We are in that silly period of the NBA calendar when nothing is happening. So while we wait for camp to open and then the pre-season to get going, it is time to make predictions.
In the coming season, Kawhi will get a ton of attention with the Raptors. It might even be worth watching a game or two. But for my money, this is NOT going to be where the action is in the East. I may have to eat my words at the end of the season, but I think the main event in the east will be the Sixers/Celtics rivalry.
What is wrong with the Raptors? I have two main criticisms. First, I do not think that Kawhi is as good as he has been built up to be. He is a solid wing and a good shooter and defender. But he has not proven that he can carry a team. And the Raptors will need that. Second, the rest of the Raptors are ok, but not outstanding and there are “fit” questions. That is backed up by computer projections of team quality.
Let’s assume for a moment that I am right. Who wins the Sixers/Celtics rematch? It is really, really close.
The Celtics get back Hayward and Irving, which is big for them. And the rest of the team is about the same as the Celtics team that surprised the Sixers in the playoffs last year. Yes, yes, I was overconfident and predicted the Sixers would win that series. In my defense, the games at least, were close.
But the Sixers have 3 things in their favor. Fist, their players are younger and overall they have a higher ceiling than the Celtics do. That would include Ben, Joel, RoCo, and Dario — all starters. And Markelle will be back. bringing with him a ceiling that no one yet can predict. I am betting that the Sixers will grow faster than the Celtics do.
Second, the Sixers have the chance to be stellar on defense. Hmmm … weren’t the Celtics the league’s best defensive unit last year? Yes. But the Sixers were very good as well. And they are coming back with 2 new defensive studs -. Markelle and Zhaire Smith. Neither Kyrie nor Gordon are gong to add that kind of defense to the Celtics.
Finally, there is the experience factor. The Sixers were the better team last year, but they lacked to experience to figure out how to deal with the Celtics game plan. They have experienced that now. And they will have the firepower to overcome the Celtics highly athletic wings with better floor spacing and movement.
You can take my word for it. Or you can read up on how CARMELO ranks the players and teams. Hint – the Sixers come out slightly ahead.
Three issues worth watching when the Sixers start the season
- the first is obvious – Is Markelle really back? If he is, the season will be a gas from day 1. If not, expect a lot of hand wringing, wailing and gnashing of teeth!
- the second is almost as obvious – Have Ben and Joel been working on their games over the summer? That means Ben occasionally hitting a 3 to stretch the defense. And it means Ben finishing with his right hand. And it means Joel keeping his turnovers down.
- the third is getting into the nitty gritty – the role players – Has JJ lost a step? Can Dario get better position inside? Will Wilson Chandler replace Ersan? Will Zhaire Smith demonstrate that the trade was worth it?
We shall see, said the blind man! And I can’t wait!