Over the past few years, we have seen the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers dominate the NBA, and while it may be getting boring for some fans, it has forced the rest of the NBA to adapt, and with several big time moves already made in the offseason so far (and potentially more to come), it seems like the field may be evening out somewhat, but what does that mean for the upcoming season?
What rookies are going to shine, which ones are going to fail? What trades will work out and what ones will be considered busts? Who’s on the upswing and who is going to fail miserably? All these questions and more will be answered in this article where we make 15 bold predictions about the upcoming NBA season.
(Authors note: it’s not included in the article because quite frankly, it isn’t that bold, but I do believe the Golden State Warriors will again be NBA Champions, but because it isn’t bold to say something like that at all, we’ve decided not to waste your time with a whole entry about it).
15 The Young Timberwolves Prove Themselves As A Future Playoff Threat
Coming into this offseason, it looked like the young Minnesota Timberwolves were on their way up behind stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but to speed up the process, T-Wolves management brought in not only Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford, but they traded for Jimmy Butler, one of the biggest stars in the NBA today, and with such a deadly starting five, you have to imagine this team is primed for their first playoff appearance since 2004 when they fell to Kobe’s Lakers in the Conference Finals. There will certainly be a steep learning curve, but with the experienced Butler, Teague and Crawford to go along with their young stars, this could be a team built for the long haul, and despite the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets and Thunder likely to secure the top seeds in the West, the Timberwolves could challenge them, and will no doubt finish top 6. While they will likely fall early in the post season due to the sheer competition, this will be a year where they mark their arrival as a future threat in the conference, and in the 2018/19 season, they could potentially be the West’s top challengers to the Golden State Warriors.
14 Boston Makes A Move To Get Andre Drummond/Marc Gasol
While it seems the Cleveland Cavaliers could be falling apart in the East with Kyrie Irving wanting out, and LeBron James potentially leaving after this season, it seems the Boston Celtics are solidifying themselves as a force for years to come, especially with all their draft picks. They have a team primed to compete this year, and with so many draft picks, they can afford to give up some in order to get a truly elite center. With their team set up the way it is, there will be plenty of scoring and defense that will likely help Boston back to the #1 seed for the second straight year. But with Al Horford at the 5, he lacks the rebounding that a true center needs, so if the team can give up some draft picks to get someone like Andre Drummond or Marc Gasol, it would definitely help them succeed down the stretch.
13 The Process Carries Philly Back To The Postseason
Through all the player movement during this offseason, one thing has remained constant, and that’s the optimism that Philadelphia 76ers fans everywhere have in their process, and after drafting Markelle Fultz with the 1st overall pick in the draft, it seems as though pairing him with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will bring the Sixers back to the postseason for the first time in several years. It’s definitely going to be a struggle with this young core, especially when you think of the fact that neither Simmons nor Fultz has played a minute in the NBA (Embiid himself has less than half a season experience), but if the trio can stay healthy, there is definitely a spot from 5-8 in the Eastern Conference playoffs waiting for them. While Boston, Toronto, Cleveland and Washington will likely see to it that Philly don’t make it too far, just making the playoffs will give the organization a big lift so they can continue to grow in the near future.
12 The Greek Freak Solidifies Himself As A Top 5 NBA Player
Sometimes as fans, we truly forget how spoiled we are for talent in the NBA, as there is many elite players who will go down in history like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and so many more, but there is one player who doesn’t get the recognition he truly deserves, but in 2017/18, The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will prove that he definitely belongs on that top 5 player list. Just this past season, the 22-year-old did something that only five others in NBA history have done, and that’s lead his team in all five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals), and with the Bucks team on his back, he is only getting better. While he has a ways to go to be considered the best player in the game, if he continues to develop the way he has over the past two years, I believe we will see Giannis get a spot in the NBA All-First team following the upcoming season.
11 Lonzo Ball Goes Off (But Falls Short Of Rookie Of The Year)
Because of his father LaVar, Lonzo Ball has been one of the most polarizing and interesting draft picks in NBA history, perhaps since LeBron James 14 years ago, but after his Summer League showing which saw him take home the MVP award, it’s safe to say that Lonzo has immense potential and a big future ahead of him. The current Lakers team that he joins has Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, as well as veteran Brook Lopez, so it’s very likely that Lonzo will have a fantastic year, but with all the hype behind him and his family, I think he will fall just short of the Rookie of the Year award. Overall, I believe that Ball will have a great career, perhaps better than anyone in this seemingly stacked draft, but for this year on this very young Lakers squad, Ball will come up just short.
10 Josh Jackson Takes Home Rookie Of The Year
While the Rookie of the Year voting is usually contested between one or two top players, this year the award looks wide open, as we’ve already mentioned Lonzo Ball, as well as Frank Ntilikina, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum, DeAaron Fox and even Ben Simmons will all be contesting the coveted award, but at the end of the day I believe it will be the Phoenix Suns standout Josh Jackson that takes it home. While all of these guys are going to have great careers, and will all no doubt play pivotal roles in the future of their franchise, it is Jackson who looks best suited to adapt to the pro game, and while Ball may have taken home the Summer League MVP, Jackson looked every bit as capable, and alongside the young core in Phoenix will just edge out these guys for the award.
9 Golden State Sets The 3-Point Record
Whether you like them or you hate them, you can no longer deny that this current Golden State Warriors team is one of the best in NBA history, and while they’re a very well rounded team, the majority of their success comes from 3-point shooting, and after adding another 3 point weapon in Swaggy-P, Nick Young, this team might somehow improve its 3 point potential. Just a few years ago, this team without Kevin Durant and Nick Young were the first in NBA history to sink 1000 3’s in a year, but last year that was broken by the Houston Rockets, but with the team moving on from Lou Williams and Pat Beverly, they won’t do it again, but you can be assured that Golden State will certainly have a shot at it. With Thompson, Curry, KD, Young, Iggy and even Draymond Green all able to drain the 3 at will, this team might even go over 1100 3’s, but either way, they will again set the record this upcoming season.
8 The Rockets Struggle With CP3
The Warriors have been dominating the West for the previous 3-4 years, and that has left teams like OKC, San Antonio and The LA Clippers scrambling to make moves to challenge the mighty Golden State. But this offseason, it was the Houston Rockets who made the biggest move, giving up a lot of depth to get one of the best PGs of this generation in Chris Paul. While the team isn’t going to drop out of the playoffs, as they will boast one of the best backcourts in the NBA, this move was one that was made with the NBA Finals in mind, and with such lofty expectations, failure and disappointment is the only outcome for the 2017/18 Houston Rockets. With seemingly no depth on the bench, the Rockets are certainly going to struggle (as most teams in the West are against the Warriors), but unfortunately this move just isn’t going to result in the ring that the Rockets are chasing.
7 Nikola Jokic Starts The All-Star Game For The West
At this point in time, the Western Conference looks more stacked than it has been in the history of the NBA, and with All-Stars Paul George and Jimmy Butler joining the West, with only Gordon Hayward leaving, it seems getting a spot on the coveted All-Star team will be harder than ever. But not only will the Denver Nuggets' emerging superstar Nikola Jokic make his first All-Star team, he will be the starting big man for the West squad. There is stiff competition, as a traditional center isn’t always guaranteed a starting spot in the All-Star lineup, but even then, there are still guys like Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If his form from this past season continues, there is no reason why the young star can’t do it.
6 Russ & PG Take OKC Back To The Western Conference Finals
When Kevin Durant left the OKC Thunder to join up with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State, it sparked a new passion and motivation in Russell Westbrook, and despite coming up short in the playoffs, Russ broke several long standing NBA records on the way to his first MVP award, and while he’d love that award again, with Paul George by his side, it seems that team goals may be the ones ticked off in the upcoming season for Westbrook. The team had to give up Victor Oladipo and some depth to get the former Pacers All-Star, but with these two running the show alongside Steven Adams, the Thunder could be in for a date with KD and the Warriors in the WCF. While the Spurs, Clippers, Timberwolves and Rockets will all have something to say about that, I believe it could happen, and will create for some likely hostile but fantastic basketball.
5 The Knicks Finally Start Fresh And Move On from Carmelo Anthony
For the past few decades, the New York Knicks have been an embarrassment of a franchise, with sometimes having all the talent in the world. More or less, the Knicks have not been able to do any damage in the East, but after moving on from the disgraceful reign of Phil Jackson, it seems this team might finally be on the upswing, with only one move to make until they can finally build around budding star Kristaps Porzingis, and that is trading away veteran Carmelo Anthony. It won’t be easy though, as he has a no-trade clause, but if the team can somehow put together a package for Houston or Cleveland, and preferably one that brings the team Kyrie Irving, it’s hard to imagine that Melo would pass up such a shot at his first NBA Finals appearance. This one is fairly likely to happen, as it will be a positive for all parties involved, and if it doesn’t happen before the season, it will no doubt happen come the trade deadline.
4 Denver Returns To The Postseason
Ever since Carmelo Anthony requested a trade from the Denver Nuggets, the franchise has seen nothing but failure, and despite reaching the post season with their high octane offense since that point, no one saw them as a threat, but with their young, incredibly talented core, this upcoming season could be the time that they again reach the post season, this time with a roster primed to do some damage. With Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and a host of young guards, it looked like the same could have been said about the previous NBA season, but by adding Paul Millsap and seeing the development of their two young stars, this is finally the year their potential will come to fruition, but it won’t be without it’s challenges. The Warriors, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers will all be battling for West supremacy, but Denver will have to challenge the likes of Portland, Utah, LA, New Orleans and Minnesota for the final spots, but I think they will win their way into the postseason, and solidify themselves as a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
3 Boston Topples The King
In the past few years, the Western Conference has been incredibly deep, while the East has continually had just one or two contenders. While there are a few emerging powerhouses in the East (Washington, Philadelphia, Milwaukee), it’s expected that Cleveland and Boston will again meet in the Conference Finals. This year, I expect a different result to the one we saw this past season this time around. So far in the offseason, the Cavaliers have added just Derrick Rose, and outside of that, have seemed to be involved in all sorts of drama, with Kyrie Irving asking for a trade. But the Celtics on the other hand have drafted an immensely talented Jayson Tatum, while bringing in Gordon Hayward. While they lost both Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk, this should be enough to get them past the King and the Cavaliers (although they’ll likely still fall to the might of the West).
2 PG Decides To Stay In OKC
Heading into this offseason, one of the biggest stories revolved around Pacers All-Star Paul George, as he has implied he will join the Lakers in free agency come next offseason. As such, Indiana decided to move him to Oklahoma City alongside Russell Westbrook, and for some, there is the very big possibility that he gives up his Lakers idea to stay and build a lasting legacy in OKC, and that’s exactly what I think will happen. With Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram in the legendary purple and gold, it will still be tempting for George to go to such a famous franchise, but with a team built to succeed in OKC, staying put, especially when California is considered home, but on a team with proven players at the NBA level, expect him to strongly consider stay put in a Thunder uniform beyond next season.
1 Kawhi Goes One Step Further And Gets MVP
This past year, Russell Westbrook achieved something that no one thought possible, as he broke Oscar Robertson’s record of 42 triple-doubles in a single season, and he averaged a triple-double on his way to MVP, just like Robertson did. While it was likely James Harden in second place, Kawhi Leonard had another fantastic year, and in the upcoming 2017/18 season, he will prove that he is one of the best in the game and take home that hardware. Sure, with PG joining up in OKC to help out Russ, and LeBron James as usual, there will be plenty of competition for the award, but with the typical Pop-led Spurs team and another year of experience for Leonard, he should take home the award, especially if he continues to improve his offensive game to pair with the defense which makes him quite possibly the best and most well-rounded defender in the game.