We are officially under a week away from a brand new NBA season, there are questions like how LeBron, Kyrie, and Love fit together? Can the Bulls stay healthy? Is Anthony Davis going to leap into a new stratosphere? All these questions, and I’ll try to look into my crystal ball and make some predictions right here.
1. The Bulls won’t finish with a Top 2 record in the Eastern Conference.
A lot of the pundits around the league and on TV foresee a Chicago/Cleveland Eastern Conference Final. I as everyone else would love to see it and why not? Derrick Rose’s return could be the biggest sports story of the year if he comes back healthy and I’d love to see him healthy. Pau Gasol has been added to the squad as they look to make the next step. My problem is I have to SEE it before I believe it. I have to see the Bulls for the most part stay healthy all year plus Derrick Rose as well. If so, then without a doubt they’ll get one of the top 2 spots. I just can’t believe it until I see it though. We’ll get a surprise number 2 seed to Cleveland’s number 1.
2. The Kevin Durant injury is a blessing in disguise.
Yeah I know, you can’ t just lose Kevin Durant for 2 months and move forward and not struggle. The Thunder will struggle. We’ll see plenty of Russell Westbrook trying to do too much. What I hope and am positively optimistic about is the chance that we’ll see the team plus the coach evolve in terms of their offensive style of basketball. This injury forces guys like Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka, and Steven Adams to be that much more important. We’ll actually get to see what Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb are actually capable of, and maybe there will be a semblance of team ball to the point that when Kevin Durant comes back we’ll see him and the Thunder potentially go to another gear. Yes without Durant there will be tough times, but a new Thunder way of life may come of those tough times.
3. The Lakers are going to be worse than what even I thought.
I had the Lakers projected at about 36 wins. That was before I realized there starting frontline was Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill. They’re going to be Superbad defensively and I don’t mean in the good way. Kobe Bryant is back but watching him this season will be even tougher than last because I suspect he’ll play most of the year, and his decline will continue. Byron Scott doesn’t want this team shooting threes, he should also not want this team period. Even before the dreaded scathing Kobe article we knew what was going to happen this season, and it’s kinda sad. It may be unintentionally funny though, so there’s that.
4. The Knicks won’t make the playoffs, but will improve culture wise.
Even in the mediocre Eastern Conference I don’t think the Knicks have improved enough to be one of the East’s top 8. MSG and the team has done a tremendous job in putting the plain focus on the triangle offense and how it will positively affect and improve the team, but can they stop anyone? They traded a former defensive player of the year (albeit a declining one) in Tyson Chandler plus Raymond Felton for Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert where one player will be really good offensively and will struggle offensively and the other will be decent defensively and tough to watch on offense. Yes, Derek Fisher is the man for the job and the Knicks for the first time in a long time actually have a plan of direction. They will have a few games that will be feel good moments this season, but I just feel like making the playoffs is asking a lot for a team that doesn’t defend enough. I hope they prove me wrong.
5. The Clippers reach the Conference Finals.
There’s a lot of reason to doubt this team, simply put because lately we’ve seen the team collapse in big spot after big spot. I respect the players and Doc for how they handled the Donald Sterling saga during the playoffs, and I do believe in a roundabout way it brought the team together. Unfortunately that Game 5 collapse in OKC will always be something to harp on, especially for Chris Paul. As Blake Griffin comes off of his best season as a pro, I expect him to continue to improve and take more control of the offense. They’ll get to the point where their crunch time offense isn’t a complete disaster, and will actually make the conference finals against…
6. We’re going to get a Spurs/Clippers Conference Finals.
There’s nothing that I’ve seen in the offseason in terms of free agent additions or trades that would make me believe that San Antonio at the very least won’t get back to the Western Conference Finals. The whole supporting cast is back, Popovich is better than ever, they get an injection of youth from Kyle Anderson, you have the Spurs with just as good of a chance to do something they haven’t done, and that’s repeat. More on the Spurs a bit down the line.
7. Rajon Rondo will be traded at some point this season.
I’m expecting this to happen for a couple of reasons. One is if Boston really wants to go through with the full rebuild they need to get as much as they can for Rondo before his dreaded free agency which the closer that gets will impact what the Celtics can get if anything for Rondo. Rondo should be ready by the start of the season or sometime during the first couple of weeks as he recovers from a broken hand. I expect Danny Ainge to eventually pull the trigger that will help Boston move into it’s next and a brand new era.
8. The Raptors will repeat as Atlantic Division champions.
Toronto got a taste of playoff basketball last season as they came out of nowhere to win the division last season. They lost a tough Game 7 to the Brookyln Nets in the first round, but bringing back the same core including resigning Kyle Lowry will help continue to build on what they did last season. No one else in the Atlantic has gotten up to their level, and I expect the Raptors to raise their game.
9. LeBron James will win another MVP as a Cavalier.
Not really going out on a limb here as the Cavs will go from a really bad team to the best in the conference with a chance at a title, and that’s because of the guy who makes all the difference in the world. LeBron may take certain dips in stats, but his impact and presence will be a huge part in the Cavs headed back to the finals. Last but not least…
10. The Spurs will repeat, defeating LeBron once more in 6.
As I said above, there’s absolutely nothing I’ve seen from any team that makes me feel like they surpassed San Antonio’s excellence. Yes there are injury variables, yes there are other variables like who you play and when you play them come playoff time. I’ll take the Spurs experience, depth, and ability to adapt to any situation. The Spurs will repeat as champs for the first time ever. We may get bored with them at times, but they’ll continue to play the basketball that is worthy of championships. Are you ready for the NBA season?