Even though David Stern disappointed me by handed over the commissioning reins of his league to Adam Silver instead of me, I’m not bitter, even though I was just as qualified. I mean, I’m geeky, Jewish, a huge basketball fan and have no hair. Besides, if Roger Goodell can commission a league, so can I.
While I’m looking forward to another competitive year in the NBA, I’m not entirely convinced this season will hold much intrigue. Unlike the NFL and Major League Baseball, so much of the basketball season just seems like a foregone conclusion. Therefore I thought I’d put together a list of surefire predictions bound to come true for the 2015-16 NBA season.
Shelve the crystal ball, sports fans. These are no-brainers.
LEBRON AND THE CAVS WILL DOMINATE THE EASTERN CONFERENCE, LOCKING UP AT A MINIMUM A TOP THREE PLAYOFF SEED
Not much to see here. Presuming Kevin Love and Uncle Drew can both stay healthy, the Cavaliers should run through the Eastern Conference with ease. Even if they can’t, LeBron’s talented enough on his own in a relatively weak East to make sure his team finishes well above .500, which is more than enough to make the playoffs. I know he’s a little banged up (his body is finally starting to show some wear) but I’m really hoping we see “Pissed LeBron” this year. You know, the determined LeBron that reminds us why he’s far and away the best player in the league while dunking on people’s heads. Despite his excellence, this is why many fringe NBA fans find the regular season anti-climactic. We know the Cavs will be there in the end so why sit through 82 otherwise meaningless games to prove it? It’s like the intentional walk in baseball. Just get it over with already. There might be a few challenges to their dominance here and there, them losing a game they clearly should have won but come June, in a seven-game playoff series, their talent in the East will win out. Book it.
CARMELO ANTHONY WILL LEAGUE THE LEAGUE IN FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS AND THE KNICKS WILL ONCE AGAIN BE MEDIOCRE AT BEST
What are we to make of these Knicks? Fortunately, New Yorkers will still be on a high from the Mets making the World Series so they might be slightly more willing to ease up on a team that hasn’t won a title in over forty years. Now, to the real problem at hand: Carmelo Anthony has never averaged more than four assists a game. Even the league’s most notorious chuckers have stumbled upon an assist every now and then so why can’t ‘Melo? If the Knicks want to be legit, Carmelo will have to average more than four assists. That’s the bottom line. I’m just not sure he has it in him. Knicks coach Derek Fisher may have to teach his star player what an assist is, that is when he’s not fist-fighting with Matt Barnes about who slept with whose wife. Ah, the Knicks, a reality TV show all their own. But back to ‘Melo. Anybody who has ever seen him play expects him to shoot first and not defend later. That’s what he’s getting paid millions to do. But he’ll have to shoot better than 47% from the floor, which is something he hasn’t done the last seven seasons. He must learn how to play efficiently. He also might want to get that Porzingis kid involved. So those are my two numbers on the season. If Carmelo can average more than four assists a game and shoot 47% from the floor, the Knicks will turn some heads. If he doesn’t, they’ll turn heads… in the opposite direction, for the Knicks will once again be unwatchable.
KOBE BRYANT WILL SHOW HIS FRUSTRATION IN A DIFFICULT WESTERN CONFERENCE, MISSING THE PLAYOFFS AND CAUSING HIM TO FLIRT WITH RETURNING FOR ANOTHER YEAR
It seems we say this ever year but man, the West is more stacked than a night out with at the Bunny Ranch with Lamar Odom. This is supposed to be Kobe Bryant’s last season but who knows. I’d say the likelihood of him pulling a Brett Favre is pretty high. I’m sure the desire to tie Michael with six rings still burns inside but his body, which has now played 19 full seasons (Kareem played 20), is breaking down. The Lakers do have young talent that’s waiting for the old man to retire before they can ask to shoot the basketball. I’m just not sure how many of them Kobe has introduced himself to yet. Before going down to injury mid-season last year, Kobe was shooting 37% from the floor, a career low. If Kobe’s ego can grasp that his body can no longer do the things it once did AND if he can learn to trust his teammates, the Lakers can win some ballgames, not many but some. If this season becomes Kobe’s personal quest to see how many points he can score, Byron Scott will have a tough time monitoring his minutes. Regardless of whether Kobe passes on knowledge to the next generation, the Lakers still miss the playoffs leading to an off-season where he and more importantly ownership must determine whether they want him back for one last run at nothing.
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE WILL BE LOADED WITH TEAMS BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER, MEANING ONE OF TWO REALLY GOOD TEAMS WILL MISS THE PLAYOFFS WHILE A SHITTY TEAM EKES INTO THE EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS WELL UNDER .500
Towards the end of last season, Golden State winning a championship became more and more obvious for anyone who was paying attention. This year, if I asked you to choose between Golden State and the field, you’d have to take the field. Last year’s Western Conference saw seven teams win over 50 games. You’re about to see that happen again. There were good teams out West who outright missed the playoffs last season, meanwhile the Nets made it in the East because of the unevenly balanced talent. It’s why the league revisits playoff reseeding every year, which they’ll do again next off-season as the same thing will happen. The NBA won’t budge, however, because that means two Western teams would be playing in the Finals and nobody on the East Coast would watch. Things will ultimately even out and the Eastern Conference will be good again. Although it sure seems like we’ve been saying that for a while now.
KEVIN DURANT AND STEPHEN A. SMITH WILL KISS AND MAKE UP
There was a pretty interesting war of words this off-season between Stephen A. Smith and Kevin Durant. I guess Smith, one of the many mouths that roared at ESPN, got his panties in a wad because Durant said he never talks to Smith, which Smith called a lie considering he’s interviewed him on several occasions. I’m not sure what’s going on with Durant but the good people of Oklahoma City better hope for a peaceful, copacetic season. The former MVP is in a contract year and playing for a new coach with virtually every other team in the league salivating over the chance to offer him a max contract. Smith said on air that Durant doesn’t want to make an enemy out of him, which he doesn’t considering he makes his living in front of a microphone and Durant is a far more subdued and non-confrontational cat. Durant can pour in fifty a night and Smith can still make him out to be a bad apple. Even if Durant does crap the bed this season, which is highly unlikely, he will have a big decision to make at the end of the season. And the fans of Oklahoma City should be very nervous.
THE ROLE OF SECOND BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE IS WIDE OPEN
Speaking of Kevin Durant, there was once a time where he was clearly the second best player in the league, behind obviously LeBron James. These days, I’m not so sure that’s the case. Last year we saw Steph Curry and James Harden duke it out for MVP honors and that doesn’t take into account the pretty incredible seasons that Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook had. Then you have your people who think Chris Paul is the best player. So if you’re a GM drafting a team and LeBron has already been taken, who are you drafting with the second pick? It’s a tough call and an argument can be made for a number of players. Who will step into that role is anyone’s guess but will definitely be fun to watch.
THE BULLS WILL NOT MAKE THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Every year, Derrick Rose adds another injury to his brittle, Operation Board of a body that makes us question his durability. This guy’s doctor is working overtime. This preseason, it was an orbital fracture. In fact, Rose hasn’t played a full season since 2010-11, the season he won MVP. He’s either not made for the long haul or incredibly unlucky. The Bulls still have talent with Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol but the question mark of Rose’s health looms over the city of Chicago like a bad Jay Cutler contract. One can’t help but think the Bulls’ window is slowly starting to close. And LeBron’s the one closing it.
THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS WILL BE REALLY GOOD
My favorite young team in the league is the Washington Wizards. They should be yours too. They swept the Raptors out of the playoffs last season and nearly took down the top-seeded Hawks. The Wizards are a perfect example of a rising young team that will eventually be broken up because they won’t be able to beat the Cavs. The Wizards’ back-court combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal is a pleasure to watch in transition. Blink and you’ll miss something. They’re tough down low too with Nene and Marcin Gortat. They have the size and guard play that could at least push the Cavs to the brink, which is about as much as we can ask out of any team in the East. They’ll ultimately lose but they’ll be fun as hell to watch while doing so.
AT ONE POINT DURING THIS SEASON, LAMAR ODOM WILL TAKE A BOW TO A ROUSING OVATION AT STAPLES CENTER
We’ve already discussed how I feel about this. We can move on now.
DWIGHT HOWARD WILL MISS 300 FREE THROWS
This one was pretty easy. After all, Howard has missed that many free throws every year he’s played. Plus he gets to the line a lot and will continue to do so this season. I try to keep an open mind about things but it just baffles me that players who get to the line as frequently as Dwight wouldn’t work on their free throws in the off-season. I mean, wouldn’t you think if you shot 500 free throws a day every day, you’d eventually get somewhat good at it? Not if you’re Dwight. I know the guy really wants to emulate Shaq who also played for Orlando, Los Angeles, has a Superman fetish and couldn’t hit a free throw either but he’ll continue to deal with the Hack-a-Dwight until he shores up the clankability. And it might just end up costing Houston a chance at a championship.