The West Side is the Best Side: Intro
NBA season is finally here, and as a writer/fan of the league, I haven’t been this excited about opening night since LeBron James left Cleveland in 2010. So many All-Star caliber players leaving the Eastern Conference to head west, Paul George and Carmelo to OKC, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, and even Paul Millsap left Atlanta to play for the Nuggets in Denver.
Perhaps the biggest trade happened within the Eastern Conference, as Kyrie Irving left the Cavs for the Boston Celtics, making next Tuesday night’s NBA season opener a game full of tensions. Also the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors, will raise their second banner in three years and host the new All-Star backcourt duo of James Harden and Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets at Oracle. So with all of that being said here are some of my predictions for this upcoming season.
NBA Finals- Warriors Defeat Celtics to Win Second Straight Title
With all of the moving parts this season I just don’t see anyone having the chemistry under their belt to dethrone the Golden State Warriors as NBA champions. The core of Golden State which includes former league MVPs Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, along with All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is just too much for the rest of the NBA.
However I don’t believe the Cavs will be their opponent this year in the NBA Finals, but instead, the Boston Celtics will be the representative for the East this year. On paper overall, the Cavs look superior to the Celtics, but with crucial role players changing positions (Kevin Love playing Center, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith off the bench) and health (Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose, and Isaiah Thomas injury history), I am not sold on Cleveland as a team. I have seen LeBron carry far less talented teams in years past to the Finals but having gone to seven straight Finals; I don’t know how much he has left to make up for some of the possible deficiencies of the Cavs as a unit.
On the contrary, I think that Kyrie will prove how valuable he was to the success of the Cavs in previous seasons. With teammates like All-Star caliber players in Gordon Hayward and Al Horford along with talented role players in Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, rookie Jayson Tatum, and others, the Celtics will edge out Cleveland to win the East.
Regular Season MVP The “Greek Freak ” or James Harden
Again, the Eastern conference lost a lot of talent this off-season, making it the perfect time for All-Star, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks to shine this year. Giannis has been improving each year in nearly every statistical category and last year he averaged approximately 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two blocks a game. Milwaukee had a record of just 42-40 last season, but with PG13 and Butler leaving the conference, I think Giannis and Bucks could have a better record this season.
Then there’s James Harden, who was very close to winning the MVP last year. Harden switched to point guard last season and put up historically significant numbers averaging nearly 29 points, eight rebounds, and 11 assists per game while shooting almost 35 percent from 3. The only question mark I have is with CP3 taking over at the point guard position is how will that affect Harden’s numbers.
Rookie of the Year Lonzo Ball or Ben Simmons
Rookies Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers both will have tremendous opportunities to make their cases for Rookie of the Year this season. For Ball, I think the main thing will be proving he can consistently create his shot and be enough of a scoring threat to keep defenses guessing when guarding him. He averaged nearly 15 points, six rebounds, and eight assists per game at UCLA last year. However, he consistently struggled in Summer League to score efficiently, and although it goes in, his shooting form may have to be tweaked somewhat for him to be an efficient scorer in the NBA.
Ben Simmons is finally recovered from that horrific foot injury he suffered last summer that delayed his rookie season in the NBA. At 6 foot 10, Simmons can drive past bigger defenders who may be slower, and if he can develop a jump shot, he will have a huge advantage over smaller guards. His vision as a passer is on another level because with his size he can see over defenses and find open teammates. The only concern I have is that the 76ers will play another rookie at point guard in Markelle Fultz who is more of a scoring guard so that may affect Simmons numbers during the season.
Conclusion: We Will Be Entertained
While I am predicting with solidarity that the Warriors will repeat, that shouldn’t take away from the rest of the excitement that will happen this NBA season. All of these moved players out West will make the league very interesting, and with the East losing some key players you never know who could have a breakout season in that conference. I also look forward to the new All-Star format, in which the two highest voted players get to pick who they want on their teams. That should be quite interesting *coughs LeBron pick Russ and KD/ Steph pick Kyrie. With that being said, let’s play some basketball!