It’s been only 72 days since the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2019-2020 NBA Championship in a complex in Orlando, Florida, colloquially known as “the bubble.” With the offseason being just over 10 weeks long, not including preseason, and with no fans in attendance in all the NBA arenas, the start of this season will feel weird. There will only be 72 regular-season games, at most, there won’t be All-Star activities, and teams will often play the same team in the same city twice within a span of a couple of days. Things won’t feel right, but like everything that COVID has affected, the sense of abnormal will feel normal with time. With that said, let’s get into the NBA season preview.
Eastern Conference Standings Predictions
Western Conference Standings Predictions
Conference Finals and Finals Predictions
ECF: Nets beat the Celtics
WCF: Lakers beat the Clippers
NBA Finals: Lakers beat the Nets
Sixers, Nets, Heat
The Sixers, Nets, and Heat offer lots of variability as to where they will finish in the standings. As a Celtics fan, the Sixers scare me a little bit. Shipping Al Horford is great for them because one, he was just a weird fit with them, so the energy of the team should be better, and two, it’ll open things up for Embiid. I also liked the acquisitions of Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey, as each can provide some shooting and scoring.
Putting the Heat at 5 didn’t feel totally right because they are the reigning Eastern Conference champs. But the fact is that they’re built for the playoffs more than the regular season. Their bubble run was a perfect storm until they got struck with injuries in the Finals.
Then we have the Nets. Can I see them winding up as the two seed? Absolutely, especially after how they’ve looked in the preseason. But I think that it’ll take some time to work Dinwiddie into the offense, since he’s so accustomed to having the ball. My other concern with the Nets is that things could spiral for them if they start losing. Kyrie’s weird antics and press conferences aren’t acceptable amongst his teammates when that happens. With that said, I like the Nets to reach the Finals because of Kevin Durant. The Achilles does not appear to be a concern with him, so that makes me confident in saying that he’s the best player in the conference. In the playoffs, teams typically take the identity of their best player, and Durant is someone who can definitely outduel Giannis in a playoff series.
As for the Celtics, I can see them struggling a little bit while they wait for Kemba to return, and Tristan Thompson not being 100% makes me nervous that the frontcourt rotation may get a little too weird, at least early on. Can they still reach the Finals, though? Sure.
Crowded, as usual
The overarching theme about the West is that there will be 2-3 good teams who miss out on the playoffs. Leaving the Jazz out of doesn’t sit right with me, but I just like eight teams more than them. Although I have the Warriors one spot higher than the Suns, I think the Suns are the safer bet to reach the postseason. Phoenix has a legit big three with Booker, CP3, and Ayton, and I expect their role guys to keep developing.
The Warriors need an amazing season out of Steph Curry given their lack of depth, but I don’t see why Curry won’t have one. If Wiseman proves to be good right away, and one of Wiggins or Oubre takes a leap, they should be back in the playoffs. Things could easily spiral for them, but I find it hard to believe that Curry and Kerr will miss out on the postseason for a second straight time.
The Lakers have a very good chance to repeat as Champions, but I actually don’t think they’ll claim the 1-seed again, due to LeBron likely coasting to start the season. As he’s already expressed, he’s not a fan of the quick turnaround time. Combine that with the many fresh faces in Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews, who replace Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Dwight Howard, and Avery Bradley, and I would not be shocked if the Lakers suffer an early-season losing skid. The Blazers are perhaps the greatest threat to the Lakers specifically, because they were a team that peaked in the bubble. They also bolstered their roster in the offseason.
- ROY: LaMelo Ball. He should average around a 12-9-8, and with so many flashy highlights, I think he can run away with the award.
- COY: Monty Williams. I expect the energy the Suns captured in their bubble run to continue, and with CP3, they should be a playoff team. If Phoenix reaches the playoffs for the first time since 2010, Williams will certainly be in the running.
- MIP: Christian Wood. The easy answer is Michael Porter Jr. Although I think he’ll take a leap, Wood is a guy I think will receive more attention now that he’s on the Rockets. He’s skilled, but moreover, people will be impressed with him because he’ll give meaning back to the center position for Houston.
- DPOY and MVP. Anthony Davis, for both. Giannis fatigue will be real. Voters will not be inclined to give Giannis a third straight MVP. The easy pick is Luka, but with the questionable health of Kristaps Porzingis, I’m not sure if the Mavs will capture a top three-ish seed that would almost ensure Luka winning the award. Davis, meanwhile, should be in line to get more blocks now that JaVale is out; additionally, I think he’ll be the anchor of the defense and the stabilizing factor on offense. LeBron will constantly rave about him and his contributions to the team.
- Darkhorse MVP. This is not an award, but I think Ben Simmons, at +10,000 odds, has an outside chance to be the MVP. Again, I think the 76ers will have a much better vibe this season, and Simmons will have tons of room to operate and create. If Philly greatly outperforms people’s expectations of them, which is around a 5-seed, Simmons will likely be looked at as an MVP candidate.
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