The 2015-2016 NBA season is upon us and there’s so much to look forward to. Will the Warriors repeat? How will the Cavaliers do at full strength? Is this the year of Anthony Davis? The writers at Basketball Society give their predictions on what they believe will be the outcome of this upcoming season.
Our contributors are:
Alex Fischbein – @ThatKidFisch
Kyle Allan – @Kallan441
Sean Linhares – @linharessean
Alec Walt – @alecwalt
Alfonso De Falco – @FonzyDeFalco
Who’s your league MVP and why?
Fischbein: Kevin Durant will be back with a vengeance and take the MVP. He’s going to be playing with a whole bag of chips on his shoulder and he’ll make sure that every team knows that he’s back for the entire season.
Allan: LeBron James. LeBron James has won the MVP title four times. Health hurt LeBron’s chances at having a realistic shot at the MVP title last season. When he returned from injury he took the Cavaliers from a possible chance of missing the playoffs to a 2 seed in the East. He is coming into the season after playing his best basketball in the NBA Finals. I expect LeBron to win the MVP because he is now playing with a Cavaliers team that he is really comfortable with.
Linhares: I’m a firm believer that this will be the year of Anthony Davis. That may not be the hottest of takes, but Davis is just that talented. From his post-up game to his ability to hit a jumper or work off the pick and roll, Davis is absolutely elite. This is a guy who can back you down, get you up and down and dunk, or drag you out to the 3-point line and punish you from the corners. His speed and athleticism makes him almost impossible to guard when moving. That isn’t even mentioning his defensive work, which is amongst the best in the league as he can guard all five positions, plus be an elite shot blocker down low. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Brow will win both the MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year awards. Davis is the future of the NBA and that future should start this year when he wins the Most Valuable Player.
Walt: Anthony Davis. Davis is on an injury-prone team, so the pressure is on him to lead the Pelicans to the playoffs in a powerful Western Conference. He is entering his fourth NBA season, and has managed to look bigger and stronger every year. His 2014-15 season was incredible, and he can still get better. In Alvin Gentry’s pick and roll system, a decent point guard will make Anthony Davis scary. Davis is good enough to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
De Falco: Anthony Davis. He was in the running last year, leading the Pelicans to the playoffs doing just about everything for them. Scoring, rebounding, blocking shots, you name it, he does it for New Orleans. Every year in the league he has improved in every statistical category and this year will be no different.
Who’s your Rookie of the Year and why?
Fischbein: The Stanimal, Stanley Johnson, will win Rookie of the Year. He’s on a young Detroit Pistons team that could benefit greatly from having a solid swingman. Stan Van Gundy has already made it known that they love Johnson and that he’s going to get his fair share of minutes. Just wait until he gets into the starting lineup.
Allan: Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is one of the few bright spots for the Sixers this season. The Philadelphia fan base is becoming more and more impatient with the decision-making from the Sixers’ front office. They have only seen one successful top draft pick so far in Nerlens Noel — fans are expecting big things out of Okafor this season. Jahlil will be the first option on offense so points will be coming his way.
Linhares: See, this is where things get confusing. My pick is going to be Jahlil Okafor, but there’s almost no way he has the best career of this year’s rookie class. He doesn’t have the defensive ability of Willey Caulie-Stein, the shooting of Kristaps Porzingis, or the all around skill set of Karl-Anthony Towns. With that all being said, the 76ers will allow him to take plenty of shots and be a focus on offense, likely letting him drop 18 PPG and snag enough rebounds to make him something of an automatic Rookie of the Year based off of numbers only.
Walt: 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor will win the Rookie of the Year. Okafor is the future of the 76ers, and wants to give the fans some hope for the future. Okafor is their best player, and their game is going to revolve around him for years to come. His massive frame makes him dominant down low, and he was so effective at Duke because of his efficiency. Someone needs to score in Philadelphia. The Sixers are going to feed him the ball.
De Falco: Jahlil Okafor. I think out of every rookie this year, Okafor has all the tools to compete immediately. He can score with ease and is a big body down on the block, not to mention he is an immediate star on this rebuilding 76ers team.
Who’s your Coach of the Year and why?
Fischbein: Kevin McHale gets to coach one of the best Houston teams we’ve seen next to their T-Mac/Yao team and the Olajuwon days. However, don’t let the wealth of talent fool you because McHale knows how to get these guys playing at their highest level. He has some more flexibility with the offense now that he has Ty Lawson, and he’s going to be able to draw up some great plays for Harden off the ball.
Allan: Billy Donovan. I think Kevin Durant has grown to love his new head coach. It will be interesting to see how he is able to split the offensive playmaking between Durant and Westbrook. Durant is coming off foot surgery and is looking to win the MVP title like he did in his last full season. The Thunder are going up against a strong Western Conference so they will have their hands full.
Linhares: I really like Jason Kidd and the Bucks this season. Milwuakee is arguably the league’s most exciting young team, sporting new ownership, a new court, and new uniforms. Oh, and their roster is pretty sick, with Jabari Parker returning from ACL surgery last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo continuing to progress into the superstar many think he can be, and their newest addition, the blossoming Greg Monroe. Last year, Kidd made a massive jump from his soda-spilling strategy with the Nets, transforming the Bucks into one of the best second-half teams in the league. A lot of that lands on his shoulders, as it’s his halftime adjustments that lead to third and fourth quarter success. Kidd is growing alongside his young team and it should be fun to see both take the next step this year.
Walt: Brad Stevens. Stevens is one of the best young coaches in the NBA. The Celtics have a young team and Stevens has managed to get the best basketball out of his young players. There is depth in Boston and Stevens knows how to utilize it. With this, Stevens will keep the Celtics competitive. He is a smart coach and will match-up accordingly. Brad Stevens is the Boston Celtics. Their improvement will win Stevens the award.
De Falco: Billy Donovan. The former successful Florida head man is a first time NBA coach and is in a perfect situation with a team hungry to prove a lot of critics wrong, led by former MVP, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook. He’ll bring the best out of his entire roster from the starters down to the bench players, competing hard and making a deep playoff run.
Name one team that you can vision shocking the rest of the NBA.
Fischbein: The Detroit Pistons could shock the Eastern Conference and shock the NBA. They have a talented young core that is hungry to make a name for themselves, and they have a very good coach in Stan Van Gundy. He has dealt with a team like this before in Orlando and coached them to the Finals. I’m not saying this Pistons team is directly relatable to that Magic team who had a dominant Dwight Howard, but the way SVG is building this team, it seems as though that Magic team is the blueprint.
Allan: Kings. The Kings organization has been somewhat of a joke in the past couple off-seasons. I can see why, but they still have some decent talent. Demarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo will be one of the most underrated tandums in the NBA and have some even more talent around them, like Rudy Gay and others. They may not make the playoffs, but I expect some success that most others may not see.
Linhares: I like a lot of teams to make a jump this year. The Bucks are proving to be amongst the leagues most exciting young rosters, the Heat added rookie Justise Winslow and with a healthy Chris Bosh should make a strong run, and I think the Hawks will actually surprise people by taking a healthy step backwards as defenses begin to crackdown on an offense that didn’t add any major pieces this offseason. But the real answer to this question is the Knicks. As shocking as it sounds, Phil Jackson actually managed to make some key offseason moves despite striking out on the big free agency targets. The additions of Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, and of course KP himself, Kristaps Porzingis, all will drastically improve a squad that won just 17 games last season. Those additions combined with a healthy Carmelo Anthony and a coach that will hopefully make a big jump entering his second year, Derek Fisher, should hopefully lead to 40-ish wins and a playoff berth. A relatively shocking season after the dumpster fire known as 2014-2015.
Walt: I am a strong believer in the Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus Cousins is happy with Rajon Rondo, and Rondo wants to turn his career around. With Ben McLemore, Rudy Gay, and Willie Cauley-Stein in the starting lineup, and Darren Collison, Marco Bellineli, and Kosta Koufus filling in their much needed bench, the Kings can score, defend, and run the floor. If no issues arise with head coach George Karl, the Kings could be scary. Cauley-Stein and Cousins remind me of the “Bad Boys.”
De Falco: Sacramento Kings. This team made a ton of noise this offseason signing Rajon Rondo to help their point guard needs. They also added Caron Butler, Marco Bellinelli and Quincy Acy to help out their bench scoring as well as drafting Willie Cauley-Stein. With those guys along with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, I can see the Sacramento Kings actually competing for a playoff spot, which is something the franchise has not done in a decade.
What’s your NBA Finals match-up and who wins?
Fischbein: The Finals will be the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another matchup between Durant and LeBron is something everyone’s been waiting for, and we also get to see some great matchups between Westbrook/Irving and Ibaka/Love. In the end, the Thunder will win in seven games.
Allan: Cavaliers vs. Thunder with Cavs winning in 6 games.
Linhares: Cavs vs Clippers, with the Cavs winning in 6.
Walt: Cavaliers vs Spurs. Spurs in 6
De Falco: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Cleveland Cavaliers: OKC in 7