The Torch

  • Athletes of the Week: VOLLEYBALL: Ariana Steighner; BOWLING: Jack Cowan & Alexa Haas; CROSS COUNTRY: Nicholas Sanchez

  • Athletes of the Week: GOLF: Brooks Lamb & Jordyn Huberman; SWIMMING: Christopher Rodriguez & Falyn Housenbold

  • Students of the Month: Nicholas Defrancesco (fr.); Alexis Rejouis (sph.); Jordyn Geller (jun.); Jamison Turenne (sen.)

  • Teacher of the Month: Amy Baer: Non-Instructional Employee of the Month: Darren Studstill

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NBA 2018-19 Season Preview: Can the Revamped Lakers Challenge the Golden State Warriors in the West?

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How far can LeBron James take the revamped Los Angeles Lakers this season?

How far can LeBron James take the revamped Los Angeles Lakers this season?

How far can LeBron James take the revamped Los Angeles Lakers this season?

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With the regular season starting up, each team has a goal in mind before hand. In order to achieve this goal, each squad must give full effort each and every night, but also receive some luck. Let’s see how each team does in reaching their goals.

Atlanta Hawks
Record Last Year: 24-58
Additions: PG Trae Young (5th pick), SG Kevin Huerter (19th pick), PF Omari Spellman (30th pick), C Alex Len, PG Jeremy Lin, SF Justin Anderson, SF Vince Carter, PG Jaylen Adams, SF Alex Poythress
Losses: SG Antonius Cleveland, C Mike Muscala, PG Dennis Schröder

The Hawks did a good job this offseason with their roster, moving unhappy Dennis Schröder while picking up Jeremy Lin to mentor the fifth overall pick in Trae Young, the sharpshooting point guard from Oklahoma. Young has the ability to score from anywhere, all the way back to half court, and move the ball. He led the NCAA in points and assists last year as a freshman. Many are unsure of his fit in the NBA because of his performance in the second half of the season, including the tournament, but one also must consider the fact that he had no help on the roster. Due to this issue, he was double-teamed almost 100 percent of his time on the floor. This franchise still has a way to go until they will even be somewhat competitive as they don’t have any all-stars or a reliable bench. They will be tanking this season and will be competing for the first pick in next year’s draft.

Boston Celtics
Record Last Year: 55-27
Additions: PG Brad Wanamaker, PF/C Robert Williams (27th pick), G/F Walt Lemon Jr.
Losses: None

The Celtics are looking to build on what they did last year. They took the King and his Cavaliers to seven games, without their two all-stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward before their eventual demise. With a healthy Irving and Hayward this year, as well as the further development of forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, this Celtics team has the best chance to win the East and maybe steal one game from the Warriors in the finals.

Brooklyn Nets
Record Last Year: 28-54
Additions: SG Isaia Cordinier, PF Kenneth Faried, C/PF Ed Davis, PG Shabazz Napier, F Jared Dudley, SG Treveon Graham, F Dzanan Musa (29th pick), PF Rodions Kurucs (40th pick), F/C Alan Williams, SF Theo Pinson
Losses: PG Jeremy Lin, PG Isaiah Whitehead, C Timofey Mozgov, PF Dante Cunningham

The Nets are in a weird position this season. They were in tank mode without their first round picks for the last couple  of seasons (due to their trade with Boston for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett), but have acquired a few young talented players in D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. They also picked up a few veterans this year, but that resembles the Kings’ plan last year (which earned them the rights to the second overall pick). The Nets finally have their own first rounder, but will probably be finish in the six to ten section of the lottery.

Charlotte Hornets
Record Last Year: 36-46
Additions: SF Miles Bridges (12th pick), SG J.P. Macura, PG Tony Parker, C Bismack Biyumbo, SG J.P. Macura
Losses: C Dwight Howard, PG Michael Carter-Williams
The Hornets did a solid job with their team. With that being said, they are still not a playoff team and didn’t need to bring in veterans to try to elevate them. The team needs to trade Kemba Walker before his prime years expire and dump guys like Nicolas Batum, who is 29 years old. Owner Michael Jordan refuses to go into full tank mode, costing them valuable picks for their future. They have done well in the draft for the picks they’ve gotten, trading down one spot to select Miles Bridges with the twelfth pick. The Hornets will be around the same spot in the lottery next year (around eleventh), but the additions of Tony Parker and Bismack Biyumbo bring some veteran leadership and mentorship for the young guns in Charlotte.

Chicago Bulls
Record Last Year: 27-55
Additions: PF Jabari Parker, PG Antonio Blakeney, SG Antonius Cleveland, PG Derrick Walton Jr., C Wendell Carter Jr. (7th pick), SG Chandler Hutchinson (22nd pick), SG Rawle Alkins
Losses: PG Jerian Grant, PF Noah Vonleh, SF Paul Zipser, SG Sean Kilpatrick

The Chicago Bulls have done amazing with their rebuild. They lost Wade and Rondo two years ago in free agency after that experiment failed which resulted in an unsatisfied Jimmy Butler with a bad supporting cast. They dealt Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night for starting SG Zach LaVine, G Kris Dunn (2016 fifth overall pick), and the seventh pick in the 2017, which was used to select PF Lauri Markkanen from Arizona. Markkanen has an incredible rookie season earning himself All-Rookie first team honors. This year they brought in a former second overall pick in Jabari Parker. Parker has gone through some rough knee injuries, tearing his left ACL twice since entering the league, but, when healthy, can easily put up twenty or more points per game. The Bulls also selected C Wendell Carter Jr. from Duke. He is a post scoring machine that can also hit the long ball. Not only is his offense spectacular, but his six foot ten frame and seven-feet, four-and-a-half inches wingspan, along with his excellent footwork, allows him to be a great defender and rim protector. The Bulls will be a late lottery pick with the influx of young talent to the team.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Record Last Year: 50-32
Additions: PG Collin Sexton, PF Channing Frye, SF Sam Dekker, SG David Nwaba, SG John Holland, PF Billy Preston
Losses: SF LeBron James

“Cleveland, this one’s for you!” This was said by LeBron James after they came back from a three-to-one deficit against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. When’s the next time this will happen? Not for a while. The Cavaliers are being very stubborn with their roster, which was built around the Los Angeles Lakers new starting power forward LeBron James. Many are quick to realize that the roster given to James last season was one of the worst, if not the worst, supporting cast to ever make it to the finals. They don’t want to deal Kevin Love, who only has a few years left with any value, or even guys like J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers are lacking any young talent outside of rookie point guard Collin Sexton and actually boasted the oldest roster in the league last year. This Cavaliers squad will most certainly miss the playoff barring any major trades and will probably sit around the seventh or eighth pick.

Dallas Mavericks
Record Last Year: 24-58
Additions: G Luka Dončić (3rd pick), PG Jalen Brunson (33rd pick), F Kostas Antetokounmpo (60th pick), C DeAndre Jordan, PG Daryl Macon
Losses: C Nerlens Noel, SG Seth Curry, PG Yogi Ferrell, SF Doug McDermott

The Dallas Mavericks have been rebuilding for the last few years, and this is the year they feel they can get back into the playoffs. That is unlikely, however, due to the fact that the West is just so stacked, even more than last year. The Lakers just jumped from a lottery pick to a third or fourth seed, and nobody has gotten significantly worse than Dallas among playoff contenders in the West. Even if Luka Dončić is the star many believe him to be, he still has to figure out how to play next to another ball dominant guard in Dennis Smith Jr. and a ball dominant forward in Harrison Barnes. The addition of DeAndre Jordan was nice but not enough to boost them to the playoffs after having the fifth pick in last year’s lottery. Adding Jalen Brunson improves the little depth they have and will help their rebuild. This team is still another year or two from playoff contention, and if the rebuild goes right, they have another five years or so until finals contention. Expect the Mavericks to be in the lottery again this year.

Denver Nuggets
Record Last Year: 46-36
Additions: PG Isaiah Thomas, SF Michael Porter Jr. (14th pick), C Thomas Welsh, PG DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell
Losses: SF Wilson Chandler, PF Kenneth Faried, PF Darrell Arthur

The Denver Nuggets may have the highest potential for this season. They have a star center in Nikola Jokic and breakout candidate in combo guard Jamal Murray. To add to this list, they signed Isaiah Thomas to a one-year veteran’s minimum deal and drafted SF Michael Porter Jr. at the end of the lottery. Before his back surgery, he was coveted as the best player in the draft, which he may still be, but now, off of two back surgeries within a year, he may have to sit this season out. If he does get to play, he is an outstanding offensive talent who puts effort in on the other end as well. This is a squad that you should expect to see in the playoffs this year, after missing by one game last year.

Detroit Pistons
Record Last Year: 39-43
Additions: PG Jose Calderon, C Zaza Pachulia, SF Glenn Robinson III, G Khryi Thomas (38th pick), G Bruce Brown (42nd pick), PG Keenan Evans, SG Reggie Hearn
Losses: SF James Ennis, PF Anthony Tolliver, PF Eric Moreland, PG Dwight Buycks

The Pistons are looking to make some noise this season. The problem is that nobody has any faith in them. They have a great front court duo in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, but not much else. The rest of their starters consist of Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, and Stanley Johnson. Their bench isn’t much to celebrate either. They have Zaza Pachulia, Ish Smith, Luke Kennard, and Bruce Brown as their key role players. Kennard and Brown are both young but nothing special, and the rest of their bench is past their prime. The Pistons need to make a few more moves before they are a serious threat in the East, but expect them to finish with the seventh or eight seed this season.

Golden State Warriors
Record Last Year: 58-24
Additions: C DeMarcus Cousins, PF Jonas Jerebko, SG Jacob Evans (28th pick), SG Damion Lee
Losses: C JaVale McGee, C Zaza Pachulia

I’m at a loss for words on this organization. They drafted three superstars within four years in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green who led them to two finals runs, winning one, and to the best regular season record of all time at 73-9. None of these three were drafted in the top five, and Green was actually drafted in the second round. The Warriors have had some outstanding acquisitions throughout its rebuild in eventual finals MVP Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Nobody batted an eye at either move, but both have been huge in their finals runs. After losing in the 2016 finals – getting there with an impressive playoff run – to the LeBron James led Cavaliers after being up three games to one, Draymond Green made a phone call to the former MVP and four time scoring champion from the Oklahoma City Thunder. On the Fourth of July, Kevin Durant made up his mind to move to the Bay and join the Warriors. They made a massive overhaul to their supporting cast, keeping only their most important players, in order to open enough cap space to sign Durant. Many left in free agency to get a higher salary, and the Warriors had to replace ten players that season. After winning the past two finals, losing only six playoff games in the two years, they have signed the best center in the league. DeMarcus Cousins is an offensive and defensive threat who can do anything. Expect nothing less than a title this season.

Houston Rockets
Record Last Year: 65-17
Additions: F Carmelo Anthony, SF James Ennis, PG Michael Carter-Williams, SG De’Anthony Melton (46th pick)
Losses: SF Trevor Ariza, SF Luc Mbah a Moute

The Houston Rockets had their chance last year, but injuries and 27 straight missed three pointers in game seven cost them their chance. The team added a better starting power forward in future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony. He instantly adds another proven scorer, but he takes away from the squad’s defense. At the four, he should be able to hold his ground, though. Although they added Anthony, they lost their starting power forward Trevor Ariza and a key bench player in Luc Mbah a Moute. Both are solid defenders and without the same ability to switch everything on defense, they will have a difficult time defeating the Warriors or even the Lakers. Those are two teams that will be hard to just outscore. Expect them to fight with the Lakers for second place, maybe first again depending on the Warrior’s injuries.

Indiana Pacers
Record Last Year: 48-34
Additions: SF/SG Tyreke Evans, SF Doug McDermott, C Kyle O’Quinn, PG Aaron Holiday (23rd pick), SG C.J. Wilcox, G Edmond Sumner
Losses: C Al Jefferson, SG Glenn Robinson III, SF Lance Stephenson

The Pacers were probably the most improved team last year and will get even better this year. They drafted a good backup point guard in Aaron Holiday and added a great scorer to help out Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner with Tyreke Evans. Oladipo is going to continue his all-star campaign from last year, and Turner will have a huge jump from last year. Turner is in the best shape of his life and is only 22. The sky is the limit for this Pacers squad, but they are still a long way from championship contention. Look for them to finish with the third or fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Los Angeles Clippers
Record Last Year: 42-40
Additions: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11th pick), SG Jerome Robinson (13th pick), C Marcin Gortat, SF Luc Mbah a Moute, PF Mike Scott, C Angel Delgado, F Johnathon Motley
Losses: SG Austin Rivers, C DeAndre Jordan, SG C.J. Williams, SF Sam Dekker

Jerry West’s new challenge has officially begun. After turning the Warriors into the greatest team of all time, West headed to Los Angeles to tackle a new rebuild: the Clippers. The team has rid themselves of all-star center DeAndre Jordan, officially ending the “Lob City” era and has added great young players to begin their new chapter as a franchise. They selected point guard Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander out of Kentucky and shooting guard Jerome Robinson from Boston College with the 11th and 13th picks, respectively. This team has great depth at the guard positions now with Patrick Beverly, Avery Bradley, Juwan Evans, Milos Teodosic, Sindarius Thornwell, Tyrone Wallace, and Lou Williams all holding roster spots, but will probably look to deal any of them over the age of 28. This team will regress from last year, in terms of record, but should have a few really good games from Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson reminding everyone why they are the future of the team. Expect them to finish with a mid lottery selection in next year’s draft.

Los Angeles Lakers
Record Last Year: 35-47
Additions: SF LeBron James, SF Lance Stephenson, PG Rajon Rondo, C JaVale McGee, F Michael Beasley, SF Travis Wear, C Moritz Wagner (25th pick), SF Svi Mykhailiuk (47th pick), G Alex Caruso, PF Travis Wear
Losses: PG Isaiah Thomas, PF Julius Randle, C Brooke Lopez, PF Channing Frye

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson. What do all these names have in common? Every single one is a top ten all-time player who has signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have signed the best player in the world in LeBron James, and people still say they are not a top three team in the Western Conference. This team has a mix of young stars, in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, and talented veterans, in Rajan Rondo, Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee, for their supporting cast. This team has the opportunity to go to the Western Conference Finals, and if the supporting cast can step up in the playoffs, they may have a shot to extend the series to six or seven.

Memphis Grizzlies
Record Last Year: 22-60
Additions: SF Kyle Anderson, F/C Jaren Jackson Jr. (4th pick), PG Jevon Carter (32nd pick), F Omri Casspi, SF/SG Garrett Temple, F Yuta Watanabe
Losses: SG Ben McLemore, PF/C Deyonta Davis, SF/SG Tyreke Evans

The Memphis Grizzlies were last year’s biggest disappointment. With the hiring of Head Coach David Fizdale and a few veteran additions, most believed them to be a playoff squad. This team showed that potential too, starting out five and one. However, with a mix of injuries and controversial moves by Fizdale (now the head coach of the New York Knicks), the team had a 13-28 record through the first half of the season, enduring an 11 game losing streak during that time. They finished 22-60, also completing a league-leading 19 game losing streak. The problems kept piling on for this franchise as many players who entered the draft, among them Mo Bamba out of Texas and Jaren Jackson Jr. from Michigan State, outwardly exclaimed that they refused to be selected by the Grizzlies, who had the fourth overall pick. The Grizzlies were actually able to change Jackson’s mind, however, and he was selected fourth overall. Jackson is a great power forward and center at six foot eleven who is long enough to protect the paint but athletic enough to guard forwards. He can hit the three ball as well. The other additions won’t do too much and the team will finish at the bottom of the league again. If they were smart they would trade Marc Gasol and Mike Conley before they get too old and just completely rebuild around Jaren Jackson Jr. Expect this squad to finish with a top five selection again, barring any jaw dropping transactions.

Miami Heat
Record Last Year: 44-38
Additions: SF Duncan Robinson, SF Yante Maten
Losses: PG Derrick Walton Jr.

One last dance! This is Dwyane Wade’s final year, but that’s not the only thing fans can celebrate this season. The Heat will be competing for a playoff spot again and maybe a top four finish in the East. With Dion Waiters coming back from injury and no notable losses in free agency, this squad will only improve. The young core of Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow will take further steps in its development. This team is trapped in a mediocre state, however, and is not a championship contender or looking forward to the lottery. That being said, a trade for Jimmy Butler could change that. Look for this team to finish in as the fifth or sixth seed in the East and compete in a deep first round series.

Milwaukee Bucks
Record Last Year: 44-38
Additions: C Brook Lopez, PF Ersan Ilyasova, SG Donte Divincenzo (17th pick), PG Trevon Duval, G Jaylen Morris
Losses: PF Jabari Parker

The Bucks have one of the brightest futures of any team ahead. With the young core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, and Malcolm Brogdan, along with the veterans of the team, including Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, and Eric Bledsoe, this squad is set up to compete for years to come. Also, the selection of sharpshooter Donte Divincenzo from Villanova and signing of undrafted rookie Trevon Duval out of Duke can be significant additions to their bench. Losing Jabari Parker is a big loss, but he has sat out 82 games in the last two seasons. This squad is set up to finish in the middle of the Eastern Conference once again unless Giannis can make a big leap in his development and make an MVP case this season.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Record Last Year: 47-35
Additions: SG Josh Okogie (20th pick), PF Anthony Tolliver, SF Keita Bates-Diop (48th pick), PG Jared Terrell
Losses: G Jamal Crawford, PF Nemanja Bjelica

The Timberwolves are a big mess right now. Jimmy Butler is unhappy with the work ethic of the squad’s young studs in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. He is also mad at management about his contract and the fact that they aren’t fully committed to trade him. Besides Butler, the team is looking pretty good. If Towns and Wiggins can take a big step in their development, this team can compete for a playoff spot, even without Jimmy Butler. The starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson, and Karl Anthony-Towns is alright but nothing special, and their bench is not great either, so it’s going to be hard to compete in the stacked Western Conference. Look for this squad to finish with the ninth or tenth spot.

New Orleans Pelicans
Record Last Year: 48-34
Additions: PF Julius Randle, PG Elfrid Payton, C Jahlil Okafor, PG Tony Carr (51st pick), PG Trevon Bluiett
Losses: C DeMarcus Cousins, PG Rajon Rondo

The New Orleans Pelicans will not make the playoffs this season. They lost the best center in the game in DeMarcus Cousins and replaced him with Julius Randle. Randle is a good young talent but he can’t shoot outside of five feet from the rim and is nowhere nearly as talented as the four time all-star Cousins. Losing Rajon Rondo and picking up Elfrid Payton is not great for the team, either. Rondo is a great point guard, who can slow down opposing point guards on the defensive side and record 15 to 20 assists in games where he sees valuable playing time. The Pelicans utilized him last year in the playoffs, but Elfrid Payton will not be able to fully replace that production. Anthony Davis may be the best player 25 or younger, but he will not be able to lead this team out of the lottery like last year.

New York Knicks
Record Last Year: 29-53
Additions: SF Kevin Knox (9th pick), C Mitchell Robinson (36th pick), SF Mario Hezonja, PF Noah Vonleh, G Kadeem Allen, SG Allonzo Trier, PF Isaiah Hicks
Losses: C Joakim Noah, C Kyle O’Quinn, PF/SF Michael Beasley

The New York Knicks are a mess. Or are they? They finally fired the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson, from the General Manager position last season and have hired David Fizdale to take over as the head coach. They had a great draft this year, drafting highly coveted forward Kevin Knox from Kentucky as well as the seven-footer Mitchell Robinson from Western Kentucky. They also brought in, former fifth overall selection, SG Mario Hezonja. Hezonja is a young sharpshooter who made mistakes last year, especially in transition, but that’s bound to happen with a 23 year old. The signing of undrafted rookie Allonzo Trier was a great move, as well. The two-guard out of Arizona has all the tools to be a top scorer in this league. He can shoot and slash, get to the foul line and he is patient on offense, rarely forcing bad shots. The Knicks have numerous bad contracts, including the recently released Joakim Noah’s last two years worth $38 million and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s last two years plus player option worth $54 million. This team isn’t in contention mode yet, however, so these contracts shouldn’t matter, at least until their final year when it’s easy to dump them. Expect the Knicks high in the lottery, especially since star PF Kristaps Porzingis is out for at least half the season, and the team is upgrading its young core.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Record Last Year: 48-34
Additions: PG Dennis Schröder, C Nerlens Noel, G Hamidou Diallo (45th pick), SF Timothe Luwawu-Cabarot, SF Abdel Nader, G Deonte Burton, PF/C Tyler Davis
Losses: F Carmelo Anthony, PF/C Nick Collison, C Dakari Johnson

The Oklahoma City Thunder was the NBA’s biggest disappointment last season. It looked as if GM Sam Presti pulled off two steals in which the Thunder received forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but losing breakout star shooting guard Victor Oladipo was a big disappointment to fans. Anthony has moved on now from playing with star point guard Russell Westbrook and is currently on the Houston Rockets. The franchise has brought in solid veterans in PG Dennis Schröder and C Nerlens Noel to back up Westbrook and Steven Adams, respectively. They selected Hamidou Diallo in the second round of this year’s draft and he is going to be in the mix for a backup job at the guard positions. Diallo is a freakishly athletic six foot six guard who can get to the rim and finish with ease. It should be fun to watch him and Westbrook run fast breaks together. The Thunder will probably be just another disappointment this year with early first round exit in the playoffs.

Orlando Magic
Record Last Year: 25-57
Additions: C Mohamed Bamba (6th pick), SG/SF Melvin Frazier (35th pick), C Timofey Mozgov, PG Jerian Grant, SG Troy Caupain, PF Amile Jefferson
Losses: C Bismack Biyombo, SF Mario Hezonja, PG Shelvin Mack

The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs every season since 2012, Dwight Howard’s last season there. While this is definitely not a good stat to hold, the Magic have the opportunity to change that in a few years. The Magic have selected in the lottery each of those seasons but have so far had little success. They selected Victor Oladipo, but grew impatient with his development and ended up trading him to the Thunder for aging PF Serge Ibaka. Two years after the trade, Oladipo took LeBron and the Cavaliers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Aaron Gordon is the best draft selection they have made that has stuck with the team, but now they have Mohamed Bamba, the seven foot one center out of Texas. Bamba has the longest wingspan ever recorded at the NBA combine, measured at seven foot 10 inches, but is only 216 pounds in that frame. He should develop nicely with Gordon and Isaac, but where does that leave them this year? A top six pick again.

Philadelphia 76ers
Record Last Year: 52-30
Additions: SF Wilson Chandler, SG Zhaire Smith (16th pick), G Landry Shamet (26th pick), C Mike Muscala, SG Shake Milton, PG Demetrius Jackson
Losses: Ersan Ilyasova, SG Marco Belinelli, SF Justin Anderson, SF Timothe Luwawu-Cabarot, PF Richaun Holmes

The Philadelphia 76ers are overrated. They will develop into a really good team if they can retain all of their young stars, but at the moment, they are nowhere near the finals. They made a mistake in trading Mikal Bridges on draft night, but shooting guard Zhaire Smith from Texas Tech is still good. He isn’t a reliable three point shooter and can’t create his own shot off the dribble, but his athleticism and explosion will be his main weapons on both ends of the floor. The core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz will propel the team a top three seed in the East but not to the finals.

Phoenix Suns
Record Last Year: 21-61
Additions: C DeAndre Ayton (1st pick), SF Mikal Bridges (10th pick), PG Élie Okobo (39th pick), SF George King (57th pick), PF Richaun Holmes, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Darrell Arthur, SF George King
Losses: PG Elfrid Payton, C Alex Len, PG Tyler Ulis, F Jared Dudley

The Suns have gone in two directions this season, but have overall done a great job. They let PG Elfrid Payton and C Alex Len walk in free agency and waived PG Tyler Ulis because of their slow development. They drafted C DeAndre Ayton with the first pick and traded for SF Mikal Bridges on draft night. The two are a great fit with star SG Devin Booker, some going as far to call the Booker-Ayton duo as good as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The organization also added some veterans, including SF Trevor Ariza. The squad will be looking at a high draft pick but will be better than last season.

Portland Trail Blazers
Record Last Year: 49-33
Additions: G Anfernee Simmons (24th pick), SG Gary Trent Jr. (38th pick), SG Seth Curry, SG Nik Stauskas
Losses: PG Shabazz Napier, C Ed Davis

The Trail Blazers had an underrated draft this season. G Anfernee Simmons is an undeveloped beast who has the athleticism and jump shot to score from anywhere on the floor, and Gary Trent Jr., the six foot six shooting guard from Duke, is a streaky, but effective, scorer with a great handle and shot off the dribble. This squad was finished early, with a first round exit, and probably needs to reboot since all-NBA point guard Damian Lillard just cannot seem to get anywhere with this squad. If the organization waits to long, Lillard, along with backcourt mate C.J. McCollum and C Jusif Nurkic, will be older and worth less in trade value. Either this or they just leave on their own and Portland gets nothing in return. Expect this team to be in the playoffs again with another early exit.

Sacramento Kings
Record Last Year: 27-55
Additions: F/C Marvin Bagley (2nd pick), PF Nemanja Bjelica, SG Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis, PG Yogi Ferrell, PF Wenyen Gabriel
Losses: SF/SG Garrett Temple, SF Vince Carter

The Sacramento Kings realized they made a mistake last offseason. The franchise thought that they had the chance to compete last season with veteran additions, including Vince Carter and George Hill. However, this was not the case. After losing 14 of their first 20 games, it was clear that this squad could not hold their ground against any team, losing to teams such as the Hawks and the Suns. By the trade deadline, the Kings ridded themselves of George Hill’s contract in exchange for Iman Shumpert, who is on his final year this season, and Joe Johnson, who they waived right away, as well as a 2020 second round pick. This team received the second selection in the draft last season and picked Marvin Bagley III, the six foot eleven power forward from Duke. Bagley can put the ball on the floor and score any way near the rim. He has to improve his shooting to become the savior of the squad, however. Overall, the squad is looking to have a bright future around Bagley and speedy second year point guard De’Aaron Fox, as well as whoever they select this year with a top five selection.

San Antonio Spurs
Record Last Year: 47-35
Additions: SG DeMar DeRozan, SG Lonnie Walker IV (18th pick), C Jakob Poeltl, SG Marco Belinelli, PF Dante Cunningham
Losses: SF Kawhi Leonard, SG Danny Green, PG Tony Parker, SG Manu Ginobili

The Spurs are going to have a tough time finding a way into the playoffs this year in such a stacked Western Conference. They may have only been two games out of third place last year, finishing with the seventh seed, but this year, the West got even better. The trade for DeMar DeRozan will definitely help this squad in the race. He can hit anything in the mid range, has extreme athleticism to help him finish through contact, and even added a three point shot last season. The loss of starting point guard Dejounte Murray is big. The All-Defense second team member played a huge role in Gregg Popovich’s system, which placed fourth in defensive rating. The duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan should place this team high in efficiency, but look for them to slow the ball down, even against teams like Golden State and Houston, and run isolations and pick and roll plays most of the game. This team will be in the seventh through 10th spot this season, with only about two games separating them.

Toronto Raptors
Record Last Year: 59-23
Additions: SF Kawhi Leonard, SG Danny Green, C/PF Greg Monroe, PG Jordan Loyd
Losses: SG DeMar DeRozan, C Jakob Poeltl

The Toronto Raptors made the most surprising move of the offseason. They traded their franchise player, coming off a season in which he earned the title all-star starter. DeRozan is the franchise leader in total points, field goals attempted and made, free throws made and attempted, games played and minutes played. He became the face of the entire sport in Canada. However, the Raptors didn’t trade him away for nothing. They received a top ten player in the game in Kawhi Leonard. When healthy, Leonard is the best defender in the league and is a star at creating his own shots and getting to the rim on offense. The Raptors also fired last year’s Coach of the Year recipient Dwane Casey. The franchise felt that the core of their team just couldn’t get it done, but instead of rebuilding they tried reloading. We will see how this plan spans out over the season, but don’t expect this squad to get ahead of Boston in the standings.

Utah Jazz
Record Last Year: 48-34
Additions: SG Grayson Allen (21st pick), PG Naz Mitrou-Long, PF Tyler Cavanaugh
Losses: PF Jonas Jerebko

The Utah Jazz were the biggest surprise of the year last season. They selected the steal of the draft in Donovan Mitchell with the 13th pick. The uber-athletic two guard out of Louisville led this squad to the fifth seed in the Western Conference and to the second round of the playoffs in just his rookie season. He did have a little help, though. Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert anchored the defense, Ricky Rubio was big in shutting down opponents as well. This squad did little to change up the roster, letting Jonas Jerebko leave for Golden State and drafting Grayson Allen from Duke, but they will compete to get further than last season. Donovan Mitchell will continue his development, maybe all-star status, and the addition of Allen will help him on offense. Allen is a very athletic guard who can run an offense himself, as well as score from almost anywhere on the court. He is lethal from deep and get to the rim when needed. Expect this squad to finish with the fourth seed behind juggernauts the Warriors, the Rockets, and the Lakers.

Washington Wizards
Record Last Year: 43-39
Additions: C Dwight Howard, SG Austin Rivers, SF Jeff Green, SF Troy Brown (15th pick), C Thomas Bryant, SG/F Devin Robinson, SG Jordan McRae
Losses: C Marcin Gortat, PF Mike Scott

The Wizards had a great off-season this year. They ridded themselves of the issue between PG John Wall and C Marcin Gortat by trading the latter for SG Austin Rivers from the Clippers. They upgraded the center position with the signing of Dwight Howard and deepened their bench by adding F Jeff Green. This squad has the opportunity to finally prove doubters wrong as they finally have a bench that can compete and a healthy John Wall, for now. Look for this squad to complete the regular season looking at a higher seeded team to matchup with, but go deep in the first round.

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