Rondo trade rumors, laughing at the Lakers, and Doc wins the title: 10 NBA predictions for 2014-15
The NBA season tipped off last night, ending our four month national nightmare. Basketball is back, and with very few exceptions will be on our television screens every night until late June.
Even more exciting, tonight the Celtics take the floor for the first time in nearly 200 days, as they host the Nets in Game 1 of 82. With that in mind, what better time to make some Celtics/NBA predictions (ignoring the fact that there were three games last night, or course).
So here are 10 of my predictions, in absolutely no particular order.
1. The Celtics will win 30 games, and be genuinely fun to watch
A. Their on-ball defense is going to be spectacular with Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart
B. Rajon Rondo is in a contract year, and wants max dollars.
C. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are both going to improve.
D. Year two of Brad Stevens
I don't want to give away any of the other predictions in this one, but 30-52 is right where I expect them to be. A five-win improvement over last season.
2. The Lakers will win 22 games, and Kobe is going to murder a man with his bare hands
- I've been LOLing at the Lakers roster/coach/decision making all summer and fall, so no, this has very little to do with last night's debacle. The bottom-line is that this roster is Kobe and a horrible cast of role players, with a head coach who hates threes and loves mid-range jumpers, no inside presence, and no point guard worth talking about.
This season will be a string of 9-23 shooting performances from Kobe, and 29 nationally televised blowouts. It's going to be horrible to watch, only we'll all keep watching, if only to see who Kobe murders when the Lakers drop to 11-46 in late February. Get your popcorn ready.
3. Marcus Smart will lead the NBA in steals-per-minute
- I know what you're thinking: "Mike, what the hell is steals-per-minute? Is that a stat you just made up?" Yea, basically. But the point I'm trying to make is that Smart might not get a ton of minutes (I'd predict 18-22 per game if Rondo and Bradley are healthy), but he will be a menace to opposing guards. This guy will absolutely make an All-Defensive team once he's a starter, and may get some votes as a reserve. He's that good a defender, fights that hard through screens, and never takes a play off. Sure, he'll probably shoot 38% this year, so the shooting concerns are legit, but defensively this kid has been NBA ready since his Freshman year at Oklahoma State. I think he averages a steal every 10 minutes on the floor, a pace which will lead the league.
4. Rajon Rondo will finish the season a Boston Celtic
- Things I believe about the Rondo trade rumors:
A. The Celtics will listen to every, single one. They should. If a 'Deron Williams' offer (Very good young player, lottery pick, additional first rounder) comes along, they should take it. However, it's extremely unlikely that offer comes along.
B. The Celtics still believe they can build a winning team with Rondo as one of the stars, and they want to give themselves until next summer to get that done. That means they'll dump Jeff Green and position themselves to stretch Gerald Wallace, opening up $35-40 million in cap space, allowing them to re-sign Rondo and still have the money to lure a max/near max level big man (Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, Brook Lopez, Omer Asik, ect.) to pair with Rondo. Then the Celtics would have Rondo, Star Big Man X, Sullinger, Bradley, Smart, James Young, Olynyk, a top-ten pick in the 2015 draft, a late first round pick in the 2015 draft (Clippers), two 2016 #1s, a 2017 #1 (with ability to swap with Brooklyn's aging roster), and two 2018 #1s. Call me a homer, call be biased, call me whatever you want, but the Celtics are one free agent big man away from being a very young, exciting, asset filled team one year from today. Why wouldn't you keep Rondo to see if it's possible? Especially when there's no good offers on the table, which leads me to..
C. There are basically zero teams with both the assets to acquire Rondo, AND the need for a point guard. Many elite teams have point guards, and the ones that don't, don't have the pieces to get the job done unless maybe Rondo demands a trade and the Cs get desperate. Ainge isn't giving Rondo away, so teams like the Knicks and Rockets can "desire" #9 all they want, it won't be enough.
5. Anthony Davis will have a quadruple-double
- Davis is everyone's pick for breakout star, MVP candidate, next big thing. So I'm not going to sit here and pretend I'm breaking news by saying that he's awesome (pet peeve: when someone says something legitimately everyone is saying, and tries to make it seem like an original thought), but I do think Davis has a shot to become just the 5th player in history to achieve the vaunted quad-dub. Hell, last night he nearly had a triple-double with blocks (26-17-9) while chipping in 3 steals and 2 assists, showing off the type of skill-set you need to put the league on quadruple-double watch.
As for the assists/steals, yea, it's a long-shot, but it's doable. His career highs are 6 (assists) and 5 (steals), but he's a better player now than he was his first two seasons. And if he's ever semi-close in the 3rd quarter, he may start passing like crazy to get it. After all, David Robinson (career 2.5 assists-per-game) and Nate Thurmond (2.7 APG) found a way to do it, so there's no reason Davis can't become Steve Nash for a quarter or so.
6. The Celtics will be top-five in the league in three-point attempts
- If you didn't watch there preseason, you missed something: The Celtics have become a team in which every player on the floor shoots from deep if they're open.
The Cs shot 230 threesin just eight preseason games, an eye popping 28.8 per contest, a number that would have easily led the league last season (the Rockets shot 26.6 3P per game to pace the NBA). They also hit on 10.2 per game, a number that only four teams in NBA history have averaged over the course of a full season. Whoa.
The Celtics are smart, and know that open threes are the best shot in basketball besides shots at the rim. They also know their roster is not built to bang inside (exception: Sully), so Stevens is coaching to the team's strengths. So look for this team to keep chucking them, and while that will undoubtedly lead to some frustrating 5-33 shooting nights, it will also be fun basketball with the Celtics never really being out of a game if everyone on the court is locked and loaded from deep.
7. The 76ers will win less than 10 games
- If you gamble, pound the under on the Sixers win total (15.5). This team won 19 games last season with Thaddeus Young (now in Minnesota), Evan Turner (now in Boston) and Spencer Hawes (now with the Clippers). Now those minutes are going to JaKarr Sampson, Henry Sims and Brandon Davies.
This very well might be the worst team of all-time, with their two 'best' players being Michael Carter-Williams -- a point guard that shot 40% from the field, 26% from three, had a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio and had off-season shoulder surgery --, and Nerlens Noel -- a seven-footer who was raw offensively and then played only 20 college games before tearing his ACL and missing all of last season.
And those are their best players by a mile.
Good God I'm going to have fun betting against these guys.
8. Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Marcus Thornton will all be in a million trade rumors, and at least two will be dealt
- All three guys are good players that could help a contender, all three guys are free agents next summer (assuming Green declines his player option), and all three guys are blocking young players in Boston. The Celtics won't get back a major asset for any of the three, but if they could package two (or hell, all three) to a team with a massive expiring deal, they may be able to snag a solid young player or a protected first round pick (My perfect deal: all three to the Knicks for Amar'e and a first).
Even if all the Celtics get back is a second round pick or a trade exception, it still could be worth it as it opens up playing time for the likes of Smart, Olynyk, Young and Tyler Zeller, all of whom are still on their rookie deals.
Odds are all three won't get dealt, but you'll hear their names a ton, and I'll bet two of them end up elsewhere before the end of the year.
9. New York
11. Indiana 12. Boston
...500 yards of shit-smelling foulness I can't even imagine
1. San Antonio
3. Golden State
4. Oklahoma City
10. The Clippers will beat LeBron for the NBA title
- Yup, the Lakers' little bros will win it all, dropping LeBron to 2-4 in the Finals, and causing twitter to finally explode with MJ/LeBron Finals comparisons. While I think the Spurs are the deepest team, I just don't know if a 39-year-old Duncan, 37-year-old Manu and a 33-year-old Parker (their ages come playoff time) can be three of the top four guys in back-to-back championship runs. Title runs take a ton out of teams, and while the Spurs are locks for 55+ wins again, I just think they may run out of steam come May. Then again, I'm probably wrong.
As for the Clippers, it just seems like it's their time. Let's not forget that this team was an absolute implosion/few questionable calls away from being up 3-2 against the Thunder in round two, this despite all the Donald Sterling drama. Another year of Doc, young legs, DeAndre Jordan in a contract year, improved depth with Spencer Hawes, and Blake Griffin continuing to solidify himself as a top-five player will carry them out West.
In the East, the Raptors and Wizards are both intriguing, but this comes down to Chicago and Cleveland. And at the end of the day, I can't bet against LeBron when he has two stars and a bunch of solid role players around him. The Bulls just have too many injury risks, so while they have the potential to make a title run with Pau/Noah in the middle (how much fun are they going to be to watch?), the safer bet is Cleveland.
So those are my ten. Knowing how sports work I'll be lucky to be right on three of them, but at the end of the day who really cares. Predictions are fun, but they don't mean anything (Unless I'm right on most of them in which case I'll definitely tweet this article out come spring time).