The NBA 2016-2017 season is right around the corner and far be it from us here at Pop Culture Cosmos to not take the opportunity to weigh in with thoughts on what kind of year it will be for pro basketball. Will the Cavaliers find the strength to repeat as champions? How about the Warriors and their chances now that they reloaded with Kevin Durant? Or can some other team break through and stake their claim on NBA history? Which teams can be a surprise this year and what others will be ending the season with their hopes dashed in utter disappointment? All these questions and more will hopefully be answered as Pop Culture Cosmos shares its thoughts on the NBA season: (predicted season win totals provided by the Las Vegas Westgate Superbook Key: ppg=Points per Game, apg=Assists per game, rpg=Rebounds per game):
Eastern Conference (w/predicted order of finish)
- Boston Celtics (Last Year: 48-34)- The Celtics didn’t win out on the Durant free agent sweepstakes this summer but they did get a major signing in Al Horford (15.2 ppg 7.3 rpg w/Atlanta). General Manager (GM) Danny Ainge has finally put together enough key pieces to make a formidable run deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs. While there is not quite enough there to overtake the top spot away from Cleveland, Isiah Thomas (22.2 ppg 6.2 apg) and the rest of the Celtic Green will give other teams plenty of sleepless nights come playoff time. Superbook total: 51.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Toronto Raptors (56-26)- A run to the conference championship seemed like almost a grand victory in and of itself for Toronto. But with the additions and improvements the Celtics have made while it appears they are ready to take the next step, the Raptors may fall a little behind. DeMar DeRozan (23.5 ppg 4.5 rpg) and Kyle Lowry (21.2 ppg 6.4 apg) are back to provide leadership and quality play. But few additions to the team not only will not get them over the hump but unfortunately will have them start a slow decline downhill. Superbook total: 49.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- New York Knicks (32-50)- The laughing could be heard across the NBA when during the summer, newly acquired Derrick Rose (16.4 ppg 4.7 apg w/Chicago) proclaimed that the “With these teams right now, they’re saying us(the Knicks) and Golden State are the super teams…” OK take a second to calm down because it is pretty funny. Indeed the Knocks did add Rose (who will be taking time off due to a pending rape case trial), Joakim Noah (4.3 ppg 8.8 rpg w/ Chicago), Brandon Jennings (7.0 ppg 4.0 apg w/ Orlando) and Courtney Lee (8.9 ppg 3.1 rpg w/ Charlotte) which does have the look of a “super team”…if it was 2011. Unfortunately five seasons of deterioration and injuries have robbed this team from being a “what will be” outcome to a “what could have been”. Again, the team’s hopes will be centered around Carmelo Anthony (21.8 ppg 7.7 rpg) and the promising Kristaps Porzingis (14.3 ppg 7.3 rpg) if this “super team” has any chance of going anywhere this season. Superbook total: 38.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Brooklyn Nets (21-61)- The outlook for the Nets is still one that is in long-term. With the damage done from trading many draft choices over the years, the Nets have had a difficult time to trying to build team depth despite having salary cap room and a large marketplace to play in. While Jeremy Lin (11.7 ppg 3.0 apg w/Charlotte) is a nice addition via free agency, his success at this stage of his playing days is better suited as a complimentary role than that of being the main guy. Brook Lopez (20.6 ppg 7.8 rpg) is still effective around the basket, the lack of depth everywhere else will still have Brooklyn fans asking themselves when they will be seeing a great step forward. Superbook total: 20.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Philadelphia 76ers (10-72)- Fans in Philly were beginning to “trust the process” when they were awarded with the first pick in this year’s draft which netted them potential super stud Ben Simmons. After seemingly years of anguish it appeared the road to a winning path was finally beginning to take shape. but lo and behold, Simmons suffers a foot injury in training camp (which could have him out two months or more) and the Sixers look like they are set for another struggling season that already has them “snake bit”. On the bright side, former first round draft choice Joel Embiid is finally ready to play after dealing with his own injuries the past two seasons and fans can at least get a glimpse of what his potential may be as he rounds himself into playing shape this season. The rest of the team still has a look of a ten win team with too many front court players like Nerlens Noel (11.1 ppg 8.1 rpg) and Jahlil Okafor (17.5 ppg 7.0 rpg) who have a style that doesn’t adapt well to today’s three-point happy NBA and a roster that has too many pieces that are not talented enough or just don’t fit. But there’s still the future in which the Sixers have a glut of draft choices and cap space that could eventually pan out and wake fans out of this terrible nightmare they have been going through for several years. Phily faithful must continue to “trust the process” even though it is still coming along at a very slow rate. Superbook total: 27.5 Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Cleveland Cavaliers (57-25)- With the albatross of the city no having won a major league championship for decades finally being put to rest this past June, the focus clearly became what can Lebron James (25.3 ppg 7.4 rpg 6.8 apg) and the rest of the Cavs do take it a step further and repeat that winning performance. While there are no big additions to the team, just having Kyrie Irving (19.6 ppg 4.7apg), Kevin Love (16.0 ppg 9.9 rpg) and everyone else into the fold healthy and ready to compete should give the Cavs fans plenty to be excited for this season. Coach Tyronn Lue will have his hands full trying to keep the team from becoming complacent and preparing themselves for what looks like another possible matchup with the Warriors on the horizon. Superbook total: 56.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Indiana Pacers (45-37)- The fact that Paul George (23.1 ppg 7.0 rpg) is even playing much less at an elite level is truly amazing after his gruesome leg injury suffered in 2014. Now that he has a full year back under his belt many pundits are predicting bigger things for him and also for the Pacers as they look to keep pace in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Jeff Teague (15.7 ppg 5.9 apg w/Atlanta) at point guard gives Indiana a very solid one two punch that combined with the promising Myles Turner 10.3 ppg 5.5 rpg) could prove to make some noise this NBA season. Superbook total: 43.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Chicago Bulls (42-40)- The intrigue in adding Dwyane Wade (19.0 ppg 4.6 apg w/ Miami) and Rajon Rondo (11.9 ppg 11.7 apg w/ Sacramento) on top of Robin Lopez (10.3 ppg 7.3 rpg w/ New York) would make many believing the Bulls are on the verge of getting back to being a major player in the East. With that kind of talent added in, it appears that Jimmy Butler’s (20.9 ppg 5.3 rpg) days of being a sole catalyst appear to be over and that the team can make a solid run toward the NBA playoffs. However, unless they can find a competing three point shooting core to surround these top players Chicago may have a difficult time progressing as fast as they like. Superbook total: 38.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Detroit Pistons (44-38)- Even though the Pistons loss to the eventual champs in last season’s playoffs in four games, the competitiveness was close enough to have Detroit fans brimming with the possibility that with some tweaks the team could become a strong force to be reckoned with sooner rather than later. As center Andre Drummond (16.2 ppg 14.8 rpg) continues to improve as a dominant big man, the talent around him put together by Coach/VP Stan Van Gundy has the Pistons looking to make even more steps forward this season. However the going might be tough early as point guard Reggie Jackson’s (18.8 ppg 6.2 apg) injury woes has that climb on a bit of a hold until what could be November or December. Superbook total: 45.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Milwaukee Bucks (33-49)- A playoff darling just two short seasons ago, the Bucks have fallen on harder times as of late. Add an injury to three point shooting small forward Khris Middleton (18.2 ppg 4.2 apg) that will have him gone for the very least a good chunk of the season and the outlook doesn’t get much brighter. Coach Jason Kidd will try to get the best out of a roster that has young stud on the rise Giannis Antetokoumpo (16.9 ppg 7.7 rpg) who will seemingly play at every position for the team, a few underachievers, some over-priced free agent duds and younger players that are still in doubt as to their long term potential. Superbook total: 39.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Washington Wizards (41-41) – Of all the teams in the Southeast Division, the Wizards were the only team not to make drastic changes to their personnel in the off season. While with other teams that is not a good sign, for the Wizards who enjoyed playoff success in 2015 the focus looks to be getting back to playing healthy cohesive basketball. Just by the sheer fact alone that there were able to stick together puts them at an extreme advantage over the other competitors in their division. Guards John Wall (19.9 ppg 10.2 apg) and Bradley Beal (17.4 ppg 3.4 rpg) have been paid, but not played like one of the best basketball back court tandems in the NBA to this point but one has to believe that it should most likely change for the better as long as the two can stay healthy. Add to this a solid adequate, veteran core with a true weakness only at small forward and it appears on the surface to be a bounce back year for the folks up in our nation’s capital. Superbook total: 42.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Miami Heat (48-34)- To say there will be a void with the Heat after losing Dwyane Wade to Chicago, would be an understatement. His contributions to the franchise have been almost immeasurable but facing the cold hard facts of reality, he is a player that is at this point most likely on the downside of his career. So could his departure make for an addition by subtraction scenario? Perhaps, because now the offense will be turned over to Goran Dragic (14.1 ppg 5.8 apg) and Hassan Whiteside (14.2 ppg 11.8 rpg), two players who must step out and become true leaders of the team and from all indications seem inclined to take up the challenge. Combined with younger talent such as Justice Winslow (6.4 ppg 5.2 rpg) and Tyler Johnson (8.7 ppg 3.0 rpg), the Heat look to keep pace in the East and prove to Wade and Miami fans that they’re not yet going to take a sharp drop without him. Superbook total: 36.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Atlanta Hawks (48-34)- This will seem like a regular theme coming from this division but the loss of Al Horford (to Boston) and Jeff Teague (to Indiana) will definitely have some repercussions in Atlanta. Sure, this gives the chance to Dennis Schroeder (11.0 ppg 4.4 apg) to show more of the promise he showed off when competing in last season’s playoff and the addition of hometown native Dwight Howard (13.7 ppg 11.8 rpg w/ Houston) makes things a little more plausible for Atlanta fans. Players such as Kent Bazemore (11.6 ppg 5.1 rpg), Kyle Korver (9.2 ppg 3.3 rpg) and Paul Milsap (17.1 ppg 9.0 rpg) will have to work harder though for good shots with Horford gone and thus the task in repeating last year’s success becomes that much more difficult. Superbook total: 43.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Orlando Magic (35-47)- The Magic have confounded many over the past few seasons with the constant changing of directions they were headed in, Orlando with some subtle moves over the summer seems to be finally headed in a positive direction. The additions of Serge Ibaka (12.6 ppg 6.8 rpg w/ Oklahoma City) and Bismack Biyombo (5.5 ppg 8.0 rpg w/ Toronto) to bolster what was a thin front line should make the Magic a little more capable on the defensive end. While the loss of Victor Oladipo will be felt in the back court, the Magic to achieve any success must find a consistent outside shooting threat if they want to compete at a higher level. Superbook total: 36.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Charlotte Hornets (48-34)- An overachiever that showed heart and promise last season, this team looks decidedly this time around as the loss of Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson has eroded the team’s depth and reliable offensive punch. Kemba Walker (20.9 ppg 5.2 apg) and Nicholas Batum (14.9 ppg 6.1 rpg) will be asked to take on a greater role this season because the team depth, once a strong point for the hornets looks to be a thing of the past. Superbook total: 39.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
Conference Finals: Cleveland over Boston
Western Conference (w/predicted order of finish)
- Portland Trailblazers (44-38)- The surprise to literally everyone last season with a record substantially better than anyone had predicted and a playoff run that inspired hope and experience to a team that looked to be very formidable moving forward. Having one of the best back courts in the league in Damian Lillard (25.1 ppg 6.8 apg) and C.J. McCollum (20.8 ppg 4.3 apg) helped transform the team from what many thought would be doom and gloom to a team on the cusp of doing some really good things. Even the questionable signings of Evan Turner (10.5 ppg 4.9 rpg w/ Boston) and Festus Ezili (7.0 ppg 5.6 rpg)and some really high priced re-signs may stall some of those future title aspirations if even for only a little bit. Superbook total: 46.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Utah Jazz (40-42)- After last season’s promise and some sly veteran acquisitions, the Jazz this summer became a trendy pick to make some noise in the Northwest division. Nabbing seasoned pros like George Hill (12.1 ppg 4.0 apg w/ Indiana), Joe Johnson (13.4 ppg 3.6 apg w/Miami) and Boris Diaw (6.4 ppg 3.1 rpg w/San Antonio) for a savvy veteran presence was well thought out but ultimately the team’s success rides on how the collection of skilled young talent finally takes a big step forward after showing years of promise. Rudy Gobert (9.1 ppg 11.0 rpg) and Rodney Hood 914.5 ppg 3.4 rpg) look poised to take that leap while waiting for star Gordon Heyward (19.7 ppg 5.0 rpg) to come back from injury. Their season may not start off on the best of notes but by the end of the season this could very well be the team no one wants to play come playoff time. Superbook total: 47.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)- There is no good way to sugar coat this. The Oklahoma City Thunder will not be as good as they were last season. While that is no revelation considering they lost one of top 5 players in the game in Kevin Durant for absolutely nothing the team while not as good has a great deal of pieces that can make for a competitive team on a nightly basis. Russell Westbrook (23.5 ppg 10.4 apg) may become the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double during the regular season. Flanked with adequate component pieces such as Victor Oladipo (16.0 ppg 4.8 rpg w/ Orlando), Enes Kanter (12.7 ppg 8.1 rpg) and the emerging Steven Adams (8.0 ppg 6.7 rpg), look for the Thunder to be down but definitely not out this NBA season. Superbook total:45.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (29-53)- The future is bright in Minnesota and when looking over the roster how can it not be? Starting with Karl Anthony Towns who will be a superstar to be reckoned with for a long time along with Andrew Wiggins (20.7 ppg 3.6 rpg), Zack Lavine (14.0 ppg 3.8 apg) and Gorgui Deng (10.1 ppg 7.1 rpg), the T-Wolves look to have a foundation for years to come. Coach Tom Thibideau will still have to come to a definitive long-term answer at point guard between incumbent Ricky Rubio (10.1 ppg 8.7 apg) and rookie Kris Dunn but with some additional seasoning and some slight tweaks to the roster and the success they achieved in their glory years may not be that far off. Superbook total: 41.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Denver Nuggets (33-49)- Another promising team in a division full of potential, the Nuggets still find themselves looking up even though the view will most likely not be a “mile high” away this time around. Carrying a definite international flavor, the team will weigh a great deal of its hopes on Danilo Gallinari (19.5 ppg 5.3 rpg), Jusuf Nurkic (8.2 ppg 5.5 rpg) and Nikola Jokic (10.0 ppg 7.0 rpg) to gain any kind of headway this season. If Wilson Chandler (13.9 ppg 6.1 rpg), Emmanuel Mudiay (12.8 ppg 5.5 apg) and Jamal Murry can give them any kind of consistency this year, the Nuggets climb back to respectability may be shorter than a lot of people think. Superbook total: 34.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Golden State Warriors (73-9)- For whatever great accomplishment winning 73 games would be was lost in a humbling and almost prophetic comeback by the Cavs who became the first team in NBA history to win a finals series down three games to one. Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for themselves all the Warriors did was get themselves the best free agent acquisition of the summer in Kevin Durant (28.2 ppg 8.2 rpg w/ Oklahoma City). Now with Durant, Stephen Curry (30.1 ppg 6.7 apg), Klay Thomspon 922.1 ppg 3.8 rpg) and Draymond Green (14.0 ppg 9.5 rpg) there is a four player punch that on paper looks like no other NBA team can match. The only down side to this is that at the cost of getting Durant, the Warriors had to rid themselves of some of their precious depth that they were continually noted for. If any of the “big four” get hurt around playoff time that may bode ill to the Warriors chances of being champs again, but if they stay healthy look for them to be the team to watch out for this season. Superbook total: 66.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Los Angeles Clippers (53-29)- No one can say they didn’t give it a go together. The trio of Chris Paul (19.5 ppg 10.0 apg), Blake Griffin (21.4 ppg 8.4 rpg) and Deandre Jordan (12.7 ppg 13.8 rpg) have been trying to break through the hierarchy now for several seasons but have yet to even make the conference finals even though they have had their opportunities.But with both Paul and Griffin in contract years, the urgency to break through to a higher plateau has never been greater. The composition of the team could look drastically different in the future if the Clippers don’t put together a season for the ages this year. Superbook total: 53.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Phoenix Suns (23-59)- After suffering through years of struggles and pointless direction, the Suns appear to have a plethora of young talent that if given time should bode well for improvement in the next couple of seasons. While the trio of Devin Booker (13.8 ppg 2.5 apg), Eric Bledsoe (20.4 ppg 6.1 apg) and Brandon Knight (19.6 ppg 5.1 apg) looks good on a fantasy basketball roster, the reality sets in that this back court may never mesh well enough to see its full potential. Look for veteran pieces such as Bledsoe, Knight or Tyson Chandler (7.2 ppg 8.7 rpg) to be moved to allow more time to see if promising big man Alex Len and rookies Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender will eventually pan out. Superbook total: 26.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Sacramento Kings (33-49)- Quite often referred to as a laughing stock of the league and a mess of an organization, the Kings look to try to right the ship and head in a direction the fans can finally be proud of once again. But with DeMarcus Cousins (26.9 ppg 11.5 rpg) and Rudy Gay (17.2 ppg 6.5 rpg) both disgruntled, Darren Collison (14.0 ppg 4.3 apg) out the first eight games due to a suspension and a filled out roster full of mix-matched parts it could be easy to say this ship is still heading toward a rocky voyage for a little while longer. Superbook total: 32.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- Los Angeles Lakers (17-65)- The once vaunted Lakers have hit rock bottom as continually bad decisions that have been made since they won their last championship in 2010 have continually haunted the franchise. This summer proved no different as highly questionable signings Timofey Mosgov and Luol Deng don’t look to improve the roster but instead serve to continue the headache for Lakers fans. On a brighter note, with Kobe Bryant retired the focus with new coach Luke Walton has clearly shifted into developing young talent such as D’Angelo Russell (13.2 ppg 3.4 rpg), Jordan Clarkson (15.5 ppg 4.0 rpg), Julius Randle (11.3ppg 10.2 rpg) and rookie Brandon Ingram. Cries for VP Jim Buss to hold his promise of stepping down if the Lakers don’t compete at a higher level will get substantially louder this season but that shouldn’t take away the promise their youth will bring them if they are allowed to play to their capabilities. Superbook total: 24.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- San Antonio Spurs (67-15)- It’s very strange how a 67-win time becomes quickly forgotten but that’s how it was for much of the year for the Spurs who had their best regular season ever but because of the Warriors doing even better not much was ever said about the team from San Antonio. Getting upset in the second round to Oklahoma City showed that there was still some adjustments that needed to be made before the Spurs could ever get their just due. The retirement this summer of Hall of Famer Tim Duncan left a void both on the floor but especially in the locker room but the team understanding that loss went out and signed Pau Gasol (16.5 ppg 11.0 rpg) to anchor the middle. Even though Gasol’s best days like Duncan’s was last season are behind him his skill set should add stability to their offense to make up for whatever they lose on the defensive end. Kawhi Leonard (21.2 ppg 6.8 rpg) and LaMarcus Aldridge (18.0 ppg 8.5 rpg) are still the stars of the team and with another year together hopefully can play even more cohesively while still being surrounded by a bevy of quality veterans backing them up. While the Spurs secret sauce concocted by coach Greg Popovich still is churning out high level teams year after year doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, another early exit from the playoffs and a desire to make some major tweaks may be more inclined. Superbook total: 56.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Houston Rockets (41-41)- A lot of changes were made after a disappointment just one season removed from the conference finals. Out goes coaches and players and in comes a new directive and focus under new coach Mike D’Antoni with his “seven seconds or less” up tempo style. With new additions Ryan Anderson (17.0 ppg 6.0 rpg w/New Orleans) and Eric Gordon (15.2 ppg 2.7 apg w/ New Orleans) ready to fling up three pointers at a moment’s notice and star James Harden (29.0ppg 7.5 apg) getting the ball in his hands even more now that he has been shifted to point guard duties and this could be one of the funnest teams to watch this NBA season. Superbook total: 41.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Dallas Mavericks (42-40)- Ever since they won a championship in 2011, Dallas has suffered from a malaise of under talented rosters and just enough good coaching by Rick Carlisle to make them a middle of the road team just okay enough to be decent but not bad enough to sufficiently build their team through the draft. Their relevancy to get just enough free agent acquisitions to survive has not made Dirk Nowitzki’s (18.3 ppg 6.5 rpg) final years any easier wallowing in mediocrity. Well guess what? The same situation on the surface seems to be happening again as the roster is filled with veterans on their last legs and new additions in Golden State castoffs Andrew Bogut (5.4 ppg 7.0 rpg ) and Harrison Barnes (11.7 ppg 4.9 rpg) who don’t move the needle in a significant enough direction. Hang onto your hats Mavs fans because it is looking like it will be “deja vu” all over again. Superbook total: 39.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go OVER.
- Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)- How the Grizzlies managed to have a winning record last season is head scratching. An NBA record 28 players suited up for the team in what looked more like a M.A.S.H unit then anything else. Credit should go to coach Dave Joerger but instead he was told to find greener pastures in Sacramento. While Marc Gasol (16.6 ppg 7.0 rpg) is back and Mike Conley (15.3 ppg 6.1 apg) is more financially secure after signing the richest contract in the offseason, things should be looking on the way up for the team. But a history of injuries and a continual problem of not having enough shooters don’t instill much confidence in picking this team to get any higher this year. Superbook total: 43.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
- New Orleans Pelicans (30-52)- Let’s start off with the good news. Anthony Davis (24.3 ppg 10.3 rpg) is back healthy and when he is on his game he is a top 10 player without a doubt. Now the bad news: due to continual injuries and team attrition, the surrounding cast looks to be at its weakest point in some time leaving the Pelicans way off from the promising future they were on the verge of having just two short seasons ago. Rookie Buddy Hield should garner plenty of playing time and a more than fair opportunity to become a favorite to win the rookie of the year. Unfortunately there’s not much else to get Pelicans fans excited about as it will be at least another year before they get on the right track. Superbook total: 36.5 wins. Pop Culture Cosmos says they go UNDER.
Conference Finals: Golden State over Los Angeles Clippers
NBA Finals: Golden State over Cleveland in the “rubber match” for the third straight year. There is the realization that this prediction is not going out on the limb but as of now there are really two teams that clearly stand out above all the rest and in the end that’s exactly who will meet one more time.
So that’s the Pop Culture Cosmos look at the upcoming 2016-2017 NBA season. Feel free to share your thoughts here or on our social media and check back to this article for reference and laugh when everything predicted here goes sideways in what could be a very interesting season.