Nov 26, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) during the first quarter of a game at New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA offseason flew by, for me at least. One second I was watching Golden State clinch victory over the Cavaliers in conclusion to one of the greatest single seasons in league history, and the next I was watching the draft, free agency, Summer League and the preseason. Yes, I actually paid rapt attention to all of these. No, I don’t care what you think.

But now the leaves are turning, and as football hits its halfway point it’s finally time to start preparing for the NBA season. Which somehow starts Tuesday. I still haven’t gotten over this.

This will be the third annual edition of the world renowned DCIANBAPreview series, featuring Bob Hayes and me, in which we make crappy predictions for how each conference will play out, which players will win awards, and who will be the next NBA champion.

Here are a few of the things we got wrong last season:

  1. Neither of us even considered putting the Bucks in the playoffs. Milwaukee ended up as the sixth seed in the East in a surprisingly productive season. Even without the presence of #2 overall rookie Jabari Parker, the Bucks put together half a season of balanced offense and defense with Brandon Knight at the helm. When Knight was traded to Phoenix and Michael Carter-Williams entered the fray as Jason Kidd’s protege, the Bucks cobbled together a suffocating defense (#2 in the league in defensive points per possession) in the second half of the season due primarily to the long arms of MCW, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton.
  2. We both predicted the Hornets would be the sixth seed in the East. Welp. Charlotte finished 2014-15 with a 33-49 record, missing the playoffs by a handful of games. Both Bob and I were originally so high on Charlotte because they acquired former Pacers star Lance Stephenson over the offseason to give them more creativity on offense. This, uh, didn’t work out, as Stephenson had perhaps the worst three-point shooting season in league history and barely played for the Hornets down the stretch.
  3. I thought Houston would have a bad defense. “Losing Lin and Asik will be more troubling for this team than many realize. There are truly no interior defenders behind Dwight Howard now and Lin was a better facilitator than new starting point guard Patrick Beverley.” –Me in 2014. I acknowledged that Trevor Ariza would have a huge positive impact on the D, but this was a team that managed to finish 8th in defensive points per 100 possessions without Patrick Beverley for the end of the season. Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin proved to be additions by subtraction for the Rockets, so I pretty much bombed every aspect of this. James Harden ultimately carried their offense enough to give the Rockets a second seed in the West. Both Bob and I had projected them to finish seventh.
  4. Bob thought Joakim Noah would win the defensive player of the year award for a second consecutive season. This one didn’t turn out too well for Bob, as Joakim Noah struggled again with injuries and honestly looked like a broken man. To call Noah a shell of himself would have probably been too optimistic given how he finished the 2014-15 season. To my credit, I made sure to note that I thought Noah would not have a good shot at winning the award. “Actually, I almost entirely disagree with Bob on this. I think it’s highly unlikely that Noah wins it a second year in a row, though I could see it if the Bulls finish first in the East. For this award, I like to look at the narratives around each contender. For Noah, he won it last year but the whole story of that team now is the arrival of D Rose 3.0 and Pau Gasol.” –Me in 2014. This was a solid prediction, if not all that accurate in its specificities. That said, I picked Serge Ibaka to win the award and that choice bombed just about as bad as Bob’s selection. We both suck.
  5. I listed candidates for every award in my predictions, but did not list Steph Curry for the MVP award. Curry’s candidacy for MVP admittedly came a bit out of nowhere, but I projected Golden State third in my Western Conference predictions– how could I not include the team’s best player in the MVP race given that I expected them to make a jump? I also failed to include James Harden, who finished a close second in the MVP race. All that said, I looked back at my team prediction for the Warriors and was proud of my optimism: “This is one of the few large leaps in my Western Conference predictions this year. I believe that Mark Jackson was heavily costing the Golden State offense with his insistence on an isolation-heavy system. Now, Steve Kerr is in command and will be all about ball movement (or at least, much more than Jackson). With talented passers like Steph Curry and Andre Igoudala and talented finishers (around the rim and otherwise) like Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut, and Harrison Barnes, these guys are going to be excellent on the offensive end. Given their defensive prowess last year, this team is clearly among the most talented in the league and should play like it under a new, more innovative coach.”

I was going to laud our efforts for the things we correctly predicted last season, but, uh, we didn’t really predict anything all that well. Sooooo let’s just move on to our picks for this NBA season. You should definitely put weight into the things we say. Just trust me. We know things about the NBA.

Eastern Conference

Bob:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

There are two clear counterarguments to this pick: 1) Cleveland currently faces an array of injury issues, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, and Anderson Varejao entering the year with varying levels of concern. 2) Cleveland knows it does not need to do much beyond be healthy for the playoffs. That said, they are the best team in the East and proved time and again last year this is the case even when not fully healthy. I just struggle to see any other team being good enough to catch them.

2. Atlanta Hawks

The popular move is to call for a regression in Atlanta this year, but the signs really are not there beyond the loss of DeMarre Carroll to Toronto. The rest of the core remains there as well as, most importantly, Bud, so I like Atlanta to have another strong regular season.

3. Washington Wizards

This is mostly a pick of Matt’s favorite team as a function of what I predict for my favorite team, which, as you’ll see, is a lot of question marks. Randy Wittman appears to be a shitty coach and playoff hero Paul Pierce is out of town, but the Wall/Beal core is a year older as Otto Porter comes into form. I worry about Washington’s aging big men, but I think their guards can carry them to a 3-spot.

4. Chicago Bulls

I can’t wait for this Bulls season to start, partially because I have no idea what to expect. At the very least, we know Fred Holberg loves to open driving lanes by attacking the opposing defense on the break, a far cry from Tom Thibodeau’s methodical, sometimes aimless offense. The big questions here: Will Derrick Rose stay healthy and show any consistency? Will Jimmy Butler be able to continue last year’s form and even improve upon it? Will Joakim Noah return to life? Can Pau Gasol continue to be Dorian Gray? Will a hugely underrated Mike Dunleavy recover from a worrying back injury? Can Tony Snell effectively fill in in his absence? Can Nikola Mirotic be as good as fans think he is, especially now in a starting role? Can Doug McDermott be a serviceable NBA player? Will Bobby Portis be as great as we all hope? How much will the defense drop off with Thibodeau’s departure? Obviously, that is a wide range of questions, and it should be an intriguing year in Chicago. Ultimately, I have them down at four because there are so many factors than could blow up to drop them a few games this year.

5. Toronto Raptors

New uniforms. New Kyle Lowry. Same “meh” Raptors, except with Carroll in town instead of Amir Johnson. Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will have a handful of games that make you go “wow, this guy might be a top-ten NBA player,” but they don’t have enough to sustain them beyond a 5 seed.

6. Miami Heat

The biggest question mark in the East this season resides in Miami. The Heat never really found a groove, even before the Chris Bosh blood clot and after Goran Dragic’s arrival. Still, the season arrives with heavy optimism: Bosh, Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Justise Winslow, Erik Spoelstra!! Yet, we don’t really know what Miami will get out of Wade games-wise and out of Dragic performance-wise. Thus, I like them to make the playoffs but not be a big enough threat to gain a top-four seed.

7. Boston Celtics

It’s a great time to be a Boston Celtics fan. The storied franchise is led by my favorite coach in the league, with a number of seemingly disjointed pieces coming together for an interesting team. And, oh yeah, they have three Brooklyn Nets — arguably the worst team in the league — FIRST ROUND picks in the next three years. They’ll be a bottom-half playoff team this year with a lot to build on going forward.

8. Indiana Pacers

Power-forward Paul George, George Hill’s defense, Monta Ellis’s scoring bursts, and Frank Vogel’s solid coaching, lead Indiana to a playoff spot. Really, this pick notably omits Milwaukee from the playoff race. A number of fans love Milwaukee this year, but it seems like anyone on the inside thinks they’ll take a step back this season. Like Boston, Milwaukee has a lot to build on this year and appears to have a good head coach, but they’re still a couple years away and we don’t know what to expect from Jabari Parker this year.

Matt: (I really love the East this year, so my entries are pretty long. Sorry.)

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Weird as it might be, I’m not very confident in this prediction. The Cavaliers won 53 games last season, and they’ll win more than that this year. But given that both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are recovering from injuries, and LeBron is going to take plenty of time off before the playoffs, there’s ample opportunity for another East team to sneak in ahead of the Cavs with the one seed. Still, given likely regression from the Hawks, it’s hard to see any other East team that I could confidently pick to finish ahead of Cleveland. So, I’ll go with the safe pick. The Cavs are the best team in the conference regardless of where they finish in the regular season standings. Gun to my head, the team I’d choose to finish ahead of the Cavaliers if everything goes right would be the…

2. Chicago Bulls

I’ve gone back and forth on the Bulls all offseason. The positives are very encouraging– Hoiberg will have a more creative offensive system than Thibodeau, he’ll have less stubborn rotations (refusing to play Noah and Gasol together could be worth five wins this season, no joke), and the Bulls have more front-court depth than any team in the league. There are also some pretty considerable concerns: Hoiberg is still an unproven first-year coach, the defense could fall apart without Thibodeau’s emphasis, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are both old and could break down (the latter was a sub-par player last season), and the Bulls have perhaps the worst depth at guard among probable playoff teams (Kirk Hinrich is one of the worst players in the league and should be dropped ASAP for a free agent, any free agent, seriously.)

All that said, I feel optimistic about the Bulls. Expecting a Steve Kerr-esque jump is too much, as the Bulls don’t have young players like Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Klay Thompson to drastically improve, but an improved offense could do wonders for this team. They’re not lacking for talent on that end, and their defensive system is ingrained enough to make up for some of their deficiencies on that end. I worry about the Bulls’ lack of two-way players, but I trust Hoiberg’s ability to manage the team. They’ll come out barely on top of the non-Cavs Eastern conference battle.

3. Atlanta Hawks

DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic are gone. Tiago Splitter and Justin Holiday are in. That’s a net loss, but the combination of Holiday and an improving Kent Bazemore should be able to account for 80+ percent of Carroll’s 2014 production. Atlanta may have a bit of difficulty guarding bigger wings, but with Splitter’s contributions the Hawks can avoid being brutalized on the glass like they were against Cleveland in the ECF. They’ve also got one of the best coaches in the conference. The Hawks won’t win 60 games this season, but they’re still in my second tier of East teams along with the Bulls.

4. Washington Wizards

Even more than the Bulls, there’s potential for a collapse in Washington this year. Randy Wittman appeared to have finally given up on his long-two obsession this offseason, as proven by his inclusion of fledgeling three-point shooter Kris Humphries in the starting five, his insistence on a higher pace to match John Wall’s speed, and his decision to tape boxes around the three-point line for players to stand in and maximize the offense’s spacing.

All of this could lead to the Wizards contending for a top-five offense in the league. Seriously. They replaced Paul Pierce, Rasual Butler and Martell Webster’s decaying corpse (still on the roster) with Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, and Jared Dudley. Nene has been converted to a back-up center, where his lack of rebounding intensity will hurt but his midrange shooting and slow yet stingy defense is better suited to make a positive impact. Marcin Gortat, given oodles of space, could be primed for the best season of his career. Otto Porter has looked like a rising third star last postseason and this preseason. Brad Beal is claiming to have eliminated the midrange game from his arsenal, a move that could catapult Washington to status as contenders in the East. John Wall is the best point guard in the conference.

But then there’s the defensive side of the ball. Culture changes don’t come easy, and Wittman will only support the increased pace and shooting only as long as it doesn’t harm his previous defense. The defense is what has carried Washington for three years now —I’m worried that Wittman won’t stay true to his new principles if the Wizards struggle early this season. If Washington starts hot with its new offense, it could finish first in the East. If Wittman falters in his conviction and has trouble re-creating his successful defense with slightly new personnel, the Wizards could fall as far as sixth or seventh in the East. I’ll (roughly) split the difference and slot them in behind the Bulls and Hawks.

5. Boston Celtics

Here’s a fun one for ya. I’m not even totally positive the Celtics are going to make the playoffs this season, but every advanced analytical projection available pegs them for a win total in the high 40s and a top-four seed. I won’t be that bullish, but this team has more depth from players 1-15 than any other in the conference. They’ve also got the best in-game coach in the league– somebody who can probably handle some complicated rotations as Boston tries to account for all of its individual talents. I’ve always been somebody who trusts the numbers, even if it’s hard to see what they’re based on. The numbers love the Celtics, and that’s why I’m cautiously offering them my five-seed.

6. Miami Heat

For my money, the Heat are the most combustible team in either conference this season. They have perhaps the second-best starting line-up in the East on paper, but that line-up includes two players with chronic injury issues (Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng), a player with chronic behavioral issues (Hassan Whiteside), a player who missed half of last season with a debilitating sickness (Chris Bosh), and a starting point guard (Goran Dragic) whose skills are perhaps too similar to his backcourt mate’s. It also just so happens that all those players are also phenomenally talented and coached by Erik Spoelstra, who excelled at allowing his players’ strengths to thrive with the post-Decision Heat. I have no idea what’s going to happen to this team, but I put them at six because concerns of injury and depth are too prominent to ignore, in spite of their talent.

7. Toronto Raptors

A questionable coach, the loss of Amir Johnson (one of the least appreciated players in the league), and a lack of defensive talent led me to slot the Raptors in behind Washington, Boston, and Miami. This team has some quality talent in its starting lineup, with Skinny Kyle Lowry looking like a top-10 player in the league this preseason. They’ve got Carroll and DeMar DeRozan on the wings, with Jonas Valanciunas entering his third-straight year hoping for a breakout performance (my prediction: he continues to suck on defense but improves his non-scoring offensive skills).

But after those four players… what do the Raptors have? The question of who their fifth-best player is comes down to a battle between Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph, with Bismack Biyombo and Terrence Ross lurking from afar. Yikes. There’s no frontcourt depth in Toronto, with Luis Scola and Biyombo their second-string unit. I think the Raptors have the potential to finish in third or fourth if their starting backcourt improves again, but it seems more likely that this team falls apart than blends together.

8. Milwaukee Bucks

Zach Lowe, Bill Simmons, and Bob Hayes all have the Bucks falling out of the playoffs after an offseason in which their 41-41 team added Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker. Call me old-fashioned, but I think adding good players to a decent team makes that decent team gooder. And yes, the Pacers certainly have a case for the playoffs, but what is that team going to offer in the front-court? There aren’t too many teams in the East who can completely destroy their lack of size, but I refuse to believe the Pacers will cobble together anything better than a 20th-ranked defense in 2015. If they do, then Frank Vogel is a magician and I will happily eat my lumps. Let’s just not forget that Jason Kidd is a pretty darn good coach too, and this team has the second-best defense in the league last season. Just missed: Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks (!!!)

Western Conference

Bob:

1. Golden State Warriors

I think it’s foolish to overlook Golden State in any respect this season. Last season, they were by far the best team for 82 games, went through the Western Conference gauntlet without much trouble, and beat LeBron James in the NBA Finals relatively handily. The whole gang is back this year, and no other team in the West has made a big enough leap to pass up Golden State.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

The big advancement here is the added bench depth, which has been a glaring weakness in recent seasons. Blake Griffin or Chris Paul is the best second-best player on his team, with DeAndre Jordan continuing to be a rim-protecting P&R machine.

3. Houston Rockets

James Harden continues to be the league’s most talented offensive force, while Houston had a top defense last season. The addition of Ty Lawson and improvements of arguably the deepest roster in the NBA make me like Houston to get another top-four seed this year. The biggest question is whether Dwight Howard can repeat a sneaky-good 2014-15 campaign.

4. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs will be really good, but that does not mean they will be higher than a 3 seed. This is the first season I have worried about the Parker/Ginobili/Duncan combination, as the core has now shifted to Leonard/Aldridge/Green. Pop knows to take the foot off the gas at appropriate times during the regular season, but the team remains good enough to get a top-four playoff spot.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder

I don’t trust Kevin Durant’s foot. I don’t trust anyone on this team beyond its core three. I like Billy Donovan, but the depth in OKC right now is almost as big a joke as the fact that Enes Kanter just got a max contract. The Thunder are this year’s most fascinating team, and we have to remember that the 5 seed in the West is still a very good basketball team.

6. Memphis Grizzlies

We all know the story with this team. Same old from them this year, with Matt Barnes adding a slight improvement on the wing.

7. Utah Jazz

Utah had an outstanding second half last season, overlooked by their early elimination from playoff contention. Gordon Hayward can effectively carry the load on offense, while Rudy Gobert is perhaps the best post defender in the NBA. We’ll see if the Jazz can keep it up for an entire 82-game season in the West.

8. New Orleans Pelicans

I love Anthony Davis as much as the next guy, but he is almost literally the only healthy NBA player on the team right now and in the near future. Still, no one else in the West is that good, and Davis will lead the Pelicans to a second consecutive playoff appearance.

Matt:

1. Golden State Warriors

Unlike the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets, there are no new majors players or schemes to integrate for the Warriors. They will be functioning on all cylinders from day one, and that will allow them to win the West for a second consecutive season. They won’t have a historic record and point differential like in 2015, largely because perfect health is unsustainable from year to year and the rest of the West got better, but this team is damn good.

2. Los Angeles Clippers

I’ve criticized Doc Rivers a lot in the past couple years for his failures as a general manager, but he did a pretty darn good job this offseason. Lance Stephenson seemed bent but not broken after last year in Charlotte and Josh Smith can be a productive player if Doc can keep his crazy shooting in line. The big three of the Clippers will be as powerful as ever, and with a half-decent bench to boot, I have the Clippers coming out on top of the race for second in the West.

3. Houston Rockets

It’ll be easier for the Rockets to integrate Ty Lawson than for the Spurs to integrate LaMarcus Aldridge. The Rockets were fantastic last season and made gains in the offseason. They return plenty of players from injury and there isn’t really a single player on the roster due for a huge drop-off. The Rockets will be as strong as last year in 2015.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder could finish anywhere in the West playoffs and I wouldn’t be surprised. They’re injury prone and have a brand new coach, but the talent is too much to ignore. I think all four of the Clips/Rox/Thunder/Spurs will finish within three or four games of each other, so the placement of these teams is based on the margins. The Thunder have as much skill as anyone, and don’t have to bring in a brand new, high-usage player like the Spurs.

5. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs might flawlessly integrate Aldridge into their offense and defense from day one. They might not even mind the loss of Tiago Splitter. Tony Parker’s rapid decline could be a mirage, disproven by a season of rebirth given extra rest and a smaller offensive workload (I really think this is an issue. Parker hasn’t been good in a while and they need him). Or all of those things could have an impact on how the Spurs perform this season, and just barely keep them out of the top four in the West. I’m betting on the latter, though this team will still be fantastic for years to come.

6. New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis is coming. It’s early, but no player in the history of the NBA has had such a diverse skillset on both ends to go with an incredible athletic physique like Davis’s. AD is going to be unleashed under new coach Alvin Gentry, and the Pelicans are going to make some real noise if they can avoid too many injuries this season.

7. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are what they are. As Bob mentioned, there’s just not much to say about this team anymore. They’ll be great, but I’m not sure they have enough to contend with any of the Western powerhouses.

8. Utah Jazz

I relentlessly ripped the Sacramento Kings this offseason for their handling of just about everything this offseason, but I’m tempted to slot them in at number eight in the West playoffs. The Jazz lost defensive stud Dante Exum and now have to start Trey Burke at point. If Burke performs acceptably, the Jazz could grab the six seed with all their young talent. If Burke struggles, as he likely will, the Jazz will be in a fight to the finish with the Kings and the Phoenix Suns for the West’s eight seed. Ultimately, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert will do enough to get the Jazz into the playoffs for the first time since they gave up on Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Just missed: Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns

Most Valuable Player

Bob: Anthony Davis

He can do everything, there is a ton of media hype around him, his team will squeeze into a tough Western Conference playoff spot, and the lack of healthy, quality players on his team right now will only accentuate his traditional statistics. Other candidates will be Stephen Curry, Harden, and whichever Thunder player doesn’t die. As for LeBron, the best player in the NBA, I expect him to take some games off, sacrifice statistics to other players, and suffer from another year of voter fatigue.

Matt: Anthony Davis

I had trouble deciding between Davis and James Harden here. Sometimes voters like to look to who finished close to first last season and give them an award in retrospect (though Curry certainly deserved it last year). If Harden and the Rockets keep their performance up in 2015, perhaps finishing second again, I don’t see how Harden loses….unless Anthony Davis does superhuman things. Which he will. Because he’s an alien. Darn it. Other contenders: James Harden, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard (!!)

Rookie of the Year

Bob: Emmanuel Mudiay

Tough call on this one, but Mudiay is getting a lot of buzz heading into this season. It appears he’ll get the reins of this team and will have the best chance to showcase his talent.

Matt: Karl-Anthony Towns

I like Bob’s pick here. Mudiay will have the opportunity in Denver for plenty of playing time and should rack up counting stats. He should be a really good poor man’s John Wall someday. That said, I think other candidates have better shots at the award. Jahlil Okafor has a shot, but the media dislikes the Sixers and I think there’s a legitimate reluctance to award their strategy with an ROY award. D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns are the next two options. Since Russell will be overshadowed a bit by Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant, I’ll take Towns to be the second-consecutive Minnesota player to win the award. Other contenders: D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Myles Turner, Kristaps Porzingis

Defensive Player of the Year

Bob: Rudy Gobert

Winning both MVP and DPOY will be tough for Davis for the same reason LeBron didn’t enough, so I’ll take the rim protector who will help bring Utah back to the playoffs.

Matt: Kawhi Leonard

If Leonard can win it after only playing 64 games last season, I think he’s got a fantastic shot at repeating in 2015. Voter fatigue could be an issue, as the DPOY rarely has repeat winners compared to awards like the MVP, but I think Kawhi’s potential has no limit on the defensive end. He’ll continue to improve, and be rewarded accordingly. Another thing to consider: The NBA’s voters appear to be more willing than ever to award wing defenders with this award. Keep an eye out for other strong wing players like Draymond Green and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the future. Other contenders: Draymond Green, Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan (sadly), Andrew Bogut, Jimmy Butler

Coach of the Year

Bob: Brad Stevens

A second consecutive playoff appearance with a ragtag roster will make the nerd a sexy pick for Coach of the Year. This award usually either goes to the coach of the best team, which I just can’t quite picture happening this year, or to the coach of the most surprising team, which doesn’t really makes sense and also can’t quite picture happening (though that’s the point of a surprise team).

Matt: Fred Hoiberg

I have the Celtics making an even bigger leap than Bob, so it’s hard to choose anybody else over Brad Stevens for my Coach of the Year award. He’s just a masterful strategist. That said, the media tends to prioritize impressive win-loss records over everything else in COY voting. I have the Bulls taking second place in the East with a revamped Hoibergian offense, so I think Fred just barely takes the title over David Blatt, who doesn’t have a particularly good relationship with the media. Other contenders: David Blatt, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, Mike Budenholzer, Steve Kerr, Randy Wittman (!)

Most Improved Player

Bob: Marcus Smart

The real prediction here is that Matt will say Otto Porter. I’m a big fan of Marcus Smart on both ends of the floor, and I like him to take a big step up this year, provided he puts together a healthy season.

Matt: Bradley Beal

Brad Beal is due for a breakout season, and I think the Wizards’ renewed emphasis on the three-point shot will help him get there. Beal will make his first All-Star game in 2015-16, and will emerge as the favorite for the most improved player. It’s typically a crapshoot of an award, but rising stars on playoff teams are the most common recipients. There’s some personal bias here, but I think the opportunity is there for Beal to have a fantastic season. Other contenders: Marcus Smart is a great one, and frankly there are simply too many to list even a good portion of them here.

PLAYOFFS

Bob:

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 1.16.03 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-24 at 1.16.20 PM

Obviously, not much originality or craziness here, but the reasons I like each team to be good/bad in the regular season generally hold for the playoffs. NBA CHAMPION: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Matt:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.32.57 PM

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 7.41.56 PMI deliberated on this quite a bit, but I think the Cavs are going to be too strong for the rest of these teams at full health. NBA CHAMPION: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave any predictions you have for the NBA season in the comments section below. We love to hear from our readers.

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