BIG PLAYS

2019-2020 NBA Season Preview

The NBA season is officially here, and we have no established favorite entering the season for the first time in decades. This will be the first season since Michael Jordan’s 1998 retirement where no teams with established championship cores exist.

The Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Steve Kerr just revealed he expects Klay Thompson out for the entire season. Kawhi Leonard left Toronto. LeBron James’ former championship teams are a shell of what they used to be. The Spurs’ big three are all retired.

NBA fans are expecting parity for the first time in a long time, and we will break down the entire season.

WESTERN CONFERENCES PLAYOFFS

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  1. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers have the ideal combination of two superstars that offer different skill sets along with experienced role players to have strong NBA success. This is the ideal team to take over the current landscape.
  2. Houston Rockets: The friendship between James Harden and Russell Westbrook should see them each sacrifice to boost the other’s role in this new dynamic. Mike D’Antoni’s system usually leads to regular season greatness.
  3. Denver Nuggets: Great regular season roster with at least two solid players at each position. Playoff success will be their biggest question given the depth in the West.
  4. Los Angeles Clippers: I have questions about Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell playing as well when on the court with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers will still dominate, but Kawhi’s rest games will lead to more losses than expected.
  5. Utah Jazz: This team has the ceiling of winning the NBA Championship and the floor of a lower seed first round exit. Donovan Mitchell and/or Mike Conley must be lights out closers late in games for Utah to thrive.
  6. Portland Trail Blazers: Do they deserve more respect in the rankings based off last season’s success? Yes, but the power forward and small forward positions are still extremely weak compared to the deep lineups of the rest of the West. (Side note: Damian Lillard’s elimination shot vs the Thunder last season was the coolest single moment in NBA history. )
  7. Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry is going to average 30+ points per game to remind the sports world why he was the talk of the league before Kevin Durant joined Golden State, but the roster has such little depth. 45-50 wins may still have them 7th in the West.
  8. San Antonio Spurs: They deserve the respect above the other teams competing for the 8th spot. It’s impossible to imagine the playoffs without the Spurs. Dejounte Murray may have a breakout season to become their next superstar.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

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  1. Milwaukee Bucks: They deserve the regular season nod over Philly due to the perfect regular season system. Giannis dominates like no other with the perfect slate of role players around him. (Side note: I enter the season knowing how to spell Giannis Antetokounmpo by memory. Can someone please praise me for this?)
  2. Philadelphia 76ers: This team makeup is a bit strange to see everyone bigger than average at each starting position in the current NBA. The talent is obviously there, but someone must emerge into a closer for them by playoff time. I expect that to be Ben Simmons. Yes, Ben Simmons will get a jump shot!
  3. Boston Celtics: Kemba Walker will finally get the respect of being a superstar after getting out of the hellhole that is Charlotte basketball. That being said, it’s time for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to step up or Celtics fans must shut up about them.
  4. Indiana Pacers: Indiana is the Utah of the East in terms of having a high ceiling and low floor (and because no one wants to visit either location), but I have them 4th out of respect for Victor Oladipo.
  5. Brooklyn Nets: As a Nets fan that loves Kyrie Irving, this season already feels like a win due to this unlikely dream playing out. The Nets have great role players and Caris LeVert needs to make a jump into the star territory for any playoff success without KD. (Side note: The Nets have a Dr. J Black Panther bobblehead giveaway that looks so weird and I badly need it.)
  6. Toronto Raptors: Just celebrate your NBA Championship the entire season, Raptors fans. This team has zero chance to contend, but they’re quite fun on paper. Pascal Siakam will be an All-Star. (Side note: Please trade for Vince Carter and let that man retire in Toronto with your forgiveness.)
  7. Miami Heat: The rest of the East is trash and Jimmy Butler is good enough to rank Miami above the others.
  8. Chicago Bulls: I’m getting a little wacky here, because Blake Griffin is already injured, and Orlando is so damn boring.

SEASON AWARDS

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MVP: LeBron James – If the Lakers win 60+ games and LeBron averages a triple double like I expect, there’s no scenario where he doesn’t win the MVP. (Side note: Vegas has lost their minds by having Anthony Davis ranked above him in the MVP odds.)

Coach of the Year: Mike Malone – This is the toughest/dullest award to pick, but Denver will win a lot of games. That’s all I have for you here. All the other realistic contenders will have tougher narratives to build momentum in the voting.

Rookie of the Year: Zion Williamson – Zion can play as little as 45 games and I’ll still take him over the field. (Side note: Tyler Herro is my pick for second place aka the real difficult thing to forecast here.)

Sixth Man of the Year: Spencer Dinwiddie – The Clippers two bench players won’t have the stats this season with their roster improving. Dinwiddie will be the second or third scoring option on a good team in the East. It’s his time.

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo – Rudy Gobert will be the best defender in the league again, but the voters will grow tired of picking him. Giannis will have another superb season and get this vote to make up for losing the MVP to LeBron. (Side note: I’d put money Draymond Green if I had to bet on someone given his lower odds and extra motivation this season.)

Most Improved: Lonzo Ball – I think Lonzo will average a double double for a solid Pelicans team. That along with the narrative of his rise will be enough to win this award. (Side note: Jonathan Issac, Miles Bridges and Dejounte Murray are some bolder names for the diehard fans to keep an eye on.)

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

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Western Conference Finals: Lakers over Warriors in 6 – Despite Steve Kerr’s claims, I fully expect Klay Thompson back by the playoffs and I’m taking Golden State over any non-L.A. team. That being said, that Lakers team is absolutely loaded. LeBron James has his dream roster of a legitimate superstar and great role players. The Lakers will return to the finals for the first time in a decade with LeBron getting to eliminate his former rivals.

Eastern Conference Finals: 76ers over Bucks in 7 – An evenly matched team can follow Toronto’s game plan last year to take Giannis out of the game. I have zero faith in Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton stepping up to get them to the finals. Philadelphia is my pick to win the East due to having 4-5 trustworthy difference makers against Milwaukee’s 1 or 2.

NBA FINALS: LAKERS OVER 76ERS IN 5 – Can I predict dramatic moments and hot take talk show stories too? If so, Joel Embiid will publicly guarantee the 76ers will beat the Lakers in the finals and it will backfire on him.

This is the season for LeBron to add a fourth title to his accomplishments and for Anthony Davis to finally prove he’s a winner. The Lakers will beat the 76ers in convincing fashion to embarrass Embiid and company.

Bonus predictions:

Dallas falls just short of the 8th playoff seed and has a better record than three East playoff teams.

Kyrie Irving will drop 40+ on the Celtics his first night back in Boston.

Russell Westbrook will cry during the introductions for his first night back in OKC (and shoot 35% from the field).

The Hornets will have the worst record in NBA history.

Miami will trade for Chris Paul.

Someone will sign Carmelo Anthony and instantly release him.

The NBA will better honor Vince Carter during the Slam Dunk Contest of All-Star Weekend.

Knicks fans will continue bragging about paying the most money for tickets to games.

Paul Pierce will declare Jayson Tatum an MVP candidate after a hot start and Twitter will roast him.

Atlanta becomes the most exciting team in the league and Trae Young is an All-Star.

Devin Booker demands a trade but doesn’t get moved until the offseason.

Charles Barkley will accidentally curse on TNT at least once during the season.

Enjoy opening night and the start of the season, NBA fans. We no longer have to pretend to care about baseball or leave the house on week nights!

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