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8 Fearless N.B.A. Season Predictions

You ask; I reply. Each week on this house, I’ll area three questions posed by way of e mail at marcstein-newsletter@nytimes.com. Please embody your first and final title, in addition to town you’re writing in from, and ensure “Nook Three” is within the topic line.

(Questions could also be calmly edited or condensed for readability.)

Q: The West is clearly going to have greater than eight groups vying for playoff spots. Which groups do you suppose we will rule out now? — Natalie Anfuso (Wayne, Pa.)

Stein: I completely perceive why you’re asking, as a result of it’s a troublesome query to reply. For those who’re seeking to rule out groups utterly, I might really feel comfy naming solely Oklahoma Metropolis — and that’s simply because the Thunder have aggressively embraced a rebuilding posture. It wouldn’t shock me, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander working the offense and Al Horford and Luguentz Dort anchoring the protection, if even the Thunder proved to be a more durable out than anticipated.

Each group within the West that completed eighth or decrease final season has grander visions of this season’s ceiling. No. 8 Portland believes it is going to contend for a top-four seed after the acquisition of Robert Covington and a few extra roster tweaking. Memphis positioned ninth and is relying on an analogous end, at worst, purely by Ja Morant’s presumed enchancment in Yr 2. And No. 10 Phoenix is broadly thought to be playoff materials now after going 8-0 on the Walt Disney World bubble after which buying and selling for Chris Paul.

Whereas outsiders await a possible commerce that ships out a veteran like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan or Patty Mills, No. 11 San Antonio is optimistic that the expertise its youthful gamers gained within the bubble will make the Spurs a playoff sleeper. No. 13 New Orleans is among the harder groups to evaluate and figures to have a puncher’s likelihood to achieve the postseason purely based mostly on the observe report of its new coach, Stan Van Gundy, and Zion Williamson’s promising preseason. Golden State, after all, is anticipated to bounce again from the league’s worst report (15-50) to contend for a playoff berth — even with Klay Thompson out for the season after he tore his proper Achilles’ tendon in November.

I’ve extra confidence in Karl-Anthony Cities and D’Angelo Russell clicking and No. 14 Minnesota becoming a member of that blend forward of No. 12 Sacramento, however the Timberwolves and the Kings should be thought-about playoff lengthy pictures in a convention this deep. The Kings, bear in mind, have missed the postseason for a league-high 14 consecutive seasons and, even with a revamped entrance workplace, left quite a few rival groups surprised by their determination to not match Atlanta’s four-year, $72 million supply sheet to Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Q: Perhaps it wasn’t a part of the wildest low season ever, however Luke Ridnour had a wild week in 2015 — he was traded 5 occasions, if I bear in mind accurately. Did he ever play for any of them? — Barron Corridor (Chicago)

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