We are about two full weeks through the NBA season, so I figured it was time to give out some hot takes for this NBA season. Teams have given us a rough idea of what they are going to look like this year, and some things are exactly as we expected: Russell Westbrook is a human juggernaut, Golden State will have growing pains but still dominate, and Cleveland will own the Eastern Conference. But what has been somewhat surprising? What are some things that will go differently than we originally anticipated? Here are some predictions going forward:
- The MVP will come from Houston, not Oklahoma City: I understand Westbrook has played on another level, but does anyone realize that James Harden has basically played almost as incredibly early on? Transitioning to full-time point guard, he has already racked up multiple double-digit assist games while still maintaining his elite scoring status. Offensively, he may be more intimidating than Westbrook because of his ability to light it up from long-range, and his newfound passing game puts him at a new level statistically. Plus, he does not have nearly the same amount of pressure on him as Russ, and his team is better equipped to help him not need to carry a massive load throughout the season’s duration. Long-term, I like Harden to take home his first MVP.
- Boston will not be a top-three team in the East: This one hurts being a fan of the Celtics, but from what I have seen, it doesn’t appear to me that they will take that next step that everyone (myself included) thought they would. As much as they have star power in Horford and Thomas, insane depth and a great coach in Brad Stevens, that won’t be enough to propel them to the top. It’s going to take time for Horford to adjust to the offense and vice versa, and the defense is going to need to play much better than it has. The interior has been absolutely atrocious, and the more teams attack them in the paint, the more they will get beat. Throw in the fact that Cleveland is the same team as last year, Toronto hasn’t skipped a beat and several other teams, such as Chicago, look like they are at the same level as Boston, and I don’t see the Celtics in the same light as so many others.
- The Lakers will lose their top-three protected draft pick: The Lakers have looked somewhat good so far, which is both good and bad. The positive side is that progress is finally being made, the youngsters are developing, and players are buying into Luke Walton’s system. The bad news in that this means their protected draft pick is likely going to end up going to Philadelphia because they will not pick in the top three. I’m not saying these Lakers are good enough to make the playoffs – there are still far too many in front of them out West to make that assumption. What I am saying is they aren’t the same bottom feeders of the past few years, and they will compete and play hard every single night. Teams better not take them likely, or they might mess around and win a few games – don’t take it from me, take it from Golden State.
- The biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference is… the Jazz?: Speaking of the Warriors, they were dismantled on opening night by the terminator-like San Antonio Spurs. That doesn’t mean Popovich’s team is the best bet out West to beat GSW in the long haul; no, that right belongs to the team that beat San Antonio on its home floor, the Utah Jazz. You might think I’m crazy, but just hear me out. They have an extremely talented core centered around Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward. Rodney Hood has become an excellent scorer since moving into the starting five and is an early dark horse for Most Improved Player. New additions George Hill and Joe Johnson have fit in seamlessly and adapted well to the roles they have been asked to play. Lastly, Quinn Snyder happens to be a very good coached, and even when they were hurt most of last season, he had them fighting in every game. Golden State will be nearly impossible to beat, but if there is a team that can beat them before the Finals, that team is the Utah Jazz.
- Demarcus Cousins finally gets traded, and he goes to Indiana: Boogie Cousins hates playing in Sacramento, and some point soon, they are going to have to move him before free agency or lose him for nothing. They will need a trade partner who has some young talent to give them, as well as draft picks and such desperation to make a statement that they will give up the house. Enter the Indiana Pacers: Paul George is in his prime as a superstar with some veteran and young talent, but not enough to even beat Toronto, let alone Cleveland. At some point, they are going to need to give him another true superstar to play alongside if they ever hope to move up the food chain. It may cost Myles Turner and several draft picks, but their window to win is right now, and Cousins is the type of talent who can put them over the top.
Cover Photo Courtesy a.espncdn.com.