THE new NBA season is now just days away! Rejoice basketball fans, after months of insane trades and wild roster changes the time for talking is over and the actual basketball is almost ready to begin. Before reading to find out the playoff and award picks, be sure to find your team in one of the six divisional previews to learn what you should expect in 2017-18.
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Points Per Game: Damian Lillard
Assists Per Game: Russell Westbrook
Field Goal Percentage: Clint Capela
ENOUGH is enough, Damian Lillard is sick of being overlooked for individual honours. So much so that he goes on a tear and claims the scoring title with a shade under 30 a night. With new All-Stars flanking him Westbrook goes on to become the leagues leading assister for the first time in his career, pushing 12 assists per game. Chris Paul will go close to the assist crown as he and Harden fuel Clint Capela alley-oops that see the Rockets big man lead the league in field goal percentage.
Rebounds Per Game: DeAndre Jordan
Blocks Per Game: Rudy Gobert
Steals Per Game: John Wall
PERENNIAL rebounding machine DeAndre Jordan climbs atop the boarding chart again with his third rebounding title of his career. He can’t top the block count though with lanky Frenchman Rudy Gobert winning his second straight crown. Throughout his career Wall has shown that he can be one of the best thieves in the league and I’m predicting he edges out CP3 as the best in the NBA swiping the ball away.
Rookie of the Year – Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Coach of the Year – Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets
EVERY man woman and dog seems to be hype over Lonzo Ball’s rookie of the year chances. Me on the other hand, I’m expecting Ben Simmons to win the award. Even though he will only shoot around 40% he’ll still put up 11 PPG, 7 RPG and 6 APG to run away with the ROY award. With the Hornets improving by 10-15 wins I think Steve Clifford will be a deserving winner and help Charlotte establish themselves as a dangerous playoff threat.
Most Improved Player – Tim Hardaway Jr, New York Knicks
Sixth Man – Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
AFTER two seasons in Atlanta, Hardaway is back in Gotham City ready to take control of the offense. With Melo gone, someone will need to score buckets alongside Kristaps Porzingis and I’m tipping the 5th year pro to put up close to 20 points a night. An annual favourite for the best bench man award, Lou Williams will provide a punch off the bench for the Clippers and win his second 6th man trophy.
Image from cavsnation.com
Defensive Player of the Year – Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Most Valuable Player – Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
WHILE I’m tempted to take a flyer on Myles Turner for the DPOY honours, Rudy Gobert is just too good. The league leader in blocks and anchor for the Jazz defense will claim his first award as the leagues best defender. Another preseason learning how to play alongside his MVP teammate will help Curry transform into the league’s MVP for the 3rd time in four years. At times I expect him to blow up and drop 40 in the blink of an eye, go close to winning the scoring title and reap the benefits of playing on the best team in the NBA.
REGULAR SEASON RECORDS
1. Golden State Warriors – 69-13
2. Houston Rockets – 60-22
3. Oklahoma City Thunder – 54-28
4. San Antonio Spurs – 53-29
5. Minnesota Timberwolves – 44-38
6. Denver Nuggets – 44-38
7. Los Angeles Clippers – 42-40
8. Utah Jazz – 42-40
9. Portland Trailblazers – 41-41
10. Memphis Grizzlies – 39-43
11. New Orleans Pelicans – 38-44
12. Dallas Mavericks – 35-47
13. Sacramento Kings – 31-51
14. Los Angeles Lakers – 30-52
15. Phoenix Suns – 24-58
DON’T hate on me for predicting a Spurs slide, after 936 years near the top of the food chain they are bound to finally fall slightly. The Rockets and Warriors emerge as the best two teams in the league becoming the only squads to win 60 games. Portland may prove me wrong and steal one of the final playoff spots from the Clippers or Jazz, but the rest of the non-playoff teams will probably remain in the lottery.
1. Boston Celtics – 56-26
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – 54-28
3. Toronto Raptors – 48-34
4. Washington Wizards – 48-34
5. Milwaukee Bucks – 45-37
6. Charlotte Hornets – 45-37
7. Miami Heat – 43-39
8. Philadelphia 76ers – 40-42
9. Detroit Pistons – 37-45
10. Orlando Magic – 33-49
11. Indiana Pacers – 30-52
12. Brooklyn Nets – 29-53
13. New York Knicks – 28-56
14. Atlanta Hawks – 23-59
15. Chicago Bulls – 21-61
TO no one’s surprise the bottom of the East will turn out to be the bottom of the league. Both teams in the state of New York will struggle to chalk up wins along with the Hawks and Bulls, while the usual suspects also feature out of postseason action. Things are very similar at the top with the newly structured Celtics claiming the best record in the East and the Sixers ending their playoff drought sneaking in just under .500.
Eastern Conference Finals – Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards
SOMEWHAT surprisingly, I’m predicting the Celtics to miss out on the East Finals. In the series against Washington last playoffs, it was their bench that helped Boston emerge victoriously, but a hungry John Wall will help steer them to a series win this time. On the other side of the ball, Cleveland still has LeBron James. Enough said.
VERDICT: Cavs in 5
Western Conference Finals – Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
A rematch of last years Conference Finals will pit the leagues two 60 win teams against one another. Last season the Warriors slaughtered Houston, but things will be different this time around. Still, Golden State hasn’t changed and they will win the series regardless of who they face.
VERDICT: Warriors in 6
Image from si.com
NBA Finals – Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
RUN it back. The fourth straight instalment of the Cavs vs. Dubs may seem boring and make the regular season unimportant, but there is a reason both teams are still atop the league. Cleveland has a vastly different team this year and it will be interesting in the regular season to see how they combat the Warriors, who are undoubtedly the best team in basketball. This time around though I’m expecting LeBron to channel his 2016 Finals self and put the Cavs on his back. This Game 7 will be different to that series though with Golden State raising the trophy for the third time in four seasons cementing their dynasty status and becoming the first team to defend their crown since the Heat did in 2012-2013.
VERDICT: Warriors in 7
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