The 2017-18 season is here. The arms race in the western conference has reached nuclear levels (maybe not the best analogy at the moment) as teams try and compete with the all-powerful force that is the Golden State Warriors. In the East, it really feels like a two-team story as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics traded point guards and in the process created a blood thirsty rivalry for the eastern conference crown as the student in Kyrie Irving, tries to lead his team by the master in LeBron James. Los Angeles and Philadelphia are home to the hip young teams that everybody is excited to watch and the Thunder, Rockets and Spurs will battle for the right to steal the crown from the Warriors. If the 2017-18 season is anywhere near as crazy as the 2017 NBA off-season, we’re in for an all-timer. Here are The Hoop Doctors predictions for the 2017-18 season…
Everybody is talking about the certain rookie point guard for the Lakers who has been propechized by his father and some others to develop into the best point guard in the NBA because of his magical (see what I did there?) ability to see the court and put his teammates in positions to score. While I think he is the better player over the long haul, my ROY pick is another point guard in Dallas. Dennis Smith Jr. is Steve Francis 2.0 and will have the keys to the Mavericks kingdom this season, wowing people with his highlight reel dunks and crossovers and putting up some really good numbers for a Mavericks team in dire need of his youth and quickness. I say Smith averages somewhere in the range of 16 and 6 assists and takes home the ROY award.
Eric Gordon will not start with Chris Paul in town, but with two of the best table-setters in the NBA on his team drawing the defense away from him and hitting him in his spots, he will have every opportunity to score 18 to 20 points per game in the Rockets offense and hit over 200 threes. The Rockets will score a ton and Gordon will get a nice slice of that pie.
This is the year Aaron Gordon becomes Shawn Marion 2.0, I feel it. Gordon will finally have the shackles taken off this season and play his natural position of power forward and more than 30 minutes per game. He is the Magic’s best young building block and they will treat him that way. I think he has all of the tools to be a very good player and will put up 18-8-2-2-2 type numbers for a sneaky fun Magic team.
The Jazz are supposed to take a big step after losing Gordon Hayward, but I don’t think they will. With Ricky Rubio in tow to better direct the offense than George Hill and the slew of solid wing scorers and defenders they have to replace Hayward, I think they will still be a near 50 win team and a playoff team in the west. That will be good enough for a very good coach in Quinn Snyder to receive some well-earned recognition and possibly the NBA Coach of the Year Award.
Gobert is the best defensive anchor and rim-protector in the NBA at this point and it isn’t even close. He possesses unreal length and mobility at 7’3″ and has a knack for knowing where to be to alter as many shots as possible. He was more than worthy of the award last year as the No. 1 player in the league in defensive box plus/minus and he will be recognized for it this season.
I am going a bit out on a limb here, but I think the MVP award is especially ripe for the taking this year for a young up and coming superstar to break through and grab the brass ring as the next superstar to lead the NBA into the future.
The Warriors stars may cancel each other out, Chris Paul will affect James Harden’s numbers in Houston as will Paul George and Carmelo Anthony with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. LeBron could win his 5th MVP by leading Cleveland to another 55 win plus season and Kawhi Leonard could do the same in San Antonio, but the Greek Freak may wow voters and NBA fans with his exciting brand of basketball and leading the Bucks to a near 50 win season in the east and putting up some crazy numbers like 25-9-8-2-2. This could be the season he makes the leap to top level player.
Golden State over LAC in 4
Houston over Denver in 6
Oklahoma City over Utah in 6
San Antonio over Minnesota in 5
Cleveland over Charlotte in 4
Milwaukee over Toronto in 7
Washington over Miami in 5
Boston over Philadelphia 6
I believe the Clippers, T’Wolves, Jazz and Nuggets will emerge among the western conference mess to claim the final four playoff spots. The Clippers will have the honor of sacrificial lamb for the Warriors in round 1. Houston and Denver is the most entertaining first round match-up in this group.
The 76ers and the Embiid show make their way to the playoffs and win a couple early games against the Celtics to send the nation into a tizzy and every sports talk show host in the country wonders if they are already the best team in the east besides LeBron and the Cavaliers. The Bucks win a playoff series as well as the Greek Freak continues his ascent.
Golden State over Houston in 5
Oklahoma City over San Antonio in 6
Cleveland over Milwaukee in 6
Washington over Boston in 7
The Rockets come in with lots of confidence and bluster that they can beat the Warriors and after sneaking out a Game 2 victory, get squashed in three straight games and sent home.
The Thunder are starting to really gel and their talent and athleticism is just a little too much for the Spurs to handle.
Greek Freak and the Young Bucks will themselves to two wins in Milwaukee as Greek Freak shows he could be taking the torch from LeBron before the Cavs re-assert themselves and send the Bucks home in 6.
Washington gets revenge as Wall and Beal outplay Irving and the Wizards finally reach a conference finals by shocking the Celtics in Game 7 in Boston. Robbing us of a LeBron and Isaiah Thomas blood battle with Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.
Golden State over Oklahoma City in 7
Cleveland over Washington in 5
The Warriors are taken to their absolute limit against a hot and extremely motivated Thunder team led by Russell Westbrook, before pulling away in the second half of Game 7.
The Cavaliers play their best basketball of the season as newcomers Thomas and Wade excel and the Cavaliers head to a fourth straight NBA Finals match-up with the dreaded Warriors.
Golden State over Cleveland in 6
After escaping an all-time great Game 5 in overtime at home, a physically and emotionally exhausted Cleveland team struggles mightily in Game 6 at home and loses by double-digits to give the Warriors their second straight NBA title.
Draymond says they are the greatest team in NBA history and during the trophy ceremony, while the Cleveland crowd chants “Stay in Cleveland,” LeBron walks off defeated once again.