The NBA season is quickly approaching and there are plenty of things to watch for. Lots of new faces in new places and there is some great basketball in the near future.
- Draymond Green wins Defensive Players of the Year.
Draymond established himself as a defensive anchor last season. The 6’7 Michigan State product can guard multiple positions. Green can stick forwards out on the wing and is a stingy defender from the low post. His defense was best exhibited against Memphis during the playoffs, when he played textbook defense against All-NBA center Marc Gasol.
2. Melo and KD are back to their usual selves
Two of the most profilic scorers in recent NBA history had their seasons cut short with lower body injuries. This upcoming season will give them the chance to reconnect their usual superstar selves. Look for them both to continue their typical routines of 20+ points per game. The Knicks and Thunder missed both of them dearly last season and should both see an increase in wins.
3. Manu Ginobili wins the 6th Man of the Year Award
Manu might be the oldest guy mentioned in this column, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hang anymore. LaMarcus Aldridge was one of the most highly sought after free agents this summer. He is a huge threat from the post which will open up lanes for Ginobili to slash to the basket, even the newly acquired David West should help Ginobili get quality looks at the basket. Ginobili has plenty left in the tank to get the job done. He won the award in 2008
4. The Sacramento Kings squeak into the postseason
Finally Sacramento has something to get excited about. The 2nd longest playoff drought in the league belongs to the Kings. They haven’t played post season basketball since 2006. George Karl is taking the reigns of a team that has under-performed for the past several seasons. DeMarcus Cousins an elite NBA bigman and should carry the load on both sides of the ball. Rajon Rondo looks to rejuvenate his career after an awful season in Dallas and Rudy Gay will finally get the recognition he deserves as one best wing players in the game. There are some nice supporting pieces to help their big 3. The Kings will finally give their fans some excitement
5. Jahlil Okafor will be Rookie of the Year
The best low post scorer to come out of college in years will have an immediate impact. Okafor is going to be a go-to weapon in an offense lacking an identity. The Duke one-and-done will get plenty of touches and chances to establish himself on the low-block. Okafor should get to the line often and if he can improve his foul shooting, he should have no issues scoring 16 or 18 points per game. Out of all the rookies, Jahlil Okafor is in the best position to make a impact right away.
6. Cavaliers will top the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals
The East is weak. There’s no getting around it. Barring a meltdown, the Cavs are locks for the ECF. The Raptors will finally make it out of the 1st round of the playoffs. The addition of DeMarre Carroll is going to give them a gritty, do-it-all veteran presence that will benefit Toronto in all facets of the game. The combination of Carroll, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry will be a headache for any team in the league. Cavs are just going to be too much to handle, but expect the Raptors to put up a serious fight.
7. James Harden wins MVP
The addition of Ty Lawson is going to be extremely beneficial to Harden. The basis of Houston’s offense last year was essentially Harden isolation on every play and they relied on him making about 10 free throws as well. A proven distributor will give Harden better looks at the basket, without having to create space for himself. I’m not saying that the days of him forcing step-back jumpers and driving to the cup taking 4 steps and getting fouled are over, but I sure hope I see less of it now that he has a solid point guard.
8. Clippers over Warriors in the Western Conference Finals
No repeat champ this year ! The Warriors are still a really, really good team but the Clippers have the best roster to beat the Dubs in a series. The added talent of Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, and Wesley Johnson gives the Clippers a leg up on the rest of the West. The Warriors had a advantage over Cleveland in the Finals playing small ball, with Harrison Barnes at power forward and Draymond Green at center, but it would be incredibly difficult to try that strategy with two mobile defensive bigs like DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Clippers win in 7 games.
9. The Denver Nuggets will finish with the worst record in the league.
The only player that offers real potential on this team in Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s a solid defender, that has great athleticism and loves to attack the basket. He’s going to show Denver fans plenty this year, but the team is full of maxed out veterans. Even Kenneth Faried has had statistical declines every year since his rookie campaign. Danilo Galinari is a reliable offensive weapon, but has trouble staying healthy. I know everyone expected to see the Sixers on here, but they won’t be too far behind Denver in the W-L column.
10. The Clippers edge the Cavs for the NBA Title
Choosing the odds on favorite is just no fun. Cleveland should expect to be in the Finals, and rightfully so, but the Clippers will find a way to pull through. The Clippers have the matchups to be able to take the series from the Cavs. Chris Paul and company are in prime contention for a title this year and the veteran-laden roster with Doc Rivers at the helm should take home the hardware.