Welcome back for Part Two of We Love Sportz’s NBA season preview! Yesterday I gave you my predictions for how the teams will finish in the standings, and today, I have seven bold predictions for the upcoming season, as well as who I expect to win the 2017 NBA Championship!
1 – Russell Westbrook wins the MVP Award
I know I’m not really going out on a limb with this one, but I think it’s pretty bold considering that most experts are picking either LeBron or Steph to take this award home. James Harden has been another popular pick, but I’m going with Westbrook. Like I said in yesterday’s post, the loss of Durant will take the shackles off of Westbrook, and for better or for worse, he’ll be forced most nights to take matters into his own hands. I expect him to average around 27 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds a game this season, and in leading the Thunder to a Top-4 seed in the West, his efforts will be recognized with his first career MVP award.
2 – Damian Lillard finishes 2nd in MVP Voting
I think this is more bold than Westbrook taking the MVP home, but I love Damian Lillard. I think he will cement himself as one of the Top-3 point guards in the league this year as he almost single-handedly takes the Blazers into the playoffs. It’s not a great team on paper outside of Lillard. C.J. McCollum had a huge year last season, and he is an above average shooting guard with the potential to become even better. They have some nice role players as well like Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu, but this is Lillard’s team, and he is definitely good enough to carry them to the playoffs, and be an MVP contender
3 – Anthony Davis leads the NBA in scoring heading into the All-Star Break
I’m not ready to say that Davis will lead the league in scoring for the season, because his health is always a question mark, but I believe that he will stay healthy enough to prove to everyone why he should be in consideration for the best player in the NBA. Without a doubt I believe he is Top-3 in the NBA, and if you put a gun to my head and asked me which player I would want to start an NBA team with, I’d choose Davis. He is the total package, and he’s just 23 years old. This guy has quite a career ahead of him, and I felt that he could be among the league’s leading scorers even before he put up 50 on opening night. If they Pelicans are going to have any success this year, they’ll need Davis to have the ball in his hands at all times. He can score in so many different ways, and I don’t think there’s a player in the league that can guard him. I see Davis averaging over 30 points a game to lead the league in the first half of the season.
4 – DeMarcus Cousins finally gets traded
I really feel bad for Cousins. He does have a bit of an attitude problem, I realize that, but there isn’t a worse situation for any player in the NBA right now. Playing in Sacramento is a nightmare right now, and I truly feel that the only reason he hasn’t been traded yet is because they are opening a new arena this season. After the Kings struggle through the first few months of the season, and Cousins continues to be disgruntled, I think the time will finally come when they trade him, and the team best suited to be a trade partner for the Kings is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have long been enamored with Cousins, and they have the firepower to make a deal. I see the Celtics offering a package of Avery Bradley, Amir Johnson, the right to swap 1st Round picks with the Nets in 2017, the Nets 2018 1st Round pick and another future 1st Round pick, and the Kings will see that as a great way to jump start their rebuilding process, while the Celtics will jump at the opportunity to add a true superstar.
5 – Joel Embiid makes the All-Star Team
Trust the Process! 76ers fans have been waiting a long time for some excitement, and it looks like they’ll finally get some in the form of 2014 #3 overall pick Joel Embiid. After two seasons on the shelf, Embiid is finally healthy, and has looked like a star in the making. It’s a very small sample size, but Embiid is showing off skills that we just haven’t seen from a player of his size. In the opener last night, Embiid scored 20 points in just 22 minutes of action. Coach Brown is going to ease Embiid into it, as he should, but I think as the year goes on, Embiid will continue to prove how smart the Sixers were to wait it out, and he will join Blake Griffin and Yao Ming as the only rookies since 2000 to make an All-Star team.
6 – Patty Mills wins 6th Man of the Year
I am not a huge fan of this award because I think a lot of times, it goes to a player who is definitely good enough to be starting, and plays starter’s minutes, but just because he comes off the bench he gets an award. I understand the award, I just don’t like it. It’s those reasons that a certain player gets this award that have led me to pick the Spurs’ Patty Mills as my prediction for 6th Man of the Year. Tony Parker is not getting any younger, and Mills has proven to be a very good backup over the last few years. I think Parker’s minutes will continue to decline as Pop tries to keep him healthy for the playoffs, and Mills will be the beneficiary of that.
7 – We will not see another Warriors/Cavs Finals
It’s just way too easy to predict another Finals between Golden State and Cleveland. I mean, yeah, that’s probably the likely result, but I truly believe that it won’t happen. The odds of seeing the same matchup for the third straight year are slim, and both teams have issues that they’ll need to deal with. The Warriors have a lot of new parts, and in the recent past, these so-called “Superteams” have needed at least a year to figure everything out. The ‘08 Celtics were the only “Superteam” to win it all in their first year together. Golden State also has legitimate contenders that they have to fend off like San Antonio and the Clippers. On the other hand, while the Cavs are clearly the best team in the East, they are either one injury or one big Celtics trade (that I am predicting) away from having some trouble.
Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics over Cavaliers
Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Spurs
NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics
If the Celtics are able to trade for a superstar at the trade deadline (like DeMarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler), they will get themselves right there alongside the Cavs in the East, and I think they could knock them off in the East Finals. In the West, I think the Warriors just have way too much talent for them not to figure it out eventually. I could see them struggling a little during the regular season, even finishing 2nd or 3rd, but they will have it all clicking by the time the postseason rolls around.
A Warriors/Celtics matchup in the NBA Finals would be extremely intriguing. The Celtics have played the Warriors tougher than any team in the league over the last couple seasons. In the 2014-2015 season, the Celtics lost both games against the Warriors, but it was by just a combined eight points. Last season, the Celtics fell to the undefeated Warriors at home by three points in double overtime, and then in April, they handed Golden State their first home loss of the season, 109-106. I would expect this to be a long, exciting series, but I’d have the Warriors finding a way to get it done this year, erasing the hurt from losing a 3-1 advantage to the Cavs.