TGS SPECIAL REPORT...NBA 2019-20 SEASON WINS TO WATCH!by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor and P. Carl Giordano, Managing Editor
It’s hoops time! As is usually the case, the offseason proved a blur, and after it seems just a blink since the Raptors won the title in uplifting fashion, the 2019-20 NBA season is ready to tip off this week. Which also means it’s time to begin our hoops coverage with featured NBA “over/under” win recommendations; 2019-20 win totals, as posted by Westgate Las Vegas, are noted next to each team. This story will re-appear in Issue 2 later this week. Thanks also to TGS Hoops consultant Greg Pappas for his contributions.
ATLANTIC DIVISION: BEST BETS...Well so much for all of those plans to make a quick return to glory at Madison Square Garden. So it went in the offseason for the New York Knicks (27), who first had to see their dreams of drafting on top and taking Zion Williamson instead scuttled in the draft lottery. Then they had to suffer the unimaginable gall of watching their neighbors from less-glamorous Brooklyn land a couple of the big prizes in the offseason free agent sweepstakes, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Apparently, the charm of HC David Fizdale could not overcome organizational dysfunction that starts at the top with unpredictable owner James Dolan (sell, James, sell! The team, that is!), but the Knicks didn’t exit the offseason empty-handed. Some believe the other Duke rookie, swingman RJ Barrett, might be as good in the NBA as Zion, and he joins an interesting young core featuring ex-Mavs G Dennis Smith, F Kevin Knox, and C Mitchell Robinson. Some of the consolation prizes in free agency are functional NBA entities; Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington should all contribute. This is a better roster than a year ago at MSG and the Knicks will improve. But can they upgrade 11 wins from last year’s 17? We’re not ready to go there quite yet, so we’ll say “under” at MSG, even with the arrow pointing up for the Knicks... It’s always a fragile situation with the Philadelphia 76ers (55), with Joel Embiid having to be treated with care, lest his considerable injury history once again become an issue. With that in mind, inking Al Horford from Boston in the offseason seems a worthwhile insurance policy, as the versatile Horford can ease some of the workload on Embiid and make it more palatable for big Joel to take the occasional night off. But Philly needs to make some adjustment for the departure of Jimmy Butler, who the offense ran through after his trade addition from the T-wolves, and we don’t necessarily see Tobias Harris or ex-Heat Josh Richardson filling that role as well. We also wonder when Ben Simmons is ever going to get comfy shooting the occasional triple that his game requires for him to be considered one of the elites. Remember, the Sixers won only 51 last year and that was keeping Embiid healthy most of the way, plus having Butler for almost the whole season. It might be a stretch to match last year’s win total, though the locals aren’t going to be paying much attention until the Eagles are officially eliminated from the Super Bowl chase anyway. Look “under” at Wells Fargo Center.
OTHERS: We’re suggesting to underestimate the Boston Celtics (49 ½) at your own peril. The loss of Kyrie Irving in free agency could be a gut-punch except for the fact that Kemba Walker was added from the Hornets to fill that go-to role. More than anything, ridding the clubhouse of Irving and his moodiness could turn into a big plus for a side with many of last year’s other key pieces such as Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward expected to continue making improvement. Al Horford’s departure to Philly might concern us more than Kyrie’s exit; among other things, Boston loses much on the defensive end with Enes Kanter as Horford’s replacement piece. But Brad Stevens is so shrewd on the bench that we believe a happier bunch of Celtics clear 50 wins. “Over” at TD Garden... Never mind Kawhi Leonard bolting (as expected) to the Clippers in the summer; the Toronto Raptors (46) forever win the trade sweepstakes that brought Kawhi to The North even for one season, as that NBA crown can never be taken away. A repeat performance looks a bit far-fetched, but HC Nick Nurse atill has a pretty well-oiled machine at Scotiabank Arena. Look for versatile Pascal Siakam to emerge alongside Kyle Lowry in a new-look 1-2 combo, and the roles for a capable supporting cast including Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet are well-defined. If F O.G. Anunoby (who missed the playoffs after an appendectomy) continues to develop, the Raps can still be solid at both ends of the floor. Maybe the playoff party at “Jurassic Park” won’t repeat, as the champs figure to back up a bit sans Kawhi, but they won’t collapse; it’s an “over” for us in Toronto... GM Sean Marks created a lot of buzz in the offseason, but the payoff for the Brooklyn Nets (44) might have to wait a year. Kevin Durant’s decision to ink at Barclays Center was big news, but he is unlikely to make any contributions this season as he heals from his Achilles tendon tear suffered in the playoffs. In tandem with the other major summer signee, Kyrie Irving from the Celtics, Brooklyn will be formidable...in 2020-21. DeAndre Jordan also enlisted in July, but he’s a complementary piece and will also be more effective whenever Durant returns. True, the Nets arrived a bit earlier than expected last season as a surprise playoff qualifier for Kenny Atkinson, with several steady role players like Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen in the mix, and Caris LeVert looking to be a rising star. Adding Irving and Jordan to the mix should theoretically be a plus, and Brooklyn could again squeeze into the playoffs. But in an improved East, getting into the mid 40s in wins might not be as easy as it looks. Still, no advantage with the number, so it’s a pass for us at Barclays Center.
CENTRAL DIVISION: BEST BETS...It was easy to forget that the Detroit Pistons (38) made the playoffs last season after going out in the first round vs. the Bucks in the NBA equivalent of Sonny Liston destroying Floyd Patterson once upon a time. And there was no big noise in the offseason, either, aside from some chatter that the Pistons might be in the running to land Russell Westbrook (didn’t happen). Instead, Detroit thinks it might have made some modest upgrades in the supporting cast around core pieces Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson. Eight years ago, it might have been a bigger deal to add G Derrick Rose, though the hope is that he can still provide considerable offense in shorter spurts (he did score 18 ppg in 51 games for the T-wolves last term). The risk with the Pistons is the considerable injury history of many of the key cogs, mainly Griffin, though Jackson missed a chunk of last season, too, and we know of Rose’s injury past. But the operation has stabilized under 2nd-year HC Dwane Casey, and if Detroit stays relatively healthy, no reason it backs up from a year ago. “Over” at Little Caesar’s... It was a shame we didn’t get to see the Indiana Pacers (47½) at full strength after January following Victor Oladipo’s season-ending quad rupture. At 32-15 when Oladipo went down, Indiana seemed a legit threat, but limped into the playoffs where the Celtics pulled out the broom in the first round. Not content to simply let Oladipo recover and pick up where things left off, GM Kevin Pritchard instead made sweeping changes to the roster, with six of the top ten scorers from last season now departed. Pritchard, however, added shrewdly; ex-Buck Malcolm Brogdon and ex-Hornet Jeremy Lamb should be able to share much of the load on the perimeter for a month or so until Oladipo is ready to return. The roster is long and deep, and their size advantage with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, should play well in the small-ball East. “Over” at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
OTHERS: The post-LeBron hangover continues for the Cleveland Cavaliers (24 ½), whose fans are enduring a painful re-run of what happened the first time King James left the fold back in 2010. The team remains in transition; while Kevin Long and Tristan Thompson comprise a capable frontline duo when healthy, there is a decent chance both could be on the move at the deadline as Cleveland transitions into a full-scale rebuild. The Cavs are still very young in the backcourt with the SEC duo of 2nd-year ex-Bama Collin Sexton and Vandy rookie Darius Garland still of age to be playing in college, and in the end it might make more sense for new HC John Beilein (for whom we have the greatest respect) to simply blood these and other youngsters and hope to accelerate the re-boot. Check back in two years; for the moment, however, look “under” at the “Q”...It looks like the Chicago Bulls (33 ½) have begun to assemble the core of a potential playoff contender, but even in a best-case scenario, the arrival date remains somewhere down the road. There are some interesting pieces in place (Fs Lauri Markkanen & Wendell Carter, swingman Otto Porter among them), and we like the addition of functional G Tomas Satoransky from the Wizards in the offseason. But the durability of highlight-reel Zach LaVine (hurt in four of his first five seasons) remains a concern, and dealing with mercurial North Carolina rookie PG Coby White is now Jim Boylen’s problem after White turned Roy Williams’ hair another shade of grey last winter in Chapel Hill. Is White (who fancies himself like the Kobe with a “K”) really the one to pull the pieces together on the floor? And will be tortured Boylen (under whom the Bulls were only 17-41 last season) be around whenever the payoff is realized? “Under” at United Center... Sure, they haven’t been this excited for the Milwaukee Bucks (59) since Kareem was known as Lew Alcindor and arrived a half-century ago (in fact, we just passed the golden anniversary of Lew/Kareem’s NBA debut on October 18). But Milwaukee could not locate that extra gear in the East Finals to finish off the Raptors and advance to their first title round since Abdul-Jabbar and the Big O were still teammates in 1974. We suspect, however, that the Bucks might miss versatile G Malcolm Brogdon (who has moved to the Pacers) a bit more than most realize, and expect a bit more “load management” for Giannis, who is going to have to do a lot of heavy lifting for Milwaukee to get to 60 wins. Maybe it does, and Mike Budenholzer’s clever “spread the floor with shooters around the Freak” look could certainly get the Bucks back to the top of the East. But we also believe that 59 is probably a very proper win number, and would simply rather pass at the Fiserv Forum.
SOUTHEAST DIVISION: BEST BETS... Should Michael Jordan consider suiting up for the Charlotte Hornets (23)? That might be a thought, considering the cratering that is likely at the Spectrum Center after failing to hang onto G Kemba Walker, who moved to Boston in free agency after everyone in Charlotte from Cam Newton to M.J. was hoping for his return. Maybe the Hornets should have dealt Walker for something at the trade deadline last February. What is left looks like a dysfunctional roster with too many high-priced veterans with little trade value (Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller) that need to be shed for serious rebuilding to begin. For the moment, those vets probably block the playing time of some younger players except for G Terry Rozier, over from the Celtics to try and fill the Kemba role. We were only half-kidding about M.J. suiting up and trying to provide some help; “under” at the Bee Hive... We rather enjoyed the Orlando Magic (42 ½) becoming relevant again last season and making the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Much credit to HC Steve Clifford, who had mixed results in Charlotte but seemed to push the right buttons in Disney Town, gettingn the Magic to buy in on defense (no easy feat) and revamping the offense. Retaining prolific frontliner Nikola Vucevic was good news in the offseason, and franchise building blocks such as versatile Aaron Gordon and emerging SF Jonathan Isaac remain in place. We also like the addition of vet ex-Blazers F Al-Farouq Aminu, who looks a good fit for the sort of defense that Clifford preaches. With many pieces in place, Clifford can also take his time with former top draft pick G Markelle Fultz, who endured an injury-plagued nightmare in Philly but still certainly worth the gamble. It’s an “over” for us at Amway Center.
OTHERS: Sports priorities have changed in D.C., as it’s become a baseball and hockey town thanks to the Nats and Caps, not so much with football (Redskins) and basketball. In fact, only because the Redskins are so bad that the Washington Wizards (24 ½) might not be bottom of the local pile. Star G Bradley Beal just signed a $72 mill, 2-year extension, but we’re not sure that is over-the-top good news, as among other things he’s no longer in a contract year that often does wonders for a star’s production. Remember, longtime backcourt mate John Wall likely misses the entire season as he rehabs from last season’s Achilles tear, and there are already other injury issues on the roster (such as G C.J. Miles, dealing with foot problems) as well as plenty of offseason outflow that did not seem to strengthen the roster. Will HC Scott Brooks bail out before being made a scapegoat? Look “under” at Verizon Center... The Atlanta Hawks (35 ½) have been hitting some homers in recent drafts and looked to be doing much of the same in June with a couple of promising swingmen, Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter and Duke’s Cam Reddish, grabbed in the first round and full of upside to go along with other recent productive draftees such as Gs Trae Young and Kevin Huerter and frontliner John Collins, who have already made positive impacts. Expect continued improvement under 2nd-year HC Lloyd Pierce, who was part of “The Process” in Philly and knows the value of patience. Atlanta should be improved, but we’re on the fence about adding 8 wins from year ago and making aplayoff push, so we’d rather simply pass at State Farm Arena... Pat Riley is doing his darnedest to make the Miami Heat (44 ½) relevant again. To that end, he needed a marquee performer after franchise icon Dwyane Wade finally hung ‘em up after last season. Enter Jimmy Butler, whose friendship with Wade convinced him to bypass other destinations and gives Miami the featured attraction it (and Riley) desired. Butler, however, can be a bit of a mixed bag, as he has disrupted chemistry at multiple locales in the past, so perhaps Erik Spoelstra would be well-served to hire Dr. Phil on a consultant basis, and the rest of the roster is loaded with role players who might or might not prove proper fits for Butler. We will say that the chance Chris Paul or another backcourt force lands in Miami before the trade deadline could change the dynamics, but for now the Heat looks a bit of a mystery to us. It’s a pass at AA Arena.
SOUTHWEST DIVISION: BEST BETS...Whatever the storyline with Zion Williamson, it’s going to be a fun season for the New Orleans Pelicans (38½). Zion’s knee injury toward the end of preseason was not deemed serious, though it will probably sideline him the first couple of weeks of the campaign. This will give the rest of the roster a chance to ferment; with a new delivery on his shot, Lonzo Ball is looking like the player the Lakers thought they drafted a couple of years ago, and, with ex-LA teammate Brandon Ingram, a potential 20 ppg scorer, joining borderline All-Star Jrue Holiday and vet dagger thrower JJ Redick on the perimeter, there is plenty of non-Zion firepower at the disposal of HC Alvin Gentry. The steal of the draft could also be ex-Virginia Tech wing Nickiell Alexander-Walker, who was wowing ‘em in preseason. It might be worth getting the NBA League Pass just to watch this electric show that might really illuminate with Zion. “Over” at Smoothie King Center... A lot has to go right for any team to bounce ten wins from the year before. In the case of the Dallas Mavericks (42½), the hope is that a now-healthy ex-Knick Kristaps Porzingis, teamed with 2nd-year Luca Doncic, will be the pairing that turns the West on its collective ear. First, however, these two have to stay healthy for much of the season (that’s already proven a chore for Porzingis). And second, there needs to be some sustained contributions from the supporting cast, which has several competent complementary pieces like new additions Seth Curry and Delon Wright, plus the functional Maxi Kleber. But can the Mavs improve 10 wins from last year’s 33? At least Mark Cuban doesn’t appear to be tanking this year, but we’re still looking “under” in Big D.
OTHERS: They’re not even giving the illusion of contention with the Memphis Grizzlies (27), into full-scale rebuild mode these days. Though adding highlight-reel Murray State G Ja Morant after last year’s first-round pick 6-11 Jaren Jackson provides a nice foundation, this blend is going to need some time to ferment, especially as new HC Taylor Jenkins (only 34, off of the Mike Budenholzer staff in Milwaukee) will be learning on the job as well. We’ll be interested to see what the Grizz plans to do with Andre Iguodala, who is unlikely to suit up as personnel head honcho Zach Kleiman tries to work out a trade instead of a straight buyout. But that’s the sort of season it figures to be in the Bluff City, where it will be Penny Hardaway’s Memphis Tigers generating more of the local buzz. “Under” at FedEx Forum...Last season, the San Antonio Spurs (47 ½) still got to 48 wins playing without the injured Dejounte Murray, who figured as one of the key cogs for Coach Pop. Especially on the stop end, as the Spurs defense suffered without Murray, who earned an All-NBA Defensive team honor (second team) the previous season. With Murray and shrewd offseason addition DeMarre Carroll in the mix, defense should greatly improve in the Alamo City. DeMar DeRozan (in a contract year) and LaMarcus Aldridge are also still around as reliable 20+-point scorers, and the Spurs do not have a history of selling at the trade deadline, so expect the core to remain set for another run at the playoffs. And we know Coach Pop can always squeeze a few extra wins from his troops. “Over” at AT&T Center... While wondering if there can be enough balls on the court for newly-added Russell Westbrook to co-exist with James Harden in this year’s version of the Houston Rockets (54 ½), one must note these two are hardly unfamiliar with one another, having previously spent several seasons together at Ok City. While they will have to learn again how to share the ball, we suspect they will co-exist just fine. It‘s elsewhere on the roster where we have some concerns, as even with those ball-dominators on the floor, we’re not sure about other scoring options beyond G Eric Gordon (in a contract year and possible trade bait at the deadline), and keeping C Clint Capela healthy is a concern. The Rockets are certainly playoff-bound once again, but in the tough West, can they get to 55 wins? It’s an “under” for us at Toyota Center.
NORTHWEST DIVISION: BEST BETS...The Minnesota Timberwolves (35½) have been teasing the NBA the past few seasons, but to this point a sole playoff appearance in 2018 (and a quick regression) have been the only payoff. A new front office will try the latest re-boot, but things didn’t get off too well in the summer when the T-wolves failed to land their key target, D’Angelo Russell, in hopes of providing some help for Karl-Anthony Towns before he’s eligible to leave in a couple of years. Even with Jimmy Butler helping to torpedo the first month of last season, Minnesota had recovered to 19-21 when hitting the eject button on HC Tom Thibodeau, who was never able to get the Wolves playing defense the way he would prefer. Successor Ryan Saunders didn’t even try, instead effectively rolling the ball out on the court and telling his troops to play. That went over well with much of the immature sorts on the roster but the win percentage regressed, and being popular with the players seems to be the main reason Saunders was retained. By this point, we’re also beyond waiting for Andrew Wiggins to ever forge a major breakthrough. It’s an “under” for us at Target Center...Are the Denver Nuggets (53) ready to assume a favorite’s role in West? In a league with a lot of player movement in the offseason, the Nuggets opting for continuity and internal development might bode well, especially in the early stages of the campaign. A significant home edge at the Pepsi Center can’t be discounted, either. They kept the band mostly together by re-signing rugged PF Paul Millsap, and frontliner Jerami Grant should prove a useful offseason addition from the Thunder. But it’s “The Joker (Nikola Jokic) and Jamal (Murray) Show” that figures to continue improving, and under Mike Malone, the Nugs are the only team to raise their win total in each of the last four seasons. Their young roster will help with load management, and their depth puts them in position to best manage the 82-game schedule. Denver fans are ready to cheer for something after watching the Rockies and Broncos flounder, so we’re looking “over” at Pepsi Center.
OTHERS: Sometimes we like to go out on a limb with these season-win forecasts, which always have to consider possible roster changes and new “load management” issues that could change the look of enough rosters for enough games to impact the win totals. There are also teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder (31 ½) that might be one of those to have a different eventual look, especially beyond the trade deadline when vet Gs Chris Paul (over from Houston) and Dennis Schroder are likely to be targets. But assuming a best-case scenario, and the lineup doesn’t either deplete itself thru trade or deteriorate via injury, OKC can probably get to the mid 30s even after the departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, especially as a couple of those who came in return (preseason hit Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, and dependable Danilo Gallinari) can be more than serviceable. Some also believe HC Billy Donovan has room to get more creative now that he doesn’t have to calculate Westbrook’s touches into every possession. It’s a measured “over” for us at The Peake... We have been guilty of overlooking the Portland Traiblazers (46) in the past and underestimated shrewd HC Terry Stotts. This season, however, there might be reason to downgrade Rip City. The improvements of 7-footer Josuf Nurkic were a part of the recent upgrades, but he is out while rehabbing a severe leg injury until probably the All-Star break, if not longer. And with the aging Pau Gasol (foot) and Hassan Whiteside (ankle) both likely out at the outset of the season, and valued defensive stopped Al-Farouq Aminu among the offseason departures, Stotts is dealing with a severely-compromised frontline even before the season even tips. Yes, the electric backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can still shoot the Blazers into any game, but the winds seem to be blowing in the wrong directions, at least at the outset, in Portland. “Under” for us at the Moda Center... The Utah Jazz (54 ½) think the addition of PG Mike Conley from the Grizzlies might push them over the top in the West. We don’t discount that possibility, but after scratching and clawing to 50 wins a year ago, and some ports in the West looking much stronger this term, adding another 5 wins looks a tricky task for HC Quin Snyder (who has just signed a nice extension, by the way). To get to 55 and above, Conley will have to hit the ground running, and C Rudy Gobert needs to stay healthy, or else the Jazz lose a unique rim protector they cannot replace in their lineup. Snyder might also miss long-serving Derrick Favors, a functional presence for years but now doing his thing in New Orleans. Utah might emerge to fill the Golden State vacuum in the West, but could still do so without reaching 55 wins. “Under” in Salt Lake City.
PACIFIC DIVISION: BEST BETS...By the time we get to April, and if all hands are on deck, the new-look LA Clippers (54½) might indeed be in position to make a run at the NBA title. But we know at the outset that one of the two big offseason additions, Paul George, is going to be on the shelf due to a shoulder injury that could sideline him for more than a month. The other decorated newcomer, Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, enlisted with the Clips partly because he trusted Doc Rivers to rest him properly and make sure he is fresh for the postseason. The Clips maintained enough complementary pieces (Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell) to absorb any huge fallout from injuries, but this team is being pointed toward the spring, not the first couple of months of the season that are still in autumn. The Clips should be a serious force come playoff time, but in how many regular-season games are George and Kawhi going to be avaialble at the same time? It’s an “under” for us at the Clip Joint... We usually pump the brakes a bit on the annual hype for the Los Angeles Lakers (50 ½), whose fan base has had expectations through the roof since even before the long-go Showtime era. Now, the next incarnation of the Lake Show had added Anthony Davis alongside LeBron in a potentially frightening 1-2 punch. We wonder, however, just how many games those two will actually play together in the regular season, with LeBron off of a disjointed L.A. debut thanks in part to a lingering groin strain last term, and Davis an established injury risk throughout his career. (Davis, by the way, suffered a potentially aggravating thumb injury late in the preseason and could be out or perhaps limited in the early going). But we suspect the depth on the roster can function just fine even on the nights one or both of the superstars are sidelined, with Kyle Kuzma on the verge of becoming a breakout star, Rajon Rondo providing a vet backcourt presence, and the frontline combo of Dwight Howard (back for a second tour of duty at Staples Center) and JaVale McGee capable of combining for some serviceable work in the post. As long as the injury bug stays at DeMarcus Cousins (knee, out for season) and not too much further, new HC Frank Vogel can steers L.A. into the 50s (win, that is, not decade). “Over” for the Lake Show.
OTHERS: While the Golden State Warriors (48 ½) are being discounted by many insiders in the wake of Kevin Durant’s injury/departure, and Klay Thompson’s absence probably thru the All-Star break as he rehabs a knee injury, we suspect the Warriors are not going to give up their four consecutive Western crowns without a fight. Steph and Draymond are still in the mix, joined by ex-Laker and Net D’Angelo Russell, off of an All-Star season in Brooklyn, and once Klay returns there’s four-firths of the lineup filled with All-Stars. As the season progresses and Steve Kerr figures some things out (and the team acclimates itself to the posh new Chase Center, close to the Giants’ Oracle Park on the bayfront), Golden State might prove a pleasant surprise and show it’s not finished yet. It’s an “over” for us in The City... They seem to be assembling the core of a possible contender down the road, but it’s still a long way in the distance for the Phoenix Suns (29 ½), who couldn’t parlay all of tat hope into anything more than 19 wins a year ago. Enlisting vet HC Monty Williams looks a rare smart move by unpredictable owner Robert Sarver after the Igor Koskokov experiment went off the rails last term. Maybe adding Ricky Rubio from the Jazz provides the PG needed to free up Devin Booker (26.6 ppg LY) to score even more, but the chore for Williams will be to get Booker and several others to simply pay occasional attention on defense. And at this point, 2nd-year C Deandre Ayton remains a highly promising but highly-unfinished product, and another of the many on this roster that could use some tutoring on the stop unit. Phoenix should improve into the 20s in wins, but getting into the 30s looks more than a chore for Williams. It’s an “under” for us at the Talking Stick, adjacent to the D-backs’ Chase Field... It’s been a long time since the Sacramento Kings (38 ½) were relevant, and by the looks of things the oddsmakers believe they’re getting closer. The West is a tough place to live, and the Pacific tougher so with apparent upgrades for both teams in L.A., but Sacto cannot be overlooked as recent draft picks De’Arron Fox and Marvin Bagley III look like keepers, and along with bombs-away Buddy Hield create a lot of fun on the court. But what new HC Luke Walton probably appreciates more will be offseason additions Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon, who should add some much-needed defensive steel. Getting close to 40 wins will require several things to fall right (including some slips by other West contenders), but we’re intrigued enough to just sit back and watch how it all unfolds in Sacto. So we’ll simply pass and enjoy the show at the breathtaking Golden 1 Center.
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