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You can hate it all you want, but Kevin Durant will be playing with the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the upcoming NBA season. I personally think you can make an argument that this is good or bad for the NBA. For one, this sets up the NBA finals matchup of a lifetime between LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers against possibly the greatest super-team of all time. On the other hand, I would say it is bad because the NBA now has an 82-game regular season schedule and three best of 7 playoff rounds to get through just to reach a conclusion everyone was already planning on. It makes basketball, dare I say it, boring. However, even if most teams have a really small chance to win it all this season, why not predict the potential 16 team playoffs? Here are my top five of many predictions for this upcoming NBA season.
Prediction #1: The Indiana Pacers will be the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference this season.
The Eastern Conference in the NBA is on of the weakest conferences in sports. Besides Cleveland, no other team is very incredible. Saying Indiana will be exceptional does not mean they will be playing in the NBA Finals in June. But here’s what we know: The Pacers were in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013. They have been taken off the map due to Paul George’s injury. However, he’s back. Although he did not do so well last season, he is now 100% healthy and has a chance to contend for MVP award this season. In addition, his supporting cast may just be better than the one in 2013. Point guard Jeff Teague was a part of that killer Atlanta Hawks team in 2015. Al Jefferson is old, but he has shown flashes of his past talent, which could affect Indiana big time in a positive way. and once again, the Eastern Conference is extremely weak. The Hawks were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference in 2015, but struggled in 2016. The Toronto Raptors were good in 2016. but given their inconsistency, do not count on them being as good in 2017. A new team will be the #2 seed, and that will be the Indiana Pacers.
Prediction #2: The Utah Jazz will be the #3 seed in in Western Conference in 2017.
The Western Conference is still very good, but the formation of the Golden State super-team has really knocked every team out of title contention. Typically, the playoffs had Oklahoma City, Golden State, and San Antonio filling up seeds 1,2, and 3 (in no particular order). Now that Oklahoma City will most likely not be among the top 3, a new team will fill it’s spot. Many would go with the Los Angeles Clippers, but you know how I feel about them. Chris Paul is as overrated a point guard as point guards can be, and the roster altogether is not deep enough to stay consistent for 82 games. You could also consider the Minnesota Timberwolves. While I do have high hopes for the Timberwolves, I think the Jazz are a more developed and experienced team than that of Minnesota. Gordon Hayward has a chance to break out into superstardom, and the Derrick Favors-Rudy Gobert duo could be the best big man combination in the game. Add to that the underrated George Hill and the returning Dante Exum and you have Utah team that will be exceptional this year.
Prediction #3: The Toronto Raptors will be a disappointment.
I really want this one to be wrong, but the simple fact is that the Eastern Conference has more #2 seed contenders this season. I have already talked about the Pacers above. That would slot Toronto into the #3 seed. However, I would also take the Boston Celtics above the Raptors because of how deep Boston is. I also think Toronto doesn’t have the speed to outplay the Chicago Bulls, and I would even put the New York Knicks ahead of them. That would drop the Raptors all the way down into the #6 seed. This prediction would have them facing Boston in the first round. Aside from the fact that there are almost no upsets in the NBA Playoffs, Toronto will also lose because they do not match what Boston has down low. Plus, as soon as the backups get put in, Toronto will be forced to tread water against the Celtics’ deep roster. If the Raptors get ahold of the #6 seed and lose in the first round, they will have been a huge disappointment this season. Given the fact that the Raptors are coming off a #2 seed season and a season in which they landed in the Eastern Conference Finals, it would be a huge step down, and ultimately everyone will be wondering what happened.
Prediction #4: Russell Westbrook will not be the NBA MVP.
This does not mean at the end of the season, he won’t deserve it. In fact, I’m on the “Russ Bandwagon” towards him leading the league statistically. But that doesn’t mean he will win MVP. If you follow baseball, you know Mike Trout proved that self accomplishment doesn’t win the Most Valuable Player award. You need to be able to carry a team to greatness. For example, Nolan Arenado statistically deserves National League MVP. However, because his team is not competing for a World Series bid and All-Star Kris Bryant’s is, Bryant will most likely win the award. In basketball, players have hardly ever won the MVP on a losing team. Given that the Thunder should be very low in the standings, Westbrook will immediately be taken off of the MVP board. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Thunder don’t even make the playoffs. Call it blasphemous, but last time the Thunder were without Durant, which was in the 2014-2015 season, they missed the playoffs. Westbrook is better now than he was then, but the team around him is not. Serge Ibaka is gone, and rookie Domantas Sabonis may take his place if Enes Kanter cannot play effectively at power forward alongside Steven Adams at center. Victor Oladipo is a big question mark this season. Stephen Adams is better than he was last season, but he is not necessarily a game changer. Oklahoma City missing the playoffs altogether could happen, and that is a big reason why Westbrook will not win this season’s MVP award.
Prediction #5: The Miami Heat will be one of the worst teams in the league.
The best Heat era has been over for a long time, but this is the year it will finally show. Once LeBron James left, Miami missed the playoffs and has had two down seasons. Although they were the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference and made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, they were more just taking advantage of having a lack of competition more so than their own talent. This year, however, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are gone, and more teams around the NBA are better. It is without a doubt that Toronto, New York, Chicago, Boston, Indiana, and Cleveland are all above Miami skill-wise in just the Eastern Conference alone. The Heat won’t be able to handle the increased competition with Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside as the team’s stars, and this will plummet them down to one of the worst teams in the entire NBA. They will win no more than 30 games.