The 2014-2015 NBA Season was great. The Golden State Warriors, and their “3 and D” brand of basketball, had one of the most dominant single seasons in NBA history, LeBron James reaffirmed his greatness with one of the top 3 NBA Finals performances of all time, and the Western conference was as deep as a conference has ever been. Do not fear though NBA fan. This upcoming season will be better.
This year will be a changing of the guard in the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan are on their way out. They each may have a couple more years left in them, but the transcendent talents we have watched for the past decade and a half are no longer the elite players in the league. LeBron should continue to be the best overall player and Kevin Durant should return the lethal scorer we are all used to, but look for some new stars to become league icons.
For the Coach of the Year Award, a lot of people are looking at Alvin Gentry and Brad Stevens. I am leaning towards Jason Kidd. With the additions of Greg Monroe, Greivis Vasquez and Rashad Vaughn, the Milwaukee Bucks have built a deep enough roster to contend in the East. I think they slide into the upper-echelon of the Eastern conference, though that is not saying much, and could finish as high as 3rd in what is an incredibly shallow conference.
Most Improved Player of the Year should be a tight race. There is a lot of young talent in the league and several players are primed for big leaps forward. I will take Andrew Wiggins. Having already won Rookie of the Year, Wiggins will have to play big to get the nod, but he has the talent and could easily average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists on a roster that has several, young, complimentary pieces. The Timberwolves probably will not win many games in the ultra-competitive West, but that should not matter. Wiggins should continue to show why he was the 1st pick in the draft and a part of the long-term NBA future.
Now we get to Rookie of the Year. No need to look outside of the top 4 picks. 4 completely different players with lots of reasons to like them. First I will eliminate D’Angelo Russell because the transitions for guards into the NBA is much tougher than big men and especially in the West where you could face all-star caliber point guards in every game for a week. That leaves us with Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is due for a transitional period and Okafor is not really on a roster built for him to excel so I will take Towns to shine along side Wiggins(I promise I am not a T-Wolves fan). Towns is a versatile player on a budding roster and should learn a lot from Kevin Garnett. Do not be surprised if he averages 15 points, 7 boards and 2 assists. Kid can play.
For Defensive Player of the year, do not look any further than the most interesting free-agency story of the decade. DeAndre Jordan will continue to be a limited offensive player, but his defense should only get better. With the additions of Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, the Clippers team defense should get even better. Do not be surprised if Jordan averages a freakish 3 blocks a game.
The leagues MVP award should be the most interesting race of all. Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are all more-or-less, in their prime. You can almost eliminate Stephen Curry because repeating is tough. When it comes to who will have the best season, I think it will be Anthony Davis. He had the highest Player Efficiency Rating of a player in his age 21-22 season EVER. It was the 11th best of all-time and there are reports he is still improving his perimeter scoring. I am predicting he takes another step towards dethroning LeBron James as the best player in the league and he may just average 25, 10, 3, and 3 in the process. Unfortunately, the roster he is on will prohibit him from winning 50 games and that will prevent him from winning the award. So I will take LeBron, who should lead the Cavaliers on a tear through the Eastern conference. If everyone stays healthy this team could win 65 games and he will be the catalyst of all their success.
Now for my championship predictions, it is all about the favorites here. I remove the Warriors for the same reason I removed Stephen Curry from the MVP race. It is hard to repeat. Especially when you may have to beat the Clippers/Rockets in the conference semis and the Spurs in the conference finals just to get there. I have a hard time picking against the Cavs as they have the easiest road to get there, but the roster the Spurs assembled, if healthy, is ridiculous. Coming off the bench will be seasoned veterans Patty Mills, Manu Ginobli, David West and Boris Diaw. The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge, to Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan should make this the easiest job of Gregg Popovich’s career. Gregg Popovich with 3 or 4 all-stars, a deep bench, and a regular season to figure it out? This Spurs team may tear through the playoffs en route to their 6th championship.