Every year, everyone who follows basketball, whether they do it for a living, or write lousy blogs about it during their spare time, tries to predict just what the hell is going to happen in the upcoming season. We here at The Bonus are no different. All the way back in October, we posted a preview for both the Eastern and Western Conference. Now it’s time to look back and see just how full of shit we actually are. However, before we do so, I’d just like to acknowledge what a great season this was. I can remember back in the Fall people lamenting that the regular season would be long and boring while we just waited for the ultimate conclusion: another Cavs/Warriors Finals. Happily, this regular season ended up being awesome. It seemed that every night, something wild was happening. We’ve seen new chapters added to the annals of NBA History, and there was nary a week where there wasn’t something to debate, appreciate, or have a good chuckle at. With the current state of the world, it might be debatable whether or not it’s a good time to be alive, but nobody could contest that it’s certainly a good time to be following the NBA.
Now, without further ado, let’s look back at those preseason predictions of ours and take credit, laugh, or hang our heads in shame depending on what we find…
Prediction: 41-41, 8th in East
Real Life: 43-39, 5th in East
Quote from Preview: Say what you will about Dwight Howard, and I certainly will from time to time, he’s still a guaranteed double-double every night, and perhaps his escape from Houston to his hometown of Atlanta will revitalize his career a little bit.
We’re not off to a bad start! Dwight Howard actually managed to fly under the radar for most of the season, and averaged a double-double (13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds). He’s not the player he once was, but, just about every team in the league would take that from their center. The Hawks were up and down all year, and at one point, they were 31-22. Injuries contributed to a rough time down the stretch, which included a seven game losing streak, and at one point midway though the season, it seemed like they were ready to blow things up and trade everybody. However, they only traded Kyle Korver, and rebounded towards the end of the year, winning six of their last nine games to give them some momentum heading into the postseason.
Prediction Status: I still feel okay about it.
Prediction: 54-28, 2nd in East
Real Life: 53-29, 1st in East
Quote from Preview: Being a Celtics fan myself, I should probably be disqualified from writing this section, but, this is my blog, and I make the rules.
That quote still holds up, but even I didn’t expect the C’s to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Sure, they can still be a frustrating bunch, and they struggle against the other great teams in their conference, but what a great season. Isaiah Thomas really deserves a lot of credit for this. He took his game to a higher level, and as he got better, the whole team got better. Hopefully this carries over into the Playoffs.
Prediction Status: I feel pretty awesome about how this one turned out.
Prediction: 17-65, 15th in East
Real Life: 20-62, 15th in East
Quote from Preview: The only semblance of hope is a smart new GM in Sean Marks, and a well respected new head coach, Kenny Atkinson.
Well, that smart new GM and well respected head coach actually went ahead and instilled the right attitude in Brooklyn. With nothing really to tank for, thanks to Boston getting to swap draft picks with them, the Nets instead tried to lay the foundation for their culture going forward. It resulted in a team that, while often overmatched, always gave you an honest effort. In fact, I got League Pass midway through the season, and these guys actually became one of my favorite random teams to watch because of it. That’s why it’s so disappointing that they inexplicably decided to rest everyone in the last game of the season, with Playoff implications on the line. It went against everything this team had been building all season long. Nevertheless, if they can nail the draft pick the Celtics swap them and add another useful role player…..well, they’ll still be awful, but they’re heading in the right direction, and they’ve got the right people at the helm.
Prediction Status: I mean, there were fewer predictions easier to make than the Nets finishing with the worst record in the East.
Prediction: 39-43, 10th in East
Real Life: 36-46, 11th in East
Quote from Preview: …I’m looking at the Hornets roster, and I feel like they might have gotten worse.
They definitely got worse. Last season, they were in the Playoffs with a 48-34 record, but this year, they’re back in the lottery. They actually started the season 8-3 before the bottom fell out, including a stretch in which they lost 12 of 13. Kemba Walker keeps getting better, though, so, it’s not hopeless down in Charlotte.
Prediction Status: Another solid prediction. I feel like I might be pretty good at this…
Prediction: 48-34, 5th in the East
Real Life: 41-41, 8th in the East
Quote from Preview: I talked myself into the Chicago Bulls.
Whoops. After a decent start, this team slogged their way through the season, and at times looked like they were going to sink amidst a tide of turmoil. Rajon Rondo was benched, then resurrected towards the end of the season. Dwyane Wade was feared lost for the season, until his recent return. It seemed like Jimmy Butler would get traded. They did trade Taj Gibson, the heart and soul of their team. At times, this team looked like it hated being around one another. I ignored all of the preseason warning signs, most notably that they had a roster filled with terrible shooting. Yet, somehow, they still snuck into the Playoffs, despite the fact that there were definitely moments in the season where their own fans were openly disdainful of the prospect. This was not the most enjoyable season in Bulls history.
Prediction Status: After a solid start to this article, this Bulls debacle has brought me back down to Earth.
Prediction: 56-26, 1st in the East
Real Life: 51-31, 2nd in the East
Quote from Preview: Sure, they most coast through the regular season…
I think we all underestimated just how much they were willing to coast. Here’s another quote from our preview: If there’s one concern with these guys, it’s depth. They’re one injury to Kyrie Irving or LeBron James away from being catchable in the standings…
That lack of depth did catch up to them, as injuries to JR Smith and Kevin Love hampered them throughout the year. They also spent much of the season just not looking very locked in, a storyline that dominated the second half of the year, as many wondered when, or if, they would be able to flip the switch, like LeBron teams had done in the past. They did seem to, briefly, by smacking down the Celtics in Boston. Then, they followed it up with two strange losses to the Hawks, including one where they were up by 26, losing the top seed in the process. Whether or not any of the red flags this team raised during the regular season will matter remains to be seen, but until it’s proven otherwise, they’re still the team to beat in the East.
Prediction Status: I’m okay with being wrong here, because the Celtics overtook them.
Prediction: 36-46, 11th in West
Real Life: 33-49, 11th in West
Quote from Preview: Dirk Nowitzki is always worth watching. Did you know he’s going to pass 30,000 career points this season? That’ll put him with Wilt, Jordan, Kobe, Karl Malone and Kareem as your 30,000 point scorers. Keep watching this legend.
It was rough to see these guys struggle through this season. Who doesn’t like the Mavericks? They stumbled to a 4-17 start, and Dirk missed a good chunk of that stretch with an injury. People started wondering if this would be his last season and getting generally depressed over the state of things in Dallas. Well, these guys rallied and somehow salvaged a fun season out of a 33-49 record. Dirk did indeed reach 30,000 career points, and they briefly appeared in the Western Conference Playoff race. Another highlight was Yogi Ferrel, an undrafted player plucked from the midseason scrap heap, who shined during a ten-day contract, and got himself a multi-year deal out of it. They even had Tony Romo hang out with them on the bench during one of their final games. This was probably the most fun 33-49 season in NBA History.
Prediction Status: I felt lousy about having to make this prediction, and even though it turned out to be fairly accurate, I still feel lousy about it. With Dirk now officially back next season, let’s hope they sneak back into the Playoffs.
Prediction: 35-47, 12th in the West
Real Life: 40-42, 9th in the West
Quote from Preview: They have a potentially killer front court tandem of Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.
Well, that didn’t quite turn out as we had hoped. Nurkic and Jokic didn’t exactly mesh well together, and the Nuggets spent much of the early stages of the season tinkering with their lineup. Finally, Jokic emerged as one of the brightest young stars in the league. Unfortunately, by the time it happened, the Nuggets were already in a hole. Once they finally figured out what the hell they were doing, they became quite a fun team, and almost made the Playoffs. In fact, they might have made the Playoffs if they hadn’t traded Nurkic to Portland, their only real competition for the final spot in the West. He thrived there, which made all of this more frustrating. That being said, I’m happy that they finally made up their minds, and made the right decision. Jokic quickly became one of my favorite players to watch, and there’s a lot to be excited about over in Denver.
Prediction Status: They ended up being better than I thought. If only they had figured themselves out a little earlier.
Prediction: 46-36, 6th in the East
Real Life: 37-45, 10th in the East
Quote from Preview: Stan Van Gundy has done a great job building a roster that suits his style and approach to the game, and he’s the kind of coach that will keep these guys on an upward trend.
Stan Van Gundy might actually be the kind of coach whose players get tired of after awhile. To me at least, this team ended up looking like a squad that was tired of their coach. As the frustration mounted, he ended up benching point guard Reggie Jackson, who is a prime candidate for a change of scenery. Van Gundy seems like one of those coaches who eventually wares his players down to the point that they tune him out, and I’m convinced that’s what’s happening here in Detroit, despite the fact that I have no evidence and no inside sources. I’m just some guy with a stupid blog.
Prediction Status: I had high hopes after this team’s noble effort against the Cavs in the Playoffs last year. I am now disappointed and ashamed.
Golden State Warriors
Prediction: 75-7, 1st in the West
Real Life: 67-15, 1st in the West
Quote from Preview: Well, it’s not like they got worse this offseason.
Looks like adding Kevin Durant worked out well for them. Then he got injured, but the Warriors, after working out some initial kinks, ran off 14 straight wins. They enter the postseason looking pretty unbeatable. They’re also the most hated team in the league. No team seems more into themselves as these guys do, and nothing is more obnoxious than watching these guys steamroll their way to yet another blowout. That obnoxiousness is of course rooted in inevitability. These guys are really good, and despite how good they are, they were overshadowed by so many other things this season. It’s a testament to how great this season actually was.
Prediction Status: I was half joking when I predicted that they’d go 75-7….and I was only eight games off.
Prediction: 50-32, 4th in the West
Real Life: 55-27, 3rd in the West
Quote from Preview: It’s the perfect setting for James Harden to thrive in, and he might average 30 points a game, and close to 10 assists. Heck, he could even become the first player since Tiny Archibald in 1973 to lead the league in both scoring and assists. You heard it here first.
Harden finished the season averaging 29.1 points and a league leading 11.2 assists. Not quite what I had so boldly predicted, but really damn close. I already thought the Rockets would thrive with Harden assuming point guard duties, and Mike D’Antoni coaching, but they were even better than I thought. They evolved into a team that people think is a legitimate contender. Harden very well could win the MVP. I thought they’d have a killer offense, no defense, and lose in the first round of the Playoffs. Now, I wouldn’t be completely shocked if they made the Finals. Surprised, sure, but completely shocked? No.
Prediction Status: They were even better than I thought they’d be.
Prediction: 50-32, 4th in the East
Real Life: 42-40, 7th in the East
Quote from Preview: Outside of Cleveland, the Pacers might have the East’s best individual superstar (including ‘Melo) in Paul George, and in this conference, that alone could be enough to get you 50 wins.
Well, that’s clearly not enough to get you 50 wins. Him, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo are three of the best players in the East, and their teams won 42, 41, and 42 games respectively. It’s time we stop thinking that all it takes is one superstar to nab 50 wins in the East. The conference, while still not on the level as its Western counterpart, deserves more credit than that. Anyway, the Pacers had a really stupid season. George was not shy about voicing his frustration at times, and almost got traded at the deadline. The team never established any sort of a rhythm and sort of just meandered through an underwhelming season. Let’s move on.
Prediction Status: Crappy.
Los Angeles Clippers
Prediction: 60-22, 2nd in the West
Real Life: 51-31, 4th in the West
Quote from Preview: Some teams also just have a certain persona attached to them, and the Clippers might always be “the Clippers” until they can prove otherwise…
Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin dealt with injuries during an up and down year for the Clippers. It seems like a million years ago, but they started the season 14-2. They also suffered through a six game losing streak, but followed it up with a seven game winning streak. These guys are capable of almost anything, good and bad. A trip to the Conference Finals? Sure, I can see it. Flaming out in the First Round? Wouldn’t surprise me either. This might also be their last ride together, so, whatever they’re about to do in the Playoffs, we should enjoy it while it lasts.
Prediction Status: I clearly forgot to factor in their annual injuries to their two best players.
Los Angeles Lakers
Prediction: 23-59, 15th in the West
Real Life: 26-56, 14th in the West
Quote from Preview: It won’t be pretty, but without the Kobe Bryant Farewell Circus looming over the team, they should be free to grow and improve.
Or tank. Needing to finish in the top three in the lottery to keep their pick, they totally gave up towards the end of the season. They straight up benched their veterans for no reason, other than they might accidentally help them win games. Don’t be surprised if the Basketball Gods punish them with a lottery pick outside of the top three, which would mean they get nothing. Instead of growing and improving, they were just kind of blah and uninspiring.
Prediction Status: Close enough, who cares.
Prediction: 44-38, 8th in the West
Real Life: 43-39, 7th in the West
Quote from Preview: Injuries seem to be part of the Chandler Parsons Experience, but in the name of basic basketball decency, can the Basketball Gods please let the rest of the squad make it through the season unscathed?
Well, Chandler Parsons had one of the most useless, depressing seasons ever, and Tony Allen is now injured just in time for the Playoffs. Other than that, these guys are exactly what you’d expect. Grit and grind to the bitter end. I’ve always been a proponent of the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts before it inevitably goes to hell in spectacular fashion.
Prediction Status: Almost nailed it.
Prediction: 32-50, 13th in the East
Real Life: 41-41, 9th in the East
Quote from Preview: Holy hell.
I didn’t think much of the Heat’s chances coming off an offseason in which the greatest player in their history bolted town. I felt pretty good about this prediction for half of the season, and then they went 30-11 in the second half, and damn near made the Playoffs. They were one of the great stories of the season, and I’d frankly rather be watching them this weekend than the Pacers or Bulls.
Prediction Status: Wrong, but I’m okay with it.
Prediction: 34-48, 12th in the East
Real Life: 42-40, 6th in the East
Quote from Preview: They’ll be scrappy, and they’ll always play hard, but I’m not quite sure if I trust them to be a Playoff contender quite yet.
In my defense, before the season started, it looked as though Khris Middleton would be out for the year. Instead, he came back to play in 29 games, in which the team went 19-10. Sadly, he came back just when Jabari Parker was lost for the year for the second time in his three seasons. Pray to the basketball gods for this team’s health next year, because they are scrappy, they do always play hard, and they should be a Playoff contender. Giannis Antetokounmpo blossomed into a real superstar, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon, drafted out of the second round, played like a savvy veteran. There’s lots to like with this group.
Prediction Status: Wrong, but once again, I’m okay with it.
Prediction: 40-42, 9th in the West
Real Life: 31-51, 13th in the West
Quote from Preview: I imagine they’ll lose a lot of close games and it’ll end up being the difference between a Playoff appearance and another lottery appearance.
Well, they certainly lost a lot of close games. They’re still learning how to win, but they provided a lot of excitement, even as they continued coughing up close games. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins remain two of the most exciting young players, and they’ll have yet another lottery pick joining the squad next year, though, it does seem like they may have whiffed on this year’s rookie, Kris Dunn. They’ll enter next season with the same buzz and excitement, but at some point, these youngsters are going to have to turn the corner and figure out how to actually win some of these games.
Prediction Status: Definitely jumped the gun on these guys.
New Orleans Pelicans
Prediction: 39-43, 10th in the West
Real Life: 34-48, 10th in the West
Quote from Preview: Come on, Basketball Gods, can we get 75 games from Anthony Davis this year?
Anthony Davis played in exactly 75 games this season. See? The Basketball Gods are real. The Pelicans made the biggest trade of the season, netting DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings. By the time he got there, the Playoffs were already unlikely, and they still don’t have much of a supporting cast. An important offseason looms. Can they bolster their roster and build a real contender with their admittedly intriguing big man pairing of Davis and Cousins?
Prediction Status: I think we can all just be happy that we got a healthy season out of Anthony Davis.
New York Knicks
Prediction: 40-42, 9th in the East
Real Life: 31-51, 12th in the East
Quote from Preview: This being New York and all, expectations are exceptionally high, and this being the Knicks, I have a feeling they’re going to barely miss the Playoffs, angering everybody. At least they won’t be boring.
Oh, they angered everybody. Instead of “barely missing the Playoffs” they decided to go with a much more direct “not even coming close to making the Playoffs” approach. It seems like a lifetime ago, but these guys actually started the season 16-13, but all hell eventually broke loose. Derrick Rose had a strange season, going AWOL by disappearing from the team for a day without telling everyone, eventually succumbing to yet another knee injury late in the season. Team President Phil Jackson seemed like he spent the year going out of his way to purposely antagonize Carmelo Anthony, who may have played his final games as a Knick. Jackson also continues to push the Triangle Offense, despite the fact that everyone hates it. At least they weren’t boring, but at this point, Knicks fans might take a boring season over the ongoing mess that their team has become.
Prediction Status: I should have known better.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Prediction: 47-35, 6th in the West
Real Life: 47-35, 6th in the West
Quote from Preview: Russell Westbrook in full on angry vengeance mode. He’s going to win several games by himself, average 30 points and rack up an unholy amount of triple-doubles. He should be an MVP candidate.
I mean, what else is there to say than that?
Prediction Status: NAILED IT!
Prediction: 37-45, 11th in East
Real Life: 29-53, 13th in East
Quote from Preview: They’re one player away from being an intriguing Playoff team, but in the meantime, a solid foundation is forming in Orlando.
There’s nothing quite like my Orlando Magic prediction to deflate my ego from my Oklahoma City Thunder prediction. What the hell was I thinking with this one? It didn’t help that they spent more time messing around with their lineup than the Nuggets did. Eventually, they gave up on the thought of being able to convince Serge Ibaka to resign there, so they traded him. Then, they had the embarrassing experience of having a whiteboard full of their potential offseason plans leaked in a photo of some random player they signed late in the season. The first thing they did once the season ended was fire their GM. Other than that, it was a pretty solid season for the Orlando Magic.
Prediction Status: The only thing more embarrassing than the Orlando Magic themselves is this prediction.
Prediction: 25-57, 14th in the East
Real Life: 28-54, 14th in the East
Quote from Preview: They’re getting pretty crowded up front, with Embiid, Jahill Okafor and Nerlens Noel, so expect one of these guys (probably Noel) to get traded.
Told you Nerlens Noel was going to get traded. Anyway, it was just about as fun as a 28-54 season can possibly be for the Sixers. Joel Embiid, despite playing only 31 games, still made quite an impact, and established himself as a real NBA character. They still need to figure out what to do with Okafor, and of course, Ben Simmons, the number one pick in the draft, missed the entire season with an injury. Nevertheless, this team finally seems to be trending upwards, and of course, they’ll have another lottery pick to use on this year’s exciting young player with the most injury concerns.
Prediction Status: I am surprised, and happy to report that the Sixers were slightly better than I expected.
Prediction: 30-52, 13th in the West
Real Life: 24-58, 15th in the West
Quote from Preview: The Suns are one of those teams caught between needing to rebuild with youngsters, and the desire to make the Playoffs.
I think it’s safe to say that they decided on “needing to rebuild with youngsters”. Of all the teams tanking this year, the Suns were perhaps the most egregious, benching Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler despite them being fully able to play. I honestly don’t know if Brandon Knight was similarly benched, is actually injured, or just finally had enough, wandered into the desert and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. I hate what they did. Bledsoe was having a great season, and his reward is to have to sit for the last third of the season because his team is actively trying to lose. Time in the NBA is precious, and a good chunk of Bledsoe’s was wasted this year. He’s still young and in his prime, and if I were him, I’d be extremely bitter about this. Everyone complains when a star rests for one nationally televised game, but we have teams like this and the Lakers just benching healthy guys for entire portions of the season, and people seem less angry about it. Just a garbage season all around in Phoenix (and Los Angeles). Both of these teams can go to hell.
Oh, and, Devin Booker scored 70 points in one game.
Prediction Status: Thinking about this team makes me angry.
Portland Trail Blazers
Prediction: 46-36, 7th in the West
Real Life: 41-41, 8th in the West
Quote from Preview: They proved to be a scrappy team that played well together, and that shouldn’t change this season.
These guys almost messed around and missed the postseason. At one point, they were 24-35, and even the goddamn Sacramento Kings spent a little time ahead of them in the standings. However, they got their act together, and made a great trade, acquiring Jusuf Nurkic from the Nuggets. Turned out he’s a pretty great center as well. He helped spark Portland’s rally towards the end of the season, then promptly got injured, and his status is in question for the start of the Playoffs. Nevertheless, he was a key part in their return to the Playoffs, which had fallen into serious jeopardy. Their backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum isn’t half bad either.
Prediction Status: I think we all expected more from these guys, but the way they ended their season reminded us all of why we liked them in the first place.
Prediction: 27-55, 14th in the West
Real Life: 32-50, 12th in the West
Quote from Preview: This might finally be the season where star DeMarcus Cousins either loses his mind, or gets traded. Or both.
He got traded! The Kings had another tough time this year. They said they weren’t trading Cousins, then within weeks, they did exactly that. It’s quite apparent that the people running the team don’t often know what they’re doing. The future is murky for them. Having little in the way of talent combined with a front office that is the laughingstock of the league doesn’t make for a very hopeful future. At least they have a nice new stadium.
Prediction Status: Even though they did better than I predicted, it somehow feels like they did worse.
San Antonio Spurs
Prediction: 55-27, 3rd in the West
Real Life: 61-21, 2nd in the West
Quote from Preview: …Kawhi Leonard’s continued growth into one of the league’s best players should be enough to excite any basketball fan. He could be in the running to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
The NBA’s Ol’ Reliable, the San Antonio Spurs. Once again, they went out there, did their thing, and won their 55-65 games. Even without Tim Duncan, and with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili aging, Kawhi Leonard just keeps getting better and better. He is indeed in the running for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. They also had their usual cast of players nobody’s ever heard making big contributions. I don’t know about you, but I’m already looking forward to Davis Bertans winning them a Playoff game with a big three pointer.
Prediction Status: I think penciling these guys in for 55-27 until the end of time is the right thing to do.
Prediction: 53-29, 3rd in the East
Real Life: 51-31, 3rd in the East
Quote from Preview: They’ve proved that they’re one of the best teams in the conference…
During the season, they addressed their biggest need by finally swinging a deal for a power forward. They brought in Serge Ibaka, and while they were at it, also added PJ Tucker to bolster their defense. They stayed afloat during an injury to Kyle Lowry, thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s brilliant season. Last year, they made their first Conference Finals, and they could very well make a return trip, though their fans are constantly on edge, for fear that they might revert to their disappointing Playoff performances of the past.
Prediction Status: Just about right.
Prediction: 48-34, 5th in the West
Real Life: 51-31, 5th in the West
Quote from Preview: Plenty of folks are planning on 50 wins from this Jazz team that’s on the rise.
I should have listened to those folks. Injury issues at the beginning of the season scared me off from predicting 50 wins for this team, and while those injury issues plagued the team all season long, they persevered with a really great season. Who knows what could have been if they were completely healthy. Anyway, it’s exciting to have the Jazz good again, isn’t it?
Prediction Status: At least I got their seed right.
Prediction: 44-38, 7th in the East
Real Life: 49-33, 4th in the East
Quote from Preview: As we pray to the Basketball Gods for Anthony Davis’ health, let’s say a prayer or two for Beal’s as well. Be merciful, Basketball Gods.
Beal played in 77 games and had his greatest season. Thank you, Basketball Gods. Praise unto them. The Wizards actually started the season 3-9 before really blossoming into the team we’d all hope they’d be. From then on, they proved to be a formidable and feisty foe, and even developed a little rivalry with my Celtics. They even bolstered their bench a little bit during the season, which was their biggest weakness. Bojan Bogdanovic and Brandon Jennings came aboard to provide extra shooting and relief to an excellent starting five. It’ll be good to see this squad back in the Playoffs.
Prediction Status: Better than I thought.
Well, that does it. I think we did a fairly decent job with our preseason predictions. Only the wretched Orlando Magic prediction stands out as outwardly embarrassing, although my Bulls prediction was clearly questionable. Irregardless, what a fun regular season it was. Truly one for the record books. Let’s hope, and pray to our friends, the wise Basketball Gods, that the Playoffs are just as memorable.