Championship winners, MVP, Rookie of the Year all discussed…
With the 2014/15 NBA season upon us, here are six predictions regarding some of the biggest categories in the league including who will be crowned champions.
NBA Champions 2014/15
Despite their mesmeric run to the title last season, the San Antonio Spurs sit behind the Cleveland Cavaliers who are favourites this time round. Naturally, with the additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love to compliment Kyrie Irving, the Cavs possess the most talented roster in the NBA.
However, it would be foolish to discount the Spurs from repeating, as although they have won numerous titles between them now, they have never been able to defend their crown. That will be an additional motivation this season, but it isn’t enough to secure them as my pick.
If there is a perfect time for the Bulls to strike, then it is this season. Neither Love nor Irving have played a minute of playoff basketball, and it will take time for the Cavs to build up consistency and chemistry. If, and it is a big if, Derrick Rose can stay healthy and continue his pre-season form, the acquisitions of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott give Chicago the offensive threat they have craved to combine with their defensive solidity.
Pick: Chicago Bulls
Regular Season MVP
With Kevin Durant ruled out for six to eight weeks with a foot fracture, it is unlikely that the Oklahoma City Thunder will rush him back. As a result, I don’t think he has enough time to regain his title.
Rose has emerged as the third favourite behind Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, but naturally I think this is James’ award to lose as he’ll be as important and efficient as ever with his new team.
Pick: LeBron James
Rookie of the Year
After a tumultuous summer, the No.1 overall pick in the 2014 Draft has ended up in Minnesota with the Timberwolves. While Andrew Wiggins will likely excel in a team full of speed and athleticism, the favourite is Milwaukee Bucks star Jabari Parker and that is who I’m backing.
Parker will get significant minutes and responsibility with a poor Bucks team, but as shown by Michael Carter-Williams last season, a lack of team wins will not deny the best young talent in the league and Parker will have plenty of the ball to prove that the title belongs to him.
Pick: Jabari Parker
Regular Season Scoring Leader
While Durant misses out on this title again due to his injury, James has too much talent around him to put up big numbers on a nightly basis. In addition, there are also doubts over Carmelo Anthony as he acclimatises to the triangle offense, so my pick is in the Western Conference.
The Houston Rockets look a lot weaker this season, and the offensive responsibility will fall heavy on the shoulders of Dwight Howard, but particularly James Harden. As a result, it will be time to ‘Fear the Beard’ given Harden’s prowess from beyond the arc combined with his ability to get to the free-throw line, although Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry will provide stiff competition.
Pick: James Harden
Most Improved Team
The obvious choice would be the Cavaliers if you consider their record last season and what they expect this year. However, looking elsewhere, the Dallas Mavericks look ready to make a real splash in the West after bringing in Tyson Chandler, Jameer Nelson and Chandler Parsons to name but a few.
Along with Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, coach Rick Carlisle has some serious pieces to work with, and there is a belief that they will be much improved from last season.
Pick: Dallas Mavericks
Most Improved Player/Break-out Star
Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks will be looking forward to what Parker can bring to the team in the coming years, but Antetokounmpo is also a rising star. The ‘Greek Freak’ is explosive, athletic and really quick, and with coach Jason Kidd suggesting he could play at point guard at times this season, expect him to be a match-up nightmare for several teams.
Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Most Disappointing Team
Houston could well come into play in this category given the players that they have lost will likely result in a fall down the Western Conference standings. However, in terms of real disappointment, it has to be the Indiana Pacers.
With Lance Stephenson leaving and Paul George going down with injury for the year, the Pacers will be lucky to make the playoffs. Coach Frank Vogel will get them to play real hard-nosed defense each night, but they just don’t have the offense to be competitive and the hope is that Roy Hibbert can be the man to change that.
However, if he isn’t able to put the second-half of last season behind him, it could be a long year ahead for him and the franchise as their championship window looks to have closed.
Pick: Indiana Pacers