Thanks to the schedule beginning two weeks earlier than normal, the NBA season isn't too far away. This offseason was, hands down, one of the most eventful the league has ever seen.
Three superstars moved to new cities, nearly every team has assembled something resembling a trio of 'stars,' a number of generational talents are coming of age, and only a handful of teams plan on being purposely awful – potentially making this season very competitive.
The 2017/18 season is primed to have one of the better narratives of this decade, and now we get it two weeks earlier than expected.
NBA bold predictions: Boston Celtics
Celtics fail to secure home-court advantage
Everyone is looking at Boston in one way – with envy. The shimmer is still distractingly emanant after Danny Ainge acquired what the majority of people consider being the most prolific offensive point guard in the East, Kyrie Irving. In addition, they also managed to sign highly sought after forward Gordon Hayward, who will bring quality late-game execution and solid defense to the team.
And the total price of this haul? The team’s elite depth. It can be argued a lot of Boston’s success over the last few years has been a result of their depth, which was decimated this offseason during their quest to assemble the trio of stars, which includes Al Horford and his max contract. They have a total of six experienced players in their current rotation. The rest are journeymen, rookies, or highly inexperienced players trying to find their feet in the NBA. Relying this heavily on a group of unknowns rarely works out from the start. They’ll succeed, but not immediately.
NBA bold predictions: Toronto Raptors
Raptors have an All-NBA backcourt, win the division
Much ado has been made over whether 31-year-old Kyle Lowry will become a shell of his best self, or continue on his current trajectory. However, Lowry has an opportunity to be healthy for the entire season for the first time in years. His good health, combined with a tighter bond between teammates will lead to Lowry posting another high-quality season and earn him an All-NBA selection.
The same goes for teammate DeMar DeRozan, who will build on his incredible eighth season in style, also earning an All-NBA spot. Word over the summer is DeRozan has worked considerably on improving his three-point shot. If a player with his ability (he is already a 27-point-per-game scorer) can add a long-range shot it will bump him up yet another level on the ladder. The team will win the division thanks largely to the consistent and quality play of this star backcourt.
NBA bold predictions: Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid plays at least 70 games, Philadelphia fights for the eighth seed
The biggest hurdle Philadelphia currently face is the health of their star center. Embiid has failed to stay healthy the last three years, and it’s become a burden for team management when considering the direction of the team overall.
Thanks mostly to dumb luck, Embiid sheds his various restrictions and goes on to play at least 70 games. His consistent presence on the floor ultimately leads to success for the team, and the Sixers will end up fighting for the final playoff spot in the East as the most exciting young team in the league.
NBA bold predictions: Brooklyn Nets
Nets put together a quality season, win 35 games
The Nets have been a case study in how not to plan for the future. Their choice to mortgage draft picks for one season of mediocre play has haunted them since the day the trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett occurred. Not only has the team been unable to add cheap youth through the draft since the deal, their payroll has been bloated by the bad contracts they have been forced to take on in order to add young players via trade.
Prior to the draft, management was able to trade for embattled guard D’Angelo Russell, before going on to select Jarret Allen in the first round, a solid replacement for long-time Net Brook Lopez. With a roster of good role players, good defenders and a couple of impressive young up and comers, the Nets have a chance to shed the negative image that has plagued them for four years.
NBA bold predictions: New York Knicks
Rookie Frank Ntilikina is traded and head coach Jeff Hornacek is fired before December
Why the franchise decided to wait until after the draft to part ways with Phil Jackson is an even bigger mystery than the choice to select Ntilikina over Malik Monk in the 2017 draft. As a result, the team will treat this season as a chance to wipe the slate and erase all semblance of the oft-failed triangle offense.
Ntilikina is simply not the talent the team needs next to soon-to-be superstar Kristaps Porzingis, and it’s impossible for the team's core to respect Hornacek any less than they already do. If the team plans on keeping Porzingis in the Big Apple, the first step is to remove arguably his biggest deterrent – his head coach.
NBA bold predictions: Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James fails to reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010
A lot of uncertainty surrounds the Cavaliers this season, from the exact return of Isaiah Thomas to how the team will function without Irving. In addition to those questions, LeBron James will be entering his 15th season in the league – raising worries that he will slow down at some point in the very near future. Despite these questions, the team is still very talented and should secure home court in the first round. Prolonged success in the postseason is not guaranteed this year, however.
While James' drive to win will never be questioned, this Cavaliers roster is the most volatile group he has been a part of since he first left Cleveland in 2010. The team, as assembled, has more uncertainties than any of his teams that have reached the Finals each of the last eight years. Roster consistency is a highly sought after commodity in basketball, and for good reason. James will experience exactly why it’s so valuable this season.
NBA bold predictions: Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis will be an MVP finalist, lead the Bucks to a top-four seeding
The Bucks have committed to a specific style of play, and even better, a specific style of player. The pinnacle of their collection of two-way, lengthy players is, of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo, a transcendent talent who has impressed the entire league time and again.
This will be the season the 'Greek Freak' applies his talent and makes a true impact for his team, leading them to a top-four seed amidst the wild volatility that is currently present at the top of the Eastern Conference. Giannis will finish in the top three of MVP voting and Milwaukee will win around 50 games, entrenching themselves as one of the elite teams in the East.
NBA bold predictions: Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner is an All-Star, becomes a leader for Indiana
Turner has been trending upward since the playoffs of his rookie year where, after an inconsistent regular season, he proved he belonged in the league by displaying elite shot-blocking ability. He then proceeded to effectively extend his range as a sophomore, and the former Longhorn is now ready to take on the responsibility of leading a young team.
As a long, rangy big, Turner is a hot commodity in the transforming NBA. His athleticism allows him to be a playmaker, and his talent affords him the ability to be consistent. While his production may struggle early on in his new high-volume role, he has the tools to eventually succeed and thrive as the top option for the Pacers.
NBA bold predictions: Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is traded, Pistons choose to rebuild
Detroit has struggled to break the ceiling with Drummond as the team's centerpiece, every year showing promise and every spring failing to deliver. It’s time for the Pistons to put their foot down and blow it up. Drummond is the most valuable piece they have, which says a lot considering his clear deficiencies on offense, but they should be able to get a good return for both he and Reggie Jackson - enough to make a rebuild worth it in the long run.
NBA bold predictions: Chicago Bulls
Bulls fail to win at least 15 games for the first time since 98/99
This Bulls team is awful. In fact, it’s so awful, they really can't be compared to any Bulls team that has been assembled in the last 19 seasons. Not since the end of the Michael Jordan era has a Bulls team been so devoid of talent or leadership. Though their 13-win total in 1998/99 came in a shortened season, the roster comparisons are evident.
Their best player is a third-year guard coming off of an ACL tear and, for as talented as Zach LaVine is, most of his ability was based on his athleticism - which is, at the very least, hindered post-injury. Dwyane Wade might compete for the title of most talented, but his tenure in Chicago could be gone with the wind as soon as the season opener.
After dealing their only valuable asset for pennies on the dollar, the Bulls and GarPax have set themselves up for a rough five-year window. This is just the beginning, folks.
NBA bold predictions: Washington Wizards
Wizards win the Eastern Conference
A lot of rosters have been shuffled since the end of last season, and among the commotion, Washington stayed together. Thanks to this, they are now the most stable and talented team in the East and will prove so by securing home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Their entire starting five will return, while John Wall has gotten better each season in the league, especially since rehabbing from his latest knee surgery. Otto Porter’s contract is a big bite out of their cap space, but his salary ultimately won’t affect his on-court play. While they don’t have a 'big three,' Washington has one of the best starting groups in the East.
NBA bold predictions: Charlotte Hornets
Dwight Howard comes to life, Hornets win 48 games
Looking at what Charlotte gave up for Dwight Howard, you would think he’d be cut before training camp. But, Steve Clifford will succeed in finding a solid role for the dinosaur and taking advantage of his size and rebounding on a stout defensive team.
Kemba Walker and Nic Batum will also excel, finding great success on the perimeter thanks to Howard’s strength in the post. Along with his rebounding and defensive ability, Howard will be one of the best pick and roll partners Walker, one of the league's best PnR scorers, has ever played with. Once again, roster continuity plays a big role in the success of the team.
NBA bold predictions:Miami Heat
Heat will miss the playoffs
Despite Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside doing what they do best, the Heat will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, mainly due to Dion Waiters having a tough time replicating his stellar play of last season.
Lacking a second scorer will prove to be fatal for the Heat’s hopes of reaching the postseason for the first time since the departure of all three superstars. This will trigger Pat Riley to rethink the current makeup of the team and we could finally see Dragic traded after Miami flirted with the idea so often the last few seasons.
NBA bold predictions: Orlando Magic
Orlando is the worst team in the league
With a few bottom dweller teams finally gaining some traction this offseason, Orlando will become the worst team in the league. Following a lackluster summer where they failed to make any big splashes during free agency, on top of selecting the biggest risk in the top ten of the draft, expectations are low and agitation is high.
Their core of Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Nikola Vucevic is defensively inept, and none of them can shoot from long range. The team has plenty of holes to fill and no clear way of filling them this season. Orlando is home to one of the worst rebuilds of the decade, following the 2012 departure of Dwight Howard, and this season will also be a huge disappointment.
NBA bold predictions: Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta battles with Orlando for league worst
Much like Orlando, Atlanta is in a dire position to start the season. Their best player is Dennis Schroder, followed by career journeymen and a plethora of youth. Rookie first-rounder John Collins will see all the opportunities he can handle this season and could end up being the most successful story of the year. Taurean Prince showed glimpses of potential last season and should get all the time he needs to develop on the court at the small forward spot, while newly inked center Dewayne Dedmon could prove to be a diamond in the rough, with a chance to play big minutes on a team without much frontcourt depth.
However, without a true leader or star, Atlanta has fully committed itself to what will be an ugly rebuild – a far cry from the franchise record 60 wins they enjoyed just three years ago.
NBA bold predictions: San Antonio
Kawhi Leonard wins MVP and Defensive Player of the Year
After finishing as a finalist for both last season, Leonard will continue his ascent as the best two-way player in the NBA by taking home each of the major player awards, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win both the MVP and DPOY awards in the same season.
Leonard, who has proven himself a tactician on both ends of the court, will also lead the Spurs to a rematch in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
NBA bold predictions: Houston Rockets
Both James Harden and Chris Paul average over 8.0 assists per game
With all the questions surrounding Harden and Paul, one thing is certain: they are offensive wizards. Head coach Mike D'Antoni will employ what he knows best, which is a fast-paced offense that puts up a lot of points.
In what will end up being the most interesting story in the West, both Harden and Paul will take turns running the point, each racking up big numbers through two different styles of play. Paul will run a slower half court oriented style while Harden will push the tempo much like the team did last season. This change of pace mid-game will cause a lot of problems for opposing defenses, making Houston one of the best offensive teams in the NBA.
NBA bold predictions: New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins lead Pelicans to playoff berth
Things were confusing for New Orleans' frontcourt last season as Davis and Cousins struggled to coexist. Following a full summer to get acquainted, however, the two should work better together this upcoming season. Cousins' increasing ability to stretch the floor will help facilitate a successful gameplan in which Davis runs the middle of the floor while Cousins plays all the way out to the three-point line.
Each player is arguably the best at their positions and it seems unlikely they won't be able to succeed in some way given the amount of practice they have now had together. Point guard Jrue Holiday is the only other player on this team worthy of a starting spot, so he will be heavily relied upon to facilitate the offense through both of his big men. Holiday has been a solid player throughout his career and there's no evident reason things will change this year.
NBA bold predictions: Dallas Mavericks
Point guard Dennis Smith Jr wins Rookie of the Year award
Getting more opportunity on offense than Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, Smith will deliver a highlight-filled rookie season worthy of the ROTY award. The Mavericks have a solid core developing, and outside of Harrison Barnes, Smith is the only other player who can execute a high-volume role on the offense. Seeing as how Rick Carlisle generally asks for a lot from his point guards, expect to see a lot of opportunities for Smith.
Combining elite athletic ability and sound fundamentals, the former NC State standout is in prime position to put up 20 points per game. While his play won't lead to many wins for the Mavericks, it will be a worthy opening act for what people expect to be an exciting career - given that he stays healthy.
NBA bold predictions: Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol finishes the year in another jersey
Memphis, oh Memphis. The Home of the Blues will live up to its name this season as the Grizzlies begin a massive rebuild starting immediately. Fans should expect to see a drastic change to the team that has become the epitome of resilience by making the playoffs in seven straight seasons.
After letting Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, and Tony Allen walk this summer, the Grizzlies have committed to youth and will miss the leadership that has made them such a tough matchup over the last seven years.
Starting center Marc Gasol, 32, isn't getting any younger, and the team stands to gain nothing by letting him age further on a quickly changing roster. With a total of 11 players that have played five years or less in the league, Memphis will ultimately trade Gasol for draft picks, cap space or youth. Acquiring a combination of the three will be the best case scenario, and that is management's number one goal heading into this season.
NBA bold predictions: Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook breaks his own triple-double record
Westbrook tallied 42 triple-doubles last season, breaking the previous record of 41, held for 55 years by Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson. The new record will ultimately stand for just one year with the dynamic point guard recording at least 43 this season. After acquiring Paul George this summer, the Thunder have provided Westbrook with a true second option to replace the hole left by Kevin Durant's departure. While his average point total won't be as high, he will still be heavily relied upon to facilitate the offense for his teammates.
The big question in relation to his quest for triple doubles is whether the team will actively box out opponents so that Westbrook can grab rebounds to pad his stats. The controversial decision to cede boards to the point guard caught the attention of NBA fans last season, and fans will keep a close eye on how the team approaches the boards this year.
NBA bold predictions: Minnesota Timberwolves
Timberwolves win the division
The Timberwolves are on the cusp of greatness, having assembled a team of playmakers and great young talent. With the addition of Jimmy Butler, Minnesota now has a roster worthy of contention in the competitive Western Conference. The Timberwolves have failed to make the playoffs in 13 straight seasons - currently one of the worst droughts in the league, yet despite this, they will prove to be a tough matchup for nearly every team in the league.
The elite combination of Karl Anthony-Towns in the post and Jimmy Butler on the outside will prove to be one of the top duos in the NBA, with excellent tertiary options in Andrew Wiggins, who could make a big leap in the final year of his rookie deal. There's also Jeff Teague, a seasoned vet well-versed in postseason success thanks to his seven playoff appearances with Atlanta.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau reunites with his favorite player, Butler, and will put together the best season Minnesota has seen since Garnett wore the jersey.
NBA bold predictions: Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic emerges as an MVP candidate
Entering his third season, Jokic has already shown an ability to single-handedly change the outcome of a game. His sublime passing provided fans with some of the most amazing dishes seen since Steve Nash graced the league.
In addition to his elite court-vision, the Serbian has established himself as an incredibly efficient scorer. After posting a 58% field goal percentage, along with 82% from the free throw line last season, Jokic should prove to be a quality three-point shooter this year.
In doing so, the 22-year-old will put up over 20 points per game, in addition to increasing his 2016/17 averages of 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists. As the focal point of Denver's gameplan, Jokic will exceed expectations and lead the team into the postseason.
NBA bold predictions: Utah Jazz
Jazz make the playoffs without Gordon Hayward
Many have written off the Jazz after the departure of Hayward, and while the chances are low, Utah will show resilience and make the playoffs despite the loss of their top player. Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert will end up as one of the best pick and roll combinations in the league and the two will feast next season.
Greatly improved on offense, while maintaining his stifling defensive ability, Gobert becomes the new leader of one of the best defensive teams in the league. Playing methodical half court offense that is predicated on protecting the ball, Utah will be a shrewd matchup for a lot of teams in the league with their ability to shut down most offenses. This gameplan will be enough to earn them a spot in the postseason though not enough to guarantee success.
NBA bold predictions: Portland Trail Blazers
Portland falls apart
The Trailblazers have an extreme problem - they can't play defense. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are elite offensive options, but neither has the ability to lock down the opposition, meaning they hemorrhage points nightly. While the team does have a couple defensive-minded wings in Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, as well as a rising star in Jusuf Nurkic, the roster is simply an odd fit overall.
Without a true identity, the Trailblazers are the best bet for a very competitive Northwest division to implode at some point next season, especially considering they have been on the cusp of failure ever since LaMarcus Aldridge bailed for San Antonio.
NBA bold predictions: Golden State Warriors
Golden State breaks their own record for wins in a season
It's tough to make a bold prediction for a team so dominant, but let's try: Golden State wins at least 74 games next season. They've been together for over a year, they're coming off a dominant championship run and most of the team's rotation has returned.
This well-oiled machine will not lose two games in a row this season and will additionally break the NBA record for the longest win streak (held by the Lakers) by winning at least 34 straight at some point next season. That should be bold enough for the best team in the league.
NBA bold predictions: Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers fail to make the playoffs, in addition to the rest of the division
They dealt Chris Paul and made a great effort to replace various pieces on the team, but the talent just isn't there for this team. Despite rostering both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the only player that mattered was the aforementioned point guard. Paul was ultimately the key to bringing out the best of both remaining star players on the team.
While they stopped the bleeding somewhat by adding Danilo Gallinari, Pat Beverley, and Milos Teodosic, coach's pet Austin Rivers is not a starting quality player and they also lost their two best offensive guards in J. J. Redick and Jamal Crawford. The turnover on this roster is too great for them to put together anything resembling a successful season, and they subsequently miss the postseason.
NBA bold predictions: Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers increase win total by ten
Los Angeles traded Russell, picked Lonzo Ball and added Lopez this offseason - moves that will help them win at least 36 games in the campaign. Second-year head coach Luke Walton will continue implementing an offense predicated on ball movement, which will be much more effective this season with a special player like Ball running the show.
While we can expect both Ball and forward Brandon Ingram to have great seasons as the top options on offense, the team should still struggle mightily on defense. These struggles ultimately mean they fail to reach the postseason, but the future is very bright.
NBA bold predictions: Sacramento Kings
Kings fight for the eighth seed in the West
While the team probably won't make the playoffs, they'll be closer than they have been in years. After spending the last 11 seasons barely sniffing the eighth seed, the 2017/18 run should be considered a success by all accounts. With the new veteran additions of George Hill, Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, the youth in Sacramento will perform better than expected as they continue building for the future.
De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Willie Cauley-Stein will all produce at a reasonably high level considering their experience, while the veterans provide invaluable support throughout the season.
NBA bold predictions: Phoenix Suns
Phoenix win at least 35 games
The Pacific division is still one of the worst collectively in the entire league, yet the Suns are one of those on the up and up. With a core of Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss, head coach Earl Watson will find himself with the makings of a dangerous young team.
It's still unclear what the identity of this team is, however, and while they make tremendous strides compared to years past, they ultimately fail to put together a consistent season. Nevertheless, winning 11 more games than last season should be seen as a great step toward the future.
What's your bold prediction for the 2017/18 season? Comment below!