offseason by adding Jimmy Butler to a roster that was really lacking star power. But outside of Butler, the Heat will have to find another consistent scorer. Dion Waiters has his occasional 30-point performance, but if he and Butler are both having an off game, then who can pick up the slack for the Heat? 

Tyler Herro, the Heat’s 2019 first round pick, has the potential to be a great scoring option, but he is still a few years away. I’ll be curious to see how the Kentucky product produces this year and the role he earns as a rookie. 

The Heat will have an opportunity this year to win more games this year due to a weak division, but I would still only label them as a six, seven or eight seed. The Heat need another star alongside Jimmy G. Buckets (the “G” stands for “Gets”) if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs, especially in the post-Warriors dynasty NBA. 

Orlando Magic

Last Season: 42-40

Championship Odds: 200-1 

My Prediction: 44-38

The Magic have a good roster coming into this year, but good will not win you a title in this league. They re-signed center Nikola Vucevic and shooting guard Terrance Ross to four-year deals, and also picked up Al Farouq-Aminu. 

They do have some young talent on this team, but unfortunately, it seems the injury bug is taking a little trip to Orlando. Mo Bamba, Markelle Fultz and rookie Chuma Okeke are all currently listed as injured, and it has already been confirmed that Okeke is out for the entire season to rehab his left knee. 

Bamba had a tibial stress fracture in his left leg in January that ended his season, and most people who follow the NBA know about Markelle Fultz’s shoulder injury. Both Bamba and Fultz are expected to be ready for game one, but might see limited minutes in the beginning of the season. 

Jonathan Isaac should also take a big leap this year, so look for the Magic to really make some noise within the next three to five years.

Atlanta Hawks

Last Season: 29-53

Championship Odds: 300-1 

My Prediction: 37-45

The Atlanta Hawks added two big names in the 2019 NBA Draft, adding De’Andre Hunter out of Virginia with the seventh pick and Dukie Cam Reddish with pick number 10 to play alongside budding star Trae Young. 

Like other teams in the NBA, the Hawks are going to have to wait a few years to become relative in the playoff picture again. But, because of the lack of star power in their division, they should win more games than they did last year. 

If they add a dominant young center to their roster either at the trade deadline, during next year’s draft or free agency, this team could be a force in the Southeast Division for at least a few seasons. This season should be an interesting one for Atlanta, and this is a team that could potentially surprise some people this season. 

Charlotte Hornets 

Last Season: 39-43

Championship Odds: 1000-1

My Prediction: 27-55

The Hornets enter year one in the post-Kemba era, and that means it is the first year of the rebuild. This year for the Hornets will be one to forget, but an NBA season is never wasted because of the experience players gain. It will be interesting to see how Terry Rozier does as he steps into a full-time starting role and how he produces. 

The Hornets should try to get as many minutes for their young players as they can afford and also try to dump some of their big contracts to clear some cap space. 

Some of the overvalued contracts include Nicholas Batum (makes $25 million this season), Bismack Biyombo ($17 million), Marvin Williams ($15 million) as well as Cody Zeller ($14 million). Growing pains lie ahead for this franchise. 

Washington Wizards

Last Season: 32-50

Championship Odds: 1000-1

My Prediction: 25-57

The Washington Wizards have been very stagnant the last few years, and we saw a steep decline last season largely due to John Wall rupturing his achilles. Wall is said to be out until around February of this season. 

Thank goodness I was able to edit this prediction after Beal signed his contract extension which includes a no-trade clause, because I would have thought Beal would be traded to a contender at the trade deadline. Even with Bradley Beal on the roster, there’s not a lot of help around him, and I’m sure he sees that as well.  

Rookies Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., Admiral Schofield plus 22-year-old center Thomas Bryant provide the Wizards with some youth going forward, and we’ll see how this youth develops. Washington will be close to the bottom in the standings this year and I don’t see this team as a real playoff threat.

Western Conference

Northwest Division:

Utah Jazz

Last Season: 50-32

Championship Odds: 14-1

My Prediction: 53-29

The Jazz have undergone a lot of changes this offseason, most notably acquiring both Mike Conley from the Grizzlies and signing the ex-Indiana Pacer Bojan Bogdanovic. Conley is a perfect fit for the grit-and-grind Jazz as a top-tier defensive point guard who is also a pretty consistent scorer. 

Adding Bogdanovic provides another floor-spacer and yet another solid defender for their roster. On top of the additions the Jazz made, they still have Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles. 

Utah will look to build on its playoff season last year that ended in the first round at Houston. With Utah’s roster improvements and with another year of playoff experience, look for the Jazz and head coach Quin Snyder to make a bigger splash in the postseason this season. 

Denver Nuggets

Last Season: 54-28

Championship Odds: 16-1 

My Prediction: 55-27

The Nuggets had a very solid season last year, and they bring back a nearly identical team. Their additions in the offseason were Jerami Grant and their second round draft pick Bol Bol, and Michael Porter Jr. will see his first NBA action this season after sitting out all of last season after getting back surgery. 

Nikola Jokic is gradually getting better, and that’s scary considering he averaged 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game while shooting 51.1% from the field. The Nuggets bring back a deep backcourt, led by starting point guard Jamal Murray and starting shooting guard Gary Harris. 

With the Nuggets not making any huge splashes this offseason, it’s hard to see them as a team that can outperform last season, which was very solid. Look for Denver to definitely be in the playoff mix again this season, but the team could be in for an early exit due to the competitiveness of the Western Conference this season. 

Portland Trail Blazers

Last Season: 53-29

Championship Odds: 40-1

My Prediction: 49-33

The Trail Blazers re-signing Diaman Lillard was a must if this team wants to contend this season, but they didn’t really do much else. They did sign Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver to bolster the bench a bit, but that might not be enough to make it far in the Western Conference Playoffs this season, especially with all of the talent compiled in the West. 

Even within the division, the Blazers have to play Denver and Utah four times each. They selected Nassir Little with the 25th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, which is considered a steal by many. Little was the ninth ranked player coming out of high school, and many believed he would be a lottery pick, so getting him at 25 worked out nicely. 

As a 6-foot-7 small forward with great athleticism, he could potentially be the steal of the 2019 draft. Portland will probably be a fringe playoff team in a very crowded Western Conference, and they have hefty competition in their division as well between Denver and Utah. 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last Season: 36-46 

Championship Odds :1000-1

My Prediction: 32-50

The Timberwolves are an oddity in the NBA. They could not work things out with Jimmy Butler, even with his old Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Despite losing Butler, the T-wolves still retain Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague. 

Yet, they were still pretty bad last season, and they had a better record with Butler off the squad. They had the fourth pick in the NBA draft, with which they selected Jarret Culver, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Texas Tech who is the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year. 

Culver has the potential to be a very good player in this league with that height and scoring ability at his position. He can improve defensively and his 3-point shooting can improve as well, as he only shot 30.4% last season in college. 

Once he improves both those things and adds a little weight (he weighs in at 195 pounds right now), I believe he can be a potential All-Star. Despite the talent the Timberwolves have, they will have it tough this season because of the depth of the Western Conference, and even the depth in their division. 

They have to play Utah, Denver and Portland four times apiece. The Timberwolves are in for another season without playoff basketball, but with Culver being 20 years old, Karl Anthony-Towns only being 23, and Andrew Wiggins being still only 24, there is some hope.

Playoffs may not happen this season, but if the T-Wolves keep their core together, they’ll be back in the playoffs sooner rather than later. 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last Season: 49-33

Championship Odds: 1000-1

My Prediction: 30-52

With the departure of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City will obviously see a steep decline this season. But, the Thunder have already compiled a lot of young potential in rookie Darius Bazely, who is 19, Hamidou Diallo, Terrence Ferguson and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who are all only 21 years old. 

Acquiring Chris Paul is a better move than people think for the Thunder, as with his plethora of NBA experience he can be a strong mentor for the young talent on this team, especially for fellow point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. 

Plus, Steven Adams is 26 years old and still a solid center in the NBA. The future could be bright for this franchise, but fans might have to wait a few more years for the Thunder to become relevant in the playoff picture again.

Pacific Division:

Los Angeles Clippers

Last Season: 48-34

Championship Odds: 7-2 

My Prediction: 62-20

The Clippers come into this season with expectations through the roof, and rightfully so. After adding Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to a playoff team, the Clippers have shot their way up to title favorites. 

And let’s not forget that they have Doc Rivers as their head coach, as well as the flamethrower scorer Lou Williams coming off the bench. Anything short of a Western Conference Finals appearance would be a severe disappointment, but it still won’t be easy to get there with the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers in their own division. 

We’ll see how this loaded roster performs with a packed Western Conference and even sharing a home stadium with another title contender. 

Los Angeles Lakers

Last Season: 37-45

Championship Odds: 4-1

My Prediction: 59-23 

The Lakers have a totally revamped roster coming into this season, with the big additions (literally and figuratively) of Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard. Despite Cousins expected to be out for the entire season with a knee injury, I do think Dwight Howard can play a much bigger role than expected this year. 

After seeing him in a dunk contest last summer with Chris Staples on YouTube (shoutout BallIsLife) and seeing his body, I think people are sleeping on Dwight Howard’s impact. He can come onto this roster at 33 years old and still average a double-double. 

Adding Danny Green, Quinn Cook and Avery Bradley provides some depth at the guard spots and also puts more shooting around LeBron James. The Lakers also should be better defensively this season, as they finished last year ranked 13th in defensive rating as a team last year (108.3). 

I can’t wait to see the Lakers play this season, as they should be closer to Showtime than years prior. Barring injuries, the Lakers will break their six-year playoff drought this season, and the Lakers will be vying for a spot in the NBA Finals this season.

Golden State Warriors

Last Season: 55-27

Championship Odds: 12-1

My Prediction: 50-32

Like the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors also lost a huge piece this season in Kevin Durant as he packed his bags for Brooklyn. But, also like the Raptors, the Warriors still have plenty of talent on their roster. 

They are in a better position to compete than the Raptors, as they still have former MVP Stephen Curry and they added All-Star D’Angelo Russell. Klay Thompson could return this season after a torn ACL in the Finals last year, but it looks like he won’t be rushing his return. 

Another big addition they made this offseason was Willie Cauley-Stein, who is only 26 years old and is just about to enter his prime. A lot of NBA fans are happy that the Warriors’ super team is no more, but they still are a very good team, especially when Klay-day returns to the lineup. 

It’ll be very hard for the Warriors to make their sixth straight NBA Finals appearance, but they will be a playoff team. As stated earlier, it’ll be a royal rumble in the Western Conference this season and in the Pacific Division, but the Warriors could end up surprising some people this season, especially if they get Klay Thompson back.

Sacramento Kings

Last Season: 39-43

Championship Odds: 200-1

My Prediction: 37-45

The Kings have a very intriguing roster with two potential superstars under 21 years old. De’Aaron Fox made a big jump from his rookie to his sophomore season, and Marvin Bagely will be entering his second year in which I expect to be a big one. 

Shooting guard Buddy Hield is coming off his first season averaging over 20 points per game (20.7 to be exact) as well as the first season he has played a full 82-game schedule. Their notable additions include Dewayne Dedmon, who will start at center and provide rebounding and to help fill the void at center after the departure of Willie Cauley-Stein, and Cory Joseph, who can bolster their backcourt depth and provide some backup minutes so Fox can get more rest this season. 

It really is a shame the Kings are in the Atlantic Division, because even though they are a better team than last year, they still aren’t quite on the level of the Lakers, Clippers or Warriors. Their playoff drought of 13 years will probably become 14, but I would keep my eye on the improvements of both Fox and Bagely. 

Phoenix Suns

Last Season: 19-63

Championship Odds: 1000-1

My Prediction: 24-58

The Suns were bad last year, but they have the youngest roster in the NBA going into this season, with an average age of 23.9 years old. A big upside for the Suns is that their best players are all under that average age. Believe it or not, Devin Booker is still only 22, but turns 23 on Oct. 30. Mikal Bridges is also just 23, and Deandre Ayton is only 21. 

They also acquired two pieces this offseason that flew under the radar (all are undrafted FAs) and maybe won’t make an immediate impact, but could very well play a part in the future success of this franchise. One of these pieces is Jalen Lecque, a 19-year-old point guard who had a 43-inch max vertical at the 2019 NBA Combine, which was the highest for the year. 

Since he can already attack the basket at a high level, an improved jump shot and defense could lead to a scary guard combo for the Suns. Next up is forward Tariq Owens out of Texas Tech. Standing at 6-foot-10 and weighing in at 210 pounds, Owens was a defensive unit on his own last year for the Red Raiders. 

He averaged 2.4 blocks per game which ranked second in the Big 12 and had a defensive rating of 86.1, which led the Big 12 and was also fourth in the country. If Owens gains some weight and also improves his shooting distance, he can also turn out to be a quality player. 

The Suns are still a few years away from championship contention, but they do have talent they can develop and the potential to be very good down the road.  

Southwest Division:

Houston Rockets

Last Season: 53-29

Championship Odds: 8-1

My Prediction: 56-26

The Rockets have not garnered much attention this offseason aside from their acquisition of Russell Westbrook, but don’t sleep on Houston. They have more depth than last season, thanks to the additions of Thabo Sefolosha, Ben McLemore, Jaron Blossomgame and Tyson Chandler. 

They also re-signed Gerald Green, Austin Rivers, Nene and Danuel House Jr. With a complete roster and with the presumption Russell Westbrook will have an impact off the ball like he has stated, I don’t see a reason why the Rockets can’t be a top-three team in the West this season. 

Let’s also not forget about Clint Capela, whose production will rise this year thanks to the addition of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s drives will provide plenty dump down and alley-oop opportunities for Capela, so expect to see a scoring rise from him.  

The Rockets have the most talent in the division and I would be shocked if they lose more than four division games this year. Maybe this season could be the one where Houston makes its first NBA Finals appearance since 1995 and the year it brings ol’ Larry back to H-Town.

San Antonio Spurs

Last Season: 48-34

Championship Odds: 50-1

My Prediction: 46-36

As much as I see the Spurs roster and think they’ll have a rough season, it’s so hard to bet against the ageless wonder and basketball guru Gregg Popovich. Ever since Coach Pop has had a full season to coach the Spurs, they have never had a losing record, and their worst record during his tenure was two seasons ago, in which they had a 47-35 record, one game worse than last season. 

Despite the Spurs not doing much to their roster this offseason, they did pick up the legendary Tim Duncan as an assistant coach. LaMarcus Aldrigde is 34 years old, but has showed no signs of slowing down after nearly averaging a double-double last season while shooting 51.9% from the floor. 

Their division is not crazy difficult outside of Houston, so they could still be a fringe playoff team, even in the wild wild west. The city of San Antonio should be a little nervous about its playoff streak of 22 straight seasons getting snapped, but we’ll see how Popovich rallies his troops throughout the year.

Dallas Mavericks

Last Season: 33-49

Championship Odds: 100-1

My Prediction: 39-43

The Dallas Mavericks have their two pieces to build their franchise around in Kristaps Porzingis (will be referred to in the future as “Porzingod”) and reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic. 

The next step the Mavericks need to take to become a factor in the West is to strengthen their supporting cast, as their remaining starting lineup includes Delon Wright (point guard), Justin Jackson (small forward), and Dwight Powell (center). 

They do have Tim Hardaway Jr. as well as Seth Curry coming off the bench, and I will be watching how rookie Isaiah Roby, a 6-foot-8 small forward from Nebraska, performs this season. He is currently listed as a third-string power forward on the depth chart, but I would expect that to improve and his workload to increase throughout the season. 

Just like a few other teams, the Mavericks are just not ready to compete for a title yet, but have the blueprint in place for future success. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Last Season: 33-49

Championship Odds: 100-1 

My Prediction: 36-46

The Pelicans are a team I will constantly be keeping up on this season. Not only because I want to see how Zion plays this season after he returns from injury, but how the entire team plays together this year. 

They have a lot of youth on this team, which means a lot of potential. We know Zion will be Zion, but don’t forget about Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and eighth overall pick Jaxson Hayes. 

I still don’t understand why people are so quick to call Lonzo a bust. It may be because of his dad, or it may be because of his bad shooting or maybe the fact that he has not played more than 52 games in a season. 

Ball turns 22 years old on Oct. 27, so he still has plenty of time to develop and become more efficient on offense.  They also managed to hang onto Jrue Holiday and acquired forward Derrick Favors and veteran shooting guard JJ Reddick. 

Even with all the young talent the Pelicans have compiled, it still may be a few seasons until they are talked about as a true playoff contender. If they Pelicans hang onto Zion, Ingram and Lonzo, they could be a real threat maybe three or four years down the line. 

Memphis Grizzlies

Last Season: 33-49

Championship Odds: 1000-1

My Prediction: 37-45

The Grizzlies are on the right path to get back to playoff contention, but they are still a few seasons away. They picked up their franchise point guard in the draft with the second overall pick, drafting Ja Morant out of Murray State. 

They also have two young players on their roster who could have a breakout season this season. One being Jaren Jackson Jr., last year’s fourth overall pick. After missing 24 games last season due to injury, Jackson is back and healthy. 

He is a 6-foot-11 power forward who can stretch the floor on offense, protect the rim on defense, and he has put on a little over 20 pounds since he left college two years ago. Dillon Brooks is my next under the radar player who could have a breakout season. 

If you had the opportunity to watch Brooks in college at Oregon, then you’ve seen his potential. He only played in 18 games last season thanks to a toe injury that required surgery, but the man is still only 23 years old. 

With great size for a shooting guard at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, and with a good shooting stroke (career 35.9% on 3-pointers), he has some tools. If he increases his assists and becomes a better passer, Brooks could be a good asset to have going forward. The Grizzlies will be better last season and are on the right track to going back to the playoffs.  

Contact Bobby Zeffero at zefferor@msu.edu. Follow him on Twitter @BigSportsGuyBob.