It’s finally here! The NBA returns tomorrow and the excitement is…rampant? I mean, it’s basically written in stone that the Warriors/Cavaliers Finals rematch is coming, but the season should still be exciting right? To finish off my offseason predictions, I thought I would put into writing the outrageous theories that I have for this upcoming season, (these are very unlikely to happen, and some of these may contradict my previous predictions, but I made those prediction with my head; these are done with my heart). So let’s get into what bold things I could see (unlikely) happening.
1) The Golden State Warriors lose to the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Finals
Hear me out. The Miami Heat did make the Finals in the first year of their Big Three coming together, but it wasn’t a smooth transition. This Warriors team, on paper, appears like they will mesh together much better than that Heat team did at the start, but there are still some question marks. Klay Thompson says he won’t sacrifice shots, but someone has to right? That probably means that Draymond Green will sacrifice on the offensive end, but he is a strong personality, what if he says the wrong thing to the media after a bad loss? Locker room issues could arise and topple the immensely high potential that this team possesses. If these problems come up near the end of the season, and into the playoffs, combined with a big series from Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in their first Conference Finals berth, I could see a big upset.
2) Jimmy Butler demands a trade to re-join Thibs in Minnesota
This may not be as bold of a claim, but any big name player moving from a major franchise like Chicago, to a smaller market in Minnesota is a big deal. I hate this Bulls team, the structure of the roster makes absolutely no sense. There’s no shooting, and they have three players that are at their best when initiating the offence. There’s no way they trade the hometown guy Dwyane Wade, and if Rondo doesn’t show glimpses of what he was in the past then no team will want to trade relevant assets for him. That leaves Butler, the only piece that can bring in future picks and young players.
3) The Houston Rockets finish 2nd in the West
Top 5 offence, bottom 5 defence, and around 55 wins? It sounds crazy, but the up-tempo offence that Mike D’Antoni will introduce to this team creates a very high upside for Harden and Co. The saying may be that defence wins championships, but if you’re scoring 130 points and only giving up 115, that could lead to a lot of wins.
4) There will be at least 4 teams that miss the Playoffs with a .500 record
Last season, two teams finished with at least a .500 record, the Bulls (42-40), and the Wizards (41-41), and both of these teams finished on the outside looking in on the Playoffs. This year, the middle of the pack teams in both conferences are all very even, Playoff seeding will almost definitely come down to the final day of the season. I see quite a few teams on that bubble, with their individual series records making the difference.
5) Paul George wins the MVP award and the Pacers finish 2nd in the East
Detroit securing the 2nd seed in the East was going to be one of my bold predictions, but with the Reggie Jackson injury they will slip back a bit. The Raptors or Celtics are the consensus picks for that spot, but this Pacers team is incredibly interesting. Can Myles Turner make the sophomore leap, Jeff Teague will have something to prove after being shunned in Atlanta, and Thaddeus Young is an underrated power forward. Paul George is coming off of a summer with U.S.A. basketball, which helped make James Harden become the player’s MVP two seasons ago. If this Pacers team can push 50+ wins, Paul George will secure MVP votes; the Warriors guys will split votes, Westbrook and Harden may not get to 50 wins, and LeBron should play with a lighter load throughout the season. The other sleeper MVP pick is Damian Lillard, but that team doesn’t have a chance of pushing 50 wins. First time MVP, PG13.
6) The New York Knicks make the Playoffs, with Brandon Jennings leading the charge
Derrick Rose’s trial is over, but it’s too late, Brandon Jennings has won over the Big Apple. Getting in player’s faces, doing the shimmy shake after a dirty pull-up jumper, and all of this just in the pre-season?! Jennings will come off the bench to start the season, but I can see him usurping Rose by the All-Star break if he can develop good pick-and-roll chemistry with Porzingis, who will be playing center minutes for the bench. The battle for the 8th seed will be a bloodbath out East, but if they can steal a couple wins near the end of the season, they could end with 43/44 wins and sneak in.
7) Devin Booker finishes in the Top-3 in 3-point Field Goals Made
For the past couple of seasons, the top 3 has been the same; Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard. While there’s no reason to think those guys will drop off drastically in production, there is reason to think that Booker’s production will rise dramatically. With the injury woes that tend to plague Bledsoe and Knight in Phoenix, there’s a good chance that Booker will be the first option on offence on most nights. The Suns will not be a good team, but that only means more shots for Booker. They are playing for the future, so letting their young stud attempt to shoot the lights out will be the only reason for excitement down in the desert.
8) Giannis Antetokounmpo edges out Russell Westbrook for the triple-double crown
POINT GIANNIS! I’ve said enough about this guy, the hype is incredibly real. The Middleton injury may hurt his assist totals early on, but at 6’11” he has a chance to be all over the stat sheet. The points will definitely be there, rebounding as well, the assists will be the challenge but there’s no reason to think he can’t get double digit assists every 4th or 5th game. Westbrook finished last season with an incredible 18 triple doubles, but with the loss of Durant means a loss in the assist category. His scoring numbers will rise substantially to make up for it, but he may come in just under 10 assists a lot of the time.
9) Karl-Anthony Towns starts in the All-Star Game
With the All-Star lineups not technically requiring a true center, it is tougher to be voted in by the fans. Last year’s forwards, as voted by the fans, were Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Kobe Bryant. There’s no reason to think the first two won’t be voting in again, but with Kobe’s retirement that leaves a hole in the Western All-Stars starting five. Cousins would be a good shout, Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin are big names, but the excitement surrounding Towns will make him a first time All-Star, and a starter at that. The recent GM’s Survey shows how highly everyone thinks of him, and he will edge out his fellow big men for the final starting position.
10) Expansion teams in Seattle and Vancouver are announced for 2019
This is the out of left field prediction, if it wasn’t obvious. The amount of talent in the NBA is at an all time high, there’s no shortage of money with the television deal, the upcoming drafts are regarded quite highly, and Adam Silver has already mentioned how European football-style tournaments in the league would work best with 32 teams. Enter the two most ready, and deserving cities; Seattle and Vancouver. Yes, these cities would both become part of the Western Conference, but that would allow the NBA to re-jigger the Conferences and place teams in their appropriate conference. This could also allow the draft to expand to 64 picks, rather than 60. The D-League is growing quickly, and expansion D-League teams in the same areas could quickly sprout up as well. Chris Hansen is ready to foot the bill for a Seattle basketball franchise, and it should be easy enough to find someone to take the opportunity in Vancouver.