By Brianna Patton
With the 2015-2016 NBA season a little over a week in, here are some predictions for the season.
Rookie of the Year: Stanley Johnson
Along with the 2015 NBA draft came the most talented crop of players that have come out of college in years. Big names such as Karl Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, and many overseas prospects made the 2015 draft one of the most anticipated drafts of all time. Many analysts have Karl Anthony Towns, who is considered to have the most upside in the draft, players like Duke’s Justise Winslow who fell into a perfect situation to the Miami Heat at #10, and intriguing point guards like Emmanuel Mudiay as their Rookie of the Year.
However, I believe that Detroit’s Stanley Johnson will ultimately land this accolade. Johnson was taken #8 overall by the Detroit Pistons after having a great season at Arizona. At 245 pounds and already a tenacious defender, Johnson has a huge upside to be a star in this league.
Most Improved Player: Jeremy Lamb
After Jimmy Butler had a breakout year last season, he inadvertently set a higher standard for this award. This season, I have third year player Jeremy Lamb winning. Lamb, who was immensely under-utilized during his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder, has a special talent which he showcased at UCONN and in stints with OKC.
Now with the Charlotte Hornets, Lamb will have more freedom to play his game. According to the Charlotte Observer, the Hornets have signed Lamb to a three-year, $21 million deal which is certain to fuel Lamb to have a breakout season.
MVP: Stephen Curry
Many people argued that James Harden deserved the MVP over Steph Curry last season which has given Curry a chip on his shoulder. Curry has entered the season playing at another level leading the league in scoring through the first four games with 37.0 PPG.
ESPN stats show that he has also started the season with a PER (player efficiency rating) of 50 which is almost unheard of. With the Warriors bringing back their championship team, the Warriors will be at the top of the West again and Steph Curry will lead them along the way of collecting his second consecutive league MVP award.
Eastern Conference Champion: Cleveland Cavaliers
While the East has gotten slightly better, the Cleveland Cavaliers (barring any health issues), will win this division with ease. Although the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat have drastically improved, the Bucks are a couple of years of experience away and the health of Dwyane Wade is always a question going forward for Miami.
After the second consecutive Finals loss for Lebron James last season, he will be playing with a certain intensity and with a vengeance once the playoffs come around. A mad Lebron James is a scary sight that cannot be stopped.
Western Conference Champion: San Antonio Spurs
The Western Conference is arguably the strongest conference in NBA history. The LA Clippers got better with the re-signing of Deandre Jordan and the additions of Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith, OKC has a healthy Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back, San Antonio brought back their core and acquired Lamarcus Aldridge from Portland, Houston still has James Harden, and the Golden State Warriors still have Chef Curry and are the most exciting team to watch.
Many analysts have the LA Clippers finally getting over the hump to make it to the conference finals, a healthy OKC, or the Warriors repeating. However, I have the San Antonio Spurs edging out the Golden State Warriors to reach the conference finals.
NBA Champions: San Antonio Spurs
The 2016 NBA Finals will be the San Antonio Spurs, who always seem to be the kryptonite to every Lebron James team, vs. The Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs have consistently been the team to give Lebron James the most problems.
Even with an angry Lebron, it will not be enough to match what the Spurs can do as a collective unit. With Greg Popovich managing the playing time of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli, along with the addition of Lamarcus Aldridge, the Spurs will be poised to come out as the last team standing giving Lebron another loss to add to his NBA finals resume.
Bold Prediction of 2015-2016 Season: KD Leaves OKC
My bold prediction for this season is that this will be Kevin Durant’s last season in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform. OKC will make the playoffs as a high seed, however they will not make it to the NBA finals. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are arguably the most explosive duo in NBA history, however their combination of playing styles has proved to be ineffective in the playoffs.
Aside from this, OKC does not have all the pieces necessary to win the talented Western Conference. After losing in the playoffs, Kevin Durant will decide to test free agency and return to his home town to play for the Washington Wizards.