A new NBA season begins Wednesday morning Australian time, making this a fitting moment for prognostication. Consequently, four Downtown writers are here with their guesses about what’ll go down in 2016-17.
Tom Hersz: Cleveland, Toronto, Golden State, Los Angeles Clippers
Michael Collins: Cleveland, Boston, Golden State, Los Angeles Clippers
Matt Johnson: Cleveland, Atlanta, Golden State, Los Angeles Clippers
Max Burstin: Cleveland, Indiana, Golden State, San Antonio
Hersz: Golden State
I hate making this pick and I actually think they’ll struggle defensively at times, but over a seven-game series, they have too much firepower to contain.
Collins: Golden State
I know! It was only PRESEASON. But even still, I saw nothing that mucked up my conclusion that Kevin Durant and the Warriors will avoid even the slightest of stutters.
Johnson: Golden State
There have been 17 players in league history to score over 1,700 points and hit 190 threes in a season. With the addition of KD, three of them play for the Warriors. Also, the most prolific three-point seasons of all time are as follows:
1. Stephen Curry – 402 makes
2. Stephen Curry – 286 makes
3. Klay Thompson – 276 makes
The rest of the league is bringing slingshots to a bazooka fight.
Burstin: Golden State
Adding the best scorer in the world to a team that won 73 games last year? Come on.
Steph to KD 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/VCnm5Ndx3P
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) October 20, 2016
Most Valuable Player
Hersz: Kevin Durant
He will emerge as the alpha dog on this Warriors team. His rebounding will be extremely important with Andrew Bogut gone and he’ll lead the best team in the league in scoring.
Collins: LeBron James
In a strange way, LeBron’s historic Finals performance will be what gives him the nod in this year’s MVP race, even if he takes a mid-year sabbatical. The Finals re-established his supremacy and refocused our MVP lens. So while Kawhi Leonard or Russell Westbrook or anyone from Golden State hammers foes into submission, we’ll keep spitting the old “Yeah, but LeBron.”
Johnson: LeBron James
I agree with Zach Lowe’s assertion that voter perception that Curry and KD “stacked the deck” will cost both of them, even if they win 70 games. With a reborn appreciation of the best player alive, the NBA writers award him the trophy after another 25-8-8 campaign.
Burstin: LeBron James
Fresh off the biggest accomplishment of his career, LeBron is entering 2016-17 facing the least amount of pressure he’s ever had to deal with. Dude will be playing as carefree as ever but will still be eager to show Golden State and the rest of the league that he’s still the man. I think the King’s got one more in him.
All-NBA First Team
Hersz: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis
Collins: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Marc Gasol
Johnson: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard
Burstin: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins
Defensive Player of the Year
Hersz: Kawhi Leonard
The Claw will be asked to do even more defensively with Timmy gone and he’s only getting better each year.
Collins: Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi is verging on the Greatest Perimeter Defender of All Time conversation. He’s that bloody close. Another two DPOY awards and it’s his mantle to champion.
Johnson: Dwight Howard
Orlando was the last team he was on that took defence as seriously as Coach Bud’s Hawks and he won three of these in a row. Do people like reclamation stories more than they dislike Dwight? I say yes.
Burstin: Draymond Green
Green just missed out on this award last year, and with the success the Warriors are sure to have this season, he will receive a ton of credit on the defensive end.
Sixth Man of the Year
Hersz: Al Jefferson
The Pacers are going to need him to score with the second unit and Myles Turner is still going to be raw, so Jefferson will play more than just backup minutes.
Collins: Brandon Knight
This really comes down to whether Knight buys into his role as the second unit’s captain. But the truth is that he’s the ideal fit to come off the bench for the Suns. It keeps him from sharing heavy minutes with fellow turnover merchant Eric Bledsoe, while allowing Devin Booker to consolidate in year two.
Johnson: Andre Iguodala
Let’s be honest, this is effectively the “Who Can Score the Most Points Off the Bench” award, which is why Jamal Crawford wins it every year. Iggy won’t win, but he should—and he should have the last two seasons, too—for being the best non-starter in basketball.
Burstin: Andre Iguodala
He’s the best sub on the best team and has come up short on winning this award in recent years. I also don’t see Jamal Crawford winning this for the third time in four seasons, so Iggy seems like a pretty safe bet for this one.
Rookie of the Year
Hersz: Buddy Hield
With Ben Simmons out indefinitely, everyone’s new Buddy has the best opportunity for minutes and he’s also one of the most NBA-ready rookies in this class.
Collins: Joel Embiid
Embiid shot the ball 14 times in 14 minutes in a preseason game. Simmons is sidelined for a slab of games. And Embiid is just really, really good. It was all worth it. #HeDiedForOurSins
Johnson: Brandon Ingram
Embiid has looked like the most impressive first-year talent. However, I’m not sure he plays enough games or minutes to win the voters over. Luke Walton has a mandate to develop youth and he funnels enough possessions through the Slim Reaper v2.0 to get him the hardware.
Burstin: Joel Embiid
With Simmons going down, Rookie of the Year is up for grabs and Simmons’ Philly teammate seems like he could take it. Embiid is a beast of a man and seems like the most ready of all the rookies to dominate right away. So long as he stays healthy.
.@JoelEmbiid had a night ⤵️
18 PTS / 9 REB / 18 MIN pic.twitter.com/3xzHVNVu1Z
— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) October 22, 2016
Most Improved Player
Hersz: Jabari Parker
He looks healthy, aggressive and focused, so I think it’s time we’ll see the full skillset of the player formerly selected second overall.
Collins: Dennis Schroder
This should really just be called “The Guy Who Suddenly Sees More Playing Time” award. Similar to when Wes Matthews left Portland and C.J. McCollum grabbed the reigns, I expect the German to do the same in Atlanta with Jeff Teague shipped to Indiana.
Johnson: Devin Booker
Is it sacrosanct to say Devin Booker reminds you of James Harden?
Devin Booker reminds me of James Harden.
Burstin: Jabari Parker
Growing in unison with his young Bucks teammates, expect Parker to take things up a notch this season and start getting closer to those lofty pre-NBA expectations.
Coach of the Year
Hersz: Brad Stevens
It came down to Doc Rivers or Stevens for me. Rivers’ Clippers are poised to finally fulfil their talent as a Western Conference Finalist and that may do it, but any meltdown (entirely possible) would hurt Doc. Stevens has his team ready to advance after testing the water last year and with Al Horford and rookie Jaylen Brown along to help, they have the talent to make some noise in the East.
Collins: Gregg Popovich
Pop is the best coach in basketball, and this award shouldn’t be pinned to the team that exceeds our trash preseason predictions.
Johnson: Tom Thibodeau
Last season it felt like Sam Mitchell was intentionally losing games to… teach Zach LaVine about defence… or something? By the end of ’16-17, the Wolves are plus-15 in the win column and in the playoffs, and Thibs wins this by a mile.
Burstin: Quin Snyder
The Jazz seem geared up for a breakout year, and if this young group can get over the hump and do some serious damage like many people expect them to, a lot of the credit should go to Snyder.
Biggest decrease in regular season wins
The Hawks won 48 games last year, but gone are Horford and Teague, with Howard and Schroder now Paul Millsap’s best friends. I could see this ending badly… like 33 wins badly.
I love the Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside pick-and-roll combo. But we might not see Dragic last the year in South Beach and I don’t trust Whiteside as the leader of an NBA locker room.
Johnson: Oklahoma City
The easy and best answer is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cut to everyone in Seattle high-fiving.
This offseason the Heat lost Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and Luol Deng, and replaced them with virtually nothing. This looks to be the worst season in South Beach in quite a while.
Player you’re most excited to watch
Hersz: Blake Griffin
He’d just started to scratch the surface of greatness before that horror season last year. I think he’s refocused and poised to put it all together as one of the best all-around forwards in the game.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) October 19, 2016
Collins: Draymond Green
The obvious answer is Russell Westbrook, but I’m more fascinated by storylines that Green might ignite in Oakland. He’s both a nutcracker and the NBA’s Mother Teresa. Oh, bless!
Johnson: D’Angelo Russell
The Kobe Farewell Tour/Byron Scott Tank Odyssey is over. That is exciting in itself for us Laker fans who acknowledge basketball is a team sport and sports are played to be won. Can D’Angelo build on the flashes of potential he’s shown in his rookie year and this preseason?
Burstin: Russell Westbrook
If there’s one player who doesn’t need extra motivation to get fired up, it’s Westbrook. Now he’s ticked off and ready to show everybody (rims included) no mercy. I can’t wait.