It’s October which means we are now only days away from the start of a new NBA season. It also means that it’s time once again for annual musical NBA prognostications. The 2017 edition of the musical outlook will be dominated by one person. The recent passing of Tom Petty was not only a sad day for the music world, but the sports world as well. The majority of people knew Tom Petty through his music, and his legacy is cemented in the pantheon of greats in the history of music. Petty was also an active member of the sports community as well. His halftime performance at Super Bowl XLII became one of legend as “I Won’t Back Down” became a rallying cry for the underdog Giants as they went on to beat the undefeated Patriots. Petty was also a diehard Lakers fan, and he was a staple at courtside for Lakers games. Tom Petty was able to tap into the spirit of all people because ultimately he represented everyone in his music. We could all relate to at least one of his songs, but usually more than one. In honor of Tom Petty, this NBA outlook will use only songs that are related to his various acts.
After a wild offseason we can only hope the regular season can deliver. If you have been following along since last June we’ve seen blockbuster trades involving superstars and top teams, there’s an arms race in the Western Conference, crazy Twitter conspiracies, and the continuing saga of LaVar Ball. Now that the season is upon us and the rosters are set it’s time to peer into the musical crystal ball to see what exactly is in store for the 2017-18 NBA season. This week we will look at the Eastern Conference, the definite B-side to this year’s NBA album. Next week we will look at the Western Conference.
Atlanta- “Welcome to Hell”
“Ah, welcome to hell, population two
Little old me, and the lack of you
See the hole in the bed,
Where you no longer sleep?
In the chamber of promises
We just couldn’t keep”
The Hawks are going to be a dumpster fire this year. Remember when they had an outside shot of being the team in the East three years ago? They seem to have a revolving door of star talent and can never sustain anything. The good news is that they should be in prime position to get one of the elite draft prospects in next year’s lottery.
Boston- “Handle Me With Care”
“I’ve been uptight and made a mess
But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess
Oh, the sweet smell of success
Handle me with care”
The big question with Boston this year will be how the new pieces mesh. They are clearly at the top of the East, but will they be good enough to knock off Cleveland? With Brad Stevens, Kyrie Irving, and Gordon Hayward leading the way I really like their chances.
Brooklyn- “Yer So Bad”
“In a world gone mad, yer so bad”
Brooklyn is finally out of tank mode! The reason, unfortunately, is not because they’re good, but because they have no draft picks to tank for. It’s going to be another bad season for the Nets.
“You give me hope
That there’s another side
You give me dreams
You gimme back my pride”
A healthy MKG and Malik Monk make this a team worth rooting for. Kemba Walker’s steady presence and the addition of a redemption-seeking Dwight Howard give Hornets fans a season to be hopeful for. They should be in contention for a playoff spot since the bottom half of the East is terrible. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen, right? It’s at least something to hope for.
Chicago- “Free Fallin’”
“I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’
Gonna leave this world for awhile”
Good old Chicago. My personal favorite team, and the current favorite to have the worst season of anyone. They got rid of every meaningful piece from last year’s team that came tantalizingly close to beating the Celtics in the playoffs. No Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade, Rondo, or even Doug McDermott leaves this team as the youngest team in the league and the most likely to experience a total free fall.
Cleveland- “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
“Last dance with Mary Jane, one more time to kill the pain
I feel summer creepin’ in and I’m tired of this town again”
Everybody knows what the big story with Cleveland is this year. Is this Lebron’s last season before heading out west? Cavs fans need to prepare for this being the last dance, but there’s potential for it to be one hell of a finale. If Isaiah Thomas can get healthy then the Cavs should be an offensive powerhouse close to, if not on par with, Golden State. That’s a big caveat though, and with the additions Boston made it won’t be a cakewalk.
Detroit- “Don’t Fade on Me”
“I remember feeling this way
You can lose it without knowing
You wake up and you don’t notice
Which way the wind is blowing”
There isn’t a lot to be excited about with the Pistons this year outside of Derek Willis being on the team. They’ve got enough talent in Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley, and Stanley Johnson to be in the middle of the pack in the East. It didn’t seem like too long that they were on the upswing, but now they’re stuck in this 6-10 range in the East and a fade seems inevitable.
Indiana- “Not Alone Anymore”
“You always said that I would know someday
Just how it feels when your love walks away
I let you down I let you go
I lost you, how was I to know”
The whole Paul George thing this summer was weird. They had the opportunity to get Kevin Love at the least, but settled instead for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers weren’t going to be able to flip George for anything to make them a contender with the top 4 teams in the East, but at least Kevin Love gave them a shot to maintain a playoff team. With their current roster they’re officially in a rebuild.
Miami- “Love is a Long Road”
“Yeah it was hard to give up
Some things are hard to let go”
When Lebron left Miami there was still a strong foundation in place. The departure of Wade, Chris Bosh’s medical woes, and the complete disappearance of Mario Chalmers would’ve doomed most other teams. Miami, however, has found a way to stay relatively competitive in spite of those things. The emergence of Hassan Whiteside and the acquisitions of Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have given the Heat a strong veteran foundation to go with some intriguing young pieces. The Heat are still a ways away from the “Big Three”glory days, but they’re on the long road back there.
Milwaukee- “Here Comes My Girl”
“And then she looks me in the eye, says, “We gonna last forever,”
And man, you know I can’t begin to doubt it
No, because this feels so good and so free and so right,
I know we ain’t never goin’ change our minds about it”
The Bucks are all about Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak became a bonafide superstar last year and threatens to be a top 5 player in the league for a long time. As Giannis goes, so go the Bucks. If he can make another leap this year and the Bucks get improvement from Thon Maker, Jabari Parker, and Malcolm Brogdon they could be in contention for a top three spot in the East.
New York- “The Other Side of the Mountain”
“On the other side of the mountain
Where I long, I long to be, to be with you
But this mountain that’s there between us
Makes it so hard, so hard to see
To see it through”
With the Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony sagas over the Knicks are back on a path doesn’t feel like trying to fit square pegs into round holes. There has been so much disarray for so long with the Knicks that while they are currently on the other side of this mountain, there always seems to be another mountain just ahead. Kristap Porzingis will be fun to watch again this year, but that’s about it.
Orlando- “Forgotten Man”
“I feel like a forgotten man yes
I feel like a forgotten man”
Going into this writing I had listed out the Eastern Conference teams and kept coming up one short. For the life of me I could not remember who I was forgetting. Even as I looked through the NBA teams I somehow managed to skip over Orlando. Their roster, aside from Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja, reads like a roster from one of those “The Tournament” teams that plays for a million bucks each summer. They’ll be pretty bad this year, but not many people will care.
Philadelphia- “The Waiting”
“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part”
Alright Philly, and basketball in general, fans, this is it. Time to see what “The Process” is all about. Joel Embiid might play some games this year (and if he doesn’t he still got mega paid). Ben Simmons looks good to go. Markelle Fultz has shown more flashes of personality in two months than he did the whole time at Washington. Is this the year the 76ers make some noise? Normally I’d be cautious in my prediction with a group that has played so little together, but Embiid has me believing. Pencil it in, the 76ers are going to make the playoffs and even take one from the Cavs in their series.
Toronto- “Flirting with Time”
“You’re flirting with time baby
Flirting with time, but maybe,
Time baby, is catching up with you.”
Toronto is in year 1000 with the Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas core and they don’t have a ton to show for it. Granted, they’ve been on the receiving end of a few Cavaliers playoff beat downs, so it’s hard to fault them too much. This group feels like the unfortunate teams that were really good during the Jordan era that never got to realize their potential. The good thing for the Raptors and this core group is that next year might bring a better chance to make the Finals, but how much longer do these players want to play the waiting game?
Washington- “Won’t Back Down”
“Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down”
When John Wall jumped on the scorer’s table after beating Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, he firmly entrenched himself among beloved Washington sports figures. I’m not sure how long that list is, but it was a really cool moment. Wall hasn’t been shy about bringing attention to other teams loading up on talent, but he always ends up talking about how confident he is in what they’re building in DC. I don’t think Wall and Bradley Beal will be enough with that supporting cast to challenge Boston or Cleveland. John Wall doesn’t care what I think though, or what you think or what anyone thinks. When the ball goes up he’s shown that he won’t back down from anyone. Hopefully a mid-season trade for Boogie will give them some reinforcements though.