Categories
Sports

Can John Wall Reinvent Himself With the Clippers?

It’s easy to forget that John Wall is only 31 years old. He headlined an era that ended three eras ago. Back in 2009, he was John Calipari’s first major recruit at Kentucky, kicking off the wave of one-and-done moral panic. In 2010, an entire Reebok ad campaign was anchored by his signature shoe deal. Later that same year, he taught everybody how to Dougie and then tried to make the John Wall catch on too. To anybody older than, like, 17, this is probably all acutely incomprehensible; Wall’s cultural importance is like a scarab scavenged from ancient ruins—sure, you know it was once important, but it belongs to a culture that doesn’t exist.

On the court, he justified all the hype. When healthy, Wall was among the best point guards in the league, a proto-Ja Morant who breathed momentum into one of the NBA’s most stagnant franchises. He existed in the half-space between stardom and superstardom, making an All-Defense team in 2015 and an All-NBA one in 2017. With Wall at the helm, the Wizards were hugely successful by their standards, coming within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. 

Then Wall functionally disappeared, his prime robbed by a ruptured Achilles tendon and the Houston Rockets. Since December 2018, he hasn’t played a single truly meaningful NBA game—his sole appearances on an NBA court took place in 40 memory-holed games during the surreal pandemic season. Last year, he was paid $41 million to not play basketball; the Rockets put him on mandatory paid leave so they could lose as much as possible. During his should-be prime, Wall barely played—and when he did he was blah. From ages 29 to 31, Wall appeared in roughly a half-season of games and played the worst since he was a rookie. He—and, most of all, his situation at large—stunk. 

But now, with Wall slated to join the Clippers once free agency begins on July 1, he’s back, literally if not figuratively. The fit is fairly obvious—the Clippers have no guards and Wall is the best guard they could conceivably acquire. If the Clippers are awash with highly-coveted mid-sized wings, they’ve long lacked a steadying backcourt presence; their infamous collapse against the Nuggets in the bubble can largely be chalked up to the fact that nobody could mellow out their fraying nerves. While Reggie Jackson spent last year manifesting his destiny as a “SGP,” he over-dipped his chip, belching forth the lowest effective field goal percentage of any guard in the NBA.  

For the first time, Wall will not be the best player on his team the next time he suits up. With the Wizards, Wall was their animating force, making an All-Defense team in 2015 and an All-NBA one in 2017. With the Rockets, he was their star by default—he was the best player because that other 11 guys were all worse. Accordingly, he now finds himself in the same situation that late-stage point guards often find themselves in, grappling with the fact that he can no longer do what he’s always done. This rupture between the past and present is what abruptly harpooned Allen Iverson’s career and has turned Russell Westbrook into a tragic figure, but Wall’s game has always mostly resisted their kind of mega-usage. 

In this sense, Wall is a necessary addition because he provides an additive skillset. Even when he was at his absolute apex, Wall was something more interesting and opaque, an ace playmaker and defender who was pressed into lead duties by necessity; Wall’s greatest achievement isn’t his individual awards so much as the fact that he single-handedly paid for Martell Webster’s and Marcin Gortat’s great-great-grandchildren’s college tuition. Ultimately, success in Los Angeles will be determined by whether John Wall embraces the idea of reinvention or if he clings to the hope of resurrection.

Categories
Sports

What We Know About The Clippers ‘Intuit Dome’

The professional sports industry is bigger and worth more money than ever before. Teams are being sold for record prices, players are receiving higher salaries, and the stadiums… let’s just say are evolving. The days of a single jumbotron centered above half-court look to be dead. We’ve seen the potential that these types of stadiums have to hold big-time events with venues like SoFi stadium and AT&T Stadium. As Steve Balmer and the Los Angeles Clippers begin construction of their $1.8 billion new stadium, we take a look at what’s in store for Intuit Dome.

Clippers Leaving Crypto.com Arena
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Clippers were founded in 1970 as an expansion team originally named the Buffalo Braves. They had been sharing Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) with the Los Angeles Lakers since it opened in 1999. It’s common knowledge that the Clippers have lived in the shadow of the Lakers. Since Steve Ballmer purchased the Clippers for a slight $2 billion he has been keen on creating their own identity. Yes, finally getting out of your parents basement and moving into your own place is nice, but what identity are the Clippers exactly trying to cultivate?

Intuit Dome
(Via NBA.Com)

Ground was first broken for the Intuit Dome in September of 2021. The newly minted dome is slated to sit 18,000 persons, which should be ample space for the Clippers fan base. The dome is also announced to include a practice facility, sports medicine clinic, team offices, retail spaces, and a large outdoor plaza with courts open to the public. A feature that the Clippers are looking to add which no basketball arena has done before is courtside cabanas. When you hear the word cabana you usually think about sipping drinks in front of the pool, but the Clippers are looking to add that experience to the floor of NBA games. As stated on NBA.com “Courtside seats with all the perks of a suite. A first of its kind arena hospitality product, the Courtside Cabanas offer a fully immersive seating experience. The exterior seats are positioned on the outside of the suite, behind the baseline, for a private courtside view. In the interior, just steps from the court, your guests will enjoy all the amenities and privacy of a suite experience.

Halo Board
(Via Daktronics)

The Clippers recently revealed their concept images of what the inside of the stadium and jumbotron will look like. The newly minted ‘Halo Board’ will give fans a near acre-long screen to watch replays and look at live stats. The video screen will have a 4k view that stretches across the entirety of the stadium. The screen is being built by Daktronics, a pioneer LED designer that has taken the sports stadium world by storm. We won’t get any official images of the stadium until 2024 but it’s clear the Clippers have big ambitions for this project.

Categories
Sports Strength

Luke Kennard Has Built A Living On The Three Point Line

Contract extensions in the NBA can send fans into a euphoric glee or into a deep despair. Whether it’s an extension, a veteran minimum, or a super-max contract, fans are going to feel a certain way and will be quick to jump to conclusions. The problem with having a visceral reaction to your favorite teams signing a certain player is simply that you’re not clairvoyant. The future is unpredictable, and the impact a new player has on a team isn’t clear until he steps on the floor. This exact scenario arose when Luke Kennard signed a four year, $64 million extension with the Los Angeles Clippers. Fans were puzzled to say the least, and didn’t understand what Kennard had done to earn the deal. But with a little hindsight now two years into the deal, Kennard has more than lived up to his extension. 

Coming out of a blue-chip program like Duke, Luke Kennard was undeniably NBA ready by the time he was selected 12th overall in 2017 by the Detroit Pistons. At this time the Pistons were still fairly competitive, led at the time by a solid young core of Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson (Harris and Jackson were then traded for Blake Griffin at the 2018 trade deadline). Although the Pistons didn’t achieve much on-court success outside of a brief postseason appearance in 2019, Kennard established himself as a lethal shooter and role player. After a subdued first two seasons playing off of Drummond and later Griffin, Kennard had a breakout season in 2020 as he gradually assumed a bigger role. Before injuries and COVID derailed Detroit’s season, Kennard averaged 15.8 points and 4.1 assists per game. As a result of this strong season, the Clippers traded for Kennard that off-season and rewarded him with a big contract extension before he even stepped on the court for them. 

Now in his second season for the Clippers, Kennard has continued to be a flame-thrower on the perimeter. While he somewhat struggled in his first season, he’s now returned to his sharp-shooting ways; knocking down 44.8 percent of his 6.1 threes per game, Kennard is the most accurate high-volume three-point shooter in the league this year. Fittingly, Kennard’s incredible shooting marks landed him an invite to this year’s three-point contest, where he fell just short in the championship round and finished second overall in the competition. 

The return of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is looming in the background of the Clippers season, but the most consistent aspect of this Clippers team has been Luke Kennard. Turning himself into one of the most reliable and lethal 3-pt specialists, Kennard has undoubtedly deserved the extension he signed in 2020. Get used to the name Luke Kennard, because he will be ranking amongst the best shooters in the NBA for years to come.

Categories
Sports Strength

Amir Coffey: The Los Angeles Clippers Secret Weapon

When Kawhi Leonard and Paul George eloped to Los Angeles to become Clippers in the summer of 2019, it was easy to imagine that the star-studded “Battle for LA” would quickly become the NBA’s marquee matchup. Thanks to their proximity and celebrity, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis and Lebron James seemed poised to be the principal actors in a potentially era-defining rivalry. Two years later, that rivalry has yet to come to fruition as both teams have struggled with injuries and the psychic weight of high expectations. This year, the Lakers have been sabotaged by a malcontent, misshapen roster and the mangled Clippers face a nightly struggle to field seven ambulatory players for their games. But amidst the Clippers’ injury carnage, there have been ample opportunities for hungry young players to showcase their talent and establish themselves as part of the Clips’ long-term plans: Amir Coffey has done just that.

Going undrafted out of the University of Minnesota in 2019, Amir Coffey signed a two-way deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. After spending most of his first two seasons in the G-League, Coffey has made the most of his opportunities this season and grown into an important rotation piece. In the Clippers’ 20 games since 2022 started, Coffey has averaged 13.2 points per game and drained 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

One of the most overlooked aspects of any great team is their role players. Superstars may do the heaviest lifting, but it’s impossible to succeed without trust-worthy glue guys who can knock down jumpers and make smart decisions with the ball; for Coffey, the biggest difference between this year and last year is that he’s now making enough jumpers to fulfill both of those requirements. Over the last few years, Coffey has improved his true shooting from 53.7 percent during his senior year at Minnesota to 62.8 percent this season. Simultaneously, Coffey has ramped up his 3-point-shooting volume to 3.6 attempts per game, more than double his average from last year.

Although Coffey has shined under the radar for weeks, his value to the team was most readily apparent when the Clippers mounted the second-largest comeback in NBA history last month against the Washington Wizards. Against the ‘Zards, Coffey led his team in scoring, exploding for a career-high 29 points (including nine in the fourth quarter) and helping the Clippers overcome a 35-point deficit to win the game.

Admittedly, there’s a very real possibility that this month might represent the high-water mark of Coffey’s career. Last week, the Clippers nabbed Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers, introducing more competition for playing time on the wings. Additionally, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will presumably return at full-strength next season. But even if Coffey is forced to readjust to life as a 20-minute-per-game bench player, he’s cemented his status as an important piece of the Clippers’ future as a role player who can ably fill any size role.

Categories
Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From December 6th-12th

On any given night, NBA Twitter is abuzz with reminders to appreciate Lebron James or Kevin Durant while they’re still active. This week, they gave us ample opportunities to do so. To be sure, though, they weren’t the only players in the league to have notable performances. Down below are our four takeaways from it!

LeBron and KD continue to add to their highlight reels

While their greatness gets anticipated on a nightly basis, James and Durant somehow surpassed even the loftiest of expectations this past week. In addition to leading their teams to a combined 6-2 record, the pair of former NBA Finals MVPs produced one signature performance after another.

Between Durant scoring 51 points, the most scored by a player this season, and James becoming the oldest player in league history to produce a 30-point triple-double on Sunday night, it only served as additional highlights on their overwhelmingly extensive resumes.

Kelly Oubre Jr is becoming must-watch TV

Despite his obvious talents, Kelly Oubre Jr. has flown under the radar and hasn’t really showcased the true breadth of his abilities. But throughout this month, the 6-foot-6 swingman has played the best basketball of his NBA career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the playoff-contending Charlotte Hornets.

Oubre Jr is not only averaging 26 points per game since December 1st, but he’s helping the Hornets as an additional playmaker who takes some pressure off of star point guard LaMelo Ball. And the Kansas product should be applauded for being a willing rebounder, too, as he snagged ten rebounds against the Philadelphia 76ers last Saturday night.

Luka’s conditioning is now in the spotlight

Although many things said on social media about NBA players and teams don’t gain any traction, the conversations surrounding Luka Doncic and his conditioning have only gotten louder. Ever since he arrived in the league, the Mavericks’ superstar has thrived despite not being in top shape, and fans have wondered what it would be like if he were.

But with his recent ankle injury expected to have him out for multiple games, Doncic’s health is being examined more than ever. Alongside dealing with various ailing injuries over the years, Doncic has struggled with his weight and conditioning, especially with the star confirming his issue of staying in playing shape.

The LA Clippers have discovered another talent in Brandon Boston Jr

When people think about the Los Angeles Clippers, they immediately think of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but the franchise has quietly become one of the league’s best talent developers. This season, Terrence Man has built on the role that he established in last year’s playoffs and second-round rookie Brandon Boston Jr. has wormed his way into the rotation.

The 2021 second-round pick from the University of Kentucky had his best NBA game against the Boston Celtics last Saturday. Boston Jr scored 27 points and was a marksman from downtown, making five out of eight three-pointers. Even though George and, eventually, Leonard will determine the Clippers’ immediate success, their team’s ceiling could be defined the development of its promising young talents.

Categories
Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From November 8th-14th

While we’re at that time of the NBA season where everyone prematurely claims a specific player or team to be “back,” the Golden State Warriors indeed appear to be the team they once were a couple of years ago. And in the spirit of confirming one’s return or new status solidified across the league, there is much to discuss between the likes of the Washington Wizards and Paul George. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action!

Yeah, the Warriors found their swagger back

Even though various fans, media members, and even the rest of the NBA enjoyed Golden State’s struggles over the previous two seasons (59-83 in the regular season and no playoff appearances), an organization of the Warriors’ caliber wasn’t going to struggle for much longer. As we’re approaching the end of the NBA’s opening month, the Warriors aren’t only good; they’re potentially the best team in the league.

Whether it’s because of Stephen Curry leading the way and producing another all-time MVP-caliber season in the process or because of their deep collection of depth and youth, the Warriors’ 11-2 start is legitimate. And amid the Warriors’ hot start, you should remember that they’re doing this without All-Star guard Klay Thompson, who is inching his way back to the court following two consecutive season-ending injuries.

Put some respect on Paul George’s name!

As easy as it has been for NBA Twitter and other viewers to criticize and make fun of Paul George’s failures consistently, it’s only right his success gets highlighted the same way! PG13 has elevated his game to begin this season following his redemptive postseason performance this summer, and the Los Angeles Clippers couldn’t be more grateful about it.

Alongside averaging 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game while also providing two-plus steals per game, George’s leadership and clutch play have lifted the Clippers into early postseason contention at 9-5, which included a seven-game winning streak. With fellow star teammate Kawhi Leonard still out with a torn ACL, George has and will accept the responsibility of leading the Clippers until further notice.

James Harden is slowly but surely regaining his rhythm

In recent weeks, one of the more common things to watch and react to as NBA fans is players getting used to these new foul rules. The league’s greater focus on not calling fouls created by unusual moves by ballhandlers has impacted various stars, most notably James Harden. But despite his slow start to this season, the Brooklyn Nets superstar might be heading in the right direction.

Harden had his best game of this young season by producing a 39-point and 12-assist performance against the New Orleans Pelicans last Friday night (yes, we know it’s the Pelicans) while also maintaining a solid mini-stretch of basketball. Since Nov. 7th, Harden has averaged 23/8/9 while shooting 47% from the field. And as for the free throws? The “Beard” did attempt 15 freebies against the Pelicans.

The Suns are playing like the team who made the NBA Finals

For any of the teams that made the NBA Finals and lost, it was customary for them to have a slow start the following season, and the Phoenix Suns joined that group because of their 1-3 start. But unlike their counterparts, the Suns have flipped the switch, and as winners of seven consecutive games, they’ve looked every bit of the team that not only made last year’s NBA Finals but was two games away from winning it all.

In between obtaining notable wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies, the Suns currently have six players averaging double-digit points per game, and that number could reach eight if Cameron Payne and JaVale McGee round out their scoring production to double digits too.

Categories
Sports Strength

NBA Pacific Division Preview and Betting Odds

Division Winner Pick: Phoenix Suns +190

Phoenix was such a fun story to follow last season: they went undefeated in the bubble (without even making the playoffs); traded for Chris Paul; watched Devin Booker blossom into a near superstar; made the Finals; lost the Finals.

Now the Suns have a real shot to win this division and also get the top seed in the West. Not only are they bringing back their same core from last season, young guys like Deandre Ayton, Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges and Cam Payne will continue to improve. As an organization, the Suns should look to maximize their current situation; they’re a legitimate title contender–and championship windows close fast. 

Just as Phoenix benefited from some well-timed injury luck in last year’s postseason, it will find itself in a favorable situation in their division this year. The veteran-heavy Lakers will probably care more about load-managing their stars than pursuing a division title; Kawhi Leonard might not even play for the Clippers this season. Too, Klay Thompson might not be back for Golden State until the new year and the Kings are, well, the Kings. At plus odds and taking all of those factors into account, the Suns offer a ton of value.

“What If Everything Goes Right?” Pick: Golden State Warriors +550

Wardell Stephen Curry II. If you have him on your team, you have a shot. Steph will go nuclear. Would it really surprise you if he averaged 40 PPG in a month? 

The two surgeries for Klay aren’t great. And not playing in a game for over two years isn’t ideal. Still, that’s part of his allure. Maybe smoking weed, hanging out with his dog and going out on his boat will be just what he needs to return to prime Klay. Encouragingly, his game is sort of perfect for coming back from two major injuries. Even if his defense may not reach its previous peak, Klay’s effectiveness has never been predicated on his explosiveness or athleticism—it doesn’t matter if the guy barely dribbles because he’s the second greatest shooter in the history of his sport, behind only his teammate. 

Draymond is what he is. 

Andrew Wiggins is a wild card. 

Everyone should buy the dip on James Wiseman’s stock. 

Finally, if Klay comes back and is even 70 percent of his old self from the jump while Steph continues to do Steph Things, the Warriors could be elite.The other guys can play their own roles. Plus, it’ll be fun to watch the Warriors with some stake in the game at those division odds.

The Longshot Pick: Los Angeles Clippers +900

Okay, +900 isn’t *really* a long shot, but it’s not like anyone’s going to pick the Kings. 

The case for the Clippers: Paul George, two years removed from a serious MVP push, really shut a lot of critics up last year in the playoffs, when Kawhi wasn’t healthy. Is it out of the question that we get some form of that for an entire season? Or maybe even three-quarters of the season? After all, he’s just three seasons removed from receiving serious MVP consideration. 

Along with George, guys like Reggie Jackson and Terrence Mann emerged in Kawhi’s absence. Sometimes, all it takes is guys experiencing a high pressure situation like the playoffs to build on that for an entire season. Also, Marcus “Flask Dad” Morris does some truly wild things to swing a handful of games every year. 

Is it probable that all this will happen? No. But they don’t call it the longshot pick for nothing.

Best of the Rest:

Los Angeles Lakers -106

A team with Lebron and Anthony Davis is good enough to beat anybody, but its ambitions lie far beyond the regular season. Maybe the Lakers will chase home-court advantage in the playoffs, but their ultimate goal will probably be keeping their cadre of old guys fresh. Although the greatness of Lebron James and AD aren’t in question, there are a slew of variables for this overhauled team: can they stay healthy? How will Russell Westbrook mesh with Lebron and AD? Can Melo score enough to warrant heavy minutes? How will their rotation shake out?

Odds of -106 with a team constructed like that is not particularly tasty. Come playoff time however, it’s a different conversation—never bet against Playoff Lebron.

Sacramento Kings +20000

A few nice things about the Kings: De’Aaron Fox is one the most thrilling players in the league and will form an intriguing backcourt, alongside Tyrese Haliburton. Marvin Bagley isn’t the worst rapper in the NBA. All of those people who claimed they could score against Harrison Barnes within five minutes, one on one, were wrong.

The Kings are not winning the division.

Categories
Sports Strength

The 10 Best Win Total Bets For The 2021-2022 NBA Season

There’s no better time of year for sports degenerates than October. MLB playoffs are in full swing, contenders are separating from the pretenders in the NFL, the NHL season is beginning and, most important, basketball is back. After a flurry of off-season moves, the NBA hierarchy has been restructured. Here are five teams that will exceed expectations—and five teams that will bust.

Busts 

Philadelphia 76ers: 

Key additions: Andre Drummond, Georges Niang 

Key losses: Ben Simmons (???), George Hill

Win Totals Over/Under: 50.5

No team in the NBA had a more painful off-season than the 76ers. In a protracted saga that felt like watching a toddler argue with their parents, Ben Simmons completely ghosted the franchise before returning this week without telling anybody. With the status of their all-star guard in flux, the Sixers may struggle to start the year. This team is still good enough to make the playoffs, but it’s unrealistic to expect them to reach the same level that made them the East’s top seed last year. Unless—until?—a trade suitor comes for Ben Simmons, it will be a long season in Philadelphia.

Dallas Mavericks: 

Key additions: Reggie Bullock, Sterling Brown 

Key losses: Jason Richardson 

Win Totals Over/Under: 48.5

Boasting a borderline MVP candidate in Luka Doncic, the expectations for the Mavericks get higher and higher every off-season. The problem with the Mavericks’ off-season moves is that they stayed too complacent. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis’s relationship seems to be degenerating by the day. Worse, Dallas hired Jason Kidd as head coach. Granted, Kidd played a major role in Giannis Antetokounmpo’s development, but his coaching style has been described as “psychological warfare” and his ultra-aggressive defensive scheme in Milwaukee has fallen out of style. In a deep Western Conference, the Mavs could struggle to avoid the play-in tournament.

Phoenix Suns: 

Key additions: JaVale McGee, Elfrid Payton, Chandler Hutchinson 

Key losses: Torrey Craig, Jevon Carter, Langston Galloway 

Win Totals Over/Under: 51.5

The Suns’ NBA Finals run last postseason was electric—despite the fortunate fact that they didn’t play one fully healthy Western Conference team. In the Finals, though, their fatal smallness was exposed by a huge and physical Milwaukee Bucks team. Although the Suns bulked up their frontcourt by adding Javale McGee, their 51.5 over/under win total is overly ambitious, now that the rest of West have had time to heal.

Charlotte Hornets:

Key additions: Kelly Oubre Jr, Ish Smith, Mason Plumlee, James Bouknight 

Key losses: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, Cody Zeller, Caleb Martin, Grant Riller 

Win Totals Over/Under: 38.5

The Hornets made a splash last season by almost making the playoffs but ultimately lost in a play-in game. LaMelo Ball has taken the league by storm and the rest of the team’s young core will continue to improve alongside him; the problem is that the East has, as a whole, significantly improved, too. As such, the Hornets should occupy a position similar to last year and get into the play-in tournament.

New Orleans Pelicans: 

Key additions: Jonas Valanciunas, Devonte Graham 

Key losses: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams 

Win Totals Over/Under: 39.5

The Pelicans have struggled mightily since the departure of Anthony Davis. Losing key rotational guards in Bledsoe and Ball, the Pelicans will be hard-pressed to run the fast break as effectively as they have in the past. New Orleans is doing everything it can to keep Zion with them, but it feels like they’re making all the wrong moves. If another disappointing season is in store, expect Zion to be on the move in a short time. 

Boom

Chicago Bulls: 

Key additions: Demar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., Tony Bradley, Troy Brown Jr. 

Key losses: Thadeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Theis, Garrett Temple 

Win Totals Over/Under: 42.5

The Chicago Bulls have completely revamped their roster. Since taking over in 2020, Arturas Karnisovas has almost completely erased the mistakes of a Gar/Pax front office. This team is stacked with incredible wing defenders, great shooters and some of the highest flyers in the 

league. At their best, this Bulls team could contend for home-court advantage in the playoffs. The future is bright in Chicago.

Los Angeles Clippers: 

Key additions: Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Harry Giles 

Key losses: Patrick Beverly, Rajon Rondo 

Win Totals Over/Under: 45.5

The Clippers will be without their superstar forward Kawhi Leonard and many people have counted them out as a result. Still, the Clippers were able to reach the Western Conference Finals without Kawhi, behind a rejiggered five-out offense that should also help them generate regular season wins. LA has great wings and continuity, which will enable them to maintain their contender-status.

Toronto Raptors: 

Key additions: Goran Dragic, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa 

Key losses: Kyle Lowry 

Win Totals Over/Under: 35.5

At first glance, the Toronto Raptors would seem to be entering the first year of an extended rebuild. Despite trading franchise legend Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are in a good position to return to the playoffs after last year’s listless, mediocre campaign in Tampa. This team is poised to be a top 10 defense in the league, a common recipe for regular season success. Hopefully Pascal Siakam will bounce back from a disappointing season and the Raptors can make some noise this season. 

Boston Celtics: 

Key additions: Dennis Schroder, Enes Kanter, Josh Richardson, Al Horford

Key losses: Kemba Walker, Tristan Thompson, Evan Fournier, Tacko Fall 

Win Totals Over/Under: 46.5

The conversation in the East is centered around the Bucks and the Nets, and that’s about it. As a result, a promising Celtics team has been lost in the shuffle. Jayson Tatum has shown constant improvement, and Jaylen Brown is really coming into his own as a scorer. With a chip on its shoulder after last year’s disappointing season, Boston has an intriguing combination of talent and motivation. Moreover, with Al Horford back in the fold, the team’s chemistry should be A1 from day one.

Atlanta Hawks: 

Key additions: Delon Wright, Gorgui Deng, Jalen Johnson 

Key losses: Kris Dunn, Tony Snell 

Win Totals Over/Under: 46.5

Despite a slow start to the season, the Hawks surged late in the year to make the Eastern Conference Finals, showing they can handle the pressure in the biggest moments, even in enemy territory. Buoyed by last year’s run, they’re poised, once again, to win the Southeastern Division. If Trae Young can insert himself in the MVP conversation, Atlanta will finish even higher.