NBA season preview with Kevin Blackistone

Oct 27, 2015

Washington Post sports columnist Kevin Blackistone, an ESPN panelist and visiting professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, answered questions about the upcoming NBA season.

A lot of people are high on the Spurs. I'm not so sure. If Tony Parker is injured/ineffective, which seams like a real possibility, I think they're at best about the 4th best team in the West. What say you?

I like the Spurs. That's a big 'if.' I look at the infusion of youth from LaMarcus Aldridge and the development of Leonard and the coaching and believe they're right there.

90% chance the Cavs reach the NBA Finals? Barring an injury to LeBron, I don't see any team beating them until the Finals.

Better than 90 percent. It's theirs to lose. There's not another team in the East with 60 wins in them. Carroll's departure hurts Atlanta.

What to make of the Mavs this year? Most prognosticators have them at the bottom of the playoff hunt in the West with no mobility upward. Is there a best case scenario for this team that isn't the No. 7 or 8 seed? Obviously, worst case scenario is that Wes Matthews and Chandler Parsons never get healthy and Dirk finally gives in to old age. But then again, Dirk is more machine than human, so let's not go there.

The Mavs window on the Dirk run is closed. A great run it was. But seventh or eighth is best it can do unless OKC goes down with injuries again.

Can a healthy Kevin Durant and the Thunder claw their way through the cutthroat west and make it to the NBA finals?

Absolutely! Durant will be on a mission. Westbrook was born on a mission. Their biggest problem will be a coach adjusting. But this could be its most talented configuration.

KD2DC...that's the news, that's the story, that's the focus, and that's the mission for the fans and the front office alike as it relates to the Wizards this upcoming off-season. What I want to know is - what is the Plan B? As of right now, the Wizards are only paying guaranteed money to four players next season: John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre and Martell Webster. Naturally they'll want to bring Bradley Beal and in all likelihood Otto Porter and Ramon Sessions who appears to be a capable back up to Wall. Beyond that who knows - it all depends on Kevin Durant, right? But if Durant doesn't come home who is the backup plan guy that Ernie Grunfeld and company looking at to lure to DC? Harrison Barnes? Nicolas Batum? DeMar DeRozan? Al Horford? LeBron James? Kobe? The fact that there is not a peep of a Plan B is understandable (gotta go all in on Durant to lure him) but its still kind of scary considering the history of this franchise and its poor decisions regarding big money free agents.

There isn't a Plan B. The drop off after Durant is precipitous. Then you start thinking differently. DeRozan is nice. LeBron isn't leaving. You just have to flesh out your roster. But I'm betting on Durant, which is purely fanatical.

I'm reading all these people at ESPN who think Boston is going to win 50 (???????). Surely not. And the Wizards as a 5 seed? Healthy Wiz looked set to beat Atlanta last year. What's your preseason top five in the East?

Boston should win 50. The addition of David Lee, who up until last season, was an All-Star 18 and 9 guy, will be the difference. He should start again. This is my surprise pick this year. Nice roster.

Top 6 is LOADED. Warriors Spurs Rockets Thunder Clippers Grizzlies. Let's assume those are the top 6 in the West standings at the end of the year -- who gets your last two playoff spots?

Pelicans, Mavs.

Do you think the Sacramento Kings will be able to mesh these new players/coach together and make it back to the playoffs?

No. They can't win 40.

Who are your early MVP candidates?

Kevin Durant. After missing 55 games last season, he'll play with vengeance.

With Paul Pierce gone, how much bigger of a role do you think Otto Porter will play in the Wizards' offense this season?

I think one of the things that excited Pierce about coming here was Porter's lack of development that opened potential minutes for Pierce. But Porter developed in the playoffs. He was essential. He's not the closer that Pierce was, but who is. Porter has arrived.

Was John Wall a top 10 player last year? Will he be this year? Will he ever be? What is his ceiling?

He was a Top 5 point guard. He will be no less this season. He has no ceiling.

What are your thoughts on how well George Karl will do in Sacramento with two of the most volatile players in the game today in Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins ?

That Finals' appearance by George Karl is almost 20 years old. Great guy. Resilient story. Overrated coach.

Do you think he'll make it through the entire season without serious injury?

I don't think he'll make it without injury. How can he at 37 with his recent history? Seriousness? Who knows? I'm a columnist, not Nostradamus!

Can you name a player who might go from "only known by die-hards" to legitimate star this season? Someone like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson or Jeff Teague in previous seasons?

I'm a big Mitch Mcgary fan.

What are the chances he plays a full season this year, or in his career?

No way. 82 games? Not with his history and his concerns about his health. His style of play, his contact style, doesn't bode well for health. Remember Jordan wore UNC shorts under his game shorts. Rose wears pads.

NBA reporters are predicting the Wizards to finish anywhere from second to sixth in the East.

Where do you see them finishing?


Think they'll be better than everyone except the LeBrons, Celtics, and the Hawks.

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Kevin Blackistone
Kevin B. Blackistone is an ESPN panelist and visiting professor at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and writes sports commentary for The Post.
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