The 2015-2016 NBA season will have a number of teams playing for not only the player next to them but the very livelihood of their franchise. Seven teams must accomplish certain goals to keep their franchises alive or face the consequences of a harsh reality of sports the business side. These teams are in do or die mode and face immediate ridicule inside their own doors and by their fans. In each team’s description a predicted record (PR) will be listed alongside the last year’s record (LYR):
- The Milwaukee Bucks LYR (41-41), PR (47-35) : The Milwaukee Bucks surprised many NBA fans for the last three years making the playoffs twice. This year, they have to get past the first round because frankly they won’t have any excuses if everything goes well for them. First, looking at this past year, the Bucks made the playoffs winning and losing an equal amount of games. Let’s remember this is the Eastern Conference where most teams are playing JV-type basketball and only a few teams are at varsity. Milwaukee won’t be a varsity team next season, but they’ll be making it out of the first round. Jabari Parker will be coming off his injury healthier and hopefully better than ever and the addition of Greg Monroe gives them the low post presence that the Bucks desperately need. They’ll go (47-35) for two reasons. One, they’re going to be better in their division against the Bulls and they’ll run over teams like Detroit and Indiana. Number two, other teams that made the playoffs are weaker, the Nets don’t have Deron Williams and the Celtics have to many rookies than they know what to do with. Look out for the Bucks this season.
- The Washington Wizards LYR (46-36), PR( 45-37) : The Wizards last year lost a heartbreaking series against the Atlanta Hawks and had injury problems (again) with their star point guard John Wall. This time, it’ll be different as the Wizards will have arguably the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference this year in Wall and Bradley Beal. This pair is vital to the Wizards success. Forget about the loss of Paul Pierce which will definitely be obvious, but these two will finally have a season where they will start the first half of the season healthy… together… and win. The Wizards have to make it out the second round and play for a bid against either the Bulls or Cavaliers in the conference finals. If they don’t, the Wizards may see a major shift in their roster after this season.
- The Los Angeles Clippers LYR (56-26), PR (57-25) : The Los Angeles Clippers seem to always go through a drama every year. This year, episode two of their saga was centered around the coveted big man DeAndre Jordan who switched his mind at the last minute to not sign with the Dallas Mavericks but stay with the Los Angeles Clippers. Adding on to this, Paul Pierce, also made headlines when he decided to join his former coach Doc Rivers, and add his veteran leadership to the Clippers. The Clippers always win in the first round, but the question is if they can stay humble enough to go farther. Beating the Spurs made the Clippers feel invincible as they had just beat the previous year’s almighty Spurs. If the Clippers don’t win this year, they’ll be on the same level of ridicule as the Lakers are. Chris Paul is getting older, Rivers is running out of time, and be mindful that players like Jamaal Crawford and J.J Reddick are integral parts of their team will be free agents within the next two years. Time is running out. This isn’t something the Clippers can cut. They have to cut up a tough Western Conference and make the NBA finals.
- Oklahoma City Thunder LYR (45-37), PR (59-23) : Injured, beaten, and unable to compete. Health was the major issue with the Thunder last year but this year will be different. The Thunder have handled their issues surrounding the bench and Russell Westbrook is headed toward a level that no one can fathom. Even better, former MVP Kevin Durant will return this year hopefully healthy and play alongside with Westbrook. The only reason that they may not have 60 wins is because of a new coach but that may not be a problem. Durant and Westbrook will compensate for this and most likely make it far in the Western Conference but they have to get to the Finals or the Western Conference Finals to show that their still contenders.
- The Utah Jazz LYR (38-44), PR (43-39): The Jazz seem to consistently get better as a team, and this is hard for anybody in the Western Conference, but the Jazz have a lot to prove. Rudy Gobert is arguably a player with some of the most upside of any player. With a pretty good pickup with length and athleticism in Trey Lyles out of the draft and Dante Exum getting better as a player, the Jazz have a lot of talent in their team (also Derrick Favors) that can certainly give them a winning record. For the reader please note that in terms of the Utah Jazz with the competitive Western Conference, they’ll be a winning team but they may not be a playoff team.
- The Chicago Bulls LYR (50-32), PR (49-33) : The Bulls will have a tough road ahead because the Bucks will be out of their cages this season since the two are in the same regions. The Bulls will need to keep going forward as this season will be a test of what it is that they can accomplish this year.
- The Houston Rockets (56-26), PR (59-23) : The Houston Rockets beat the Clippers in a surprising comeback that no one thought possible and can go the distance this year. The Rockets will hope to play to their maximum potential this year. They have to win and they must win. The Rockets will be coming with MVP candidate James Harden, great guards in Patrick Beverly and Ty Lawson, Trevor Ariza coming off a great year, Dwight Howard healthy, and rookie Sam Dekker getting some play time will surely help the Rockets climb the hump and become NBA champions this season, if they choose to go across the hard roads of the Western Conference.
- LeBron James a.k.a Cavaliers LYR (53-29), PR (65-17): LeBron James lost it all last year. He was outgunned, outmatched, and without his trademark headband. He looked as if it was all over for him. This year will be different. There won’t be a question of coaches. There isn’t going to be a coaching problem, or injuries at the last second because LeBron wants to not only win for Cleveland, but it looks like he wants to bring one to the entire state of Ohio. LeBron James without a doubt is going back to the Eastern Conference finals but it’s championship or bust this year and they have to win. Scratch that, King James must win or else he might not be the royalty we think he is.