The NBA season officially begins Tuesday with a match up between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Like most of America, the Campus Citizen’s sports section is itching for the return of pro basketball. Here are our predictions for how the 2018-2019 NBA season will pan out.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – Ryan Gregory
Why Antetokounmpo? – If Giannis had deep range, he’d be the best player in the NBA right now. While he’s still lacking from the 3-point line, he’s still the only reason the Bucks are going to be competent this year. He’ll lead the Bucks to the playoff this year with an average supporting cast, and his efforts will earn him the MVP.
Anthony Davis- Noah Wolfgang
Why Davis?- With Boogie gone, the responsibility carrying the Pelicans will fall to Davis. The good news is that Davis is ready for this workload. He’ll average over 25 points per game and will grab over 15 boards a game, giving him an impressive double-double season average. Davis will lead the Pelicans to 50+ wins and will make them surprisingly competitive in the beast that is the Western Conference.
LeBron James, Lakers - Zach Griffith
Why James? - This seemed like a cop-out pick at first, but then I really started thinking about it. LeBron is joining a Lakers squad that’s loaded with young talent. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart will lead LA once the LeBron era is over, but they’ll first get the chance to play with the King. Going into his 16th season, LeBron is still unquestionably the best player in the NBA. One reason for that is his unreal playmaking abilities. The young Lakers will reap the benefits, specifically Ingram, who will be on the receiving end of countless drive-and-kick scenarios. LeBron has four MVP awards already, but hasn’t claimed the honor since 2013. This season, however, I think LeBron will get fed up with the “disrespect” and lead the Lakers to a 50-win season, which will result in the King lifting the MVP trophy for perhaps the last time.
Anthony Davis - Devin Voss
Why Davis? When Demarcus Cousins went down with a torn achilles mid-season, many didn’t know what to expect from the Pelicans. Soon thereafter, the Pelicans went on a 10 game winning streak and snuck their way into the NBA playoffs. After the All-Star break, Davis averaged an astonishing 29.8 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. The larger surprise came in the playoffs when Davis’s Pelicans swept the third seeded Portland Trail Blazers. New Orleans also managed to steal a game from the Golden State Warriors before losing the series 4-1. With the loss of Cousins and offseason acquisitions in Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, Davis is primed to have a monster year.
Kawhi Leonard- Caleb Lynn
Why Leonard? Kawhi is returning from an injury this season and many argue that he may not be the same player. I respectfully disagree. He is a very smart player who can impact the game in so many ways. The Toronto Raptors will see the benefits of Leonard’s versatility and he will prove to the NBA that he is back.
Rookie of the Year
Collin Sexton – Ryan Gregory
Why Sexton? – Searching for a play maker to fill the void Lebron left, Cleveland will turn to the scoring machine Collin Sexton. At Alabama, Sexton proved he can lead a bad team to wins. That’s what he’ll have to do in Cleveland. His quick burst and slashing ability make him a perfect point to put on the floor with shooters like Kevin Love and JR Smith. He’ll rack up loads of assists and points on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.
Luka Doncic, Mavericks - Zach Griffith
Why Doncic? - I couldn’t believe that Doncic fell to the third pick in the draft. Don’t get me wrong--I completely understand picking Ayton and Bagley, those guys are going to be solid. But, did the Suns and Kings not see the highlights of this guy? I thought he was the best player in the draft by a considerable margin. Luka’s passing and scoring abilities will fit seamlessly into the modern NBA. The guy dominated the EuroLeague as a 19-year-old. The Mavs could surprise some people in the Western Conference, and Doncic will be the main reason why. In what could be Dirk’s last dance, Doncic will seize the opportunity and claim Rookie of the Year honors with relative ease.
Deandre Ayton- Noah Wolfgang
Why Ayton?- The first overall pick from the draft back in April is arguably the most NBA ready rookie. He should be able to post a great scoring average this season that could hover around 20 points. The opportunity for Ayton to be immediately great are directly in front of him. All he has to do is grasp it. I believe that he will.
Deandre Ayton - Devin Voss
Why Ayton? Expectations are usually high for the first overall draft choice. Ayton will shatter expectations and start his course of destruction on the league as a rookie. When watching Ayton, it’s easy to see a resemblance to Joel Embiid. He’s got a massive wingspan, good range, and immense scoring capabilities. He can hurt a team in the post, stretch a defense out by draining threes, and reject shots. The Phoenix Suns snagged a great player and future all-star.
Deandre Ayton- Caleb Lynn
Why Ayton?- Ayton is a terrific talent and possesses skills that big men as young as him do not always have. He is surrounded with some young talent in guys like Josh Jackson and Devin Booker but Ayton to me will show his value and why Phoenix made the right decision with the first pick.
Most Improved Player
Brandon Ingram – Ryan Gregory
Why Ingram? – Ingram is already a very good player but playing alongside Lebron is going to make a huge difference in his development. He no longer has to worry about being the No. 1 scoring option and he’ll thrive as the second option. He’ll see a lot of open jumpers with Lebron’s driving ability.
Gary Harris, Nuggets - Zach Griffith
Why Harris? - The Denver Nuggets have one of the most appealing cores in the NBA with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray already there. Last season, he averaged 17.5 points per game, so you could expect Harris to eclipse the 20 point mark this year. I’m also looking for his assist numbers to make a jump this season, mostly because playing with gifted facilitators like Jokic and Isaiah Thomas will enhance the pass-first culture in Denver. The Nuggets could absolutely make a playoff push, with Harris leading the charge offensively.
Myles Turner- Noah Wolfgang
Why Turner?- This will be the year that Myles Turner finally plays up to expectations. After struggling with injuries and the task of adjusting to a new style of Pacers’ play, Turner seemed to regress last season. After working hard this offseason to get in shape, Turner’s play will improve next year and help a disrespected Pacers squad truly contend for the Eastern Conference crown, and he’ll get recognition for it.
De’Aaron Fox - Devin Voss
Why Fox? De’Aaron Fox had a respectable rookie season averaging 12 points, 3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1 steal per game. While those numbers aren’t stellar, they’re what a team looks for in a point guard. Fox shot 41 percent from the field and knocked down about 31 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. Though the preseason doesn’t amount to much, Fox has already showed improvement with his three ball. Through four preseason games, Fox hit 41 percent of his threes and 47 percent of his total shots. He’s ready to take a big step forward this season.
Aaron Gordon- Caleb Lynn
It seems like the Orlando Magic are always rebuilding. They can’t get players to stay and wait for other young players to develop. However, they kept Aaron Gordon this season and I think he will prove why he deserved his new contract of $80 million over 4 years. Gordon has been solid his whole career, but last season was his best. He averaged 17.6 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. However, I believe Gordon has another level that he can get to. I could see him having a fantastic season as the Magic look to improve from a rough 25-57 record.
Playoff Seed Predictions
Eastern Conference - Ryan Gregory
- Boston Celtics, 2. Milwaukee Bucks, 3. Philadelphia 76ers, 4. Washington Wizards, 5. Indiana Pacers, 6. Toronto Raptors, 7. Miami Heat, 8. Detroit Pistons.
Western Conference - Ryan Gregory
- Golden State Warriors, 2. Houston Rockets, 3. Utah Jazz, 4. Oklahoma City Thunder, 5. Denver Nuggets, 6. Los Angeles Lakers, 7. Portland Trail Blazers, 8. Minnesota Timberwolves.
Western Conference - Zach Griffith
- Golden State Warriors, 2. Houston Rockets, 3. Utah Jazz, 4. Los Angeles Lakers, 5. Oklahoma City Thunder, 6. Denver Nuggets, 7. New Orleans Pelicans, 8. San Antonio Spurs
Eastern Conference - Zach Griffith
- Boston Celtics, 2. Indiana Pacers, 3. Toronto Raptors, 4. Philadelphia 76ers, 5. Milwaukee Bucks, 6. Washington Wizards, 7. Miami Heat, 8. Chicago Bulls.
Western Conference- Noah Wolfgang
- Golden State Warriors. 2. Houston Rockets. 3. Los Angeles Lakers. 4. Utah Jazz. 5. New Orleans Pelicans. 6. Oklahoma City Thunder. 7. Denver Nuggets. 8. Portland Trail Blazers
Eastern Conference- Noah Wolfgang
- Boston Celtics. 2. Philadelphia 76ers. 3. Indiana Pacers. 4. Toronto Raptors. 5. Milwaukee Bucks. 6. Washington Wizards. 7. Miami Heat. 8. Charlotte Hornets
Western Conference - Devin Voss
- Golden State Warriors. 2. Houston Rockets. 3. Oklahoma City Thunder. 4. Utah Jazz 5. Los Angeles Lakers. 6. New Orleans Pelicans. 7. Denver Nuggets. 8. San Antonio Spurs
Eastern Conference - Devin Voss
- Boston Celtics. 2. Toronto Raptors. 3. Indiana Pacers. 4. Philadelphia 76ers. 5. Milwaukee Bucks. 6. Washington Wizards. 7. Miami Heat. 8. Chicago Bulls.
Western Conference- Caleb Lynn
- Golden State Warriors 2. Houston Rockets 3. Utah Jazz 4. Oklahoma City Thunder 5. San Antonio Spurs 6. Los Angeles Lakers. 7. Denver Nuggets 8. New Orleans Pelicans.
Eastern Conference- Caleb Lynn
- Boston Celtics 2. Philadelphia 76ers 3. Toronto Raptors 4. Indiana Pacers 5. Milwaukee Bucks 6. Washington Wizards. 7. Chicago Bulls 8. Detroit Pistons.
Washington Wizards - Ryan Gregory
Why the Wizards? - It feels odd calling a consistent playoff team a “surprise,” but the Wizards have obviously been unable to break through the east. While the back court has featured the superstar duo of Bradley Beal and John Wall for the past six years, the front court has been unable to keep up with the rest of the conference. This year will be different, thanks in large part to products from the University of Kansas. Kelly Oubre Jr. and Markieff Morris have made great strides in recent seasons and should make a significant impact. The addition of veteran big man Dwight Howard doesn’t hurt, either. With Lebron no longer dragging them down in the East, the Wizards are primed to break through.
Chicago Bulls - Zach Griffith
Why the Bulls? - Let’s face it--you could win 35 games in the Eastern Conference this year and compete for a playoff spot. It’s going to be ugly. Still, the Bulls have a bright future thanks to young assets like Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and Zach LaVine. Jabari Parker also joins Chicago, coming over from Milwaukee after an injury-riddled start to his career. Before he tore his ACL for the second time, Parker averaged over 20 points while playing second fiddle to Giannis Antetokounmpo. When Markkanen returns from injury, Hoiberg will have his prized sophomore back on the court to stretch opposing defenses, allowing guys like Kris Dunn, LaVine, and Parker to attack the paint. I’m not saying the Bulls will have a winning record, but they will make the playoffs earlier than expected.
Indiana Pacers- Noah Wolfgang
Why the Pacers? It somehow still feels like Victor Oladipo can be even better this season than he was last year. Myles Turner will finally live up to expectation and give the Pacers a second All-Star. The rest of the roster, while not full of household names, is solid. The additions of Tyreke Evans , Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn are all important. Domantas Sabonis is an underappreciated presence in the paint. With all of these players coming off of the bench, the Pacers have one of the deepest teams in the East. I expect the Pacers to grab the three seed in the Eastern Conference. I won’t be shocked if they reach the Eastern Conference Finals, either.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Devin Voss
Why the Thunder? - The Thunder added several pieces that were much needed, both on offense and defense. They traded away Carmelo Anthony for Dennis Schroeder which will actually improve their offense. They added Nerlens Noel in free agency and they’ll finally be getting back Andre Roberson at some point this season to add to an already successful defense. Schroeder will strengthen the Thunder bench, which has been horrid in the past.
Denver Nuggets- Caleb Lynn
I am a big fan of the core for this Denver Nuggets. The most under appreciated star Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray is exciting. Getting the chance to watch this team makes me wonder how far they can get. They solved one problem by bringing a solid veteran with the addition of Paul Millsap last season. Now, I think coach Mike Malone has really gotten his team to buy in to what he wants. It would not shock me if we see them right in the middle of a competitive Western Conference.
Los Angeles Lakers - Ryan Gregory
Why the Lakers? - The hype has been understandably high for the Lakers this preseason. The addition of Lebron James (among other, lower-profile free agents) and a preseason win over the Warriors has the city of Los Angeles buzzing. But, as the venerable Lee Corso would say, NOT SO FAST. The Lakers failed to win half of their games last year, finishing 35-47. That team was not good. Adding Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo does not make the Lakers a playoff team. Lebron and Brandon Ingram are the only good players on this team. The Lakers are a playoff team, but it’s pretty far fetched to say they’d even make the Western Conference finals.
Philadelphia 76ers - Zach Griffith
Why the Sixers? - Allow me to let you in on a secret--the Sixers don’t have a bench. Somehow, someway, Philly managed to get worse over the offseason, even with a top-tier starting lineup of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid. The one glaring aspect of the 76ers’ series against the Celtics last season was the lack of depth on the Philly bench. Brad Stevens took full advantage of this, and the rest is history. To improve their second unit, what did the Sixers do? They traded for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. And here I was thinking that the goal of free agency was to improve your squad. How foolish of me. Look for Philly to finish behind the Celtics, Pacers, and Raptors in the final standings, followed by another second round defeat.
Minnesota Timberwolves- Noah Wolfgang
Why the Timberwolves?- Now that LeBron has found a new home out west with the Lakers, someone who made the playoffs will have to go. This team will be the Timberwolves. Minnesota just managed to squeak into the postseason last year by winning the final game of the regular season against the Nuggets in overtime. This year, they’ll miss the playoffs entirely. If Jimmy Butler isn’t traded before the end of 2018, he will tear the locker room apart. A bad attitude in the locker room is the worst thing that an NBA team can have. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, this will result in about 35 wins this season.
Philadelphia 76ers - Devin Voss
Why the 76ers? The 76ers had a breakout 50-win season last year. The Cinderella story will end there. It should be acknowledged that the 76ers will be one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference this season. The reason they’ll disappoint is because of the high expectations they’ve already been given. It’s clear they have one of the best young rosters in the entire league. Ben Simmons will continue to get triple doubles, Embiid will continue to dominate, and Markelle Fultz will finally find his jumper. It’s a stretch to say a team this young that lacks in veteran leadership will make it to the Finals.
Portland Trail Blazers- Caleb Lynn
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are bonafide studs for this team, however the players around them have me worried. I just question when Jusuf Nurkic is your third best player, and they have some serious salary cap issues. The Western Conference is so strong and I think it will be hard for them to get back to the playoffs.
Eastern Conference Champions
Boston Celtics – Ryan Gregory
Why the Celtics? – Danny Ainge has done a fantastic job of building this team, both through the draft and trading. If Al Horford still has enough left in the tank to be a big contributor, there is no team in the East that can beat the Celtics. Now that Lebron has finally left for the west coast, only the 76ers remain as challengers for Boston. With the return of Gordon Hayward and an uber-confident Jayson Tatum joining a healthy Kyrie, the Celtics will represent the East in the Finals.
Indiana Pacers - Zach Griffith
Why the Pacers? - All we’ve heard for the past few months is how the Celtics, Raptors, and 76ers are the main challengers in the East. Enough, I say. Indiana has been overlooked in the past, but this just feels disrespectful. The Pacers made all the right moves in the offseason, enhancing their bench while bringing back their starting five from last year. Joining Victor Oladipo and company are Tyreke Evans, an excellent play maker and scorer, Doug McDermott, an elite three-point shooter, and Kyle O’Quinn, a textbook NBA tough guy. Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are looking chiseled, Victor will be looking to rise up in the MVP conversation, and Thaddeus Young has the ability to guard multiple positions on defense. Am I a homer? Absolutely. But is this a stretch? No.
Boston Celtics- Noah Wolfgang
Why the Celtics?- Last season the Celtics took LeBron James to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now that LeBron is no longer in the East, the path to the Finals is the clearest it has been for Boston in a long time. Their roster looks very similar to last season’s, except now they have Gordon Hayward and a rested Kyrie Irving. Head coach Brad Stevens knows how to effectively use Al Horford. Boston also has one of the best bench units in the East.
Boston Celtics- Devin Voss
Why the Celtics? - Last season the world only got to see a small glimpse of what the Celtics were capable of. The Celtics were only nine points away from going to the NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. They possess an all-star starting five, a high scoring bench, and the best coach in the NBA. They’re the only team in the Eastern Conference that can afford to lose someone to injury because they have a variety of insurance policies. Unless a catastrophe happens, there’s no reason the Celtics won’t be representing the East in the Finals this season.
Boston Celtics- Caleb Lynn
Why the Celtics?- Boston had two of their best players not even suit up in the playoffs because of injury last season. Gordon Hayward will thrive in Boston and Kyrie Irving is one of the best point guards in the league. When you already have young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum thriving in big stages, then good things can happen. To me, this will not be a contest as I don’t see anyone getting in the Celtics way in the Eastern Conference.
Western Conference Champions
Golden State Warriors – Ryan Gregory
Why the Warriors? – Somehow, the Warriors got even better during the offseason. If Boogie Cousins can recover fully from his Achilles injury, which is no easy task, the Warriors could potentially have an All-Star starting at every position. While the Rockets came close to dethroning the Warriors last season, they got worse this offseason. No one can stop the Warriors, we’re just along for the ride.
Golden State Warriors - Zach Griffith
Why the Warriors? - They’re the Warriors. I really don’t want to talk about them.
Golden State Warriors- Noah Wolfgang
Why the Warriors?- Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Those are five All-Stars that will take the floor for the Dubs in the playoffs. Even in a stacked Western Conference, that’s enough said.
Golden State Warriors - Devin Voss
Why the Warriors? Steph, Klay, Dray, Durant, and Boogie. Enough said.
Golden State Warriors- Caleb Lynn
As much as people can’t stand how talented this team is, Coach Steve Kerr has gotten each player to buy into unselfish basketball. The defense that they can play is truly special and, in the second half of the season, they take their game to another level.
Golden State Warriors – Ryan Gregory
Why the Warriors? – The Warriors might be the best team in NBA history. They’re absolutely loaded and have a decent amount of depth to go with it. The Celtics would be lucky to steal a game in the Finals, and the Celtics are a very good basketball team. The Warriors are just better.
Golden State Warriors - Zach Griffith
Why the Warriors - They’re the Warriors. Try not to think about them.
Golden State Warriors- Noah Wolfgang
Why the Warriors?- Again, the Warriors have the best starting five in NBA history. Realistically, the Dubs will probably steamroll the Celtics in the Finals. Eventually the basketball gods will punish Golden State, right? Not this season.
Boston Celtics - Devin Voss
Why the Celtics? The Celtics have a genius at head coach. Brad Stevens is the best play caller in the NBA today. Not many teams can keep up with the Golden State offense. The Celtics are one of the only teams that can. With the ferocity they play with on defense, the scoring availability they have on offense, and a coach who can outsmart anyone in the league, the Celtics should be able to take the title back to Boston this season. Celtics will win in six.
Boston Celtics- Caleb Lynn
Why the Celtics?- I am a huge believer in Brad Stevens. He puts his players in the best situations for them to succeed, and that is not something that you can just develop. The depth on this team allows Stevens to be creative with lineups in order to stop the Warriors. I believe Golden State won’t take home another Larry O’Brien trophy this season.