The start of the NBA season is so close I can almost taste it. The harmonious squeaking of sneakers on the hardwood. The rapid thud of the dribble. The beautiful swishing sound the net makes after a perfect release. In the greatest sports movie ever made He Got Game, Ray Allen’s character said, “Basketball is like poetry in motion”.
That poetry is exported all over the world. While foreign players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic are imported like advanced proprietary technology. Icons like Lebron James and James Harden impact geopolitics. No other American sport can compete with basketball across the globe.
It’s been such a long wait since the Raptors ended the Warriors dynasty in June.
Sure, we had the summer league, FIBA World Cup, and preseason. But the show is back on tonight. Eyes from all over the world will be on the games. The next Michael Jordan will be inspired to pick up the ball after what he sees tonight.
With that being said, I’m ready to make some predictions for the NBA 2019-2020 season:
MVP – Giannis Antetokounmpo. This was a pragmatic decision for me. A lot of the newly formed dynamic duos in the league will split votes (Lebron and A.D. on the Lakers, P.G. and Kawhi on the Clippers, and Russ and Harden on the Rockets). Steph Curry is going to go off this season and put up video game numbers since he won’t be sharing the ball with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. But the Warriors will struggle to make the playoffs and that will cost him votes.
Last year the Greek Freak lead the Bucks to a 1st place seed in the East while averaging approximately 27/13/7/1/1. There’s no reason to think he will not improve upon these numbers. Antetokounmpo will win the war of attrition that is the regular season.
ROY – Zion Williamson. Last week the entire basketball world held its breath when we heard Zion had suffered a knee injury (same knee he injured when his shoe exploded at Duke). So he will be out 6-8 weeks recovering from a torn meniscus.
Injury withstanding, the NBA and Kia can go ahead inscribe Zion’s name on the trophy. The 6’7”, 285 19-year old has already produced plenty of highlights in the preseason thanks in part to PG Lonzo Ball. I like this rookie class, especially Tyler Herro of the Heat, but I would trade the entire Lakers organization for Zion. Heck, I would personally drive them to the airport.
Eastern Conference Champs – Philadelphia 76ers. The process from perennial-lottery team to contender might be complete, but the 76ers still have a lot to prove. Can Ben Simmons develop a jump shot? Can Joel Embiid stay healthy? Can the team overcome the Greek Freak and the Bucks?
I don’t know about Simmons jump shot, but Embiid appears to be in the best shape of his life and the 76ers had a solid offseason. The loss of J.J. Reddick and Jimmy Butler stung but retaining Tobias Harris and adding Al Horford will be enough for this team to take the next step.
World Champs – Los Angeles Lakers. Last year the Lakers had more drama and dysfunction than Fleetwood Mac did in 3 decades. After Lebron injured his groin on Christmas Day, the wheels fell off and the team went 18-30 to complete the season.
The Spurs and Pelicans intentionally leaked trade talks. Magic Johnson resigned as Team President live on television without any warning. Luke Walton was relieved of his coaching duties a few days later. And the coaching search went on uncomfortably long. Not to mentioned Kawhi Leonard seemingly negotiated in bad faith during free agency talks.
Additionally, the Western Conference found a way to get more competitive. Arguments could be made for 5 teams to win the West. T’Wolves Center Karl-Anthony Towns once said of the conference, “It’s a swamp. And only the real alligators make it out.” That’s the best analogy I’ve ever heard.
So why do I think the Lakers can crawl out of the swamp? They have the best Center-er-I mean Power Forward in the league in Anthony Davis. The ‘brow averaged roughly 26/12/4/2 last season before getting shut down due to his trade request.
Davis’s playstyle will be the panacea for all that ailed the Lakers last season. A big who can stretch the floor, knock down 3’s, rim-run, and defend the paint. Oh and Lebron James has never had this much time off to rest and recover. Watching those two play off each other will be worth the NBA League Pass subscription.
Somewhere Bill Walton is sitting in a Native American sweat lodge in a tranquil state. Shaq and Charles Barkley are squabbling over weight and accolades. And up in basketball heaven, Red Aurebach is lighting a cigar. The NBA is back tonight, and all is right in the world.
Pat Benson has been a sideline reporter, P.A. announcer, and radio personality. Tweet him @Pat_Benson_Jr.