10 Predictions to Define This NBA Season

  • LeBron James
    The Triple Threat

    LeBron, Love, and Irving will lead the Cavs to the Finals

    The decision of the world’s best player to return home this summer instantly propelled the Cleveland Cavaliers from Eastern Conference basement-dwellers to title contenders. Pairing up LeBron James with one of the league’s young stars in Kyrie Irving was scary enough–but then Cleveland traded for Love to transform themselves into some sort of video game roster. This season, the Cavs are permanently on #LeaguePassAlert.

    There’s no one in the East that can stop them.

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  • Derrick Rose
    Bulls See Red

    Old rivalries die hard

    Derrick Rose–another injury-ridden star who will make his return to the floor this season–will be expected to immediately carry the Bulls and compete with the Cavs in the East. The addition of Pau Gasol will help the point guard, but the success or failure of Chicago will ultimately fall on Rose’s shoulders.

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  • Miami Heat
    The Flame Is Still Lit

    It’s still hot in the 305. Don’t sleep on the Eastern Conference Champs

    Let’s see. Miami still has Dwyane Wade who, last I checked, is coming off a season averaging a very solid 19.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, and was so efficient that he still finished in the top 20 in PER.

    Miami still has Chris Bosh, too, who could explode for a monster year now that he doesn’t have to play out beyond the arc to improve the Heat’s driving lanes.

    Miami still has Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, and they also added Luol Deng this summer, a perfect third banana. Overlook this squad at your own risk.

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  • Kawhi Leonard
    Views of the Sixth

    Spurs still got it and win back-to-back titles

    The Spurs brought everyone back from their championship-winning squad of a year ago and while Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are all a year older, it’s Kawhi Leonard who holds the keys. At just 23, Leonard is coming off the best season of his career, yet Gregg Popovich still held him under 30 minutes a game. With San Antonio slowly transitioning into Leonard’s team, he must start playing more minutes. That might be all it takes to make him an All-Star, too. Either way, the whole team will be fresh to reign over the NBA once again.

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  • Russell Westbrook
    The Thunder Rolls

    Westbrook puts OKC on his back and earns first half MVP

    Although he is currently sidelined with a fracture in his right foot, Kevin Durant is still the reigning MVP, the league’s best scorer and part of a hungry Thunder team that is talented enough to win a championship. Their window for a ring is still open, but one of the game’s best duos of Durant and Russell Westbrook will not be together this year…at least not for the first two months.

    Westbrook has wanted this opportunity forever, and we think he’ll take full advantage. Anyone who thinks Russ can’t hold the fort down by himself is out of it — just a few months ago, Westbrook finished up OKC’s playoff run with averages of 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game. (And 2.2 steals on top of that). Those are MVP-type numbers and Westbrook will put them up again without KD around.

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  • Lance Stephenson
    The Swarm is Back

    Jordan and his hive are back in Charlotte to reclaim the city

    It took him a few years, but Michael Jordan is finally turning into a good, maybe even a very good basketball executive. His new-look Hornets might be the biggest sleeper in the Eastern Conference. They brought Lance Stephenson in this summer and he could be on the cusp of a major breakout now that the he’ll be unleashed. They drafted a stud with All-Star potential in Noah Vonleh. They have solid holdovers like Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. Watch out for Charlotte.

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  • Stephen Curry
    Warriors Make a Splash

    Curry and Thompson will be the highest scoring duo in the league

    While Stephen Curry is already considered the best shooter in the world and one of the game’s 10 best players, Klay Thompson could be on the verge of making an All-NBA team. This summer with Team USA, he was one of the most consistent players, while also showcasing his improvements as a defender. This season? He’s gonna blow up like Logic.

    Amazingly, this duo was just eighth in total scoring last year, trailing OKC (Westbrook, Durant), Miami (‘Bron, Wade), Minnesota (Love, Kevin Martin), Portland (Lillard, Aldridge), Houston (Harden, Howard), the Clippers (Griffin, Paul), and even Sacramento (Cousins, Isaiah Thomas). But the duos in Miami, Minnesota, and Sacramento were broken up, Durant is hurt and will miss significant time, and we expect a few of these players to take a step back. Thompson? He’ll up his scoring to 21-23 points per game and combine with Curry for the highest-scoring duo in the league.

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  • Kobe Bryant
    Black Mamba Strikes Back

    24 strikes back and proves the haters wrong

    At the age of 36, Kobe Bryant enters his 19th–and possibly toughest–season in the league. Last year, he played just six games after tearing his Achilles in April, 2013, but appears to be at full health after this preseason. Although he is now older and has lost a step, the 16-time All-Star will still have the ability to dominate this season, as we discussed in the summer.

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  • Lob City Reigns

    Blake and CP3 lead the Clippers to win the Pacific Division title

    Many are predicting the Clippers will make the NBA Finals. We won’t go that far — they have yet to prove they can beat San Antonio. But a Pacific Division title is all but assured for the most talented team in the NBA.

    They have it all, everything you need to win 55-60 games during the regular season. Blake Griffin plays as hard as anyone, and no one can dominate the game from his position the way CP3 can. The other parts — DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Doc Rivers — all fit perfectly.

    To top it all off, the Paul-Griffin combo has never been closer. They know exactly what the other wants from them.

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  • Carmelo Anthony
    'Melo State of Mind

    ‘Melo will led the league in scoring

    While Golden State’s Splash Brothers will lead the league in combined scoring, there’s no better offensive player than Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks will struggle to get wins while adjusting to Phil Jackson‘s Triangle, but that won’t stop ‘Melo from leading the league in scoring. Think about it. Durant is out for up to two months and who knows how he’ll look when he eventually returns. LeBron is in Cleveland sharing shots with two other high-volume stars. James Harden seems to have maxed out at around 25 points per game. Other than that, no one is touching Anthony.

    Carmelo won the 2012-13 scoring championship with nearly 29 points per game. We are betting he raises that this year to almost 30. Remember how dominate Jordan was in the post in the Triangle? Anthony will be just as good there.

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  • LeBron James
  • Derrick Rose
  • Miami Heat
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Lance Stephenson
  • Stephen Curry
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Carmelo Anthony

Finally, the NBA is back. The season tips off tonight in what is expected to be a wild year after the chaotic offseason in which we saw franchise-altering signings, epic trades, and welcomed in a whole new talented crop of fresh faces.

The product on the floor will, as expected, be extremely entertaining–from LeBron James’ greatness to Derrick Rose’s high-flying ability to Kevin Durant’s (eventual) scoring prowess, the league is spectacular. Kobe Bryant will make his comeback in an attempt to prove the critics of the Lakers wrong and shake things up in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

In the Eastern Conference, LeBron and Kevin Love have teamed up with Kyrie Irving to try to help the Cavaliers win their first-ever title, while Rose and the Bulls look to contend with Cleveland for the conference’s top spot. Of course, there are other respectable competitors such as the Wizards and Raptors that will look to surprise in the playoffs this season.

Yet what the players do on the court is only half the fun. Although it may be easy to forget at certain moments, these superhuman athletes are people, too, filled with emotion, humor, and everything else us “average people” feel. Whether it is their goofy outfits or their rhymes on the mic, it is interesting to see what our favorite players do away from the hardwood.

In preparation for the wildly fun and memorable season we are about to witness, here are our 10 Predictions to Define This NBA Season.

Words. Matthew Hochberg and Sean Sweeney

Follow Matthew on Twitter at @MatthewHochberg

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney