If you’re anything like me then you want your NBA season to be filled to the brim with drama. I’m not talking about season-ending injuries or anything negative like that, I’m talking about huge surprises that take the league by storm and are major discussing points for fans around the globe.
Last year we had Isaiah Thomas going off every game, the Miami Heat somehow going 30-11 in the second half of the season and the ascendance of Giannis Antetokounmpo to top the list. Every season has that player that leaps out of the woodwork, a team which massively exceeds expectations or a massive change in coaching staff.
Next season will be no different; things that looked likely to happen will not and that’s what makes sport so enjoyable.
Fortune favors the bold, and I intend to make some bold predictions for the NBA season to test if I actually know anything, and to keep you entertained of course.
5. New Orleans Pelicans Win At Least 50 Games
Never has the phrase ‘Twin Towers’ been more applicable than what has occurred down in New Orleans. The Pelicans have somehow managed to get the best center and the best power forward in the league on the same roster.
DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are so unbelievably skilled that they will easily outmatch any front court duo they face. Both players can shoot from midrange and from 3, they both have a great touch around the rim, they can both defend, they can pass and they can play in the post.
If they can get some good 1-2 action with each other and get some decent outside shooting then New Orleans should be able to smash their way to 50 wins.
4. Houston Rockets Don’t Win More Than 45 Games
I know what you’re thinking; “how does a team that won 55 games last year lose 10 more games THIS year when they’ve added Chris Paul?” Surely the addition of a perennial All-Star point guard would only increase the number of wins?
Well, on the surface it certainly looks like that. Chris Paul is one of the most intelligent players in the league, but the game is called basketball, not basketballs. There is only one ball to play with and now Houston has two extremely ball dominant guards. Both CP3 and Harden are amazingly effective on the ball, but much less so off it. They are good are making the decisions and facilitating other players, not so much at being facilitated.
Now both these guys are good enough to know this and make adjustments, but I predict that there will be some big chemistry issues to start the season as both players adjust to their new roles. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’ll be forced to eat my own words, but teams that add a ball dominant player to play with another ball dominant player always need time to adjust. Miami in 2010/11 started the season 9-8, GSW last year was only 4-2. I think Houston will face the same problem.
3. Charlotte Hornets Win 50 Or More Games
This one is simply about my faith in Dwight Howard, I have not given up on him. Even though his scoring average was his worst since his rookie year I believe that was due to lack of effort, not because he can’t play well anymore.
Atlanta last year only gave him 8.3 shots to take a game, and when you’re that talented and athletic you really need to be taking more. With Charlotte, I believe that him and Kemba Walker and form a great 1-2 punch. Walker is a great outside shooter who is also lightning quick. In pick and rolls these two should be devastating.
On defense Dwight should be his usual defensive anchor, he is still one of the better rim protectors in the league and can bang with anyone down low. If Charlotte’s coaching staff can get D12 to buy into their plan then we could see him return to the All-Star game next year.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo Win The MVP
As part of Kobe Bryant’s promotion with Nike, he was challenging stars in the league to go beyond what they’ve done already and really maximise their potential. He challenged Isaiah Thomas to get 1st Team All-NBA and DeMar DeRozan to reconnect with an old friend from Compton.
When Giannis Antetokounmpo asked via Twitter what his challenge was and Kobe’s reply was simple.
Giannis had an amazing season last year becoming the 5th player ever to lead his team in all 5 major statistical categories. He is 6 foot 11 and can play any position on the floor. The only thing he needs to do is get his 3 point % to around 37-38% and he will actually be unguardable.
On the defensive end, he’s a monster. He uses his extreme length and quickness to clog passing lanes and swat away shots. Giannis and Draymond Green were the only 2 players last year to be in the top 15 for both steals and blocks per game.
Giannis has improved his game every year now and there’s no reason why can’t do it again. Keep an eye on the Bucks this season, they made some noise last year and if they can win over 50 games then the Greek Freak will definitely be in the MVP conversation.
1. San Antonio Wins The NBA Title
Forget Golden State or Cleveland, Gregg Popovich is going to get his 6th NBA ring. Golden State have the firepower and the talent, Gregg Popovich has the mind that can outplay any opponent.
Pop is easily the best coach of all time and his ability to inspire his players is a remarkable quality to have in a leader. The way he approaches each game on both ends turned San Antonio into the best franchise in the NBA. They’ve made the Playoffs every year since 1998 and they will continue to do so as long as Coach Popovich is in charge.
Kawhi Leonard is also a top 3 player in the NBA and before he went down in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals the Spurs were destroying the Warriors. After Zaza happened the Spurs lost all hope and the Warriors went on to sweep.
With a fully healed Kawhi itching for vengeance and Popovich able to make adjustments, the Spurs will be as hungry as ever to get back to the Finals, something which will make even Golden State extremely nervous.