2017-2018 NBA Season Preview + Predictions
After one of the most crazy offseasons in recent memory, the NBA season is officially back. Today, on October 17, the 2017-2018 NBA season kicks off with some potential playoff matchups and revenge games. The Warriors will face off against the Houston Rockets, after the Rockets added Chris Paul in order to give them a better shot at contending in the Western Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the Boston Celtics, who swapped all-star point guards during the offseason. Both of these games on opening night have the potential to be previews of the East and West Conference Finals.
It has been a long three months since the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Title after going 16-1 in the playoffs, and many teams made significant moves in order to get better and try to contend with the Warriors. The Rockets added Chris Paul, the Celtics added Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Thunder added Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the Timberwolves added Jimmy Butler, and the Cavaliers added Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, and Dwyane Wade. While these moves were significant, and will make competition at the top of the NBA better, there is no doubt in my mind that none of these teams did enough to stop the reigning NBA Champions.
I think there will be some problems that occur in Oklahoma City because of the fact that they added two more ball dominant superstars to a team that has a league MVP who set the record for usage rate last season in Russell Westbrook. I think that the Celtics will also have some problems because they gave up so much this offseason in order to add two stars to the team, they sacrificed their depth, and are starting rookie Jayson Tatum. There is the potential for chemistry issues on the Cleveland Cavaliers because of the addition of Dwyane Wade, which subsequently demoted JR Smith to the bench, as well as the benching of Tristan Thompson for Kevin Love. The Cavaliers appear to be nearing the end of their time with LeBron, as they have a team full of aging players who have a high chance of injury, and we saw this same thing in his last year in Miami. I think this will be LeBron’s last year in Cleveland, and it is a shame that they had him for a decade and only won one title.
The MVP race this season looks to be a good one, with many new challengers entering the ring, as well as some established players throwing their names back into the ring. Last years’ MVP, Russell Westbrook, had two other all-stars added to his team over the summer, so it is fair to assume that his individual numbers will drop off, and he will end up being less effective rate because i assume his usage rate will drop off as well. James Harden looks to be a strong candidate for MVP, as he added another star to his team in Chris Paul, which will take pressure off of him to be a floor general, and open him up for more catch-and-shoot opportunities, which could make his FG% higher and allow him to be even more effective this season. Kawhi Leonard’s stock has been on the rise for several years now, and many people consider him to be their favorite to win MVP, but he is still struggling with his ankle injury he got in the playoffs last year, and will miss the start of the season, which puts him out of the MVP conversation for me. LeBron James is in year 15 and is being hampered by an ankle injury as well, and I think that he is at a disadvantage in the eyes of the voters because he plays in the Eastern Conference, which is heavily depleted this year after the offseason mass migration that saw many superstars move west. I also think that this year LeBron will fall off a bit, he has been so good for so long and in year 15 I think his body will begin to break down. He has played in close to 100 games in each of the last seven years and that has to take a toll on you at some point. Kevin Durant is always in the MVP conversation much like LeBron James, and while I think that KD will have a great year, with even higher efficiency than he had last year, I think he will still not get enough votes because he joined the Warriors and many writers are still bitter about that. KD makes the game look easy, he can do it all, but he is on a team with three other superstars, and he is not the engine that makes that team move. Stephen Curry is my favorite for MVP this season. I think that if Steph looks better than he ever has, as is being widely reported, than he will win the MVP award. If he is able to somehow come close to replicating his 2016 numbers (when he was the first ever unanimous mvp), on a team that wins 70+ games, then he has to be the MVP. He is the greatest shooter the league has ever seen and has the most gravity in the league today.
My potential dark horse candidates for the MVP award are Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Rookie of the Year award will be interesting, with several players looking like they can be stars in this league. I think Lonzo Ball is interesting because he is not the best scorer, but he is very good at getting his team open looks and is a pass first point guard. I think that Kyle Kuzma is going to be really good, and could compete with Ball for the award, but they are also on the same team. Kuzma had a really good preseason, and it will be interesting to see how the two will gel in the regular season. I think that Ben Simmons will win the ROY award, I think he is going to be really good on a breakout 76ers team. He will play alongside guys like Joel Embiid, JJ Reddick, and Markelle Fultz, and if they manage to steal a playoff spot this year, then I would look for him to win the Rookie of the Year award.
The Defensive Player of the year will be Draymond Green, and his main competition is Rudy Gobert and Kawhi Leonard. I think Draymond will repeat because his defense has become much more important to his team’s success, as we saw last year and in the 2016 NBA Finals. He may rub some people the wrong way but he is the best defensive player that the league has to offer.
I think that the Sixth Man of the Year competition is going to be interesting, I think that the two players I have leading the charge this year are Andre Iguodala and JR Smith. Iguodala is a very good player off the bench for the Warriors, but he is no longer a great shooter, which I think is the edge that JR Smith has on him for this award. If Dwyane Wade does start for the whole season, and Smith comes off the bench for the whole year, I think there is a very good chance that JR Smith will win, he is a great 3-point shooter and has immediate impact off of the bench, and won the award a couple of years ago with the Knicks.
I think that the Golden State Warriors will win the NBA Championship this year. I do not think that any teams made upgrades significant enough to really put them on the same level as Golden State. I think the East will be interesting, but the Cavaliers will come out on top again, and it will be Warriors v. Cavs for the fourth straight year, with the Warriors winning the series in five games.