2020-21 NBA Predictions

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This is it, the long wait is finally over. It’s been 71 days since the Los Angeles Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in the NBA bubble. How have we survived this long without the NBA in our lives? Well even though we never thought it would ever come, the 2020-21 NBA season is finally here. This will be one of the most intriguing seasons in the history of the league. Will the Lakers repeat? How will Covid-19 effect play? Which stars returning from injury will have a bounce back season? How many times will I stay up until four in the morning only to watch the Timberwolves get blown out by the fucking Spurs? I cobbled together my predictions for the upcoming NBA season because why read what an expert has to say about this season when you can read some guy on the internet’s predictions instead. At least mine are free (fuck you ESPN+). So sit back, lower your expectations, and enjoy my halfway sober musings.

Eastern Conference Standings

1.) Milwaukee Bucks

With Giannis resigning a huge five year $228 million dollar deal before the season begins the Bucks can finally focus on basketball. As a Wolves fan this is great news because Minnesota is a way cooler place for free agents to sign than fucking Milwaukee, for fans of the rest of the league this sucks. They all thought Giannis was going to sign with their team as a free agent next summer (sorry Charlotte, probably wasn’t going to happen). The Bucks also added Jrue Holliday and won’t have to deal with Eric Bledsoe totally falling apart in the playoffs. Milwaukee will be contenders as long as Giannis is there, and with Holliday they should be just as good if not better in the regular season than last year.

2.) Miami Heat

Miami was one of the top suitors who actually had a shot at getting Giannis in free agency. His signing ruins their plans for the long term, but this season the Heat will be even better than their finals squad from two months ago. They signed Bam Adebayo to a 5 year $163 million contract so he can finally afford Jimmy Butler’s coffee. Tyler Herro will take a leap in his second season and will team up with Duncan Robinson to form the greatest shooting backcourt since the Splash Brothers. Butler is arguably the toughest player in the NBA, and will finally get the superstar respect that he’s deserved for the last six years. Butler and Bam are going to beat the shit out of the rest of the East teams, while Herro and Robinson drain threes right in their face.

3.) Brooklyn Nets

Nets fans are already manifesting an NBA Championship for their team that has two superstars who have never shared the court together. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are either going to be the new Splash Brothers and lead Brooklyn to the franchise’s first title, or they’re going to fall off the face of the flat Earth and annoy the hell out of fans along the way. Championship or bust is probably the mantra this season because you can see either star wanting out of Brooklyn after about 30 games if they don’t like what’s going on. First year head coach Steve Nash will be the deciding factor. If he gets along with his stars and doesn’t try to change or limit them the Nets will be fine, but if he goes full Jim Boylen and installs a punch clock and acts like a high school coach, things will fall apart. The good thing for Nets fans is that Nash is probably the most chill guy in the world which leads me to believe they’ll be just fine.

4.) Boston Celtics

It’s going to be a make or break season for Boston’s youngish core. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are talented enough to keep Boston afloat in the East, but they will feel the loss of Gordon Hayward to the Hornets. Kemba Walker will also be sidelined for the first six-weeks of the season with a knee injury. That leaves the Celtics thin at point guard, and will have to rely on Brown, Marcus Smart, and fucking Jeff Teague in the backcourt. Boston made the conference finals last season and will need its youngest players to step up and play like veterans if they want to achieve their championship potential. Or… we call in Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd to come back and kidnap Jimmy Butler. If there is one thing I need to relay to the internet through this blog it’s that Celtic Pride two needs to happen.

5.) Philadelphia 76ers

Trusting the process has levelled off the last three years in Philadelphia causing a lot of commotion in the city of Brotherly Love this offseason. They fired the leader of the process Brett Brown and replaced him with Doc Rivers. The 76ers also hired former Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey to be the President of Basketball Operations. That is all fun but is it going to make the Joel Embiid Ben Simmons experiment work? Or are they just going to alter the process by trading Simmons for James Harden? The 76ers ceiling seems to be somewhere between third and fifth in the East and this year the conference is at its deepest in more than a decade. Is that high enough to keep Simmons and Embiid together to see if they can ride a hot streak in the playoffs and maybe make some noise, or is a second round exit the best these two will ever do together? This season I think the East has a clear top four, and a fairly clear next 4-5 teams that can really compete. The Sixers are the first team left out of the elite four who actually have a shot to make the finals.

6.) Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are probably going to be the most boring good team this season. Kyle Lowry is the ultimate no frills veteran, Fred VanVleet is probably a much more fun guy than Kawhi Leonard, but that’s not saying much, and Pascal Siakam might be one of the most frustrating borderline superstars in the league. Many people think that OG Anunoby will be one of the breakout players of the year, and as an Englishman myself I would love to see the British baller standout for more than his scarf game this season. Realistically Toronto probably doesn’t have enough juice to compete for a championship this year, but never count out Masai Ujiri, he could swing a massive move and keep this team contention.

7.) Washington Wizards

Washington made the splash of the shortened offseason by trading John Wall to Houston for Russell Westbrook. At their peak, Westbrook is a decent upgrade over Wall, and Wall hasn’t played in almost two years so the Wizards should get a shot in the arm right away. We’ll see how Westbrook meshes with Bradley Beal, but they should score a shit ton of points. The problem will come when Westbrook and Beal are off the court as the Wizards don’t have a lot of depth. Rui Hachimura is out for at least three weeks with conjunctivitis, forcing Washington to rely heavily on Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, and Mortiz Wagner, which could be a fun euro-lineup, but likely will be a net minus on the court. The future of the franchise all rides on how far their two stars can carry them this year. Perhaps Westbrook and Beal click and can lead Washington to a five-seed, but mostly likely they’re much closer to the play in tournament.

8.) Indiana Pacers

The Pacers have a talented, deep roster that nabbed the fourth seed in the East last season. The question is does Indiana have enough elite talent to compete in a much deeper conference? The answer for me is no. Victor Oladipo has proven to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA, but last season after coming back from a leg injury, Oladipo didn’t look quite the same. He played much closer to a league average wing than an all-star. Domantas Sabonis is one of the better bigs in the league but how does he match-up against the Joel Embiid’s and Bam Adebayo’s of the world? Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdan are nice pieces, but can they outduel the top seven teams that all have legitimate stars to take over in crunch time? T.J. Warren lit up the bubble, can he sustain that level of play? I like Indiana, they’re a nice team and in a usually watered down East, they’re almost a lock for a top five seed, but the East is deep this season and the team that I think gets pushed out is the Pacers.

9.) Atlanta Hawks

One of the sexiest most improved team picks this season, the Hawks were one of the busiest teams in the offseason. Atlanta signed Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, and sniped Bogdan Bodanovic out from under the Bucks. Pair their new assets with Trae Young, John Collins, and their second year wings and Atlanta should be one of the best offensive teams in the league. Unfortunately for the Hawks, their defense could also be described as offensive. Hopefully the sixth overall pick Onyeka Okongwu and Clint Capela will help change the culture, but they may have to score 140 points per game just to keep up with their opponents.

10.) Orlando Magic

Orlando always hangs around the bottom of the playoff standings in the East but will be pushed out of the race this season. Arguably their best piece Jonathan Isaac will miss the season after tearing his ACL. The rest of the roster is filled with a bunch of alright dudes who don’t really move the needle. Aaron Gordon is great in the dunk contest and a fine player overall, but is he really the future? He might be one of the prime candidates for a fresh start somewhere else in the middle of the season. Rookie Cole Anthony is already to coolest player on the team and is buddies with the legend Spike Lee, who if Anthony ever becomes a star in Orlando, should absolutely direct a Disney Movie. Other than that possibility, not much to get excited about for Magic fans this season.

11.) Chicago Bulls

The Bulls maybe made the best move of the offseason by firing the worst coach in the league by far, Jim Boylen. By all accounts, nobody liked him and he was a fucking dick who treated his players like they were coal miners punching in for a hard days work. That kind of hokey high school bullshit will never work in the NBA and the Bulls will automatically be better for it. New head coach Billy Donovan inherits not the worst lineup in the league. Zach LaVine is one of the best scorers in the NBA. Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and rookie Patrick Williams are all promising young players, and if any combination of them can take the next step and become a borderline star in the NBA, Chicago could push for a birth in the play-in tournament.

12.) Charlotte Hornets

LaVar Ball might finally get his one-on-one game against Michael Jordan since the Hornets drafted the third Ball bro LaMelo third overall in the draft. Unless LaMelo is the second coming of Jordan himself, this young Hornets team isn’t doing much this season, but it’s probably going to be super fun to watch. There’s a lot of young talent in Charlotte, but it might be a year or two too early to hope they can figure it out together. The Hornets will be a team to watch in the coming years, and if LaMelo can truly be the superstar that many scouts think he can, and Hayward cane cobble together a season that kind of resembles his game before his ankle injury, maybe they can make a run at the play-in tournament.

13.) Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are finally not the most boring team in the league. Blake Griffin coming back from an injury plagued season last year will electrify the fanbase, but I’m not sure that at 31 he’s ever going to be Lob City Blake again. Detroit will have their version of the French Connection this season in second year wing Sekou Doumbouya and rookie point guard Killian Hayes. Luckily for Pistons fans instead of smuggling heroin, these young guns should be providing some highlights in Detroit this season. While there is finally some young talent in the Motor City, the Pistons also made a ton of super weird decisions in free agency this season. Yes they signed (overpaid) for Jerami Grant, who should perform admirably in the front court, but then they signed Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor, and drafted Isaiah Stewart this offseason which will prove to be impish roster moves this season. Once again the best players are Griffin, and 32-year-old Derrick Rose, which would be fantastic in 2012, but for 2021 it will be another sad-boy winter in Michigan this season.

14.) New York Knicks

Obi Toppin was a nice grab at the 8th pick in the draft, but does a core of Toppin, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, and Julius Randle really do anything for you? All I can hope for is a Succession season three storyline where Kendall Roy talks shit about James Dolan’s band and gets throw out of Madison Square Garden Charles Oakley style. I’ll end the Knicks section early since I don’t have anything nice to say about them.

15.) Cleveland Cavaliers

Since LeBron James left for the Lakers in 2018 the Cavs have done exactly what they did when James left for Miami in 2010, fucking sucked. Cleveland drafted guards Colin Sexton and Darius Garland in back to back drafts hoping for some Kyrie Irving magic once again. This time Sexton and Garland have been slow to show that they are actually good at basketball. Now they drafted Isaac Okoro who seems alright but is he a star, or do they just have another guy who can be alright but doesn’t move the needle. Legitimately forgot until writing this that Kevin Love is still in Cleveland. At least the Cavs can hope to win the lottery again next year and draft Cade Cunningham as their new LeBron 18 years after drafting the second greatest player of all-time.

Western Conference Standings

1.) Los Angeles Lakers

The reigning champs got better in the offseason acquiring Dennis Schroder, signing Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol which seems unfair. With LeBron and AD the Lakers are far better than any other team in the West. They’re arguably two of the top five players in the league right now, and prime AD is the best player that LeBron has ever played with (sorry 30-year-old Dwyane Wade). This duo should be the next great tandem in NBA history and, unless LeBron takes a nosedive in his year-36 season, they have a chance to possibly three-peat for the first time since the Shaq-Kobe Lakers in the early 2000s. The only thing that can knock them down will be injuries. If the two superstars stay healthy they can beat anyone and will be the favorite to win the NBA Championship.

2.) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers locked up Paul George on a four year $190 million extension because who thinks it’s a bad idea to pay George $47 million when he’s 34 years old. With 30-year-old George and T-800, I mean Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers will contend this year and until Kawhi leaves LA in free agency to accomplish the impossible, win a championship in Minnesota. The Clippers were minutes away from facing their rivals from across the hallway in the Western Conference Finals in the Bubble, and then collapsed against the Nuggets. The Clippers also dropped Doc Rivers for Ty Lue who will help lead this team to the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, where he will once again get stepped over (this time by Alex Caruso).

3.) Denver Nuggets

*Intense Jason Concepcion voice* A deeeeeeeeeeeeep run in the NBA Bubble and the emergence of Jamal Murray has a lot of NBA fans singing the praises of the Nuggets this season. Murray may have turned into a legitimate superstar in Disney World, and Nikola Jokic is the best basketball player who looks like he should not be good at any sports. Denver might have struck gold with the 14th pick in the 2018 Draft with Michael Porter Jr. They had to wait a year as he recovered from a back injury, but he was worth the wait and broke out in the bubble. The Nuggets showed a lot of grit in the playoffs last year, coming back from two 3-1 deficits until finally succumbing to the Lakers. The talent is there, and the offseason was so short that Jokic didn’t have time to get out of shape and won’t have to spend the first month of the season playing himself back into shape. Denver is a true contender to return to the conference finals.

4.) Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic is very close to being the best basketball player in the world and will give Dallas a chance to compete for a spot in the NBA Finals. The Slovenian sex symbol is the closest thing to Larry Bird the NBA has seen since Keith Van Horn, and when all is said and done, Doncic could be better than both (glad I live across an ocean from Boston). His Euro lifemate Kristaps Porzingis is the player that could really sink Dallas’ title hopes. If he stays healthy and puts up somewhere close to 20 points, ten rebounds, and two blocks, Dallas will be just fine, but if the unicorn limps through the season and looks like a shell of himself, Dallas will be an easy out in the playoffs. Luka has a chance to win the MVP and will lock up the award in his third season if he can lead the Mavericks to a high seed in the loaded Western Conference.

5.) Portland Trail Blazers

A disappointing regular season was masked by a bubble run that vaulted the Blazers into the 8-seed and a quick 4-1 first round exit at the hands of the eventual champion Lakers. Portland had a nice offseason adding Robert Covington, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Jones Jr. to a core of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Carmelo Anthony. Lillard is a dark horse to win the MVP this season, and if he can lead this team to a top-four seed in the West, that could actually happen. The return of Nurkic in the bubble energized the team, and you hope that he can continue to anchor the front court and keep them competitive in the playoff race. Some members of the media are higher on the Blazers, some think they may miss the playoffs entirely, I have them right in the middle as the fifth seed in the West.

6.) Utah Jazz

Utah disappointed in the Bubble after leading the Nuggets 3-1 in the first round, the Jazz fucking blew it and lost in seven games. They didn’t really do much in the offseason and finished sixth in the West last year, so sixth seems like a reasonable spot for them to finish this year too. Donovan Mitchell is going to continue playing at an all-star level, and Rudy Gobert, after becoming the unintentional face of the NBA Covid-19 season, signed a huge contract and will still be in the running for DPOY. Mike Conley can’t be much worse than he was last year, and Joe Ingles is one of the best bench players in the league. Utah isn’t the flashiest team in the league, but should have a good offense and one of the better defenses in the league and will be a steady team all season.

7.) Houston Rockets

James Harden, more like James soften am I right? Thicc boi James Harden is the talk of the league as the season gets underway as he has requested a trade out of Houston. Nobody knows where he’s going to end up, or when he’s going to get traded, but until a deal is made the Rockets will still be a playoff team. Harden matches up with former stars John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins in a Rockets lineup that would absolutely win the championship in 2015. We’ll see if the former Kentucky Wildcat teammates have any gas left in the tank after injuries have ravaged the primes of two of the brightest stars in the league. Houston is definitely the focus of the NBA as long as James Harden is partying with rappers and dropping 50 points on a daily basis. The franchise is in crisis mode, but will stay relevant until they cave and trade Harden for 30 cents on the dollar.

8.) Phoenix Suns

Phoenix’s 10-year playoff drought might finally be over this year with the addition of the point god himself Chris Paul. A Big three of 35-year-old Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton is intriguing in the deep Western Conference. The Suns went 8-0 in the bubble and are hoping to take that momentum and turn it into sustained success that the fanbase needs desperately. Monty Williams is a capable coach to steer this team into the playoffs if the core can gel. The race for the 8th seed will be hotly contested in the Western Conference as there are probably eight teams with a legitimate chance to at least make it into the play in tournament. Phoenix has the top talent to beat most of the rest of those teams and should consider this season a disappointment if the Suns fail to make the playoffs again.

9.) Memphis Grizzlies

Ninth already seems too low for the upstart Grizzlies this season. Ja Morant legitimately seems like one of the best players in the league in year two. He’s looked unstoppable in the preseason (albeit mostly against the Timberwolves) and has a real chance to contend for a spot on an All-NBA team this season. Fellow burgeoning star Jaren Jackson is recovering from a torn meniscus, and will miss the start of the season. Jackson and Morant form one of the most exciting tandems of young talent in the league. Brandon Clarke is old as shit for a second year player (he’s just 24) but has shown that he can be a nice third complementary piece to Ja and triple J. Jonas Valanciunas is quietly one of the best maulers in the NBA, and Memphis boasts a deep bench. Youth might be the biggest strength and biggest weakness for this team. You should expect everyone to continue improving, but sometimes young teams have their growing pains. In all likelihood Memphis glides into the playoffs, but there are enough unknowns out west to push the young Grizzlies out of the postseason.

10.) New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson has lost his crown as the thick king of the NBA (that crown belongs to James Harden) but is poised to become one of the best and most popular superstars in the NBA. Zion only played 24 games in his rookie season, but averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. With his frame, injuries will always be a risk, but Zion is legitimately one of the best young players the NBA has seen in several years. Alongside Zion is the NBA’s most improved player Brandon Ingram, who himself is only 23-years-old creating one of the most tantalizing young duos in the league. Lonzo Ball provides a defensive punch in the backcourt, and the signing of Steven Adams bolsters a shallow front court behind Zion. Swapping Jrue Holliday for Eric Bledsoe and several future firsts and pick swaps won’t help this year, but the future is bright in New Orleans.

11.) Golden State Warriors

The Warriors’ championship window will always be open as long as they employ the producer of Holey Moley, but Steph Curry will have to hit a hole in one to get the Warriors back into contention this season. Golden State suffered a huge blow when Klay Thompson suffered an Achilles injury during a pickup game during the offseason. Their one hope to get back to the mountain top…fuck it’s Andrew Wiggins, they’ve got no shot.

12.) Minnesota Timberwolves

As a Wolves fan I always want to be super optimistic and hope that they can finally pull together and become a consistently competitive team, and as a Wolves fan I know it’s never actually going to happen. I always talk myself into it, this year it’s “oh well they have Towns, and Russell is really good, and Rubio, we like him, and maybe Anthony Edwards can be the next Donovan Mitchell, and Ryan Saunders is better than his dad was, and they should easily be the eighth seed and probably actually the sixth seed, and maybe they can surprise the Clippers in the first round, and Towns can go nuts and possibly make the second round and get lucky and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they could make a conference finals”. Bullshit, halfway through the season I always have to call bullshit on my expectations. Since Kevin Garnett left to win a Championship in Boston and buy opals from Adam Sandler the Timberwolves have never lived up to expectations. Even the year they had Jimmy Butler, that team should have been the third seed and barely snuck into the playoffs. It’s never going to happen and this team is no different, at least for this season. Towns might be healthy, but he hasn’t shown that he can lead a team and create wins in his first five years, so why start now. Russell is a talented player, but does he really impact winning? Ask Laker, Nets, and Warriors fans the last five seasons, they are probably fond of him but are glad their franchises aren’t building a team around him. Rubio is more of a sentimental acquisition than actual playoff puzzle piece. Anthony Edwards may be talented, but will likely take a year or two or five to reach his full potential and won’t likely impact winning during his rookie year. Does this team have plenty of talent? Yes. Does this team excite me? Yes. Will this team inevitably take my optimism and shove it down my throat until I choke on my own fandom? Unavoidably yes.

13.) Sacramento Kings

The Kings truly have a solid base of young talent, but I have absolutely no faith that the Kings can actually tap into the talent and compete this season. De’Aaron Fox played at an all-star level last year around some nagging injuries. Marvin Bagley III has shown flashes of future stardom, but only played 13 games last year. Buddy Hield is one of the best shooters in the league, and rookie Tyrese Haliburton has a chance to be one of the best rookies in this year’s class. Sacramento’s talent trails off shortly after that and will cause problems when their starters are on the bench. Sacramento is in the same place it’s been for the better part of the decade; too good to get the top pick, but not good enough to actually compete for a playoff spot.

14.) San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio’s 20 plus year reign of terror in the West is finally over and it’s going to get ugly pretty fast. Their best players are either on the wrong side of 30 (Lamarcus Aldridge and Demar DeRozan), or Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, who are fine players but they’re not Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili. Sorry Shea Serrano but this is probably the most boring team in the league and that includes Orlando and Cleveland (both the cities and teams). I can’t see Popovich coaching this mess passed this season. I guess that’s what you get for being a 20-year dynasty.

15.) Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC completely punted on this season by sending Chris Paul to Phoenix, Steven Adams to New Orleans, Dennis Schroder to the Lakers, and losing Danilo Gallinari to Atlanta in free agency. They’ve mortgaged the present for 17 future first round picks through 2026, and are in line for the top pick in the loaded 2020 draft. This team will absolutely suck this year, but will probably more closely resemble the 2012 finals team that feature Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden throughout the next decade plus.

NBA Finals

Los Angeles Lakers 4 Brooklyn Nets 3

Finals MVP: Anthony Davis

A Lot of this is riding on my belief that the Nets will somehow get James Harden. That trade seems a lot less inevitable than it did even just a week ago, but I believe that Brooklyn finds a third team to facilitate a better young piece to Houston while the Nets will part with Caris LaVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. The Lakers have the best one-two punch the NBA has see since Shaq and Kobe. While their depth is a question, LeBron and AD are enough to get the Lakers back-to-back championships for the first time since 2010. The Nets have the offensive firepower to contend with anyone with KD and Kyrie and will outgun the rest of the East in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, they’ll run into Anthony Davis, who I believe will have one of the best finals showings in recent history to secure finals MVP.

Awards

Executive of the Year

Sean Marks, Brooklyn Nets

This mostly hinges on Marks facilitating a trade for James Harden, but even if that trade doesn’t happen Marks should be in contention this season for pairing KD with Kyrie. The two superstars have yet to take the court together, but if things go right the front office will look pretty smart and get the accolades for it, even though it’s probably a year later than it should be.

Coach of the Year

Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks

Carlisle won the award in 2002 as the Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons. This time he nabs Coach of the Year thanks to Luka Doncic. I think Luka is going to help carry the Mavericks to a top-four seed in the West and give them a real shot to make the Western Conference Finals. Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the league, and if the Mavericks win as many games as they did last year in just 72 games this year, he’s going to be a strong candidate.

6th Man of the Year

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Herro had a fantastic rookie season both on and off the court for the Miami Heat. He helped the Heat surprise the basketball world and make it to the NBA Finals. Herro will likely see his role expanded in his second season. The problem is there’s a very good chance that Herro could start for the Heat this season. I believe they need him to score off the bench and he will be the leader of the second unit and has a chance to push close to averaging 20 points a game.

Most Improved Player

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Ayton has been pretty good during his first two seasons in the NBA, but the addition of Chris Paul is going to do wonders for his career. Nobody is ever going to forget that the Suns took Ayton instead of Luka Doncic, but that’s the Suns’ fault, not Ayton’s. The point god (and HGH) will help elevate Ayton to an all-star level center whose offense is already going to take off, and has show improvements on defense. I see him making the leap and possibly averaging 25 and 12 on a playoff team and becoming a bonafide star player in his third season.

Rookie of the Year

Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

The Knicks were one piece away from championship contention and went out and found their guy in the draft in Obi Toppin. Wait you’re telling me the Knicks were actually bad last year?

The Knicks suck, as you know, but the Toppin pick was actually pretty good. He’s the most NBA ready player in this class and he’ll contribute right away. The Knicks have some young talent with RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, and Toppin should be able to complement them well. Don’t be surprised if he comes out and averages 16 points and seven rebounds, good stats for a rookie, but also don’t expect him to magically resurrect the Knicks anytime soon.

Defensive Player of the Year

Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Davis finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year to Giannis last season. I believe there will be a lot of Giannis fatigue this season and Davis will slip in and fill the space. Playing alongside LeBron will only help his case as the Lakers will once again be one of the best defensive teams in the league. I have a lot of stock in AD this season and believe this is the season where he truly takes the mantle as the best player in the league. Problem for him is that won’t translate into an MVP because he plays with LeBron, which is why LeBron didn’t win the award last season.

MVP

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

The NBA’s number one boy has a chance to average a triple double this season and lead the Mavericks deep into the playoffs. He’s already the best playmaker in the NBA and is most often compared to Larry Bird. Doncic is only 21 years old and has the chance to become one of the best players in the history of the NBA. If Luka can add a three point shot to his arsenal, he’ll be completely unstoppable for the next 15 years. This year the Mavericks have enough firepower to compete in the loaded West, and if Kristaps Porzingis can get healthy, they have a real shot to at least get to the Western Conference Finals. Luka will be the face of the league sooner rather than later, and this will likely be the most important step into super stardom.

All-NBA First Team

Guard: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Guard: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Center: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Forward: Giannis Antentokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Forward: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Not a lot of surprises here except for that LeBron James isn’t present on the first team, and we’ll get to that shortly. I have high hopes that Kevin Durant will return to form after 18 months off while recovering from an achilles injury. We may have forgotten that before the injury, Durant was the best player in the league.

All-NBA Second Team

Guard: James Harden, Houston Rockets

Guard: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Center: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Forward: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Forward: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

LeBron James doesn’t fall off too far in his age-36 season. It will be the first time since 2007 that a healthy LeBron doesn’t make the first team. Second team is nothing to scoff at though as LeBron is in line to lead the Lakers to back-to-back championships. Devin Booker might be a reach here but he’s been so close to breaking through into the elite tier of NBA players and I think this is his year to finally make his mark on the league.

All-NBA Third Team

Guard: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Guard: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

Center: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Forward: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Forward: Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Jamal Murray gets a full head of steam going after his fantastic bubble performance and finally blows up this season. Murray averaged 26.5 points and shot 45.3 percent from three in the playoffs last season. If he can keep that up for the regular season for a top three seed he could skyrocket up and contend for a spot on the second team. Kawhi Leonard load manages his way all the way down to the third team. Honorable mentions include: Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Russell Westbrook, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown.

All-Defensive First Team

Guard: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Guard: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Center: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

Forward: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Getting a little wonky with positions because there shouldn’t be positions with these end-of-year teams but should be no real surprises here.

All-Defensive Second Team

Guard: Kris Dunn, Atlanta Hawks

Guard: Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers

Center: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Forward: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Forward: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Taking a big swing for the second team and projecting Dunn and Thybulle to make big leaps this season and become two of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Gobert could push for the first team but the Jazz might take a step back defensively this season. Kawhi and probably Butler to a point could push for first team recognition, but they’ll both probably manage their loads too much for the media to reward them with a first team slot.

All-Rookie First Team

Guard: Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings

Guard: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Center: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Forward: Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

Forward: Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers

The big wildcard here is Wiseman. We haven’t seen him play in the preseason, and who really knows how Steve Kerr will utilize him in his rookie season. Wiseman might be the most talented rookie in the NBA but his role could keep him off of the first team. All of my other picks should either be starting for their respective teams, or getting close to starters minutes. Toppin is going to score, LaMelo will produce highlight assists every night, and Haliburton and Okoro should be solid all the way around. None of these guys are going to produce the best rookie season we’ve ever seen, but all should be exciting and produce enough to garner first team votes.

All-Rookie Second Team

Guard: Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Guard: Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons

Guard: Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Guard: Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers

Forward: Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls

Both Anthony Edwards and Killian Hayes could play their way onto the first team, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Edwards was trash in his first two preseason games, then came out and shut down Luka Doncic on consecutive plays and finally showed some signs of life in his third and final contest. He could easily end the season averaging 18, five, and five on a .500 team that’s vying for the eight-seed, or average seven, two, and two while shooting some god awful number on a last place dumpster fire. Either outcomes are possible, but as a Wolves fan, if the second happens somebody please check on me, I will not be ok. I threw Maxey in here mostly because I couldn’t find another lottery pick that I really believe will have a good rookie season. I’m not super high on guys like Deni Avdija (At least for this season), and Onyeka Okongwu’s role is still up in the air, so Maxey was a guy I think could provide a spark off the bench for the 76ers.

If any of these predictions are wrong, who gives a shit, I’m just some guy. If you really want to get mad go yell at John Hollinger.

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