Kurt Helin

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love

51 Questions: Who will win the East?


PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Which teams make the playoffs, then who wins the East.

Here are our staff predictions:

Kurt Helin:

1. Cavaliers
2. Heat
3. Wizards
4. Bulls
5. Raptors
6. Hawks
7. Bucks
8. Pistons

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Wizards

It is the Cavaliers then everyone else in the East. Maybe, if they dial it back to keep LeBron James and others healthy for the playoffs the Cavs can be challenged or beaten for the top seed, but it will not matter come the playoffs if that pays off and everyone is on the floor. I’m higher on Washington than most, I think this is Bradley Beal‘s breakout season, but if the Bulls or Heat make the ECF I’m not going to be surprised. Also, I’m not sold Boston can replicate last season’s success, and I like the Pistons.

Dan Feldman:

1. Cavaliers
2. Bulls
3. Wizards
4. Heat
5. Raptors
6. Hawks
7. Bucks
8. Celtics

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Bulls

It’s the Cavs and then everyone else, including the Pistons, Pacers and Hornets, who could compete for home-court advantage. There’s a lot of wiggle room in those lower seeds. I like the Bucks’ and Celtics’ futures, but I’m only lukewarm on their ability to win big yet.

Sean Highkin:

1. Bulls
2. Heat
3. Cavaliers
4. Wizards
5. Hawks
6. Raptors
7. Bucks
8. Pistons

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Bulls

I don’t really see the Cavs getting the No. 1 seed in the East — they’re starting off the year with too many key guys injured (Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert are out, and Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov are still limited), and LeBron is at the point in his career where he needs to seriously think about going on the Dwyane Wade/Tim Duncan plan and sitting out back-to-backs. But even though the Cavs may not have the best regular-season record, if they’re healthy in the playoffs, nobody is on their level.

Hornets select Greensboro as home for new D-League fanchise

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The Charlotte Hornets will launch their own D-League team. Well, in a year, the start of the 2016 season, but they are getting one.

And they are keeping it close to home — the team will be based in Greensboro, reports the Greensboro News & Record.

The Charlotte Hornets have chosen Greensboro as the host city for a new professional basketball minor-league team in the expanding NBA Development League. A formal announcement is expected Tuesday at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, but officials with the Hornets and the D-league, as it’s called, have confirmed the move.

This is the third largest city in North Carolina, and while they have a facility — the Pavilion — it’s not a basketball gym and is going to need some upgrades, such as a permanent roof. And better locker rooms. But they have a plan and a year to get the work done and turn it into a fieldhouse-style facility.

Maybe the biggest challenge is there are no other D-League teams in the region right now. D-League teams are clustered in Texas, California and the West, plus in the NorthEast. The Miami Heat have their team in Sioux City, South Dakota. The Greensboro team is going to travel a lot for a few years, until the league fills out a little, and other teams move to the south.

As it stands now, this will bring to 20 the number of D-League teams next season, and they will all have one-on-one relationships with NBA teams. And this is a good move for teams — and a good one for Charlotte. It can give them a leg up in development of young players that could eventually be part of the big club. You know, a real minor league. That’s the goal.

Kings’ George Karl going to start Willie Cauley-Stein at at four

Kawhi Leonard, Willie Cauley-Stein
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Willie Cauley-Stein‘s seven-foot length and crazy athleticism let him cover up a lot of mistakes from high school and at Kentucky (John Calipari had him playing to his strengths). But the NBA game requires quicker recognition and a higher basketball IQ.

Cauley-Stein admits he’s adjusting to that, as reported by James Ham at CSNBayArea.com.

“I didn’t realize that there is so much to the game, besides playing the game, so that’s where I’m at now,” the former Kentucky star said. “From a mental standpoint of just understanding the NBA as a whole as a concept.”

He’s picked it up enough that George Karl is going to start him at the power forward spot next to DeMarcus Cousins, something the coach said after a recent practice.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Karl said. “I would say right now, Willie’s probably going to start. I’m not sure of that yet, but I think that’s probably where I’m heading.”

Part of that is that Cauley-Stein is athletic and can run the floor well, fitting better with the up-tempo style Karl wants to play. Plus he brings some shot blocking. Karl could have tried to start Cousins and Kosta Koufos, but that’s not exactly a running lineup. That said, I don’t expect to see heavy minutes for Cauley-Stein either (21-22 a game is my guess).

What I do expect to see more and more of from the Kings as the season goes on is small ball, with Rudy Gay and others playing a stretch four. Karl is going to massage lineups and figure out what makes them most competitive.

Kobe Bryant goes through full practice, expected for opener

Kobe Bryant
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Did anyone think Kobe Bryant was going to miss the opening game of the season?

If there was any lingering doubt, it was wiped away on Sunday when Bryant through a full practice, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

“Yeah, I told him if he couldn’t go [Sunday], [Monday] we could start worrying,” (Lakers coach Byron) Scott said after practice at the Lakers’ facility here. “He walked out [Sunday], he said it felt good. He gave me a thumbs-up. Went through the scrimmage and everything. You can see a little rust, but other than that, he was moving pretty fluid again. It was just good to see.”

And the same competitive Kobe fire was there.

“He played well. He was shooting in people’s faces,” (Metta) World Peace said. “The white team was beating up the purple team. And then somebody decided to talk [trash] to Kobe. That was the wrong thing to do.”

That’s good to hear — we’re all rooting for a healthy Kobe this season.

It will be interesting to see how Scott limits Bryant’s minutes this season. It also will be interesting to see how Kobe interacts with talented but mistake-prone young players who will have the ball in their hands a lot. Everyone around the Lakers is saying all the right things, but on Wednesday the words end and the actions start.

Top 10 plays of preseason by rookies (VIDEO)

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It’s hard to read much into the preseason — Cleveland was 1-6, Charlotte was 7-1, you going to take the Hornets to finish with the better record?

But one thing that is fun to watch is the rookies grow and start to find their footing a little. Of course, in this video segment you just get to see a lot of dunks — that’s fun, too — but the growth will come.

It’s hard to knock Larry Nance Jr. in the top spot, but I like Justin Anderson‘s dunk just as much.