NBA Predictions: Clippers

LeBron James agreed terms with cross-town rival Lakers, so the Clippers are once again little brother in Los Angeles. Their three best players from a year ago are gone, but Avery Bradley is re-signing for two years-$25 million, while Montrezl Harrell has agreed for two years-$12 million. To go along with Marcin Gortat, the Clippers have sixteen contracts and two non-guaranteed contracts to work with.

This many players means the Clippers will have to make at least one cut or trade before the season starts. As constructed, this team is right under the Luxury Tax with total salaries equal to $122,371,725 and is expected to win 42 games again. A healthy Gallinari with something to prove could provide five wins. Harris can be worth five wins this season as well, in his first full season in Los Angeles. Lou Williams got off to a great start with the Clippers with a career high 6.7 Win Shares last season and will do well to replicate that. Gortat has had ups and downs in his career and has improved in his first two years with a new team, so should provide at least six wins. Unfortunately, Bradley was a negative producer last season and the Clippers will depend on his defense on the perimeter, hoping he can be close to NBA average on offense to add a win for this club. Marjanovic has shown flashes of productivity, though in limited minutes. The Clippers will lean on him more down low this season, and he will provide when called upon for at least two wins.

There does not appear to be a player available in free agency that could change the Clippers fortunes, but a trade could be an option for a last-minute of in-season upgrade. This roster is expected to miss the playoffs once again with the same record.

2017-18 Record: 42-40

2018-19 Contracts: 16

2018-19 Total Salaries: $122,371,725

2018-19 Prediction: 42-40

NBA Predictions: Lakers

The new-look Los Angeles Lakers is a retro of Dr. Jerry Buss’s teams, with the biggest star in the NBA on the floor and in the front office. It’s only fitting Magic would recruit LeBron to return the Lakers to legitimacy, but what is this team really capable of this season?

This current roster is expected to add eight wins to last season’s record but still fall short of the making the playoffs in the Wild West. Last season’s eighth seed was Minnesota at 47 wins. LeBron has been able to bring out more from his team than expected, but there is a period of acclimation that takes at least one and sometimes two seasons. Can the challenge of a playoff push–something James has not experienced in over a decade–bring the most out of this group? It’s hard to imagine LeBron James missing the playoffs, and with plenty of room under the Luxury Tax, there could be more moves coming out of the front office. For these reasons, I believe the Lakers will go three games above their expected wins (42.8) in 2018-19 and grab the final spot in the West playoffs.

2017-18 Record: 35-47

2018-19 Contracts: 15

2018-19 Total salaries: $106,474,556

2018-19 Prediction: 46-36 (8th seed in West, First Round exit)