With the offseason, summer camp, and the draft complete, we can now start to predict how the year will go. The NBA didn’t disappoint this offseason with major moves like Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry on the move. Teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference are looking to take down the Milwaukee Bucks as the defending champions.
The window is there for quite a few teams and some players want to bounce back from last season. With that said, here are the 10 most shocking predictions entering the new NBA season.
10. Mavericks Acquire CJ McCollum; Form Big 3
Last year, the prediction was that the Mavericks were going to trade Kristaps Porzingis. Instead, the Mavericks rolled the dice and made the playoffs. In the playoffs, the team looked dysfunctional on offense, which led to a new coach in Jason Kidd. With Kidd in the mix, he is going to join a trend of first-year head coaches with star power and transform the Mavericks into a top-5 team in the Western Conference.
With the Mavericks in the fold to compete, the team will make a deal at the deadline. At the expense of Tim Hardaway Jr., the team will add CJ McCollum to form a big three of Porzingis, McCollum, and MVP-favorite Luka Doncic.
9. Celtics Acquire Damian Lillard At Trade Deadline
Damian Lillard claims he never asked for a trade, but not all of the story adds up. There is a looming feeling that Lillard is going to be out of Portland this season. The Trail Blazers didn’t make any major acquisitions this offseason, which has to be frustrating. When the team is barely hanging onto a playoff spot, Lillard will finally have enough.
Enter the Boston Celtics, who could offer a package around All-Star Jaylen Brown. While nobody wants to see Brown leave, the extension for Marcus Smart negated any chance of Boston having cap space next year. Plus, Brown is a true young talent in the league. However, a duo of Lillard and Jayson Tatum could do serious damage in the Eastern Conference.
8. Pelicans Make The Playoffs
Does anyone remember how long it took LeBron James to make the playoffs when he began in the NBA? It was his third season when the Cavaliers made the playoffs and finished in the second round. His surrounding cast was fairly similar to the one around Zion Williamson. In his third season, Williamson is going to become the next face of the league and lead this underwhelming roster to a postseason appearance.
Brandon Ingram is a former All-Star, while Jonas Valanciunas is coming off a couple of career seasons. If Williamson is truly the next chosen one, then he will show us a glimpse of his ceiling this year.
7. Charlotte Hornets Finish Top-6 In The East
The Hornets were the No. 10 seed in the East and made the play-in tournament. Assuming that LaMelo Ball stays healthy, he will not only win Most Improved Player of the Year but also make his first All-Star appearance. Health is key to this team as they also need Gordon Hayward and new acquisition Kelly Oubre Jr. to play as well.
For the first time since Kemba Walker, the Hornets have a true franchise player to be excited about. Ball has a higher ceiling. He is going to bring Charlotte out from the bottom of the standings into the national spotlight by giving the team a guaranteed playoff spot.
6. Nets Finish With The No. 3 Seed
Everyone is ready to pencil the Nets as the No. 1 team in the NBA. With a lineup of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Blake Griffin, you would be crazy not to think that. In this edition, we will give the crazy prediction that the Nets will finish with the third-best record in the East, right behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
Is it crazy to think that Durant, Irving, and Harden will get hurt this year? It shouldn’t because all three missed significant time last year. If that happens, and the other teams stay healthy, the Nets will drop. After all, Philadelphia was the No. 1 seed last year.
5. Ben Simmons Is Traded To The Timberwolves
There is a lot of talk surrounding the destination of the three-time All-Star in Philly. After a disappointing playoff performance, Simmons has been the subject of trade rumors, with the Trail Blazers as a leading candidate.
If you are the 76ers, would you rather have D’Angelo Russell or Simmons? While Simmons brings value on the defensive end, Russell is a proven scorer, which is what the team needs to pair with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris. As for Minnesota, the team can start a core with Simmons and Karl-Anthony Towns and potentially be competitive with two proven All-Stars on the team.
4. Bradley Beal Never Leaves Washington
It felt like the Heat were going to trade for Bradley Beal last year. It made all the sense in the world. Instead, the Wizards never let Beal walk and then held onto him this offseason. The team truly believes the pieces from the Russell Westbrook trade are enough for the team to compete in the East.
Outside of competition, we never really hear Beal talk about wanting to leave. He likes being in Washington, or at least that is the feel. Beal can make a lot of money this upcoming offseason and he is going to cash in with the Wizards. Even if the Wizards fail to make the playoffs, Beal is going to be a Washington lifer.
3. LeBron Becomes Oldest MVP In League History
LeBron James turns 37 this December. Last year, Lebron was on pace to win the MVP after leading the Lakers to an early No. 1 seed. Then, he got hurt, missed significant time, and was out of the race. This year, LeBron is going to stay healthy and show the league that he belongs in the top player rankings.
Karl Malone is the oldest MVP in league history at 35. LeBron would blow this record away by a whopping two years, which is a lot in NBA years after the age of 30. It would also be his fifth overall MVP and his first since 2013.
2. Lakers Lose In The Second Round Of The Playoffs
The Lakers will have a great regular season, but then see it all come apart in the playoffs. The grind to get to the top in the West will be too much. The West is about five to six teams deep in talent that could compete for a championship. In the second round, the team could play a mix of either the Nuggets, Clippers, Suns, or Mavericks.
Westbrook hasn’t made a Conference Finals since his days with Kevin Durant. He has hovered around the first and second rounds since. His curse will continue to follow him and it will haunt the Lakers in the summer.
1. Utah Jazz Will Win The NBA Championship
Remember when the Jazz were the No. 1 team in the NBA? We forgot all about it when the team lost to the Clippers in the second round. This year, the Jazz will use their failures and turn them into success. The Jazz was one of the best defensive teams in the league last year, headlined by three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert.
The Lakers taught us that defense can win championships in 2020. The Jazz has a similar model, assuming that Donovan Mitchell takes another step in his game. With Mike Conley Jr. back in the fold, the Jazz should be taken seriously. It takes health, skill, and a little bit of luck to win a title. The Jazz will be the team that gets all three ingredients this year.