By Zach Haines
The majority of free agent moves, trades, and draft signings have occurred in the NBA, so we are officially heading towards the beginning of the 2017-2018 NBA season. With the summer league in full swing, now would be a good a time as any to project which teams will come out on top of their divisions this year.
Atlantic: Boston Celtics
The Celtics flat out arrived last season and have only gotten better. The acquisition of Gordon Hayward should prove to be a solidifier in terms of the Celtics being regarded as one of, if not the, best team in the East. Many regarded their top-seeded positioning as a fluke due to the Cleveland Cavaliers post-All Star woes, but there is far too much talent in Boston for that to be proven true at this point. This should be a relatively easy coast as the remainder of the teams in the division (the next best two being the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers) aren’t quite on the same level as the C’s.
Southwest: Washington Wizards
The Wizards are about as much of an up and down team that you can see in the league today. With every passing season, you never know which Wizards will show up that day. With John Wall and Brad Beal remaining one of the premier back courts in the league, I don’t think they’ll fall too far from their top-seeded positioning they achieved last season. The Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets are both viable threats to the Wizards in terms of winning the division, but not viable enough for it to actually happen.
Central: Cleveland Cavaliers
Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love are all on the same team. Enough said. In all actuallity, with Paul George and Jimmy Butler both making their way to the Western Conference via trade, only the Bucks are good enough to make noise in the Central division. Unfortunately, it’s noise that won’t be made.
Southwest: Houston Rockets
Call me crazy, but I love the Houston Rockets heading into this season. I think the acquisition of Chris Paul was the best thing that could’ve happened to the Rockets, and the worst thing to happen to their division, conference, and league for that matter. With Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki getting older and the San Antonio Spurs looking less like the Spurs we’ve cone to all respect, the ball is in Houston’s court. There is still the presence of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in New Orleans, but they’re still a tandem that has a lot to prove in terms of team chemistry so they won’t be all that much of a threat to Houston’s chances.
Northwest: Oklahoma City Thunder
This division will be a blood bath, but when the smoke clears and the dust settles, the Thunder will reign supreme in the Northwest. The Timberwolves have greatly improved, the Nuggets have greatly improved, and the Trail Blazers have a chip on their shoulder to prove they belong at the top of this league (which they do). Still, reigning MVP Russell Westbrook along side of his new teammate Paul George should prove to be lethal against opposing teams, since they no longer have to hone in on one player in particular.
Pacific: Golden State Warriors
Much like their rival Cavaliers, winning this division will be a breeze. While the Kings should be interesting to watch this season, no other team is anywhere near the caliber of the Warriors. Golden State has resigned its championship pieces and only added high-percentage shooting wing men to their depth. Not too bad for the defending champs.