Tuesday, October 25, 2016

NBA Predictions: We may know the final result, but we have no idea how we'll get there

By Trevor Hass

The first four days of March Madness are without question the best days of the year. You literally sit in front of your TV all day and watch dozens of games that matter. You become a maniac as you watch your bracket combust.

Those days are unbeatable. But this day, as a devoted basketball fan, is probably right behind it. Today is special, because it’s the beginning of something wonderful. The first day of the NBA season means basketball is officially back.

There’s no more watching Colts-Titans, Colts-Jaguars or Colts-Texans on Thursday night (thank goodness). You don’t have to anymore. You can flip to TNT, get lost in the action and end up staying up much later than you should watching West powerhouses battle late into the night.

I’m excited for the NBA every year, but this year I’m particularly intrigued. The Celtics, Wolves and Warriors are the three teams I follow most closely, and all have varying levels of expectations to shatter, meet or fall short of.

Yes, the NBA is largely predictable when it comes to which teams will make the Finals. We’re inevitably on a winding path to a Cavaliers-Warriors rematch, and that’s OK. There’s no need to complain. That would be like complaining that a really good movie is too predictable when the protagonists end up together, even though the plot leading up to the climax was dope. What makes the NBA entertaining is that new storylines constantly manifest and teams take different paths to get to their final destinations.

There are several questions left to be unanswered. Will the Nets win more than 10 games? (Yes). Who will win the MVP? (LeBron James). Will Russell Westbrook average a triple-double? (No, but he might come close). How many wins will the Warriors finish with? (66).

Here are several predictions. Most of them will be wrong, but probably one or two will be right. I’ll be sure to point those ones out in May or June.



1)   Cavaliers (56-26)
2)   Raptors (54-28)
3)   Celtics (53-29)
4)   Pacers (49-33)
5)   Hornets (47-35)
6)   Bulls (45-37)
7)   Hawks (43-39)
8)   Pistons (41-41)
9)   Knicks (39-43)
10) Magic (39-43)
11) Wizards (36-46)
12)  Bucks (35-47)
13)  Heat (35-47)
14)  76ers (22-60)
15)  Nets (16-66)


1)   Warriors (66-16)
2)   Spurs (61-21)
3)   Clippers (57-25)
4)   Blazers (51-31)
5)   Grizzlies (47-35)
6)   Mavericks (46-36)
7)   Jazz (44-38)
8)   Rockets (42-40)
9)   Wolves (40-42)
10) Thunder (40-42)
11) Nuggets (36-46)
12) Pelicans (35-47)
13) Lakers (27-55)
14) Kings (26-56)
15)  Suns (21-61)


Cavs over Pistons in 5
Raptors over Hawks in 5
Celtics over Bulls in 6
Pacers over Hornets in 6

Cavs over Pacers in 6
Celtics over Raptors in 7

Cavs over Celtics in 6

Warriors over Rockets in 4
Spurs over Jazz in 5
Clippers over Mavs in 6
Blazers over Grizzlies in 7

Warriors over Blazers in 5
Clippers over Spurs in 7

Warriors over Clippers in 6

Warriors over Cavs in 6

Finals MVP: Steph Curry (25.7 points, 6.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds)

It’s really tough to pick against Steph, Klay, Draymond and…oh yeah, the best scorer on the planet. I do think the Warriors will win it all, assuming they stay mostly healthy, which leads to the next section: predictions for specific teams.

Warriors: This is like a star-studded Backyard Sports team, the Looney Tunes in the second half of Space Jam and last year’s version of the Warriors plus a really good basketball player all fused into one. I think they’ll wisely take it a little easier in the regular season and rest their starters the final few games, which could help quite a bit against the Blazers, Spurs and Cavs, if that’s how it unfolds. They’re obviously the team to beat, and I say they do it.

Celtics: The Celtics didn’t get that marquee free agent (see: Warriors), but they got the next best thing in Al Horford. Horford is the quintessential second or third best player on a championship team. He’s never been in that role before, but he’d fit it perfectly. He’s like a 2011 Lexus. He does everything well, he’s reliable and he gets the job done. He’s not a Maserati, but there’s nothing wrong with a Lexus. Once you get that Lexus, maybe your next car can be a Maserati.

I think Horford will help the Celtics get 5-10 more wins, and I’d be really surprised if they don’t win a playoff series. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart are all one year better. Terry Rozier’s improved dramatically over the offseason and is poised for a breakout season. All of the pieces have come together really well, and Danny Ainge has done a great job making them the second or third best team in the East. Beating Cleveland will be nearly impossible, but the Celtics should take some serious strides while being extremely fun to watch in the process.

Wolves: Whether you’re mingling at a Jewish mixer, shopping at Trader Joe’s or talking to a friend by the lake, you can’t avoid the question: Will the Wolves make the playoffs? It’s a natural question, and it’s totally reasonable, but unfortunately I have to provide a disappointing answer. I lived in Minnesota this past year and the optimism around the Wolves is truly impressive. I think they’ll be close to the 8 seed this year, but I don’t think they’ll quite get it.

Karl-Anthony Towns is, without question, the best young player in the NBA. In the NBA GM survey, 48.3 percent deemed him the player around whom they’d most like to start a franchise. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Towns is unstoppable, and I expect he’ll take a massive leap this year. Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the rest of the pieces are very solid, but I think the West is just slightly too deep for them to make it this year, though I expect it’ll be close. Next year, the Wolves are just about a lock.

Bulls: The Bulls are really intriguing to me. If they stay healthy and everything comes together, I could see them getting the 4 or 5 seed and winning a series. If not, it could be a disaster. A Rajon Rondo, Dwyane, Jimmy Butler, Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez lineup puts a lot of pressure on the legend himself, Dougie Buckets, to shoot a high volume. Rondo is at his best with shooters around him, and it will be interesting to see whether Wade and Butler adapt their games to meet his needs or vice versa. I think the Bulls will make the playoffs, but I’m not confident about that prediction.

Knicks: First of all, Kristaps Porzingis is a beast. No doubt about it. I’m really impressed the Knicks took him when everyone else in the world thought it was an awful pick. Props. Expectations are high in New York, but I’m not sure they’ll be met. Carmelo Anthony’s scoring has never been in question, but his ability to lead winning teams always has, and I’d expect it will be scrutinized again this year. Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah are solid role players, but for me the Knicks are an “I’ll believe it when I see it” type-deal.

Spurs: They’ll be really good.

Thunder: Russell Westbrook is basically thought of as a superhero these days. Seriously, though. People expect him to average a triple-double. He did for a stretch without Durant, but doing so for a whole season is essentially impossible. However, I do think he’ll average close to 26, 8 assists and 7 boards, which isn’t too shabby.

With Durant gone, I think a lot of the scoring load will have to go to Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter. I think they’re capable, but I’m not sure exactly how capable. The Thunder will be one of the NBA’s most entertaining teams. I may be in the minority by putting them out of the playoffs, but I think there are too many more reliable teams in the West that will finish ahead of them.



1)   LeBron James
2)   Steph Curry
3)   Russell Westbrook
4)   James Harden
5)   Kevin Durant

Rookie of the Year:

1)   Jamal Murray
2)   Ben Simmons
3)   Kris Dunn
4)   Joel Embiid
5)   Denzel Valentine

Defensive Player of the Year:

1)   Kawhi Leonard
2) Draymond Green
3) Zaza Pachulia
4) Avery Bradley 
5) Hassan Whiteside

Most Improved Player:

1)   Karl-Anthony Towns
2)   Kristaps Porzingis
3)   Justise Winslow
4)   Terry Rozier
5)   Julius Randle

Sixth Man:

1)   Jamal Crawford
2)   Marcus Smart
3)   Andre Iguodala
4)   Al Jefferson
5)   Brandon Knight

Coach of the Year:

1)    Steve Kerr
2)   Gregg Popovich 
3)   Brad Stevens 
4)   Dwane Casey
5)    Quin Snyder

All-NBA teams:

1st team:
G Steph Curry
G Russell Westbrook
F Kevin Durant
F LeBron James
C Karl-Anthony Towns

2nd team:
G Chris Paul
G Kawhi Leonard
F Paul George
F Draymond Green
C DaMarcus Cousins

3rd team:
G Damian Lillard
G Klay Thompson
F Carmelo Anthony
F LaMarcus Alrdridge
F/C Anthony Davis

Scoring leaders:

1)   James Harden (29.6)
2)   LeBron James (27.4)
3)   Kevin Durant (27.2)
4)   Steph Curry (26.8)
5)   Russell Westbrook (26.0)
6)   Damian Lillard (25.9)
7)   DaMarcus Cousins (24.8)
8)   Karl-Anthony Towns (23.1)
9)   Anthony Davis (22.8)
10) Kawhi Leonard (22.5)

Assist leaders:

1)   Chris Paul (10.6)
2)   Rajon Rondo (10.2)
3)   John Wall (9.6)
4)   Ricky Rubio (9.5)
5)   Kyle Lowry (8.5)
6)   Russell Westbrook (8.2)
7)   Draymond Green (7.6)
8)   Steph Curry (7.4)
9)   Isaiah Thomas (7.1)
10) Deron Williams (6.8)

Rebound leaders:

1)   Andre Drummond (13.8)
2)   DeAndre Jordan (12.9)
3)   DeMarcus Cousins (12.7)
4)   Dwight Howard (11.6)
5)   Anthony Davis (11.2)
6)   Karl-Anthony Towns (11.1)
7)   Rudy Gobert (10.5)
8)   Nikola Vucevic (10.4)
9)   LaMarcus Aldridge (10.2)
10) Tristan Thompson (9.9)

Most intriguing matchups:

1)   Cavs vs. Warriors
2)   Thunder vs. Warriors
3)   Spurs vs. Warriors
4)   Cavs vs. Celtics
5)   Cavs vs. Spurs


-       Number of triple-doubles for Westbrook – 18 – Under (16)
-       Number of games Derrick Rose plays – 54 – under (hope I’m wrong)
-       Points per game the Warriors average – 115 – over
-       Number of starting lineups the Nets use – 17 – over
-       Points per game Joel Embiid averages – 12 – over
-       Number of games until people start asking whether this Warriors team is the best team ever – 3 – under

Final thoughts:

I hope you’re all as excited as I am. Chances are you’re not, but that’s OK, too. Basketball is back, baby. Enjoy it, and remember to laugh at me in May and June when these predictions are comically off.

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