by Zach Seyko
The 2015-2016 NBA season tipped off and fans everywhere are excited to watch the season unfold as rising stars and experienced veterans battle it out on the court to claim the championship.
At the conclusion of last season, the Golden State Warriors were crowned champions after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The Cavs were seriously hindered by injuries as star guard Kyrie Irving and talented forward Kevin Love were both lost to season ending injuries before they reached the championship series. Cavs forward LeBron James had one of the greatest performances by any player in NBA history, but it was all for nothing as he could not bring a trophy back to Cleveland like he had promised.
The Cavaliers and Warriors are the immediate favorites to return to the finals this season as both teams managed to retain their core players from a season ago. Golden State is led by first time MVP and still improving point guard Stephen Curry, and is also represented by Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguadola. The Cavaliers had a very successful offseason as they signed Kevin Love to a five year extension and brought in complementary guard Mo Williams to fill the void of Irving until he returns this season.
While the Warriors and Cavs are picked by most to return the finals, there are some teams that can challenge that assumption. The San Antonio Spurs picked up one of the best players on the free agency market with the signing of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge brings the youth that the Spurs desperately needed as their core players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginoboli age. In spite of their age however, these men have consistently been capable of playing at an elite level throughout the duration of the season and postseason. Aldridge will likely be able to aid them in their quest for another postseason run with his all-star talent.
Another team that joins the championship conversation is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder failed to make the playoffs a season ago due to the subtraction of MVP caliber player Kevin Durant. Durant missed a majority of the season with an injury, but this opened the door for stud point guard Russell Westbrook to break out. With the dynamic duo back together, and also with rookie head coach Billy Donovan, the Thunder can reach new heights and compete, if not surpass, the Warriors and Spurs in the Western Conference.
The Cavaliers are almost on an island by themselves in the Eastern Conference. Very few teams come to mind when debating who can beat Cleveland in the East. Last season, the Atlanta Hawks surprised many with their spectacular season and their capture of the top seed during the playoffs. But at full power, the Cavs are dominant and significantly better than their rivals.
The Chicago Bulls have the potential to give Cleveland fits, but multiple things have to go right in order for them to upset the favorites. The Bulls have struggled with maintaining a healthy roster. Point guard Derrick Rose is the face of this team, but he is usually reduced to watching the games from the bench due to injury. Rose has the potential to be an electrifying player when healthy, however countless knee injuries have sidelined him year after year.
The NBA has a few up and coming teams on the verge of a playoff berth after some years spent rebuilding. One notable team is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who owned the first overall pick in the 2015 draft. The organization selected Kentucky center Karl-Anthony, a 6’11’’ player with huge potential. The Timberwolves have a solid combination of young talent and veterans. Last season, Minnesota acquired their former star player at the trade deadline, Kevin Garnett. He is now guiding the youth in Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Nikola Pekovic.
Another team that needs to bounce back after consecutive porous seasons is the New York Knicks. The Knicks, under the leadership of coaching great Phil Jackson have yet to put the pieces together for a championship. On draft day, Jackson drafted Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis. Knicks fans were not pleased with the choice and expressed their displeasure with a sea of boos. But so far, he has impressed through the early weeks of the season.
What is great about the NBA season is that it is full of numerous surprises and outcomes. It is difficult to predict these instances, but I will give it my best attempt.
First I will predict the winners of the prestigious end of season awards: Point Guard Stephen Curry will win the Most Valuable Player award for the second consecutive year; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis will win the Defensive Player of the Year award; Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens will take home the Coach of the Year award; and finally, Rookie of the Year honors will be awarded to Karl-Anthony Towns.
Finally, which team will make it to the postseason? I believe that in no particular order, the eight teams entering the playoffs from the Western Conference will be the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. Coming out of the Eastern Conference will be the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. Representing the Western and Eastern Conferences in the Finals will be the Cavaliers and the Spurs, with the Cavaliers claiming the championship crown.
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 4 Sports