On Friday, Jay previewed the Eastern Conference, making the Indiana Pacers his number one team in the east.
Yesterday, GG (and Tupac) previewed the Western Conference and chose the Los Angeles Clippers as his top team in the west. Can the NBA Finals really be Indiana vs. the other Los Angeles this year? David Stern probably wouldn’t be too happy about that. But wait, David Stern won’t be around after the All-Star break!
Predictions are tough. While I’m sure some people picked San Antonio vs. Miami to be in the finals last year, I’m sure just as many if not more picked the Lakers to face Miami. Thus, rather than just give you Jay’s and GG’s predictions, we added a few other folks from the Popblerd staff, hoping that one of us hit on our picks so we can brag about it later.
Before we give you our finals picks, we have a few other predictions.
Favorite Pre-season Storylines
Big Money: What happens when David Stern retires? Strangely, I can imagine the NBA without any one player, but I can’t imagine it without Stern.
Geoff: Will PP34 and KG help the Brooklyn Nets achieve championship greatness? Will the Celtics completely suck this season or will they be trapped in NBA purgatory; too good for the lottery, but too bad to make any headway in the playoffs?
KJ: What if the Heat struggle? Will this be the end of the LeBron era? Will All-Star weekend be spent recruiting a new and improved Big 3?
The Brooklyn Nets’ first six look tough – but very old. Not only did they add Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce but they added AK-47 (Andrei Kirilenko). Will they play it safe, a la San Antonio Spurs, or will they be wilted come playoff time?
Who will win the West? Who? There are six legit teams, and that’s not counting the Kobe-less Lakers.
Can the T-Wolves stay healthy?
Jay: I love the stories at the top and bottom of the league. At the top I think there are at least six teams that could win it all this year and two more fringe teams that have a puncher’s chance, which is about three more than most years. It makes for a much more exciting season and playoffs when there is more parity. At the bottom, I’m curious to see how low teams are willing to go to get Andrew Wiggins. Philly is really really bad but will they trade Thaddeus Young to make sure they’re the worst? Maybe they should send Young and Evan Turner to the Knicks for Amar’e to prove they are really tanking. Will Boston trade Rondo, will the Suns trade Dragic now that they’ve already traded Gortat? Will Charlotte… never mind.
GG: Will Kobe Bryant return before Christmas, or sooner? Will the Golden State Warriors improve upon last year’s Cinderella season? If the Heat 3-peat, where does that place LeBron James on the all-time players list? The race for both conference titles will be a storyline in itself.
Rookie Of The Year
(By the way, GG jokingly picked for Mike. He didn’t really have a lead dog.)
Geoff: Tre Burke
After a successful run at Michigan, Tre Burke seems poised to put up some consistent points for the Jazz, potentially turning into their go-to scorer. (Sleeper pick is Kelly Olynyk. The big man could be the only bright spot for the Cs during their journey to the basement of the NBA. After putting up great numbers in the Summer League and continuing that success in the pre-season, Olynyk could provide stability amongst the Cs odd cast of big men allowing him lots of minutes and opportunities for points and rebounds.)
KJ: Cody Zeller
Jay: Victor Oladipo
He’s going to get a ton of burn in Orlando and seems like the most NBA-ready rookie so far. I don’t even know who else I’d consider.
GG: Victor Oladipo
I think Burke will put up nice numbers, but Oladipo will be the first of the latest rookie crop to make an actual impact and turn heads.
Big Money: LeBron James
LeBron, D.Rose #2, Durant #3.
Geoff: Derrick Rose
D-Rose returns to the Bulls after a year off recovering from a serious injury. His return will show his value to the Bulls and help them reach the Eastern Conference Finals. They made it deeper last year than expected getting past a talent Brooklyn squad. This year they will go even deeper, posing a threat to the reigning champs.
KJ: Chris Paul
I wanted to take Curry, LeBron will actually win (c’mon he’s got Chris Andersen, Michael Beasley, Rashard Lewis and Greg Oden riding his coattails to championships), but I have to go with the dude that’s going to take the Clippers to the best record in the West, and push them hard for a title. MVP Sleeper Pick: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets.
Jay: Kevin Durant
I think he’ll have similar numbers to LeBron and due to LeBron fatigue, he ekes out the MVP. If the Bulls finish in the top two, Rose is a strong candidate as well.
GG: Kevin Durant
Jay mentioned LeBron voting fatigue. I agree. But Durant will have early opportunities (unless he’s too obsessed again) to put up gaudy numbers before Russ Westbrook comes back. Durant may not be LeBron’s equal, but he’s damn close.
Big Money: I think D. Rose is gonna come all the way back and then some.
KJ: Toronto Raptors win the lottery despite having fewer ping pong balls than at least eight other teams. Yes, that means they have a chance at taking Ontario, Canada resident Andrew Wiggins from Kansas. Yes, that means the debate on whether or not the lottery is rigged (a la James ending up in Cleveland, et al.) will continue.
Jay: The Timberwolves make the playoffs as at least a 7 seed.
GG: The Lakers start slowly and Mike D’Antoni is the first coach fired.
Big Money: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat
The storyline that got curtailed last season thanks to Russell Westbrook getting hurt will be told this year. Chicago, Memphis and Golden State have legit chances. There’s more parity in the NBA than there has been in ages.
Geoff: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat
KD will get to finally avenge his earlier finals loss to LeBron and the Heat. Miami will come out of the East after a tough 7 game battle against the rejuvenated D-Rose led Bulls. The Thunder will emerge from a stacked Western Conference after going 7 against this year’s surprise team the Golden State Warriors. KD will prove that he definitely deserves to be in the conversation of top dog in the NBA and it isn’t LeBron’s league and they all play in it.
KJ: Golden State Warriors vs. Miami Heat
I was all in on the Warriors, then I thought to myself, “Who is on their bench?” and my first Google news that popped up for the “Golden State Warriors” was “Golden State Warriors struggling to find bench points”. Still I’m sticking with the Warriors? Why? Because the West is mediocre. Curry will continue to improve, and let it fly. I’m going to assume Bogut stays healthy, and they picked up Andre Iguodala to play a little defense.
Jay: San Antonio Spurs vs. Indiana Pacers
The Spurs have pretty much the same team as last year with Belinelli in place of Gary Neal. While I expect some drop-off during the regular season due to minutes management, I think Parker is still in his prime, Leonard and Splitter will be better, and Ginobili couldn’t possibly play as badly as last year. As for the Pacers, they took the Heat to game seven with a bench of Sam Young, Tyler Hansbrough and DJ Augustin. Add a year of growth to Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Lance Stephenson with a vastly improved bench of Luis Scola, Earl Watson, and Danny Granger combined with another year of deterioration of Dwyane Wade and I think the Pacers get over the hump this year.
GG: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat
Three-peating is really hard. Magic never did it. Larry never did it. Jordan did it twice. Kobe and Shaq did it. Bill Russell’s Celtics did it (actually more than three-peated). But it’s maybe the most difficult thing to do in basketball. If LeBron and company can three-peat, he puts himself on quite a list. If he can’t, people will use it against him. I think the Clippers are the best of the bunch, but the three best teams in the NBA could be in the east.