(NOTE: This article was written before the start of the season, with the plan to run it on October 28th. None of these predictions are a reaction to anything that happened in the first few games of the season.)
It is October. Most sports fans (at least those in the Southeast where I live) are not thinking about basketball. They are focused on College and Pro football and maybe some playoff and World Series baseball. In Nashville, Predators Hockey is officially back and expectations are incredibly high this season. I understand this and if you choose not to read this article it is okay because at this point you have already clicked on it and we can count your page view!
Whether we are ready or not, the NBA season is upon us. The season officially kicked off on October 25th and I wanted to get some predictions in writing. By next June I will either look like a fool or a genius. Or maybe both. Here are my top 5 predictions for the 2016-17 NBA season. These are in order of how likely I think they are to occur. In other words, number 5 is the least likely and number 1 is the most likely to happen.
5. Russell Westbrook will win the league MVP this season. His numbers over the last two seasons were already MVP caliber. Without Kevin Durant he will have to take more of the load so his stats will be off the charts. The biggest question is whether or not the Thunder will have enough wins to put him in MVP discussion. I predict they will and he wins the award.
4. James Harden will finish in the top 3 in assists this year. Here is what we know about James Harden – He likes to dribble the ball, he likes to shoot the ball, he likes to drive to the basket and draw fouls, he hates playing defense and he has a magnificent beard. What remains to be seen is whether he actually enjoys passing the ball. His assist numbers have been solid in the past, but he has never been tasked with being his team’s full time point guard and primary facilitator. It is on him this year to get everyone involved. Can he become less like Allen Iverson and more like Jason Kidd?
3. The Boston Celtics will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Danny Ainge has done a great job of drafting young talent and getting rid of older players when they still had value. Adding Brad Stevens, one of the smartest minds in the game, as his coach was a huge move. This offseason they added an established all-star in Al Horford as a free agent. This team has a bright future, but the present is not too shabby either. The East is deeper than it was a few years ago, but Boston looks better than everybody outside of Cleveland.
2. During the playoffs someone will complain the league is rigged. These complaints usually take two forms. First, the league is accused of wanting big market teams in the finals to increase ratings. I am sure the league does want higher ratings, but having the Spurs in the finals 6 times since 1999 is not the way to accomplish it 1. If the league is rigging the playoffs to get big market teams in the finals they are failing miserably. Second, some accuse the league of urging refs to call games in order to extend playoff series (especially the finals) to seven games. Once again, this theory make little sense. The fact remains, the finals have only gone to seven games 4 times since 19962. During the 20 year span the finals are twice as likely to finish in four or five games as they are to go the distance.
1. During the season a former player will complain about the state of the league today. According to some, players today are not tough enough, competitive enough, don’t shoot good enough, don’t pass enough or don’t play enough defense. If a player signs with a good team to try and win a title they are taking the easy way out. If they stay with a bad team it’s because they don’t want to win enough. If a game has a low score it’s because nobody can shoot these days, if a game has a high score it’s because nobody plays defense anymore. Things were so much better in the good old days and depending on who you ask the good old days took place in the 1990s, the 80s or the 60s3. These former players (and even some media members and fans) sound like an old man screaming at kids to get off his lawn. It is best to just stay on the side walk and try to not make eye contact. Eventually they will shut up.
There you have it. I tried to stay away from the easy stuff like picking Cleveland and Golden State to meet in the finals again or predicting Greg Popovich to be rude to a sideline reporter. Go ahead and bookmark this page, you can come back and read it next year to see how I did. As always feel free to comment below.
- I love the Spurs and how they play the game, but it is no secret the ratings suffered when they made the finals. ↩
- The 1950’s and 60’s was really the era of seven games finals. It happened 9 times in those two decades. I have always wondered if the league rigged the 1951 finals in favor of the Rochester Royals. Actually, I have never wondered this at all because I am not an idiot. ↩
- Nobody says the 1970s because half the good players were in the ABA and the other half were on drugs! I am exaggerating, slightly. ↩