In one month, the NBA will once again tip-off it’s marathon 82-game season.
If you’re like me, that means life will be restored to a state of normalcy as the greatest players the world has to offer pick up right where they left off. After an offseason in which the DeAndre Jordan saga was the biggest headline, it is time for real basketball to make its triumphant return. Here are my predictions for everything from who will win regular season awards to which team will eventually hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.
Most Valuable Player: Anthony Davis
The Pelicans are primed for their first back-to-back 40+ win seasons since the Chris Paul era in 2008-2009. The hiring of Head Coach Alvin Gentry will certainly help the team this season, as Gentry will provide the young locker room with over 20 years of coaching experience. In terms of personnel, this team is nearly identical to last years squad. That means Davis will once again be the go-to guy. His rare combination of size, length, and athletic ability make him a matchup nightmare- allowing him to dominate every game he plays in. Last season, Davis averaged 10.2 rebounds, 2.9 blocks, and 24.4 points per game with a field goal percentage of 53.9%. Davis’ supporting cast is the most talented and deep it has ever been, meaning that defenses will have to focus on someone other than him for once, allowing Davis dominate more than he did last season. The Pelicans will make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference with the MVP of the league as their centerpiece.
Rookie of the Year: Karl Anthony-Towns
It’s not exactly bold to choose the first pick in the draft to be the ROY, but in this case it’s the obvious choice. Towns has an NBA-ready body, something that many young big men typically need years to develop. He can defend, and has a nice mid-range shot and post game. On a Minnesota team that struggles to put the ball in the hoop, it’s very likely the Wolves will look to utilize Towns to generate offense through someone other than Andrew Wiggins.
Justise Winslow of the Miami Heat, Stanley Johnson of the Detroit Pistons, and Jahlil Okafor of the Philadelphia 76ers could make legitimate cases for Rookie of the Year, as each player brings something desperately needed to their new teams (even if Okafor is the third center under 23 on the team). Ultimately, however, I see Towns firmly justifying his number one pick by being a major contributor this year.
Most Improved Player: Otto Porter Jr.
The departure of Paul Pierce has left the Wizards desperately in need of a starting small forward.
Enter Otto Porter. The former Hoya showed flashes of great things to come during the 2015 playoffs, posting 10.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Porter was deadly in college with his unstoppable mid-range jump shot. Though he’s struggled to find the same stroke in his first two NBA seasons, I think this is the year he returns to his Hoya form. As the new starting small forward on a team that needs a stretch wing to space the floor for John Wall, I see Otto finding his niche this season. When it’s all said and done he will be crowned the Most Improved Player and the Wizards will clinch a top-four playoff seed in the awful Eastern Conference.
Coach of the Year: Jason Kidd
The Bucks underwent a huge face-lift this offseason. In addition to their new uniforms, the team was able to add Greg Monroe to lockdown the paint. Giannis Antetokounmpo will continue to develop, as will Michael Carter-Williams. This team lacks a true go-to scorer (no, Khris Middleton is not a ‘go-to’ guy, despite his $70 million contract) and depth in the frontcourt. Despite these shortcomings, the Bucks will certainly have the opportunity to win over 40 games this season just by virtue of playing in the Eastern Conference. If the Bucks make the playoffs, which I believe they will, Kidd will be the obvious pick for Coach of the Year.
First Team All-NBA
G Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
G James Harden (Houston Rockets)
F LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
C Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
Second Team All-NBA
G Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
G Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
F Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
F LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)
C DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
Third Team All-NBA
G John Wall (Washington Wizards)
G Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
F Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)
C Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
Eastern Conference Playoff Seeding
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Atlanta Hawks
- Washington Wizards
- Chicago Bulls
- Miami Heat
- Toronto Raptors
- Indiana Pacers
- Milwaukee Bucks
Western Conference Playoff Seeding
- Golden State Warriors
- San Antonio Spurs
- Houston Rockets
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Dallas Mavericks
NBA Finals: San Antonio vs. Cleveland
For any basketball purist, this is essentially heaven. The best coach in the Association, Gregg Popovich, versus the best player on the planet, LeBron James. The matchups all over the floor are spectacular- Parker and Irving, Leonard and James, Love and Aldridge, Duncan and Mozgov. The two teams also play with very different styles, as Cleveland relies upon an up-tempo and transition game which greatly contrasts the Spurs’ methodical and patient offensive schemes. This series hinges on the health of Kyrie Irving. If he’s healthy, I think the Cavs will squeak by the Spurs in seven games, but if Kyrie is hurt, I think the Spurs win in six. In the end, I think this will be the year a championship banner flies in Cleveland.
Series MVP: LeBron James