Anyway, these predictions will be all over the place. I'll do some awards, league-leaders, win totals, playoffs qualifiers, eventual deceptions, comeback years and other random stuff.
They won 56 games last year with Vinny Del Negro as a coach. I think this speaks to the talent level on this team. However, this is a team built for the regular season and I honestly don't trust their bigs to perform in high-stakes games when the playoffs come around. Teams like OKC and San Antonio will give them a lot of trouble even if they might have "less" talent overall. They will be fun to watch though.
Stephen Curry will make the West All-Star Team and will probably start. At the same time, John Wall will do the same out East (but will not start).
Look, it's a travesty he didn't make it last season, and he made it clear after the mid-season break. He averaged 26 points on 48% shooting, including 46% from 3-point land (and more than 4 makes per game...), 7.4 assists in 39 minutes per game. And he had a postseason for the ages, even his team didn't make it past the second round. The absence of Kobe might make room for him and enable him to be voted on by fans. As for John Wall, he was very good when he came back last season. Now that he has a whole season and he's getting older - at his age, older is better - I expect him to flirt with Chris Paul-like numbers of 20-10 (let's say 18-8 to be realistic) and make the All-Star Game 10% more entertaining by himself.
Kevin Durant will average (at least) 32 points per game and win the MVP award.
Westbrook will miss the first few weeks of the season, which might force KD to take over more often than he would do usually. I wouldn't go as far as Jalen Rose did when he said he would average 38, but he certainly is capable of it. He's the "easiest" scorer in the league (more than Carmelo, I'd argue), averaging massive percentages (the famous 50-40-90 club) and has virtually no weakness on offense. And everything I read and watch lately speaks of how much he's focused and "angrier" coming into this season. I wouldn't be surprised if his average jumped to 34-35. As far as his case for MVP is concerned, I think voters are getting tired of voting for LeBron, like they were in the 90's when Barkley and Malone both won MVPs in seasons where Jordan was clearly the best player in the league. This will come into play.
Brooklyn won't get past the second round of the playoffs.
I think the Nets will finish fourth or higher in the Eastern Conference, but I don't see them beating Chicago, Indiana or Miami in any 7-game-series anytime soon and they will have to face one of these to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Not only that, I think they might blow it up after this season if they don't make it to the ECF, considering they're waaay over the salary cap and that Garnett/Pierce duo might not last very long.
The New York Knicks will implode.
I've said for more than a year that this Knicks team was doomed to implode at some point. They don't have a "true" leader in Carmelo Anthony, they have maybe the two worst defensive forwards in the history, their owner doesn't look overly competent (that's an understatement), they're paying 16 millions in luxury tax, they're wildly inconsistent, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if they fell to the 7th spot and get blown out by Chicago 4-0.
Stephen Curry will try 650 3-pointers.
The current record is 678 by George McCloud. Steph tried exactly 600 last season, but shot close to 9 trifectas per game after the All-Star Break. I think this continues and he shoots a lot more, and still hits a very high percentage, and maybe, just maybe, drill 300 of them and shatter his own record set this past season.
JaVale McGee will be a serious contender for the MIP.
I don't know why, but I feel like McGee has massive potential in this league, even if he's a very strange man with a very peculiar history of doing weird s*** on the court. So we've got a slightly mad, über-athletic big man with massive potential. I like this combination.
The Thunder will acquire a "real" third option.
They just have to.The lack of Harden showed too much last season for them not to act. They need someone else than Durant or Westbrook to produce something on offense. Who? I don't know, but they will act.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will make the playoffs.
They just have to. I don't know what else to tell you. If they don't make the playoffs with a healthy squad I think my brain might explode.
Luol Deng won't lead the league in minutes played per game.
I know Thibs tends to overplay his core players, but the rise of Jimmy Butler will allow Deng to sit a few more minutes per game on the bench and take a breather. This may not look like a bold statement, but Deng led the leagues in minutes per game for two straight seasons.
The Mavericks will miss the playoffs again.
I was very tempted by Bill Simmons' idea that Dirk is poised for a big year. That may be so, but the man is 35 and the other components on the team haven't really improved if you ask me. Monta Ellis will be taking shots away from Dirk (bad idea) and I somehow trust him even less than OJ Mayo. José Calderon is a competent leader, but that's about all you can say about him. Samuel Dalembert is a decent shotblocker, but can't really help them elsewhere. The Mavericks will be a non-factor once again.
Two 2013 All-Stars will be traded during this season.
My guesses would be Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge, but David Lee might not be part of the Warriors' future either.
Frank Vogel will win Coach of the Year.
Up until midway through the ECF, Frank Vogel was still a very underrated NBA coach. Considering how impressive the Pacers were last year and the fact that they added bench support this off-season, I'm expecting a 55+ wins season from the Pacers and accolades for this young coach.
The Miami Heat will not threepeat as NBA Champions.
I cannot tell you who I think will win the 2014 NBA championship, because I have no clue (There are 4, and maybe 5, real contenders for me). But everything tells me Miami, who barely got past Indiana and San Antonio last playoffs, won't repeat, and here's why :
- I will not go as far as calling their triumph of last season's championship "luck", because that would be disrespectful to what this team has accomplished since they won fair and square, but let's just say the odds for the circumstances surrounding the Heat's triumph last season would be 10 000 to 1.
- This year will be a lot harder. History taught us that the third year after back-to-back titles is exponentially tougher than the two others. With that much success, motivation will be an issue. I don't think it will be an issue at the top (Pat Riley and LeBron James, mainly), but for the supporting cast, it definitely can be.
- Wade is clearly on the way down and their old supporting cast is getting even older. And this is a case where older is clearly "smarter", but not necessarily "better".
- I would not be surprised if they win, because they do have a 4-time MVP at his peak on their squad, but I would put their chances at 30-35% amongst all NBA teams. Which would be higher than any other team, obviously, but this is the first year since the Three Amigos joined forces that the Heat are not favorite against the "field", at least for me.
Please don't take this like a personal attack on LeBron James. Yes, I never was a big LeBron fan, but anyone with a working pair of eyeballs can see he's the best overall basketball player on the planet. I think he alone makes them a threat to win it all each and every year. But the rest of the Heat concerns me. And I think this might play against him wanting to stay in Miami when his contract expires after this season. I think there's more than a 50% chance he'll stay there, but that's about as high as I'm willing to go. As great a player as he is, he still needs 11 other men around him to make it to the top again. He said it himself, the 2013 Championship run was a lot harder than in 2012. And 2014 looks to be even harder.