CHARLES’S 2017-18 NBA SEASON PREVIEW

WRITTEN BY CHARLES ODUGBESAN

Eastern Conference 1st Seed –

The Eastern Conference is arguably the weakest it has ever been… and not a ball has even been dribbled yet! All season long I expect to see a shootout between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers for the number 1 seed. And I’m going to go for Boston to clinch it. The Celtics seem like a well-oiled machine and despite losing Jay Crowder and Jeff Green from their roster, the addition of Kyrie Irving (who I believe is better than the also traded Isaiah Thomas) will offset the losses. Plus Kyrie will have a point to prove this year as he is now the leader of his new team. I think the Cavs will just fall short due not only to squad rotation issues, but also the fact that new point guard Thomas is expected to be out until at least January. I feel like LeBron and the Cavs will be more focused on their ventures in the playoffs than the regular season also.

Western Conference 1st Seed –

The Rockets, the Thunder and the Timberwolves all now have a concentration of elite level players that they believe (along with the Spurs) will challenge the Golden State Warriors for the top seed in the Western Conference. The general landscape of the West will be more difficult than ever and I anticipate that team’s respective records will be hindered because of it, but the Warriors are the reigning NBA Champions and despite a fairly quiet off season still look to be the prominent force in basketball right now.

Scoring Champion –

The Golden State Warriors are the most prolific scorers in the NBA and finals MVP Kevin Durant is their most potent weapon. I expect KD to stave off competition from the usual threats (Westbrook, Harden, AD and Steph to name a few) and finish the regular season as scoring champ.

MVP –

My pick for this year’s MVP is Kyrie Irving for two reasons. Firstly, assuming that his performances this season warrant his consideration, the NBA seems to have a knack for buying into the most compelling story. And from this off season the biggest story has been Irving’s decision to leave LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, in an attempt to be THE man at his own team and prove a point. Secondly, we have to consider the fact that Kyrie is in the Eastern Conference. A plethora of superstars have left for the West and so one could actually argue that the likes of Kyrie will have easier seasons. But at the same time this could help his case… all the stars in the West wear each other and their teams’ records down… Kyrie and the Celtics improve on last year’s record… Kyrie proves to be the best player on one of the two best teams in the East… these are all assumptions of course; but it makes sense right?

Rookie of the Year –

In terms of the rookies for the upcoming NBA season, a lot of hype has and will naturally be surrounding a certain Los Angeles Laker this year. However, my pick for Rookie of the Year is from the East and the Philadelphia 76ers in particular: Ben Simmons. Simmons (the number 1 pick from the 2016 draft) is actually entering his sophomore in the NBA and after sitting out the entirety of last season is expected to start as the point guard for the new look 76ers team. They are a young exciting bunch who are expected to perform this year and with the Eastern Conference the way it is, they have a chance to reach the playoffs, something a certain Los Angeles Laker may not achieve himself. If Simmons can be at the hub of all good activity in this team then he will definitely be a contender for Rookie of the Year at the season end.

Sixth Man of the Year –

My pick for 6th man of the year is going to Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics. I feel as though the Celtics will potentially improve on their record from last year and also maintain their position as number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Smart has improved with each season I have watched him and though he will have to accept a new role coming off the bench, he is still a vital piece in the jigsaw and an emotional leader in the locker room and on the court. Here’s hoping he proves me right.

Surprise Team –

I think the Western Conference is too congested for a lesser to team to really take the NBA by surprise this year. As such, I look to the East and the Milwaukee Bucks to spring a surprise. With the East starved of a lot of its’ quality, seeding positions and subsequent playoff runs are really up for grabs this year. I’m certain that the Bucks have a future MVP in All Star Giannis Antetokounmpo (only took me two tries to get his name right) and I believe he and Jabari Parker can lead their team to a serious playoff push. The Bucks are definitely a team the Celtics and the Cavs should be wary of.

Team that will disappoint –

Great expectation can often lead to great disappointment. I’m keeping a close eye on the performance of the Minnesota Timberwolves this year. On paper the Timberwolves have an amazing collection of talent with Jimmy Butler, Karl Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague with the likes of Jamal Crawford coming off the bench! But there will be many questions that come with this new look squad. Will they gel or will personalities clash? How soon can they gel? How do they match up in the big games against the higher seeds? And will they sustain a solid playoff run? As of now, this remains to be seen. But it would not surprise me if they were to fall short. Things don’t always seem as great in practise as they were on paper!

Eastern Conference Finals –

I honestly don’t see the Wizards, Raptors or the Bucks causing much problems in the progression of the Celtics and the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference finals. They may provide some obstacles along the way, but ultimately I think the finals matchup is inevitable. Let’s hope the Celtics can make it interesting this year and push the Cavs to 6 maybe 7 games. And boy, wouldn’t we love to see LeBron versus Kyrie in a best of 7!

Western Conference Finals –

Seeding positions I believe will be crucial to the playoff runs of the big teams in the Western Conference. I think it’s safe to stay that we can go ahead and confirm Golden State’s place in the Conference Finals as the number 1 seed. I would love to see the Rockets or the Thunder have a crack at the Warriors over a best of 7 series. But unfortunately, I feel as though the San Antonio Spurs, led by a sure MVP candidate in Kawhi Leonard, will clinch the number 2 seed in the regular season and ultimately avoid having to face Golden State until the conference finals. I wouldn’t think it’s wise to deny the quality of this team and it’s coach Gregg Popovich and I believe they have what it takes to get the job done.

NBA Finals –

The Spurs are great, the Rockets, Thunder and Celtics have realistic shots… but as far as I’m concerned, it’s Cleveland versus Golden State Take 4!! The Cavs have made some moves in the off season and now have more depth and arguably more quality in their squad. But, unless they can piece everything together and LeBron can have himself and the team firing on all cylinders, I still can’t see them overthrowing a Warriors repeat and their 3rd title in 4 years. Warriors in 6!!

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