The NBA tips off to begin the new season tonight as the Celtics and Cavaliers will match up followed by the Rockets visiting the Warriors.
If you followed the NBA off season, you know it’s been a wild ride and so much has changed.
Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward now play for the Celtics. Chris Paul will join James Harden in the Houston back-court which may be the most talented back-court in NBA history. Oklahoma City acquired both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for pennies on the dollar. Jimmy Butler was moved to Minnesota in a draft night deal from Chicago. Dwight Howard is now playing for the Charlotte Hornets.
The NBA landscape has changed and here are predictions heading into this new season:
Prediction 1: The Celtics will be the number 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season.
The Celtics won 53 games last season and finished with the best overall record in the East before losing to the Cavs in 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals. They return only Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier from that team.
Off season additions of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum will provide immediate offensive fire power to make up for the defensive issues that are likely to plague the team until they adjust to one another. The Celtics have too much talent in such a bad East not to finish this year with 55 plus wins.
Prediction 2: Kyrie Irving finishes in the top 5 of MVP voting
Kyrie has never finished in the top 10 of MVP voting. That’ll change this year as he gets a top five finish after leading the Celtics to the number one overall seed and puts up huge offensive numbers.
Irving is the focal point of the Celtics offense. The ball will be in his hands every possession down the court. Irving has always been one for the bright lights and now after finally escaping LeBron’s shadow, Irving will show his full potential.
Prediction 3: Speaking of MVP, Kawhi Leonard will win his first
Voter fatigue has basically eliminated LeBron (totally unfair by the way), the Warriors have four all stars (tough to see one of them win), Harden and Paul will be sharing touches in Houston while Westbrook’s usage rate will drop significantly now sharing shots with George and Melo.
The only candidate not playing with an all star teammate is Leonard. Leonard finished third a season ago and will get the voters attention as the Spurs will finish with a top four record in the West. Expect Leonard to even improve his stat line of 25.8/5.8/3.5/1.8/0.7 (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks).
Prediction 4: LeBron James will play less than 70 regular season games
James has only played less than 70 regular season games twice in his 14 year career (once was the lockout shortened season) and this season will mark his third.
James will be 33 this season. He’s played the most minutes in the NBA since he entered the league. He’s been to 7 straight finals so expect the Cavs to lighten his workload especially given how little the Cavs care about playoff position in a dreadful conference.
James has already been bothered by an ankle injury this off season and I just don’t expect the Cavs to really push James this year.
Prediction 5: Dirk Nowitzki will surpass Wilt Chamberlain for 5th all time on the NBA scoring list this year
Zach Lowe in his NBA power ranking yesterday showed that Dirk needs to average 68 games played and score 17.1 points per game to surpass Chamberlain on the NBA scoring list.
Dirk has been an ageless talent still remaining one of the more offensive efficient players in the NBA. Given how Dirk was banged up most of last season and looks healthy to begin this year, I expect Dirk to play more than 68 games. Dirk will score points and the Mavs will give him every chance to score.
Prediction 6: Giannis Antetokounmpo will lead the Bucks to 50 wins for the fist time since 2001
It’s been 16 years since the Bucks have won 50 plus games and the Bucks have a legit shot at getting to that mark this year. Antetokounmpo will once again lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and will be a top 5 finish in the MVP voting.
The Bucks will benefit from playing the Bulls and Pacers four times a year (two teams clearly tanking) and having Kris Middleton and Jabari Parker healthy. Last season Middleton only appeared in 29 games while Parker played 51. If both can give 70 plus games, the Bucks will win 50.
Prediction 7: The Bulls win 13 games
This Bulls team is going to be horrible. Flat out terrible. The best player is Zach Lavine and he’s coming off an ACL tear so it’s a question how he’ll respond. The Bulls are clearly tanking and a 70 loss season is possible.
Prediction 8: The Memphis Grizzlies miss the playoffs
The Girzzlies have been in the playoffs for seven consective years. The Grit and Grind era is over now though. Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are gone, the bench depth took a hit with Vince Carter joining the Kings and the Grizzlies just cut their first round pick, Wade Baldwin, yesterday.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are still good and will keep the team competitive but an injury to one of them will sink the season.
Prediction 9: The Process is complete… 76ers make playoffs
This is what Sam Hinkie died for. The 76ers look poised for a playoff run in a decimated Eastern Conference. That run depends on the Process himself, Joel Embiid.
Embiid just signed a max extension for 5 years and $148 million dollars after only playing 31 games in 3 seasons. Embiid looks healthy now and dominate. Check out his preseason numbers. Embiid is a top 10 player in the game when healthy.
He’ll play enough this season and the 76ers will get help from Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, JJ Reddick and Robert Covington to make the playoffs. The talent is there in Philadelphia.
Prediction 10: The Cavaliers will trade the Nets 2018 draft pick
The Cavaliers will move this pick at the deadline for a star player and will move because the Nets will be better than advertised. The Nets have a sneaky decent roster and if all clicks right they’ll be a competitive team not so much a bottom 3 team.
On paper, the Nets have a better roster than the Bulls, Pacers, Hawks and Kings. They may even better the Knicks, Magic, Suns and Lakers. If they are by the deadline, they are picking around 9 or 10. Does that give the Cavs incentive to move the pick for Demarcus Cousins? Quite possibly.
Prediction 11: The New Orleans Pelicans will move Demarcus Cousins before the deadline.
The West is super competitive and if they start slow and fall out of playoff contention, the smart play will to move Cousins before he enters unrestricted free agency. The Pelicans will have plently of suitors if they made Cousins available. The Cavs, Heat, Wizards will all be in play.
Prediction 12: Kristaps Porzingis becomes the all star talent Knicks need
Kristaps Porzingis will be an all star for the first time this season. The only question is who will start between him and Kevin Love at the Power Forward position. Porzingis will score over 20 points a game, grab over 8 rebounds and block over 2 shots on a nightly basis.
Prediction 13: Russell Westbrook gets 30 Triple Doubles
No, he won’t average a triple double for the season . No, he won’t have 42 triple double games on the year but Westbrook will still get a bunch and will hit 30 on the year. He will lead the league in this statistic yet again.
Prediction 14: The Raptors seriously think about moving Demar Derozan or Kyle Lowry but keep both
The Raptors as currently constructed cannot beat the Cavs or Celtics. The Raptors have also fell behind the Wizards in the East. The front office will consider moving one of their two stars but will hold onto both for the playoff run in hopes it all clicks one last time. Best case the Raptors reach the conference finals… worst case they are swept out of the first round.
Prediction 15: The Suns move Eric Bledsoe in a deal
The Suns have a top talent wing core for years to come with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. A core that is still too young to win now which will lead to another bad season for Phoenix. This will lead to the Suns moving Bledsoe. Bledsoe would be a top acquisition for any contender at the deadline.
Prediction 16: OKC finishes with the second best record in the West
I think people are still underrating OKC a bit as a legit contender. A starting line-up of Westbrook – Roberson – George – Anthony – Adams has a boatload of talent. The wing defense will be incredible, and the scoring will be through the roof. People will finally appreciate how good Anthony is playing with Westbrook and George.
Prediction 17: Dennis Smith Jr. wins Rookie of the Year
Smith will have a high usage, play 35 plus minutes for the Mavs and is an explosive talent. Smith is playing with a chip on his shoulder and will be motivated to prove he should have been drafted higher.. sign me up for the Dennis Smith Jr. Show
Prediction 18: The Timberwolves end their playoff drought
13 years since Minnesota has experienced playoff basketball. That ends this year. Additions of Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford to the Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns core will lead them to a top 5 finish in the west.
Prediction 19: Detroit Pistons qualify for the playoffs
Expect a bounce back year for Detroit basketball. SVG will have Andre Drummond performing at high level again, Reggie Jackson is due to make up for a sub par season, and Tobias Harris can still score the ball.
The addition of Avery Bradley will give them a lock down defender on the wing and Bradley is a winner. Luke Kennard should give solid production off the bench\
Prediction 20: Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap will form one of the more talented big man combinations this season
Nuggets fans should be stoked to see what Jokic has in store for his third season. His development in year two showed he was on a superstar path. The addition of Millsap to pair with Jokic will give the Nuggets a big edge in the front court. They will be a nightmare to defend as both are highly skilled passers, rebounders and shooters for their size.
Prediction 21: East Playoff race to watch – Battle for 6-8 seed
The top 5 is pretty secure in the East playoff race. The Bulls, Pacers, Hawks are all tanking.
This leaves 7 teams for 3 spots. The Knicks, Pistons, Nets, Magic, 76ers, Hornets, and Heat.
The Heat, 76ers, Pistons are the favorites for the final three spots but don’t be surprised if any of the other four make it in.
Prediction 22: West Playoff Race to watch – 7 and 8 spots
The top 6 in the West is loaded. The Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Spurs, Timberwolves and Nuggets should all comfortably make the postseason.
The Lakers, Suns, Kings are still a couple years a way.
Six teams for 2 spots. The Trailblazers, Grizzlies, Clippers, Pelicans, Mavericks and the Jazz will battle for the final two spots.
I expect the Clippers and the Jazz to secure the final two spots which means Damian Lillard, C.J McCollum, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Dirk Nowitzki, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will all miss the playoffs…. that’s an east all star team!
Prediction 23: Luka Doncic becomes top prospect tanking teams want
Just watch the tape… you telling me if he was not playing NCAA basketball scouts would not have him as the number one guy?
Prediction 24: Warriors will meet the Celtics in the Finals
Call this a bold prediction that for the first time in 8 seasons, LeBron won’t be in the finals. A gut feeling tells me this Celtics team has a ton of a talent that can pull off the upset.
Granted if the Cavs go and get Bledsoe or Cosusins this will change but the concern over how healthy Isaiah Thomas hip really is, Kevin Love and Dwayne Wade being 100% healthy.. there’s a ton of questions for the Cavs.
(LeBron will prove me wrong and probably sweep the Celtics)
Prediction 25: Warriors go back to back
Yes, the Warriors will win the title again this season. Their talent is so difficult to match up with especially since they let egos aside and play team basketball.
Kevin Durant will be Finals MVP and re up on a 5 year max with Golden State after the finals.