The wait is over my fellow hoop heads! The new season is right around the corner and all of the questions we’ve had since early July (“How will the Warriors do this year with Kevin Durant?” “Will Russell Westbrook win the MVP this year?” “Who will win the 3rd chapter of Cavs vs. Warriors? -Assuming the much anticipated 2017 Finals will materialize)” amongst a litany of other queries our deeply rooted hoop imaginations beg to ask will be answered...inevitably.
You can’t wait 82 games to find out how the season will play out? Cool, I’ve got ya. Here’s your guide, preview and spoiler alert to the 2016-2017 NBA season. You can thank me later, or condescendingly rub it in my face if my projections fall flat on the ground- in which case I’ll have a convenient excuse available. Either way, sit back and enjoy prognostication at it’s finest from yours truly.
Winner: Kevin Durant- Golden State Warriors (Contenders: Steph Curry, LeBron James, Paul George)
Everybody is predicting Russell Westbrook as the popular pick to win but I recall a couple of years ago when KD sat down the majority of the season due to a foot injury and Russ had the chance to lead the team all by himself. While the point guard went bonkers on the statistical end, OKC failed to make the playoffs. It’s very rare that players are voted as MVP playing for teams outside of the top 4 seed in their conference. The Thunder will make the playoffs this year, but itn my estimation it will be as a lower seed (in the 5-8 range). Insert same “top seed” argument for Houston Rockets guard James Harden.
LeBron James is at the tail end of his prime and will play the regular season with caution, pick his spots and dominate on a need to basis. Given the choice, LeBron would love to defer to Kyrie and let him pick up the offensive load during the regular season so he can fully unleash “ZeroDark23” (when LeBron takes a social media break during playoffs so he can totally lock-in on winning a title) on a healthy note come playoff time.
There’s a belief that Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry won’t win the MVP this year because they ‘ll both cancel out votes against each other and will be penalized because they’re teammates or that Durant can’t win because he’s joining an already championship caliber team. Listen here man, Kevin Durant is the 2nd best player in the league (in my opinion) and when the best players are on the court, their teammates defer to them. Steph is a killer and the same type of caliber player, but he’s not 7 foot and doesn’t have the size of chip on his shoulder that KD has now to justify to the world in his decision to join the Warriors and prove people wrong. This time Durant, you’re the real MVP.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers (Contenders: Von Maker, Jaylen Brown)
After watching Embiid impress and show flashes in the pre-season, clearly the thrill isn’t gone. The much-awaited beginning to the career for this 3rd pick in the 2014 Draft is finally here, and the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons are finally becoming substantiated. With this year’s #1 pick and Philadelphia 76ers teammate Ben Simmons out for the first few months of the season due to injury, young forward Nerlens Noel out and last years 76ers top pick Jahlil Okafor currently hurt, all signs lead to Embiid to put the team on his back and showcase his plethora of skills.
The most all-around talented rookie, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Kris Dunn won’t get enough minutes this year playing behind Ricky Rubio and Zack LaVine in case you were wondering.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: DeAndre Jordan (Contenders: Leonard, Hassan Whiteside, Drummond)
Ever since the1992 “Dream Team”, there have always been a handful of players that come back the following NBA season with a heightened sense of confidence and swagger after participating in the Olympics. I personally think it will happen this year for Kevin Durant, Paul George, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan.
No, Jordan won’t go crazy like a young Shaq in his prime but he will command the paint on the defensive end this year for the Clippers and for that he will be rewarded for it and recognized as the leagues best defender this season. On another note, it’s a shame that LeBron has never won this award, especially during his tenure with the Miami Heat and arguably during his first run with the Cavs in the mid 2000s.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Tyronn Lue (Contender: Tom Thibodeau)
This is strictly residue for winning the chip last year and presumably leading the Cavs back to the Finals again this year with the best record in the East.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Karl-Anthony Towns
Is this the year we see Towns take that leap and become that beast that NBA GMs voted as the player they’d select to begin their franchise and build around?
6th Man of the Year
Winner: Zack LaVine (Contender: Jamal Crawford)
So yeah, I have big expectations for the T-Wolves this year. If this is the year they make a statement in the West and claim their arrival, it’s going to take a team effort. Under the umbrella of team effort constitutes the implicit notion that everyone must play their role. Zack LaVine wants to start at point guard but at the same time appears to be content in playing with the group he has in Minnesota and understands they have something special. Minnesota definitely has an embarrassment of riches at that point guard position (Rubio, LaVine and rookie Dunn) but for now, I envision LaVine having a similar effect to James Harden during Harden’s years in Oklahoma City.
Comeback Player of the Year
Winner: Anthony Davis
Assuming Davis can return to his dominant form, play at least 70 games and gets the Pels back to the playoffs then it’s his award to lose right?
You were probably wondering, “Where is La Marcus Aldridge, Pao Gasol, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard or Carmelo Anthony? Well, I’m not high on the Spurs this year in that I’m not sure if San Antonio can replace the recently retired Tim Duncan’s leadership and overcome his absence by simply handing the keys to a seemingly disgruntled LaMarcus Aldridge and career 2nd fiddle Pao Gasol. If it were up to me, Lillard would be on this years 3rd team but I already know how the politics will play out if the Clippers and Trail Blazers finish with a comparable record. Carmelo Anthony is a top 5 offensive player and I think his defense gets a bad rap but with the addition of Derrick Rose to the team coupled with Kristaps Porzingis emerging as a “go to” player, I think Melo’s game will suffer statistically.
Battling for 8th: WAS/NYK/CHI/ORL
Battling for 8th: Mem/Utah/Phx/NOP
GSW v LAC
Indy v CLE
GSW v CLE
Golden State Warriors
Has there ever been a team in NBA history that had the winner of the league’s last 3 MVP awards play together in their primes, all in their 20s?