The NBA season is quickly upon us and there’s so much to look forward to. Russell Westbrook has a squad of his own, Kevin Durant is in Golden State and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to return to the Finals. With so much excitement in store, the writers at the Basketball Society give a few predictions on the upcoming season.
The writers include:
Alec Walt (@alecwalt)
Alfonso De Falco (@FonzyDeFalco)
DJ Allen (@DJAllen23)
Alex Fischbein (@ThatKidFisch
Kyle Allan (@kallan441)
1.) Russell Westbrook is now the man in OKC, does he have enough to get them to the playoffs this season?
Walt: Russell Westbrook is not enough to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder into the playoffs. Westbrook is an MVP candidate, but Victor Oladipo over Kevin Durant is a major drop off. Oladipo has zero playoff or western conference experience. Serge Ibaka was also a massive loss. Starting Enes Kanter with Domantas Sabonis off the bench doesn’t replace Ibaka.
De Falco: I believe he has the ability to take OKC to the playoffs this year as a lower seed (6, 7 or 8). Westbrook is still a top player in this league and the roster still has some talent to compete in the West barring any injuries.
Allen: I don’t envision the OKC Thunder in the playoffs this season. There’s not enough fire power around Russell Westbrook for them to make it in. He’s a very talented player who will definitely be in the running for league MVP but the surrounding pieces and the depth of this team is what scares me.
Fischbein: Russell Westbrook does have the ability to take OKC to the playoffs. However, it’s only going to be an eighth seed that he leads them to. If Oladipo can take the next step in his career, and they can find some better wings along the way, they’ll at least be better setup for the next season after this one.
Allan: I think Russell Westbrook definitely has enough to get them to the postseason this year. Getting there is one thing, but it will be tough for them to make a run once they get there. Look, we all know what Westbrook is capable of. He puts up some crazy numbers that are almost numbers that we have not seen in decades, but it is just going to be so tough without Durant to make it far. There is going to be a chip on his shoulder to lead to them to the playoffs, and I have every reason to believe that they will.
2.) Number 1 pick, Ben Simmons is going to miss some games this season, so who do you see stepping up and taking the reigns of Rookie of the Year?
Walt: I see Buddy Hield winning Rookie of the Year. If you look at the picks before him, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn and Jamal Murray aren’t projected starters. Hield will start for the New Orleans Pelicans and they will be without Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans to start the season. That makes Hield the only offensive option on the Pelicans other than Anthony Davis. Hield will be taking plenty of shots his rookie season.
De Falco: I’m liking Kris Dunn of the Timberwolves being a favorite to win ROY. Dunn has the ability to beat out Ricky Rubio for the starting lineup. Having him, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins will be a fun team to watch.
Allen: With the absence of Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield is my early pick for Rookie of the Year. He will be the Pelicans’ 2nd option offensively with the ball in his hands a lot. They brought him in to be effective early. Outside of Anthony Davis, they truly lack scoring and they will look to Hield to provide all that he can. Another person not to sleep on is Joel Embiid who has been a walking double-double throughout this preseason.
Fischbein: After seeing what he can finally do on the court during preseason, while trying to shake off two years of rust, I have to go with Joel Embiid. He put up a double-double in under 15 minutes of play, and he’s just now starting to get back into the swing of things. He flashed his range while trailing plays and utilizing the pick and pop, and his size has allowed him to bully other big men so far. Once he shakes all that rust off… watch out!
Allan: I really do like what I am seeing from Joel Embiid. With the minutes he has played, he is showing a lot of upside, and some preview of the dominance we could maybe see down the road. It will be tough for him to get the ROY because of the limited minutes and no back-to-backs this season. I will go out on a limb and say that Kris Dunn will win the ROY. He is going to add to the young core they are building in Minnesota.
3.) We all know who the favorites are in each conference but which team are you looking at to surprise the league this season?
Walt: The Utah Jazz will surprise the NBA this season. The Jazz improved at point guard adding George Hill and bringing back Dante Exum from injury. On the bench, they added veteran leadership in Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson. This team has the depth to create matchup problems, playoff experience and leadership they didn’t have last season. BOLD PREDICTION: Quin Snyder for Coach of the Year and Jazz will place fourth in the Western Conference.
De Falco: I’m going with my team I discussed earlier in the Minnesota Timberwolves. The young talent and new coach Tom Thibodeau will definitely turns some heads this season.
Allen: The Indiana Pacers is a team that I’m on the lookout for this season. I believe Paul George is going to be on a mission and I like some of the moves that they made this offseason. Myles Turner is a guy that’s been on my radar since watching him in summer league and with the way he emerged late last season, he will be getting a lot more time this year. If they can find a way to effectively knock down the deep ball, this team may be able to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a run for their money in the East.
Fischbein: Every year, I always say that the Utah Jazz are going to surprise people, and every year, that does not happen. This year, I’m going to say the Indiana Pacers are going to exceed expectations. A lot of people already think they’re going to be a good team, but I have a good feeling about them even reaching the second seed in the East. Also, Paul George is really gunning for LeBron, so it would make for a very interesting Eastern Conference Finals like the old Pacers/Heat matchups.
Allan: I think the Chicago Bulls will surprise some people. With the additions of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, it will be a big help to Jimmy Butler. They know this is Butler’s team but the three of them could develop a really nice chemistry in the Eastern Conference. I am not saying they will be the Number 1 seed, but I could see them being a Top 4 team in the East.
4.) Most Improved is one of my favorite awards to look out for each season, who’s taking that leap this season to make their presence felt?
Walt: Dennis Schroder will make the leap. He’s now the starting point guard for the Atlanta Hawks after the Jeff Teague trade. In a bench role last season, he averaged career highs with 11 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. I expect those numbers to go up next season. Expect plenty of Schroder alley-oops to Dwight Howard.
De Falco: Here is one that is a bit of a reach but it is possible. Steve Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Adams was effective as a full-time starter in his third season under coach Billy Donovan and was a monster in the playoffs. With the absence of Durant, he’ll look to be more than just a guy that sets pick and an extra body down low. There is a reason why management traded away Serge Ibaka so easily.
Allen: This award is going to D’Angelo Russell. He’s gotten year one under his belt, Byron Scott is gone, and Luke Walton is preaching aggressiveness in his year. The ball will be in his hands a lot this season and the Lakers offense will basically run through him. Summer League as well as preseason has been the Russell show and I believe we will see more of that once the regular season begins.
Fischbein: Devin Booker will take this award with relative ease. He didn’t get a whole lot of playing time early on last season. Now, the Suns know what kind of player they really have, so that means it’s time to give him even more time and let the man start for an entire season. Booker will be gunning down in Phoenix.
Allan: Andrew Wiggins is a player I am looking to make that next jump. With Karl-Anthony Towns and now Kris Dunn around him, people have to start wondering where all of those points will go to. I think this is where Wiggins jumps in. He is in his 3rd season and looking to improve on that 20 ppg season. How can he improve on 20 points in only his 3rd year? He can improve his 3 point percentage, which he will need to do to further his career.
5.) This wouldn’t be a predictions roundtable if we didn’t pick our NBA Finals matchup, so let me know who’s playing in the Finals this year?
Walt: The NBA Finals will be the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Both teams are clearly the best in the NBA. I’m picking the Warriors to win the Finals because Durant’s defensive responsibilities won’t be on LeBron James. Durant is surrounded by Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to take off the defensive pressure. ANOTHER BOLD PREDICTION: Warriors win the conference finals but Spurs will win the regular season title.
De Falco: My way too early Finals matchup is a rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Allen: There’s no question that we will get a repeat of the NBA Finals for yet the third season in a row. There’s a few teams out East that can give the Cavaliers a run for their money but I don’t see anyone overcoming them. And as far as the West, I don’t really see anyone beating out the newly formed juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors.
Fischbein: Cavs vs Warriors. Round 3. Warriors in 7.
Allan: I think it will be a Cavaliers Warriors re-match. I think the Warriors are a lock to make the finals. With the Cavaliers, it is an easier road for them, but let’s hope they aren’t smelling themselves too much. They want a re-match and so does the rest of the world.