2016 NBA Season Preview

It’s finally here.

The NBA season is back, and oh boy, are we in for a treat this year. The last time we saw some NBA action we witnessed history. LeBron and the Cavaliers completed the greatest NBA Finals comeback ever against former reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, exacting their revenge much to my happiness.

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But since the Finals, a lot has transpired around the league. The NBA has flipped upside down because of free agency, and that primarily is because of one man.

hi-res-7be19e9e968cdf3badd17d4556e05c30_crop_north

Kevin Durant, a top three player in the league, is now a part of the greatest regular season team ever, the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have now created the ultimate super team, and have their eyes set on a third straight finals appearance. The Warriors though weren’t the only team to make significant roster changes this summer.

Off-season Moves

  • The Chicago Bulls probably had the highest profile summer of any team. They traded away former hometown hero, Derrick Rose, and brought in new hometown hero, Dwyane Wade, plus they added Rajon Rondo, Robin Lopez, and Michael Carter-Williams.
  • Derrick Rose’s new home is in New York. The Knicks are going all in this season, and their offseason moves proved it. Along with Rose, they brought in Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings to add to the core of ‘Melo and Porzingus.
  • The San Antonio Spurs are about to begin their first season without Tim Duncan in 19 years and to make up for that void, enter Pau Gasol.
  • Indiana silently had one of the better off-seasons. They brought in former All-star, Al Jefferson, All-Star from Atlanta, Jeff Teague, and a very solid forward in Thaddeus Young
  • The Celtics bolstered their case as the second-best team in the East with the addition of Al Horford and the third overall pick, Jaylen Brown.
  • Dwight Howard will also attempt to play the role of the hometown hero for his new team, the Atlanta Hawks.

What makes a NBA season interesting are the storylines, and this season is filled with them.

Will the Warriors destroy the league?

It’s a scary question to ask because the Warriors have already been destroying the league. Over the last two seasons, the Warriors have won a staggering 85% of their games and that was before adding the best scorer in the NBA today. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were already nearly impossible to guard and now throwing Kevin Durant in the mix just makes it unfair. Is 74-8 a possibility?

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS MEDIA DAY
Via The Mercury News
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS MEDIA DAY
Via East Bay Times

Can the Cavaliers repeat?

This question faces every champion, and for the first time in 52 years, the city of Cleveland can answer it. The gang is back in full; last week they locked in J.R. Smith finally, Kyrie is entering this season fully healthy, and LeBron is still LeBron. The Cavaliers should dominate the East and be favorites to win it all, but once again the Warriors appear to be in their way, and this time with Durant. The Cavaliers beat the greatest regular season team ever last season, but can they beat the greatest team ever assembled this year?

cleveland-cavaliers-media-day
Via Mobile Naps

Who can stop the inevitable Finals Trilogy?

The NBA has pretty much already locked in another Warriors/Cavaliers Finals. Who can beat these teams? The only team out West that was able to push Golden State to a game 7 in the last two years lost their best player to them, so who can challenge them now? OKC doesn’t have the talent anymore, and the Spurs and Clippers just don’t have enough firepower. In the East it’s been a pretty familiar pattern; if you have LeBron on your team, you will make the finals. It’s a theory that has been tried and proven for six years, and can anybody stop a seventh?

warriors
Via Slam Online
160619224721-23-nba-finals-0619-super-169
Via CNN

Now it’s prediction time.

Rookie of the Year

This would’ve been a very easy award to give out. Ben Simmons had everything going for him to be ROY. The 76ers would’ve been his team, and he would’ve gotten the minutes, he had everything necessary… except health. Unless Simmons comes back in January and clearly balls out from his game one, ROY will have to go to someone else, and I think it will be Kris Dunn. He is, of course, the future point guard of this team, and Minnesota will be good this year. He is the most NBA-ready rookie outside of Simmons, and he showed that during Summer League. By the time January rolls around, I expect Rubio to be gone and Dunn to be the starter, only sealing his ROY bid.

kris-dunn-portrait
Via HoopsHype

 

Defensive Player of the Year

This award has become the Kawhi Leonard award as of late and for good reason. We haven’t seen a player dominate that side of the ball as he has since Dwight Howard’s Orlando days. Leonard will be going for the trifecta, but I don’t believe it will happen this year. The 2016 DPOY will go to the runner-up from the last two seasons, Draymond Green. With KD on board, Draymond will have to sacrifice even more on offense which will only make his defensive prowess even more appreciated. Draymond is the heart and soul of the Warriors, especially on the defensive side, and this year he will be rewarded for it.

USP NBA: ATLANTA HAWKS AT GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS S BKN USA CA
Via USA Today

Coach of the Year

This will be one of the more competitive award races this year. Steve Kerr won it last year because of the record breaking year the Warriors had regardless of the fact he only coached half of the season. Coach Kerr will be a candidate once again, but he will not repeat. I feel like it will be a two-man race between Coach Billy Donavan and Coach Tom Thibodeau. I will give the nod to Coach Thibodeau because I feel like T-Wolves will make that big of a jump this season.

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Via Fox Sports

Sixth Man of the Year

This award has been dominated by Jamal Crawford lately, but I’m expecting that to change. This season I’m predicting the 6MOY to go to Brandon Jennings. With Derrick Rose cleared of all his legal charges, Rose should be the starting point for the Knicks, and that leaves the lead bench role entirely to Jennings. Expect him to play close to starter minutes and for him to provide what New York desperately needs: scoring.

knicks
Via New York Daily News

Most Improved Player

I want to give this award to the Greek Freak so bad. He closed out last season incredibly strong after Jason Kidd let him play the point guard. He finished the season averaging 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, and racked up five triple-doubles. I expect him to blossom into a full superstar next season, but I think someone else will deserve this award more. I might be living on a high of the preseason, but I think MIP will be D’Angelo Russell. He should be the starter for the Lakers this season, and I expect him to have more of a green light than he did during his rookie campaign. I think he will begin blossom into a star, and this MIP award will be the first step.

ff2131e45b50a6c7
Via Cleveland.com

Most Valuable Player

The last three MVP awards have gone to players on the Warriors. Let that sink in. The two MVP awards before that went to LeBron James, which means the last five MVP’s have been split between three players, and if we take it a step further, the last eight MVP awards have been split between four players. What I’m trying to say is that there hasn’t been much of a field lately when it comes to this award. This year I believe the MVP will once again reside in Cleveland, it just won’t be the Cavalier everybody thinks will win it. Kyrie Irving will be the MVP this season. LeBron will take a step back during the season and Irving will gladly fill that role. Everybody witnessed what Kyrie did to the reigning MVP during the Finals, and this season he will prove he is the best point in the game.

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Via USA Today

Playoff Predictions

EAST:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers 62-20
2. Boston Celtics 51-31
3. Indiana Pacers 50-32
4. Toronto Raptors 48-34
5. New York Knicks 46-36
6. Atlanta Hawks 45-37
7. Milwaukee Bucks 43-39
8. New York Knicks 42-40
Eastern Conference Finals
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics
This matchup looks eerily familiar. Too bad it won’t be as competitive as the Cavs/Celtics series from Lebron’s first go-around in Cleveland. Boston will be in the Conference Finals, but they won’t be able to dethrone the Cavaliers. They will be lucky if it’s not a sweep. At least the Celtics are heading up after being down so long.
Cleveland in 5
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Via NBA.com
WEST
1) Golden State Warriors 68-14
2) Los Angeles Clippers 62-20
3) San Antonio Spurs 59-23
4) Houston Rockets 57-25
5) Oklahoma City Thunder 55-27
6) Portland Trailblazers 53-29
7) New Orleans Pelicans 51-31
8) Minnesota Timberwolves 45-37
Western Conference Finals
Golden State Warriors vs Los Angeles Clippers
The last team in the Western Conference to beat the Warriors was the Clippers, and the Clippers are going to have the chance to do so again. Chris Paul will make it to his first conference finals and with his first NBA Finals appearance on the line, we are going to see him at his absolute best. They will challenge the Warriors, but as it has been for the past two seasons, the Warriors offense is just too deadly. The Clippers had no answer for the Warriors in four straight losses last year, and this year the narrative will not change.
Warriors in 6
Stephen Curry, Chris Paul
Via Agriterra Equipment
NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
The trilogy will happen. We get the Warriors and Cavaliers once again, but we also get a match-up we’ve desired since their last one. James vs. Durant II. It will be a hell of a series, but this time there will be no historic comeback for the Cavs. LeBron is going to put on a superhuman performance for third straight finals. Kyrie Irving will once again prove he is better than Curry on the biggest stage, but Golden State will answer back. This will be Durant’s series. He will be the star of the Warriors in the Finals, and he will show why he is the second best player in the game.
But it still won’t be enough.
Cleveland has done it before, they know what they need to do to win, and this year’s Warriors won’t be ready to take down the Cavs. It will be a great series, but the Cavaliers will repeat, sealing LeBron’s legacy as one of, if not the greatest player ever.
Cavaliers in 6
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Via Huffington Post

Keep up with all my thoughts, opinions, and reactions throughout the NBA through my twitter : @_WhyToby

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