This season seems to be the most balanced season we have seen in many years. Even the East is deeper than usual. For the first time in over a decade we as fans have no idea who’s going to the finals in either conference. The west has about seven teams (Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, Trailblazers, Nuggets, Rockets, and Jazz) that have a legitimate chance of going to the NBA finals. The East has about 6 teams that can contend (76ers, Bucks, Pacers, Celtics, Nets, and Raptors) for the Eastern Conference Championship. This is a product of the most powerful offseason since Lebron’s “The Decision” in the summer of 2010. Durant going to the East, and Kawhi going to the West did more than just shake the world, it divided the power. Some teams really stood out this offseason from players lost and/or gained.
Sort of New Look Boston Celtics
The Celtics losing Kyrie could end up being a blessing, and the FIBA world cup could make that blessing come to fruition with KembaWalker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart already playing together and getting that chemistry down. Adding Enes Kanter, a true center, something they have been lacking for many years is a good look as well. Brad Stevens is one of the better coaches in the NBA, so this has the potential to be one of the most dangerous teams in the East.
Durant-Less Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets without Durant for an unknown length of time is going to be the biggest challenge in getting to the Finals, but with the push to get Carmelo Anthony, adding Kyrie and Deandre Jordan, and a young hungry team with great coaching you cannot count them out just yet.
The Down But Not Out Golden State Warriors
No Kevin Durant, No Klay Thompson, no worries. The Warriors might me the most disrespected team after this offseason. They still have one of the best defenders in the league, they still have the greatest shooter of all time, and they still have Steve Kerr as a coach. They added D’Angelo Russell, Klay will be back, and added Willie Cauley-Stein. This team isn’t the league dominating team of yesteryear, but they are far from bad or even out of contention of winning the finals.
The Kings of L.A.
The most anticipated matchup in the NBA is coming straight from Tinseltown. The two best teams on paper share the same arena. What most assume will be the Western Conference Finals matchup, comes with no home court advantage. Lebron and AD vs The Claw and PG. Clippers have some of the best defenders in the league, Lakers have two of the best scorers in the league. Clippers have the advantage at coaching. Last team standing wears the crown.
MVP: Steph Curry
With no Durant or Klay, Steph has to show up this year and look like Steph before the Durant era. I believe he puts the Warriors on his back and has an amazing year from behind the arc to carry the Warriors to a 2 or 3 seed in the West.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
When healthy and in shape he is one of the best players in the league on both sides of the ball. I am determined that the game 7 loss against the raptors last season will turn his mentality around, and make him play to his potential game in and game out. Embiid will win Defensive Player of the Year.
Rookie of the Year: DeAndre Hunter
All eyes will on Zion as he is the biggest rookie since Lebron, and the question remains will he live up to the hype. I believe he will have really good rookie campaign, but I believe Hunter is in a better situation for him to flourish. With Trey looking to have a huge sophomore here, Hunter can benefit from defenders zoning in on Trey and Cam’s shooting. Hunter is one of the most complete players in the draft on both sides of the ball. Zion has a really good chance of winning, but Hunter is the guy I see challenging him more than any other rookie.
Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball
Nobody in the NBA outside of the elite players has a bigger chip on their shoulder than Lonzo Ball. The kid from Chino Hills, with the proud father who can be heard from wherever he stands, who dreamed of being a Laker, was traded from the Lakers this past season. Not only was he traded, but Kyle Kuzma, draft mate, was kept by the Lakers. From the moment he was injured the Lakers defense dropped dramatically. He was the best defender they had, and outside of Lebron the best playmaker they had. Lonzo was a jumpshot away from being dangerous. Who knows what he worked on this off season, but if it is his jumper, be on the lookout for this kid to finally play up to his potential.
Celtics 2 – Bucks 4
No matter how good the 76ers roster is Brett Brown is not a good enough coach to get them to the next level, and because of that the Celtics gets past them to see the Bucks in the Conference Championship. The bucks smothering defense is just too much for that young Celtics roster and they fall short in 6.
Warriors 3 – Clippers 4
The warriors get Klay back, Steph is still hot for the regular season, Draymond is Draymond, and Kerr coach circles around Frank Vogel in the 2nd round, which ultimately leads to him getting fired and Jason Kidd getting promoted. We get 7 amazing nail biting games of back and forth basketball, but the defense of the Clippers is just too much to overcome for the warriors as they lose game 7 in Los Angeles.
Clippers 2 – Bucks 4
The era of Giannis has begun! With a stellar performance in the finals averaging over 30 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals to lead the Bucks to their first championship in 49 years. In a matchup of the two best defensive teams in the league somebody is going to have to step up and put on an offensive show, and that somebody will be Giannis. We never got Kobe vs Lebron, but Kahwi vs Giannis can be a rivalry as big as Bird vs Magic. Giannis will capture his first finals MVP as the 2020 NBA season comes to an end.
There are 6 individual NBA regular season awards: MVP, Defensive Player Of The Year, Rookie Of The Year, Most Improved, Six Man Of The Year, and Coach Of The Year. Some of these races are extremely close. I’ll give my predictions on all of the races.
Giannis Antetokounmpo vs James Harden
One of the closets MVP races we have had in years. One player had one of the best offensive seasons of all time. Harden averaged 36.1 points and 7.5 assists. Harden even averaged 2 steals per game, 2nd overall in the league. Harden lead his team to a 53-29 record, finishing 4th in the West. No player in league history has averaged 35+ points and 7+ assists per game for a whole season. Historic season! Giannis on the other hand lead the Bucks to the number 1 overall seed. 3rd in points with 27.7, 6th in rebounds with 12.5 (highest among non-centers) The bucks are 4-6 without Giannis, which includes losses to teams such as the Cavs, Hawks, and Wizards. Giannis has put up the most efficient season in 20 years. Giannis efficiency is 35, Jordan was 37 in the 88-89 season. In a league dominated by the West the Bucks still held their own winning 20 of their 30 games, including Giannis leading them with wins over the Warriors, Jazz, and sweeping the Nuggets and the Harden lead Rockets. Giannis lead this team to being the highest scoring offense in the league and the favorites to represent in the East. Giannis leads the best offensive and defensive team in the league.
Pascal Siakam vs Deangelo Russell
The most improved player race is crowded with players like De’Aaron Fox, D.J. Wilson, and Jahlil Okafor all improving and having really good seasons, but there’s two players above them all. Pascal Siakam and Deangelo Russell. Pascal Siakam had the biggest jump in points per game among all NBA players, jumping from 7.3 ppg to 16.9ppg. Siakam was a player defenders left alone from the three last year, as he shot a terrible 22% from the arc. This year he’s shooting 37%. Siakam being the 3rd option for the raptors a lot of time was the 2nd option as Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard missed a combined 39 games, but Siakam kept the team afloat as they finished 2nd in the east and 3rd overall. Deangelo Russell improved in a number of areas in more than just stats. Russell saw a jump in ppg from 15.5 to 21.1. His assists jumped up from 5.2 to 7 per game. He became a better shooter, improving in FG%. Russell was a named an All Star for the first time, but most important in his first full season (missed just under half the season due to injury last season) he led the Nets to their best season in 5 years, and first playoff appearance in 4 years. Not only did Russell improved but he improved the team as well. If there is any chance of an upset in the East, Russell and the nets have the best chance.
Coach Of The Year
Mike Malone vs Mike Budenholzer vs Doc Rivers
Mike Malone’s Nuggets ended their 2018 season losing to the Timberwolves in overtime on the last day of the regular season leaving the nuggets on the outside looking in as the Timberwolves took the 8th seed. The nuggets are now the 2nd seed in the West and 4th best seed overall. They jumped up in victories with 8 more wins, clinching their first playoff berth in 6 years, and first division title in 9 years. Mike Budenholzer and the Bucks were by far the best team in the NBA. Finish the season number 1 overall, and the only 60 win team this year. Budenholzer’s Bucks were the best offensive and defensive team in the league. The Bucks were the 7th seed last year in the East, but winning 16 more games than the previous season changed all of that. Out of the three coaches up for this award, only one has a team that is a favorite to go to the finals, and that Budenholzer’s Bucks. The fact that Doc Rivers is even in this conversation is amazing in itself. The Clippers were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the West, yet they just kept winning and winning, and found themselves in the the 8th seed. The Clippers are the only playoff team without an All Star or All-NBA player on their team, and yes Oladipo may not be playing but he’s still a Pacer. This offseason they lost DeAndre Jordan, then made a mid season trade to the 76ers sending them Tobias Harris, which looked like they were in full tank mode. Instead they went in grind mode and finished with 48 victories, 6 more than last year, and a jump from the 10th seed. Yes Mike Malone and Mike Budenholzer have better seeding and more victories, but they also have a lot more talent than Rivers’ Clippers. Who is my winner though?
Remaining Award Winners
Defensive Player Of The Year - Gobert over Giannis and PG
Rookie Of The Year - Luca over Trey
Sixth Man Of Man The Year - Lou Williamson