Last time out, I made a number of crazy predictions about the NBA this season, some of which had to do with basketball and some which had nothing to do with it. In this next batch of predictions, I'm sticking to the basketball stuff. Sports!
The Most Correct NBA Predictions You’ll Ever Read
LeBron, Giannis, the Celtics and a home run swing at an MVP
The LeBron Lakers Barely Make the Playoffs
Two theories I'm working off of: The Bron-less Cavs are roughly equal to the Bron-less Lakers, from a talent perspective. Also, the difference in competition from the East to the West is worth five wins.
Last year, the Cavs won 50 games in the inferior Eastern Conference. If we agree that this year’s Lakers are relatively equal in competitive quality to the ‘17–’18 Cavs, then projecting the Lakers to win 45 games this year is reasonable.
Last year, that would have been good enough for 10th in the West.
Now, LeBron’s recent regular seasons may not serve as accurate samples for this take, as he has been criticized for coasting in the approach to the playoffs. If the playoff race gets too close, Bron will surely unlock another gear (that we haven’t seen prior to April since 2016). In addition to his teammates being poised for breakout seasons, I ultimately don’t advise betting against the King to make the playoffs. But it’s not going to be easy.
The Celtics Break Their All-Time Wins Record
Last year the Celtics got 61 games combined out of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward and won 55 games. The average age of the top seven Celtics in minutes per game last season was 24 (Jayson Tatum is 19). So, if they can get closer to 120 games from Kyrie and Hayward, they’ll improve in both depth and talent. Plus, not only did the East somehow get worse, but the C’s still have some youthful bliss on their side.
Their over/under for wins this year is 57.5 and I'm taking a big over. 69 wins, book it. Nice!
Giannis Dominates, Nothing Else Changes
Knowing that a top two finish is a prerequisite for MVP and that MVP voters are balking at empty statistics again—Russ finished 5th in MVP voting last year after averaging a triple-double for the second straight season—Giannis does not have history on his side.
I admit the Greek Freak has a better shot at advancing past the first round of the playoffs. But as it stands, the Bucks project to face this year’s deeper Pacers squad, more experienced Wizards team, or the loaded Sixers.
The Rockets Will Attempt More Threes Than Twos for the Second Straight Year
Last year, the Rockets chucked 3,470 threes compared to 3,436 two-point attempts. And after setting a franchise record with 65 wins, expect the gap between threes and twos to increase. New addition Carmelo Anthony, known for both gleefully accepting whatever role is presented to him and spending time on the elbow, will surely assimilate to the leisurely three-point ways of H-Town. Guys, it’s 2018—three is more than two. It's science.
Kyrie Wins MVP
The MVP award is all about the narrative. Steph and KD are stale storylines at this point and Harden and Russ already burned voters with premature exits in the playoffs. Bron’s relocation to Hollywood and his new role as the crafty old vet are nice, but a top four finish in the West by the Lakers is unlikely. Same deal with AD—the Pelicans aren’t even a lock for the playoffs. But Kyrie! Kyrie has a story.
The kid left the shadow of LeBron to seek out greater responsibility and the ability to play a more advanced and fluid style, one that is more complimentary to Kyrie’s skillset. A year after the widely criticized decision to leave LeBron, the Celtics are the favorite to reach the Finals in the East while the Cavs went through an emergency trade deadline overhaul followed by LeBron’s departure.
In a tight race, if the Celtics’ win total reaches the high sixties, it may force voters back to the old-school rationale of awarding the best player on the team with the best regular season record. Of course, the most important statistic for Irving is games played. But if he can match his career-high of 75, there’s a good chance that the bet he made on himself last summer will parlay itself into an MVP award.
All My Awards and Playoff Picks in a Big Ass List
Golden State Warriors
Oklahoma City Thunder
New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs
Eastern Conference Finals: Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors
Western Conference Finals: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors beat Boston Celtics
1st Team All-NBA
G Kyrie Irving
G James Harden
F Giannis Antetokounmpo
F Kevin Durant
C Anthony Davis
2nd Team All-NBA
G Steph Curry
G Demar Derozan
F Kawhi Leonard
F LeBron James
C Joel Embiid
3rd Team All-NBA
G Russell Westbrook
G Donovan Mitchell
F Ben Simmons
F Draymond Green
C Nikola Jokic
Rookie of the Year: Deandre Ayton
Most Improved Player: Markelle Fultz
Coach of the Year: Mike Malone
MVP: Kyrie Irving
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