There are two things in the sports world that are completely futile, yet inevitable. The first are lists of any kind, particularly ranking all-time greats. Debates and arguments can be had, but, in the end, no one is wrong –at least technically, no one is wrong. If someone comes at me with Shawn Bradley being an all-time great, then they’re wrong.
The second, of course, are preseason predictions. Virtually impossible, yet always fun, intriguing, and guaranteed to spark conversation. Today, I will be tackling the latter. It doesn’t take a genius to realize the Sixers will stink and LeBron James will continue to lead his team deep into the playoffs, but it’s everything in between that makes preseason predictions so intriguing.
Eastern Conference Finals
Cleveland Cavaliers over Chicago Bulls – Even if Rose is injured, which is a continued theme in his career, the Bulls have built themselves a winner with depth and options. New Head Coach, Fred Hoiberg, will push the basketball more on offense and the defense will continue to be anchored by Joakim Noah. Hoiberg will also find a way to utilize Doug McDermott’s skill set off the bench. The Miami Heat will make a solid run at the Eastern Conference Finals, but in the end, will come up short to old friend LeBron James, who will continue to be the best player in the league.
Western Conference Finals
San Antonio Spurs over Houston Rockets – Daryl Morey has built a team with talent and depth. Provided Dwight Howard can maintain his health, he will return to the stout defensive form that we remember from his Orlando years. There is some concern with scoring off the bench, but with Ty Lawson doing more distributing it should allow for Patrick Beverley to score more frequently. Under any other coach, I would have concerns over the signing of a face-up scoring big man like LaMarcus Aldridge on this team. However, Gregg Popovich is the best in the NBA. San Antonio won’t win the regular season, but will play for the postseason.
San Antonio Spurs over Cleveland Cavaliers – Cleveland has deficiencies beyond LBJ. Kyrie Irving commands the ball too much for a point guard with the best wing player in the league next to him, similar to the Russell Westbook-Kevin Durant dynamic. Kevin Love doesn’t play his game in Cleveland; they would have been better off hanging onto another wing scorer like Andrew Wiggins. Combine these with a defensive ball-hawk on the perimeter like Kawhi Leonard and you have a combination to beat the Cavs.
Rookie of the Year
Jahlil Okafor – The best player on the worst team happens to be a rookie. He has his deficiencies, particularly on defense, but he is a naturally talented offensive big man.
Runners-up: Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns
Defensive Player of the Year
Anthony Davis – In what will likely be a tight vote, Davis will keep his team in the playoff hunt single-handedly as everyone around him continues to underachieve.
Runners-up: Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard
Most Improved Player
C.J. McCollum – The Blazers are in complete transition with the loss of three key players from last season and Damian Lillard can only handle so much of it himself. McCollum will see more touches and minutes, showing a scoring prowess that Portland will sorely need.
Runners-up: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal
Sixth Man of the Year
Isaiah Thomas – The debate, locally, is whether or not he will be comfortable with a role coming off of the bench. If Head Coach Brad Stevens can sell the idea of the Celtics Sixth Man mystique and the fact -yes, it’s a fact- that it doesn’t matter who starts it matters who finishes, then everything will be fine. I firmly believe Thomas will be fine with this role, since he will clearly play an integral part on the team, and will be the Celtics best offensive option when he’s on the floor.
Runners-up: Tristan Thompson (if Mozgov and Love start over him), Andre Iguodala
Coach of the Year
Kevin McHale – I believe that Houston will finish first in the Western Conference. If this comes to fruition, old friend, Kevin McHale, will earn the award.
Runners-up: Gregg Popovich, Billy Donovan, Scott Skiles
Most Valuable Player
James Harden – Harden feels he deserved the award last year and is determined to earn his place among the current superstars. That combined with the Michael Jordan-effect of LeBron James being too good all the time, leading to voters simply being sick of voting for him.
Runners-up: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry
All-NBA First Team
Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis
All-NBA Second Team
Damian Lillard, Russell Westbook, Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins
All-NBA Third Team
John Wall, Chris Paul, Kahwi Leonard, Carmelo Anthony, Marc Gasol
Quick Celtics Predictions
- Isaiah Thomas will start some games, but he will play a majority coming off of the bench and be perfectly fine with it. He will be fine with it simply because he will be in the game during crunch time and is immediate offense off the bench. In fact, he’s the best offensive asset on the team and will be an immediate spark into the game.
- Danny Ainge will continue to make moves, both in-season and the next off-season. The Celtics will not only be one of the first to hit the trade market this season, they will also make surprising moves. No one on this roster is untouchable. Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart are the two closest to untouchable, but for the right price, either will be traded.
- This iteration of the Celtics will make the playoffs again. They will remain around the same seed, my prediction is the sixth seed.
- The next draft will feature a number of first round selections for the Celtics, once again; however, none will be in the top five. The Nets pick is not protected, but they are not bad enough to fall into a top five selection. Similarly, the Mavericks will miss the playoffs, but their pick is top-seven protected. The Dallas pick should land around tenth overall. These two lottery picks could be moved before the off-season, but in either scenario it leads to more assets for the Celtics.
- This team will be fun to watch. The Celtics will be the only team in the league that boast three top-tier perimeter defenders -Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder. These three have the ability to force poor offensive possessions leading to rebounding opportunities. Rebounding was a struggle for Boston last year. Amir Johnson, active and tough on the boards, along with David Lee, once an elite rebounder thanks to his acumen and nose for the ball, will be assets for Boston.
Enjoy the season!