Columnists, Sports

Between the Lines: NBA 2017-18 season predictions

The NBA season gets underway on Oct. 17. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

The NBA season gets underway on Oct. 17 with two high-profile matchups and after the whirlwind of an offseason, it is sure to be an exciting one. Here are my predictions for the upcoming NBA season.

Western Conference Standings:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Houston Rockets 
  3. San Antonio Spurs
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves
  6. Denver Nuggets
  7. Utah Jazz
  8. Los Angeles Clippers

Eastern Conference Standings:

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Milwaukee Bucks
  5. Toronto Raptors
  6. Philadelphia 76ers
  7. Miami Heat
  8. Charlotte Hornets

Playoff Outlook:

1st Round:

West:

Warriors over Clippers in 4

Rockets over Jazz in 4

Spurs over Nuggets in 6

Thunder over Timberwolves in 5

East:

Celtics over Hornets in 5

Cavaliers over Heat in 4

Wizards over 76ers in 5

Raptors over Bucks in 7

2nd Round:

West:

Warriors over Thunder in 5

Rockets over Spurs in 5

East:

Celtics over Raptors in 5

Cavaliers over Wizards in 6

Conference Finals:

West:

Warriors over Rockets in 5

East:

Cavaliers over Celtics in 7

NBA Finals:

Warriors over Cavaliers in 5

Let’s face it, the Warriors are going to win the NBA Finals again. The only scenario in which they don’t is an injury to one of their four superstars. Despite all of the offseason moves, no team added enough pieces to realistically beat Golden State in a seven game series. While teams like Houston and OKC added pieces and Cleveland and Boston shook up their rosters, we will ultimately see the same result as last season.

MVP: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs

We hear it all the time, “Kawhi Leonard is the best two-way player in the NBA,” but sometimes, I don’t think people realize what they are saying is true. Add in the fact that Leonard will have to put his team on his back, in Russell Westbrook type fashion, and he will end the year with the best case for MVP.

He will have the numbers, he will have the wins and, most importantly, he is the only star on his team. Westbrook shares the floor with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony now.

Steph and Durant will always split MVP votes (not like it matters when you might win 70 games). James Harden is going to give up some usage to CP3. And Lebron might not ever win it again just because voters want to vote for someone else.

Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., Mavericks

Rookie of the Year comes down to usage and opportunity, and these are two things that Dennis Smith will have a ton of. Dallas is going to make him the focal point of their offense sooner rather than later, as they should. He is a explosive, high-volume scorer who will run the offense from Day 1.

Lonzo Ball won’t put up the stats Smith will and Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons will likely take votes away from each other. Teams will look back at the end of the year and ask why he went ninth overall in the lottery (Looking at you Chicago and New York).

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau

The T’Wolves haven’t made the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. They won 31 games last season with a very young team but after another season under their belt and the addition of veterans Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague, Minnesota has a lot of upsides this season. They struggled on defense last season which is unusual for a Thibodeau-lead team, but with a year of his defensive philosophy ingrained in these young players’ minds, and Butler’s defensive prowess, they should improve dramatically. They will be able to grab a postseason spot in a loaded Western Conference and Tibs will be rewarded for it.  

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Warriors

It’s clear that Green is the most valuable defender in the league. If needed he can guard every position on the floor. He can grab steals, shot block and defend the perimeter. He is the perfect modern day center on both offense and defense, but with Steph and Durant providing most of the offensive output, Green is the leader of the Warriors defense. The best defender in the league last year, will be yet again this year — lock this one in.  

Sixth Man of the Year: Will Barton, Nuggets

Barton averaged 13.7 PPG last season on a team that wasn’t as talented as this year’s squad. The addition of Paul Millsap alongside Nikola Jokic will draw a lot of attention to the post and free up Barton on the wing. Though reigning 2016-17 Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon will put up big numbers, look for Barton to post career highs during the last year of his contract.

Most Improved Player: Brandon Ingram, Lakers

Now the NBA Summer League might not be the best way to evaluate success in the NBA, but Ingram looked like a different player in Summer League. In his only appearance, he scored 26 points.

He averaged 9.4 PPG last season, he seems to be adapting to the speed and physicality of the NBA. Because of his size, he was pushed around a lot last year, but he added height and weight this offseason which should help. With Lonzo Ball’s passing ability, look for a big leap in production from Ingram.

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