The NBA Regular season tips off in less than a month, and with the storylines created by this summer’s big free agent move by Kevin Durant, plus the unprecedented Monopoly money-ish like signings that had players moving from team to team more than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends, this season is sure to be one that rivals your favorite reality show.
The Association stole the summer headlines at a time when fans have put their tank jerseys away for the ones with sleeves, as they usually prepared for the boys of the gridiron.
I’ve been thinking about this coming season since game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals ended. So here are my predictions for the 2016-2017 season that I’ll be watching and waiting to happen all season.
- All eight teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs will have winning records, my even bolder prediction is the eighth seed will be at least 5 games over .500 (46-36).
- The teams that will take the biggest leaps this season will be the Utah Jazz, who missed the playoffs by one game last season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves will both make the Western Conference playoffs. The Jazz will challenge for a top 4 seed and home court advantage thanks to all the veteran leadership they’ve added in former San Antonio Spurs Champion Boris Diaw, George Hill and Joe Johnson. The T-Wolves will hold off another squad for the 7th or 8th seed. My two teams out from last season’s playoffs will be the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets.
- The Southeast Division which had three of its five teams qualify for the 2016 playoffs–#3 seed Miami (48-34), #4 seed Atlanta (48-34), #6 seed Charlotte (48-34)–will only have one team make the playoffs in 2017. The Washington Wizards or Orlando Magic will make it as a 7th or 8th seed.
- Russell Westbrook will average a triple double (27 ppg, 12 apg, 10 rpg) for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He will lead the Thunder to a top 4 seed in the Western conference playoffs and win the League MVP, which would be his first.
- In (somewhat of) an upset, Buddy Heild of the New Orleans Pelicans will win Rookie of the Year. Especially now that the early favorite Ben Simmons will miss significant time with the Philadelphia 76ers due to a broken foot. Brandon Ingram will had to contend for shots with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle who will all be a little too hungry to fill the Kobe scoring load. I really like Minnesota T-Wolves point guard Kris Dunn—and I think he’ll be the starter by seasons end—but everything will revolve around the big three of Wiggins, Anthony-Towns and Lavine. Heild, however, will get the opportunity and have the numbers thanks to all the attention drawn by Anthony Davis, helping New Orleans get back into the playoff mix after a disappointing setback of a year in 2015-2016.
- The Cavs will challenge 70 wins. Just like last season, LeBron will get annoyed that the Golden State Warriors are getting all the attention with their new addition Kevin Durant. This will be enough to keep the Cavs motivated to dominate the East and not take nights off for “rest.” I predict the Cavs will go 69-13.
- LeBron James will finally win the Defensive Player of the Year award he probably should’ve won twice already. Why? Because what else is there left for him to accomplish individually? He always leads his team’s in blocks, steals, and is usually top two in defensive rebounding, while often guarding the opponents top wing or power forward. No further analysis needed, he is due.
- LeBron will earn a seventh consecutive NBA Finals birth after defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
- The San Antonio Spurs will beat the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, then face Cleveland in the NBA Finals. San Antonio has added key veteran pieces with championship experience in Pau Gasol and David Lee. The Warriors made the big splash signing, but the Spurs signings added to the mix of young talents in Kwahi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge will make them the better DEEPER team. Something the Warriors lost in their quest to sign KD.
- LeBron and the Cavs will win their second consecutive title. LBJ has a pattern, he loses two Finals (’07, ’11), then wins two (’12, ’13). He lost in 2014 with the Miami Heat, and 2015 with the Cavaliers. Now that he’s won in 2016, next is a win in 2017. It’s his trend. Cavs in another epic seven game series, and Kyrie Irving takes home the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.