Five predictions for the upcoming NBA season
(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. ↩
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37 thoughts on “Five predictions for the upcoming NBA season”
I agree with many of these. I think Westbrook is set for a monster season. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Kawhi Leonard was the MVP for the season though. I think the Spurs are clearly his team now and he only seems to get better every season.
Leonard is a strong candidate. Not sure his numbers will be impressive enough for some voters.
Tried to stay away from easy stuff? Your #2 and #1are certain to happen. But, you redeem yourself with that 3rd footnote!
I should have said the boring stuff that everyone else is doing. My top two are pretty “easy” to predict, but so much fun to write.
Totally worth it to me. Those whiners need to be called out.
If I weren’t a Bulls fan I’d be rooting for the Celtics. Just for doing it the way they’ve done it. I certainly hope at this point the champ is NOT Cleveland or GS.
You express yourself well, Mike, as do your colleagues. We’ll have to wait and see if the predictions come to pass.
Some of these are looking really strong at this point in the season.
Yeah, Westbrook and Harden are keeping up their end of the bargain. The Celtics need to start playing better but it’s early so I think they will be fine.
And I think your final two predictions: accusations of rigging and how bad the league is this season are both pretty much 100% guarantees to make an appearance. So, the only one that’s looking iffy is the Celtics prediction. And as you said, it’s early.
Totally agree. But the only prediction you really reached on was James Harden being leader in assists. The others are very reasonable assumptions. Westbrook is a shoe-in for MVP right now. No one else is even close. Harden, Lebron, and DeRozan could make it interesting.
I really like the Celtics pick. They’ll make the playoffs, just as long as they are on opposite sides of the draw in the East from the Cavs they’ll be fine. I also think the Bulls will start playing better in the coming months.
Most people I read/heard did not think OKC would win enough to put Westbrook in the MVP conversation. I thought they would be better than people expected and thus far I’m right although it’s early and things could certainly change.
And yes, I know Harden is at the top of the league in assists right now…I was referring to it being a reach before the season began.
But this is why Mike is Mike…he knows…he knows….
Not exactly the prediction of #2 and #1, but I heard Mike and Mike (one of them at least) complaining that the Cavs and Warriors were making the regular season boring by being dominant. What? Didn’t Houston just beat GS on the road? Didn’t SA whip them already and only stands 0.5 games behind them. Didn’t the Cavs just lose three in a row? Sheesh people.
Yesterday. What he said.
I don’t understand this comment, David. Do you mind elaborating?
I’ll also add that I think the NBA is red hot right now. Nearly all complaints fall flat to me. It’s been ticking up for years and I think it’s as good as the first Jordan 3-peat and maybe better. The league just lost 3 legends and hasn’t skipped a beat.
Ha! It was supposed to say “Yep. What he said.” Stupid Autocorrect
I totally agree with you about the state of the NBA right now. They have done a great job of re-branding the past few years. I am thoroughly entrenched in the season, especially anytime Westbrook is playing. He’s must-see television.
I’m beginning to wonder if The Thunder’s record is going to inhibit Westbrook’s chances for MVP. If they fall below 60% winning then it may hurt him. Fair or not it seems that punishes players. Although I’m not an NBA MVP historian at all.
The Thunder have been awful the past 2 games since Oladipo got hurt. Their defense has been atrocious, which takes away their main offensive weapon—Westbrook in transition. They have serious problems if anyone in their starting 5 goes down for the year.
With that said, I still think they have a winning record, close to 50 wins by end of year. As Joey and Michael said, if he maintains close to a triply-double pace, he wins MVP hands down.
Lebron is always in the hunt, but I think Harden is the only guy who could flat-out take it from Russ. He’s up in points and assists, and he’s being more assertive on the glass as well. He might just go on his own streak of triple-doubles at some point this season. Right now, it’s Westbrook’s to win or lose.
I think Tim Legler said last week that OKC’s record would affect Westbrook’s MVP chances, even if he averaged a triple-double this season. I tend to think if Westbrook averages a triple-double for the season he’s a shoe-in for MVP. Even if he fails to maintain that pace but finishes in the Top 10 in points, rebounds, and assists (he currently 1,11,2) I think he’d be the favorite, regardless of OKC’s record.
If I’m not mistaken Jordan in ’88 was the last guy whose team did not have a great record but his numbers were so good they had to give him MVP. If OKC wins 50 games or more then Westbrook gets it if it’s a toss up.
They’ll give it to LeBron and probably throw in a Nobel Peace prize as well…
I think the competition is stiff this year. But he gets a break that I think Curry nor KD will win it no matter how good GS is.
I hope you guys are right because I want Mike to be right. But if they end up with, say, 46 wins I will have big time doubts.
Something Greeny pontificated about when Trout won AL MVP on a losing team (and I very much get baseball is not the same, but my point will make sense) was that it bothered his sensibilities that a “Most Valuable Player” could be on a losing team and that they needed to change the name to MOP. “If he’s so valuable why were they losers”.
I don’t agree with this, in any sport. Valuable does not mean you will have a good record. To wit, and I will use round easy numbers. Suppose Trout’s team wins 70 games. Suppose without him they win 55. Suppose Mookie Betts team wins 95 games. Suppose without him they win 85. You can be on a losing team and in a very strict definition of the word, be the most “valuable”.
Basketball, while different, can have the same argument. If you put 97 Jordan on the Vancouver Grizzlies, I’m guessing they don’t win 60 games. Yet he would still be the best player that year and the most valuable. The same could be said for Russell. How many would they win without him? They even have a metric for this, right? WAR? That should matter.
Mike, taking a quick look through your predictions, at this point, you are pretty much 100% accurate.
Westbrook will be in the conversation for MVP. Don’t know if he will win it though, for the reasons you gave.
Hardin leads the league in assists.
The Celtics are for real and will probably compete for the East in the Conference Finals.
We don’t know about the rigged accusation yet. It will happen though.
And we have already seen Charles Barkley take his usual shots at the league.
What do you guys think about the accusation that some are making that the league is not good this year because it’s all about stat grabbing? I got into a bit of a Twitter fight with various people because I didn’t see any problem with the Suns celebrating Devin Booker’s 70 point performance, even in a loss. People used that to dog the NBA…again. I find that whole mindset to be pretty lazy.
The stats seem to be helping teams, RW and Harden especially. I’m not sure how I feel about the 70 point game. It is a rare feat and his teammates were supportive and excited about it, at least by the pictures. I think the only way a 70 point game would be bad is if the guy was ball hogging to his teammates chagrin.
I think Mike should get an award for these predictions. They are all dead on or very very close. Crystal ball for sure.
I can’t believe Westbrook will almost for sure average a triple double. I never thought we would see that again. For him to do that and still possibly not get MVP is also just a surprising. We’ve got a couple weeks to see how this plays out.
This is gold Michael! Gold!
I should have gone to Vegas!
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the comment above by one, Michael, belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to REO, the REO staff, or any other group or individual.
But yeah, you should have gone to Vegas.
FIVE for FIVE.
I would like to thank my family. Without their support this would never have been possible.
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