8 bold predictions for the 2016-17 NBA season
In just a few short days, the NBA season will finally be upon us. Starting Tuesday, we'll have more than seven months to discuss basketball games everyday.
But until then, all we can do is anticipate and predict.
We've already slated each team with a win total, but we got a bit bolder by making some definitive predictions.
Brandon Jennings will outperform Derrick Rose
Much has been made of the New York Knicks bringing in Derrick Rose for the final year of his contract, but perhaps the most cost-efficient pickup of the offseason also belonged to Phil Jackson. Brandon Jennings, on his one-year, $5 million deal, has everything to prove at the age of 27, not far removed from Achiles surgery.
Rose, too, will be motivated in a contract year, and his health is actually trending in a positive direction. But in 66 games last year -- a fairly large sample -- he wasn't that good. He averaged 16.4 points per game, but on 15.9 shot attempts. He shot worse than his career average from three-point range, and the Bulls were better statistically with him on the bench.
If, by midseason, there's a contingent of Knicks fans clamoring for Jennings to take the reigns as starting point man, don't be surprised.
The 76ers will trade Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor
There's currently a logjam in the 76ers' frontcourt, and it'll only get more crowded as Joel Embiid works his way into a full-time role. Assuming Embiid has a future in Philly -- if for no other reason than because another team trading assets for him would be a tremendous risk -- either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor have to go.
There's been rumblings of Noel's unhappiness with his uncertain future, though his defensive skill could make him the more compatible of the two -- and thus the one Philadelphia may try harder to keep. Either way, there's likely a move to be made soon, and Embiid succeeding will only speed up that process.
No coaches will be fired during the season
Fred Hoiberg has an outside chance of getting canned if the Bulls' locker room gets toxic, but in just his second season, he'll likely get a full 82 games before a move is made. Outside of Chicago, it's hard to see any other coach being dismissed before the season is through. Sixteen of the 30 coaches are either in their first or second seasons of their jobs. The teams that are slated to have down years are operating with new coaches, for the most part.
It's unusual, but this year could see all 82 games pass without a head coach firing.
The Warriors won't win more than 66 games
Let's get one thing straight: The Warriors are in better position to win a title this year than they were last year. In the playoffs, it comes down to how many big-time playmakers you have. In the regular season, though, there may be some kinks to iron out.
Integrating Durant into the gameplan, combined with Steve Kerr dolling out rest on a more regular basis, is a formula that will almost definitely equate to significantly less wins in 2017.
Karl-Anthony Towns will start the All-Star Game
Last year's Western Conference All-Stars have a void to fill in the starting lineup with Kobe Bryant now retired. And Karl-Anthony Towns may be the most eccentric star the league has seen in years.
As a rookie, Towns averaged 18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. As a 20-year-old. In Year 2, under Tom Thibodeau, expect even bigger things.
Dwight Howard will become likable again
We know, it's hard to fathom. But if you don't already have a preexisting hatred for him after all his recent departures, you may just end up taking a liking to this new Dwight Howard.
After sour exits from each team he's previously played on, Howard has to understand he's at a point in his career where the only way his narrative can change is by winning. It's hard to imagine head coach Mike Budenholzer allowing any one player to put himself above the team or its culture. If Howard dedicates himself to the pick-and-roll, contributes maximum effort on defense and, most importantly, stays healthy, he'll have a great chance at redeeming himself.
Myles Turner will emerge as one of the league's best centers
Last season, Myles Turner didn't see as much playing time as he could've -- it's part of the reason Frank Vogel is no longer employed by the Pacers. In less than 23 minutes per game, Turner averaged 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks -- at age 19. If new head coach Nate McMillan dedicates significant minutes and a starting role to Turner, it's easy to see the young player being recognized as one of the game's most versatile at his position by year's end.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will average 20 points per game
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been nicely compensated by the Milwaukee Bucks with a $100 million contract. This year, he'll make the leap into a special tier of NBA players.
In Year 3 of his career last season, the Greek Freak averaged a career-high 16.9 points on better than 50 percent shooting. He grabbed 7.7 boards, dished out 4.3 assists, grabbed 1.2 steals and swatted away 1.4 blocks per night. And he's still just 21.
This will be the year Antetokounmpo starts to earn recognition league-wide as one of the best players right now -- not just as a future investment.