NBA

NBA Roundtable: Awards and season predictions

With the NBA season right around the corner, several of our writers gather for a roundtable discussion giving predictions on who will win the MVP, if the Celtics and Warriors are both the clear-cut No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences and more. Our participants for this edition are:

1. Who do you think will snatch the Defensive Player of the Year crown from Rudy Gobert this season?

Anderson: I see Victor Oladipo taking home the Defensive Player of the Year Award next season. Last year, he was one of the finalists that finished behind Gobert. His defense was enough to lead the league with 2.3 steals per game, mostly due to his quickness in the passing lanes and on-ball defense. Oladipo will take the crown this year.

Allen: I’m going with Kevin Durant for this award. He had a great defensive year last season that went under the radar. He commented on how a lot of it is due to the team he plays for and there’s some truth to that. Durant was a rim protector for one of the top defenses in the league and it helped lead them an NBA championship. With that being said, I think he can take it up a notch and put himself in position to win this award.

John-Baptiste: If healthy, I’ll take Joel Embiid. The Sixers caught a glimpse last season of what their potential could be if everything clicked. Embiid has seen more time on the floor, and with increased minutes and productivity, expect to see even more tenacity on the defensive end. He could easily lead the league in rebounding, and the blocked shots will come as long as players challenge him. He’s already gotten an All-Star selection under his belt. It’s time to build the accolades.

Allan: I truly think it’ll be Joel Embiid. For a guy who uses trash talk more than most in the league, he really does back it up. We were able to see last season the type of presence he has in the paint, and the difference the team’s overall defense was when he was on the floor, versus off the floor. Embiid is the best defensive player in the East when it comes to his ability to blocks and rebounds, so it all depends on the stats that come from Gobert by seasons end.

King: It will be close but I am going to roll with Anthony Davis on this one. Already a front-runner for the MVP heading into the season, his defense puts him in the conversation as one of, if not, the best two-way players that we have in the NBA. Joining Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt of the All-NBA First Team last season, Davis should no doubt garner some first-place votes for this award. Davis is the most multi-faceted defender in the game today, finishing in the top-20 in almost every major defensive statistical category last season. He led the NBA in blocks (it wasn’t even close), finished third in defensive win shares, 11th in defensive rating, 15th in steals per game, and 16th in defensive plus-minus. No other player in the NBA appears on all those lists. Expect a similar year of production from ‘The Brow.’

2. If you had to list one player as your favorite for Rookie of the Year, who would it be?

Anderson: My favorite would have to be Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks. I seem to forget a lot that Doncic is 6’7 and can handle like a guard. From his preseason debut, Doncic showed he can shoot it from the perimeter, take it coast-to-coast, see the court well, and hold his own defensively. This was a good time for Dallas to trade for a young, talented kid with the legend, Dirk Nowitzki, at the end of his career. I crown Doncic Rookie of the Year.

Allen: Am I crazy to pick Trae Young? He was the collegiate phenom just a year ago and fans are looking to see how this story pans out. I believe with his style of play, he will have more than an immense amount of opportunities to put points up. We all know he’s not shy to shoot the ball and on an Atlanta Hawks team that’s in tank mode, he will have the green light to put on a show night in and night out.

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Photo via: Getty Images

John-Baptiste: Bring that award to the Mecca! Call me a homer, but Kevin Knox has a legit shot to win it this year. When it comes to the Rookie of the Year award, it’s always about opportunity and how much of a leash is given. David Fizdale seems confident in this young core and Knox notched a double-double in his first preseason action. He has an NBA body length-wise and seems to play comfortably as if he knows he belongs. Watch out NBA!

Allan: I think Kevin Knox will take home the crown. With Porzingis potentially not playing for most of this upcoming season, there will be opportunities for Knox’s impact to be felt, especially offensively. He looks to be a freak athlete and has the potential to be a constant double-double threat. He can shine under the lights of New York and fits well with Frank Ntilikina.

King: My favorite for this award would have to be the first overall pick, DeAndre Ayton. With how well-rounded Ayton’s game is, I believe he is capable of putting up similar numbers to what Karl-Anthony Towns did in his rookie year. With the pressure that comes from being the top pick in the draft, being the second option to Devin Booker will help take some of that added pressure off of Ayton. A perfect blend of size and skill to bang down low as well as step out and shoot the three on occasion, Ayton will look to be the big man that Pheonix has been lacking since Amar’e Stoudemire.

3. True or False: Both the Celtics and the Warriors will be the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences.

Anderson: True. The Celtics finished second in the Eastern Conference last season behind the Toronto Raptors but had a crazy talented team with huge injuries involving two All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With both of them returning, and a fully healthy roster, the Celtics are scary.

The Warriors may not have been the No. 1 seed this previous season, but we know, with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors should lock down the top spot in the West. Cousins was yet another great acquisition to this Golden State team since Kevin Durant joined in 2017. Though the Western Conference is filled with talented teams (Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Lakers), the Warriors are still the best shooting team in the league and they will shoot their way to the top again this season. Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson will still dominate with their skills and chemistry.

Allen: I will say half true and half false. I’m on the side of the Celtics simply because I believe at full strength, they’re much better than their Eastern Conference peers. When it comes to the Western Conference, I’m hesitant because we know the Warriors don’t put too much stock in the regular season. After their record-breaking regular season which resulted in giving up a 3-1 lead, their stance on the regular season changed. Just last season we saw them with a lack of effort at times and they’ve been vocal about fighting that urge of just wanting to get to the playoffs. So I do believe they will rest and have those “throwaway games” in which they just don’t show up. If the Houston Rockets were to end up with the No. 1 seed again, I wouldn’t be surprised.

John-Baptiste: False. Only because that statement is definitive and I’m not so sure both teams will lock it up. The Raptors and Sixers will have something to say about that in the East, while the Rockets will have something to say out West. Are those two aforementioned teams the favorites? Absolutely. But we see what happened last year, and nothing is given. Everything is earned.

Allan: True. As much as I want to say my Sixers will be the No. 1 seed, I think the Celtics are just a better overall team right now. Without Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, they were able to beat the Sixers, but I think the Sixers will prove to show they’ve matured a lot over the summer and obtain the two seed. For the Warriors, it’s business as usual as they are the clear number one in the West. They improved with the pickup of DeMarcus Cousins, but really don’t need to rush him back. He’s going to be a huge addition after the All-Star break.

King: True. As much as Houston likes to think that they could have beaten the Warriors without Chris Paul, they didn’t. The Warriors only got better with the signing of DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins will not be healthy for a majority of the season, but even without him, they are still putting out four All-Stars on the court each night. A good reason for them not gaining the No.1 seed last season was due to Stephen Curry missing 31 games, Kevin Durant missing 14, Draymond Green missing 12, and Klay Thompson missing nine. They will be healthy and ready to go this season. While they may not be too concerned with gathering the top seed, I believe they still will accomplish such a task. Houston will miss Trevor Ariza more than they’re letting on. Ariza’s defense and shot-making was key for the Rockets and let’s face it Carmelo Anthony’s defense doesn’t necessarily intimidate or challenge opponents. I do not see another Western Conference team leapfrogging the Warriors in the regular season (or postseason).

As far as the Eastern Conference, it is honestly going to come down to the Philadelphia Sixers and Boston Celtics. The edge that the Celtics have however is depth and experience. Losing players like Kyrie Irving for the playoffs and Gordon Hayward for the season would have crippled any team but the Celtics came out stronger than ever because of it. With the stellar rookie season of Jayson Tatum, the emergence of ‘Scary’ Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown looking more confident in his second season, and the infinite wisdom and guidance from one of the leagues best head coaches in Brad Stevens, the Celtics were still able to make it to within one game of the NBA Finals. Now, with those players established and having a mountain of confidence behind them, blended with Irving and Hayward returning, and finally added alongside the ageless wonder in Al Horford you have a recipe for a dominant team in the upcoming season. Yes, the Sixers have two of the most transcendent talents in the NBA in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but beyond them, I believe the rest of the roster does not match-up well with a fully healthy Celtics squad.

4. Who will lead the NBA in scoring this season?

Anderson: James Harden will lead the NBA in scoring this season. He can put the ball in the bucket and has a killer step-back jump shot. The way he can create space for himself against defenders gives him the best opportunity to score and he takes advantage of it. This season he will dominate for the Rockets, as usual, but also lead the league in scoring above LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Allen: Giannis Antetokounmpo. This guy has been making strides at getting better every season and I strongly believe we’re going to see an even more improved player this year. He’s bulked up and he even got some work in with Kobe Bryant during this offseason. The Milwaukee Bucks’ success will strongly depend on how he performs and I’m predicting a breakout season for this young player.

John-Baptiste: I’m a little torn here. However, let’s say James Harden runs this thing back. The Rockets offense looks to resemble a lot of the same action that was run last year, with a few additions to the puzzle. Harden has one of the most (if not, the most) lethal step-back jumpers in NBA history. Couple that with more playmaking and shooting, and he’s poised to have another magical run. I’ll give Stephen Curry a close second, as the resurgence of offensive explosion is near. Be on the lookout.

Allan: I think James Harden is going to take home the crown once again. The Rockets offense is once again set up for him to succeed like last year, and even though they added a scoring threat in Carmelo Anthony, Harden will still be the guy with the ball in his hands, running the show, most of the time.

King: Anthony Davis. Who is going to stop him? It was clear to see that the offense of New Orleans ran through Davis especially when DeMarcus Cousins went down for the season. Davis then went on a tear to close out the season, finishing second in the league last season in scoring. Davis can hit you with every aspect of his game. Back to the basket, turnaround fade away. Facing the basket, elevate over you for a jumper. Pick-and-roll, rolling hard to basket for an easy dunk or popping out to shoot the three. Offensive rebounding, inhaling it out of the air and going right back up with it. Harden, makes a case given the freedom he has within Mike D’Antoni’s system, but I believe the overall scoring capabilities that Davis is capable of providing each night will produce his best season statistically.

5. The 2018-19 NBA MVP will be…?

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Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Anderson: LeBron James. He will mentor and help transform this young Los Angeles Lakers team into title contenders. Every year we can say LeBron could have won the MVP award, knowing how valuable he really is to any team, but other players who have won the award have had incredible MVP seasons as well (James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook). I see something different in LeBron for this upcoming 2018-19 season and it will be enough to win him his fifth MVP Award.

Allen: Kyrie Irving. Eyes are on this team this season after how well they performed last season. Irving missed out on the action due to an injury so I’m predicting him to play with a vengeance this year. The Celtics are well aware of the expectations and how good they are. I’m envisioning Irving leading this team while putting up superb numbers. Combine that with the Celtics having the best record in the East, it has the mixings of an MVP season if you ask me.

John-Baptiste: LeBron James. New city. New team. New expectations. Bron will be hungry to get this team to gel and gear up for their first playoff run in a couple years. Expect the Lakers to have one of the better win increases from last season. The young guys are eager to prove their worth and look to get some wins while they’re at it. Bron’s impact will immediately be felt from opening night and should carry them to looking like a completely different squad this time around.

Allan: LeBron James will take home yet another MVP crown due to the nature of his situation of having to really carry this team to new heights, especially with having such a young team around him. I think the Lakers have a great chance to obtain a four seed in the Western Conference behind the leadership of LeBron. He’s going to have to battle with a lot of guys in the West to take the crown like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant, but with LeBron still being the best player of the world backed by a talented young core, you’ve got to like his chances. 

King: Even though I have gone on record stating it will be between James Harden and Anthony Davis, I’ll mix it up and say Giannis Antetokounmpo. Although Davis will give him the strongest claim for the crown, if you look at how improved Antetokounmpo becomes each season, it is astounding. After working out with Kobe in the offseason it will scary to see what tips he picked up from the ‘Black Mamba,’ maybe even more of a killer’s mentality. He will be tasked to lead the Bucks to a top-four seed in the East and if he can do that and either replicate or improve on his numbers from last season, I think we will have a new NBA MVP.

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