After 4 long months of waiting for our next fix of NBA basketball, fans around the world can finally rejoice! The NBA season is back, baby! To kick things off, here are some of my early season predictions for the upcoming season.
MVP: LeBron James
Most Improved Player: Devin Booker
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
Sixth Man of the Year: Brandon Jennings
Rookie of the Year: Kris Dunn
Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek
NBA Champion: Golden State Warriors
Storylines to watch:
Russell Westbrook got the keys
KD’s gone, Ibaka’s gone, and Russell Westbrook is in complete control of the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the keys to the offense, we can expect him to have another season similar to the one he had in 2015 when Durant was sidelined with a foot injury. Don’t be surprised if we see Russell Westbrook flirt with a triple double average a la the “Big O” Oscar Robertson. If the Thunder plan to be a serious title contender this season, they’re going to need Westbrook to play at an MVP level. And with the addition of another athletic guard in the backcourt in Victor Oladipo, expect to see a lot of high flying up-tempo basketball in Oklahoma City.
Will the Knicks have a breakout year?
Carmelo Anthony made his decision to head east and play for the Knicks in 2011. The Knicks went to the playoffs his first three seasons there and haven’t been able to make a return since. Last year saw some promise with the addition of rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis (who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting last season) who proved to have a higher ceiling than many fans expected. This offseason, the Knicks acquired some key pieces in former-MVP Derrick Rose, former-Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, and athletic playmaker Brandon Jennings as well as new coach Jeff Hornacek. If this group can stay healthy (keyword there being “if”), they could be a surprise team to break out of the pack in the Eastern Conference and possibly make a run in the playoffs.
Are the Warriors too good?
Probably the biggest storyline this season, all eyes will most certainly be on this year’s Warriors squad. It would almost seem impossible for a team that won an NBA record 73 games last season to actually get better. But the Warriors did just that in the offseason when they signed 2014 MVP Kevin Durant to a two-year $54.3 million contract. From just watching the Warriors dismantle teams in the preseason, we should all be in for an interesting year. The only real question is what will happen if they don’t win the championship?
Is this it for the Clippers?
Chris Paul has a player option at the end of the season. Blake Griffin has a player option at the end of the season. J.J. Reddick will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. If this Clippers core plans to make any type of serious run at the title, they’re going to need to do it sooner rather than later. The timing couldn’t be any worse with the assembly of the super team in Oakland but a Western Conference Finals appearance has to be the minimum expectation. Otherwise, serious consideration will need to go into questioning whether or not to break up this team and try new pieces.
Can Anthony Davis stay healthy?
In his four years in the NBA, Anthony Davis hasn’t played more than 68 games in a season. Anthony Davis was considered to be the next big superstar by many to take over the league but has yet to string together enough on-court production to validate that claim. In the GM preseason survey for the 2014-15 season, Davis received the most votes (29.8%) for most likely to have a break out season and finished second (25%) when asked who GM’s would start a franchise with today. In 2015-16, he received the most votes (86.2%) for who GM’s would start a franchise with today and best power forward (82.1%) in the league, and finished second in voting (25%) for the early pick for MVP. GM’s seem to have lost faith in Davis now, as he fell completely out of the top three in voting for players GM’s would start a franchise with. With the Western Conference showing signs of weakness in comparison to previous seasons, this could prove to be the perfect time for Anthony Davis to lead his Pelicans back to the postseason.