The NBA season is upon us, so every die-hard fan can breathe a sigh of relief. With each new season, new speculation develops, and this year presents us with an NBA that we are not familiar with. The league is more balanced than ever, and with an influx of rookies adjusting better and better each year, it seems like anything can happen in the league this year. That being said, here are six takes that I believe will happen this year in the league.
The Houston Rockets will win the west, while Harden and Westbrook fit perfectly together
There were many takes on the trade that sent Westbrook to Houston. Some people loved the reunion of old teammates, while others were quick to speculate the fit between two iso players.
For me, I felt that Houston needed to make a move, and cement themselves as “all-in” once again. Chris Paul is no longer the top point guard in the league, but he is more than serviceable. There is no doubt that Houston would still compete with CP3, but it was so clear they needed a change.
There is plenty of truth behind the speculation of how these two ball-dominant players will play together, but they are going to click when they need to. In Houston’s system, Westbrook is going to have to spot up more from three, especially when Harden is on the ball. The issue with this is Westbrook shot 29% from three last year.
However, this year will be much different. Defenses will be forced with a tough task guarding this explosive backcourt. Not only can both these guys attack the rim and make plays scoring the basketball, but they’re both electric playmakers and have a knack for finding open shooters.
With these two feeding off each other and buying into this new system with two main ball handlers, the Rockets are going to be very tough to stop. D’Antoni is the perfect coach for this team as well, as they’re built off getting out in transition and making plays without having to slow down and set up a half-court set.
People forget that these two started their NBA careers next to each other. They’re great friends, and truly want to play with one another. They’re both at that point in their careers where winning is paramount. They have both consistently been top ten players over the past few seasons, with nothing to show for it. Once the season starts, this Houston team will start to click, and both these two players are going to sacrifice a little, in order to gain a lot. The Houston Rockets will eventually win the western conference, and in doing so Harden and Russ will complement one another seamlessly. As Westbrook adapts into the offense, he will also find his shooting touch en route to a season where he will shoot 40% from three.
Trae Young will average 23 PPG and 11 APG and be named an All-Star
Sure you can argue that this is a large part due to the East being much weaker than the west when it comes to the talent pool for the All-Star game. But that by no means should be a knock-on Trae Young, the second year PG in Atlanta that has cemented himself as the franchise.
After being a part of a big draft-day deal that involved Luka Doncic, microscopes got a lot bigger when it comes to analyzing Trae Young. Is he as good as Doncic? Are the Hawks going to regret making this move?
As the debate between the two players is still in the very early stages, you can still safely say that the Hawks are not regretting this deal. The Hawks got their guy in Young, and also added another lottery pick in the process, a pick that turned into Cam Reddish.
After last season’s All-Star break, Trae Young averaged 25.8 PPG, 9.0 APG, and 4.4 RPG. Those are some of the best numbers in the league. He shot 38% from three, though he was shooting at a prolific clip, and he finished the season with one of the more impressive offensive rookie seasons the league has ever seen.
Player’s in their second year usually make another leap in their game, so saying that Trae Young will put up these numbers and make his next jump doesn’t seem too outlandish.
It also isn’t extraordinary to say that he isn’t going to put up those numbers consistently over a long NBA season. Just look at Jayson Tatum last year, a guy who showed so much potential in the playoffs, only to take a step back and suffer through what some may say a “Sophomore slump”.
Trae Young will not experience that. With new pieces on his team, and after a year of playing alongside running mate John Collins, Young is truly going to break out and average 23 PPG and 11 APG and be named an All-Star, before the guy that he was traded for in Luka.
Nikola Jokic will win the MVP and average close to a triple-double
Last season we saw the Nuggets finish the year as the top team in the Western Conference. When the playoffs came around, Denver’s star player took his game to a new level, as he showed the league where he is able to take his play going forward.
In the playoffs, Jokic averaged 25.1 PPG, 13.0 RPG, and 8.4 APG while shooting above 50% from the field. Those numbers are all increases from his regular-season numbers that earned him an All-NBA First Team nod.
Jokic is going into only his third season in the NBA, and the Nuggets added another scorer to their roster in rookie Michael Porter Jr, giving Jokic another weapon around him running the offense.
What makes Jokic a good bet for MVP is that he is the Nuggets solidified go-to guy. He is clearly the team’s Batman as Jamal Murray is his Robin, and a lot of the value that Jokic holds comes with his playmaking ability. Even with other weapons around him, they aren’t going to hurt his chances, only strengthen them.
The only other MVP candidate that is in a similar situation is the reigning MVP, Giannis. He has Khris Middleton next to him, but he is still going to go out every night and get his points.
Steph Curry will be sharing the ball with new teammate D’Angelo Russell. James Harden will have to give up some chances now with Westbrook on his team, and the two LA teams each are built around their duos that each bolster MVP candidates.
This opens up a clear path for Jokic to come in and steal this award.
In doing so, Jokic will average a triple double this season. He averaged a double-double last season with points and rebounds and was only three assists shy of double digits last season.
With the addition of MPJ, Jokic will now have another weapon to dish assists to next to Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. All the pieces are there for Jokic, and he has all the skills to be the next player to average a triple-double for a season and win an MVP doing so.
Tyler Herro will finish in the top 3 in Rookie of the Year voting
Tyler Herro was chosen 13th overall by the Heat in the 2019 NBA draft and will have the opportunity to step right into a role and contribute in his first season.
He may not carry a name like Zion Willamson, Ja Morant, or RJ Barrett, but the Kentucky product has the best shooting stroke in the class and is an underrated playmaker at the shooting guard position.
So far this preseason Herro has shown us why I think that he will finish in the top of the ROTY voting at seasons end. Herro is playing 25 MPG while averaging 14.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 2.0 APG all while shooting at a rampant 52% from three.
Those are good numbers overall for a rookie, but what may help his case when it comes to votes at the end of the year is his eye test. Herro is a very streaky shooter, and when he catches fire it is hard to turn the TV’s channel.
In a preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks, Herro came out of the gates smoking hot. The rookie scored the Heat’s first 14 points of the game in a stretch that included 4 straight threes made.
He is far more confident than what you’d expect out of a rookie and does not hesitate at all to get his shot up. Don’t be surprised if you see some games this season where Herro erupts and goes for 30+ and is all over Sportscenter the following morning.
Because of his smooth stroke and game that translates great to today’s league, there would be no shock for me to see Herro jump some of the players drafted before him and finish at the top of the ROTY voting.
Markelle Fultz will win Most Improved Player
The number one factor in this happening is the health of Orlando Magic guard Markelle Fultz. If his shoulder can hold up and allow him to shoot the ball better than he has shown, this award could be a no brainer at seasons end.
Just two years ago Markelle Fultz was drafted first overall and at the time it seemed like a no brainer selection. That is because it was! Fultz was the most gifted and electric player in college basketball and had all the makings of a franchise point guard.
Fast forward two years down the road and that team that drafted him already gave up on him. Lucky for Markelle, he was gifted with a much-needed change of scenery and he is now on a team that believes in him.
The Magic have been in the market for a point guard for a very long time, and they jumped on the opportunity to add a young floor general oozing with potential to their future plans.
The explosiveness and playmaking abilities that had scouts drooling over Fultz is still there and never left, and that was evident during his time in Philly and now during the preseason.
If Fultz stays healthy, there is no reason that he won’t shine in his new role in Orlando. The player that was drafted first overall is still there with Fultz, and he is entering only his third season in the league although it feels like he has been around for much longer.
With a new team, and new jump shot, and newfound confidence, Markelle Fultz has all the makings of this season’s Most Improved Player.
By season’s end, teams will be respecting Ben Simmons jump shot
This is the only three-point shot that Ben Simmons has made in his career. It came in a preseason game against a Chinese team. It really isn’t much, but it is a step in the right direction for Simmons who has struggled to develop a reliable jump shot.
I don’t think that Ben Simmons is going to come out this season and hit 40% of his threes or anything, but I do believe that defenses will no longer be disrespecting his jump shot like this anymore.
Teams begged him to shoot threes last year knowing that he would miss. If Simmons can get teams to even consider the possibility of one of his three-point shots going in, they’ll have no choice but to respect his jumper.
The 76ers need shooting, everyone knows that, including Simmons himself. He has made improving his shot an emphasis over the summer and is patient enough to realize that things don’t happen overnight. He knows that his lack of a jumper hurts his team’s offense, and after getting paid he wants to prove his worth.
Right now, teams can sag off Simmons when he is off the ball, clogging the lanes for other players to dribble and drive, and also creating less space for Embiid to operate out of the post. Once he shows that teams have to respect his shot and to guard him, the 76ers offense will go to a new level.
Simmons will suddenly have more driving lanes and he will be able to attack the rim much easier than he already does. He will be able to finish at the rim, and also make plays for his team with his passing, a trait that is probably Simmons best. With a jump shot, there is no doubt in my mind that Ben Simmons would be a top-five player in the NBA.
By season’s end, Ben Simmons will have a jump shot that teams will have to respect. He isn’t going to transform into an actual shooter possibly ever, but there will be no more leaving Simmons at the top of the key alone.