The NBA is back after a long offseason filled with an incredible amount of league-altering free agency signings and mega-trades.
The Lakers and Clippers are the early title favorites, and the Hornets are currently projected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA, according to FiveThirtyEight.
The Queen’s Guard staff have made their predictions about this upcoming NBA season.
Most Improved Player
Dylan Jackson (@JaxonNBA) – Delon Wright, Guard, Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks acquired Delon Wright after they sent two second-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies to sign him. He signed a three-year deal worth almost $30 million. Wright averaged 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists last season for the Grizzlies and is a perfect fit next to a talent like Luka Doncic. Wright has the defensive versatility to play either guard spot, and I could see him averaging almost 18 points per game with splits of 45/33/82, assuming he improves his efficiency and shot selection.
Euan Reynard (@EuanKow) – Lonzo Ball, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans
It feels like Lonzo took a lot of W’s this offseason – His inevitable trade from the Lakers landing him in a great basketball situation, taking more control of his life from Lavar, developing a much more sound jump shot – will all factor into an improved performance from him this season. With Zion sidelined, he will see more of the ball in the meantime, giving him a great opportunity to show all the ability that made him the 2nd Overall pick in the draft 2 years ago.
Stephen Sears (@stephenstweets) – Terry Rozier, Guard, Charlotte Hornets
I’m not sure if this is a good thing and if I like the pick. But if he plays semi-well and puts up decent enough numbers this should be his. As long as it doesn’t affect the Hornets drafting one of the young star point guards, I’m fine.
Chase Pletcher (@ChasePletcher4) – Miles Bridges, Forward, Charlotte Hornets
Preseason certainly didn’t bode well for this take, but every season I always pick a Hornets player to win this award because I so badly want someone on the team to breakout. Maybe it’ll be Bacon, but Bridges seems more likely.
Mike Kyle (@Kyleina33) – Miles Bridges, Forward, Charlotte Hornets
I talked about what Miles Bridges needs to do to make the jump from year one and two here. He has the opportunity this year to level up because of how many minutes he will see this season on top of how well known his name already is around NBA circles.
Josh George (@BallSoHard_Josh) – Lonzo Ball, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans
Don’t think he’ll win so I’m kind of going in a different direction but just want to acknowledge him. The shot looks a lot better and I think he’ll thrive in a different setting with the up-tempo pace that the Pelicans play with. Also, he already has a lot of chemistry with Zion. Look out for him this year.
Cole Casstevens (@SpainPnR) – Bam Adebayo
Good player, starting minutes, and on a decent team. Plenty of opportunities for Bam to showcase his game.
Final Count: Lonzo Ball 2, Miles Bridges 2, Delon Wright 1, Terry Rozier 1, Bam Adebayo 1
6th Man of the Year
DJ – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers
No question. Lou Williams is awesome, should be even better with the talent the Clippers have this year. Harrell could also be in consideration here.
ER – Spencer Dinwiddie, Guard, Brooklyn Nets
With many more eyes on the Brooklyn Nets this year after their big offseason splashes, more people will be paying attention to the play that Dinwiddie will be bringing off the bench, I believe he will dethrone back to back 6th man champ Lou Williams with a big year and big scoring numbers.
SS – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers
This doesn’t need to be explained.
CP – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers
I am mostly just saying because I don’t know who else is even going to be a contender for it, sorry.
MK – Joe Ingles, Forward, Utah Jazz
Joe Ingles made his name by coming into games and knocking down triples. With a new and improved Jazz team that should be at the top of the West, Ingles has the opportunity to be the driving force off the bench. He’s good for a couple of big threes each game which will be extremely valuable for a team battling through the Western Conference 52 games a year.
JG – Goran Dragic, Guard, Miami Heat
I wanted to say Lou but I’ll go out of the box and say Dragic. I think the Heat can compete for home-court advantage this year in the East and Dragic isn’t a high-level starter anymore but it’s great if he’s your backup PG. Think he thrives against bad competition.
CC – Lou Williams, Guard, LA Clippers
You know how this story goes.
Final Count: Lou Williams 4, Spencer Dinwiddie 1, Joe Ingles 1, Goran Dragic 1
Defensive Player of the Year
DJ – Joel Embiid, Big, Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid should have won this award last year. He’s the best rim protector in the league. His sole presence in the paint makes it difficult for anyone to even consider driving to the basket. With that team likely being the best defensive team (Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford) in the league this year, there’s no question who this award should go to.
ER – Anthony Davis, Big, LA Lakers
With the type of season I believe AD is going to have, I find it hard to believe that he won’t win an end of season award this year. He’ll make a good run for the MVP but will receive this as a pretty strong consolation prize.
SS – The Clippers. All of them.
Kawhi Leonard? Paul George? Patrick Beverley? I’m not sure teams are gonna score on these dudes but good luck. One of Kawhi or PG will be the DPOY.
CP – Kawhi Leonard, Forward, LA Clippers
This probably won’t happen, and as weird as it sounds, I think Kawhi will want to prove something this year. I think he’ll play the majority of games and want to do everything he can to assert his dominance over that other SF in LA.
MK – Kawhi Leonard AND Paul George, LA Clippers
Let’s get wild here. We’re going to have co-defensive players of the year. The Clippers’ wings are going to strike the fear of God into opponents and rattle their opponents to levels we’ve never seen.
JG – Rudy Gobert, Big, Utah Jazz
This is another boring pick but Rudy is truly the most impactful regular season defender. His rim protection is just incredibly valuable. Not much else to say.
CC – Rudy Gobert, Big, Utah Jazz
Same deal as last year, Joel will be the best defender on the best defense in the league, but with Al allowing him to rest some and Gobert renowned as the league’s best defender, I bet he’ll three-peat.
Final Count: Kawhi Leonard 2 (1 + 0.5 + 0.5), Rudy Gobert 2, Paul George (0.5 + 0.5), Joel Embiid 1, Anthony Davis 1
Coach of the Year
DJ – Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are still a top-4 seed in the Western Conference, and if they get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs after losing Kevin Durant with Klay Thompson out the entire year, this award wouldn’t even be a debate. Steph Curry and Draymond Green for the win.
ER – Eric Spoelstra, Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have built a very good regular season team with multiple players who can come in and give effective minutes on any given night with the help of one of the league’s best coaches. Putting that together with a legit star in Jimmy Butler and exciting young players like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo, the Heat could realistically push for 50+ wins this season and give Spo a chance at an award he is yet to win in his coaching career.
SS – Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans
I want to give this to Doc Rivers, especially after missing out on it last year. But I think this new Pelicans team is getting ready to shock a lot of people. We all know how good Zion is, but the rest of the pieces that surround him will make a great team. The kids that came from L.A. in the Davis trade, fellow rookies, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxon Hayes and some solid vets in J.J. Reddick, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Favors. This team MIGHT sneak into one of the final playoff spots in the west, and if that happens, this award goes to Gentry.
CP – Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
This seems like a basic answer, but if Pop can take this Spurs team to the playoffs in the stacked West he deserves to be in consideration
MK – Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have had the best offseason in franchise history, even if they were forced to trade the best player in franchise history. The newly shaped roster with Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, JJ Reddick, and Zion Williamson has skyrocketed New Orleans in League Pass rankings. Gentry is a great coach that will be able to maximize this team’s talent a-la 2017-2018 Brad Stevens.
JG – Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets
Continuity is important in the regular season and the Nuggets have a lot of it. Also, they’re probably the deepest team in the league. This depth doesn’t help as much in the playoffs but in the regular season, their bench will run teams off the floor. With some injuries in the West (Klay, PG13) & the adjustment periods for teams like the Rockets & Lakers, I think Denver will have the best record in the West and that’s a pretty convincing COY case for Michael Malone.
CC – Mike D’Antoni
Best record in the west, one of the best in the league, and who could resist crediting Mike when the Harden and Westbrook reunion makes a formidable regular-season team.
Final Count: Alvin Gentry 2, Steve Kerr 1, Mike D’Antoni 1, Eric Spoelstra 1, Gregg Popovich 1, Mike Malone 1
Rookie of the Year (NOT named Zion Williamson)
DJ – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Guard, New Orleans Pelicans
I’m going with Zion’s teammate. I love NAW’s game and his combination of scoring, playmaking, and length give a great shot to win this award (even with Zion Williamson). He should have been drafted a lot higher than he was.
ER – RJ Barrett, Wing, New York Knicks
With Number 1 Overall pick Zion Williamson out for a significant period following knee surgery, I believe Knicks rookie RJ Barrett should be the frontrunner for this award. The Canadian has already shown natural scoring ability in the pre-season and should see a lot of ball-handling duties this year, as well as enough volume to put up some seriously impressive numbers – In an award that is often dictated by stats rather than team success.
SS – Ja Morant, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
I think the Grizzlies might be sneakily good this year? Not like good enough to make the playoffs, or even be in consideration really, but good enough to where we’ll say they might be able to do that next season. And it’ll be to the credit of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
CP – Jarrett Culver, Wing, Minnesota Timberwolves
With Zion out for at least a month and a half to start the season, the ROY race is wide open, but I think people will quickly see why Culver is the second-best player in the draft
MK – Ja Morant, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
If you don’t know, Ja Morant is better than Zion Williamson. I’m dying on this hill. The addition of Morant is going to boost Memphis up a rung on the NBA ladder. Morant does everything you need a point guard to do in today’s NBA. He runs an offense well, can score at will, and loves getting other players involved.
JG – Ja Morant, Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
Not a lot of intriguing candidates here (Zion still wins even if he only plays 50) but I think I’ll go with Ja Morant. Think he’ll struggle some this year before he breaks out next year or the year after but he should get the counting stats. He’ll have a lot of impressive highlights & the hype train will begin. Think if he averages like 14 and 8, he can be the Non-Zion ROY.
CC – PJ Washington, Forward/Big, Charlotte Hornets
The only reason to doubt Zion being ROY is if he missing too much time, outside of him, I think ROY is a crapshoot. That being said, I’m going to bet on PJ. PJ will get plenty of minutes to put up enough counting stats. His per 36s for the pre-season were 17 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, on 76.5 TS%, so I don’t really feel like a homer, he has as fair a chance as anyone. Perhaps, a less efficient player playing worse basketball will have more counting stats, but PJ will be a deserving consideration I think.
Final Count: Ja Morant 3, PJ Washington 1, Nickeil Alexander-Walker 1, Jarrett Culver 1, RJ Barrett 1
Most Valuable Player
DJ – Damian Lillard, Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
During the course of the playoffs last year, I’ve learned not to doubt Dame. I don’t believe that award voting should take place until after the playoffs, and I don’t think Lillard could win this award the way it is currently set up. But next year, if the Trail Blazers could get into the second round of a loaded Western Conference, Damian Lillard will be crowned King, though it may not be ‘official’.
ER – Joel Embiid, Big, Philadelphia 76ers
I believe the 76ers will have the best record in the NBA this year, which puts their best player Joel Embiid immediately into the conversation. Embiid averaged 27.5ppg last season on just .517eFG% – I expect him to get that number up to the .550 mark along with the other elite bigs in the league which should lead to him averaging 30 on the season. Pair that with his proven Defensive ability and reported weight loss this offseason and he is a prime candidate for the MVP award.
SS – Steph Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors
No one is believing in him nor his Warriors. When he goes-the-hell-off this season and has his squad back in the playoffs without Klay and KD – they’ll remember.
CP – Nikola Jokic, Big, Denver Nuggets
I think the Nuggets finish with the best record in the NBA, and the Joker is the engine behind that team and keeps getting better every year.
MK – LeBron James, Guard/Forward, LA Lakers
I, for one, am here for the LeBron James F-you tour. Last season, which was objectively deemed bad by many, LeBron James averaged 27/8/8 with a bad Lakers team. Additionally, we saw James suffer the first major injury of his career. Now with a revamped roster that includes Anthony freakin’ Davis and the second PR blunder of his career, LeBron James is going to dominate the NBA.
JG – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
This isn’t the sexiest pick but I think Giannis can win again. He’ll improve again this year (not as drastically) and the Bucks will have the best record in the league. Something like 30/12/7 wouldn’t surprise me at all. That + like 60-22 in the regular season is a great case. In the regular season, Giannis is the best player to have
CC – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis is just as good, Bucks regular-season defense will be just as good, and their offense in the regular season will be just as good. Easy pick, Giannis is likely a two peat MVP
Final Count: Giannis Antetokounmpo 2, Damian Lillard 1, Steph Curry 1, LeBron James 1, Nikola Jokic 1, Joel Embiid 1
Eastern Conference Champion
DJ – Miami Heat
I want all the smoke. With the addition of Jimmy Butler to go along with players that are constantly improving like Bam Adebayo and Justice Winslow, this team is built to win now. I refuse to put either the Bucks nor Sixers in the finals simply because I don’t like how either team is built. The Miami Heat are going to be an incredible team to watch, and I’m picking them to win the Eastern Conference.
ER – Milwaukee Bucks
Whilst I think the 6ers will have the best regular-season record, I won’t be picking against Giannis to get out of the East.
SS – Milwaukee Bucks
No Kawhi in the East, No LeBron. However, they do have reigning MVP, Giannis. I think their depth, experience, and overall talent should be enough to carry them past the likes of Philly, Brooklyn, etc.
CP – Philadelphia 76ers
I think the NBA is as open as it ever has been this season, but the Sixers just have so much talent. Simmons is an issue in the playoffs, but I think he will become less of a coward, and I think they have enough size to slow down Giannis. If KD made a magical return late in the year – maybe the Nets.
MK – Milwaukee Bucks
Why have Giannis learn to shoot when you could surround him with shooters instead? The Bucks are playing chess and the rest of us were playing checkers. Not having another star next to Giannis could definitely hurt, given the Fortnite duos state of the NBA. However, this team is so deep with talented players at each position and a coach that knows how to utilize this roster.
JG – Philadelphia 76ers
Think it’s a two-team race with the Sixers & Bucks and think that the Sixers matchup super well with Giannis. Ben can guard Middleton and Bledsoe just turns into a pumpkin every year. Sixers in six.
CC – Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are going to smother the NBA on defense, nobody is scoring on these guys efficient enough to win a series.
Final Count: Milwaukee Bucks 3, Philadelphia 76ers 3, Miami Heat 1
Western Conference Champion
DJ – LA Clippers
Kawhi Leonard + Paul George is awesome. Add in the surrounding pieces that the Clippers currently have and that is a championship contender. I am absolutely here for an All-Los Angeles conference finals series.
ER – LA Lakers
I believe the Lakers will make big moves during the season, which will turn them into a more balanced team fit to beat the Clippers come playoff time.
SS – LA Clippers
This team is stacked, and deep. As I stated with DPOY pick, this team is going to be tough to beat. It’ll be tough but I think they ultimately come out on top of the West.
CP – LA Clippers
As I said, I think Kawhi plays like he has something to prove. Their defense should be scary, and I think they beat the Nuggets in 7 on the road in the WCF.
MK – Portland Trail Blazers
This is the year. Dame and CJ are one of the best one-two punches in the league. Portland has big men in Nurkic and Whiteside. They finally have the depth as well with Rodney Hood, Skal Lasbissire, Kent Bazemore, Zach Collins, and others. The makeup of this team is so complete and I believe the most underrated in the league. Watch out.
JG – LA Lakers
Bron has a revenge year for those that think he’s lost a step. AD gets MVP votes. They pick up a valuable player at the deadline or buy out time and they just edge out the Clippers. Lakers in seven.
CC – LA Clippers
Kawhi and Paul will miss the creation of guys like FVV, Lowry, and Westbrook. However, I don’t think anyone in the west can match up well enough with those two to win a series.
Final Count: LA Clippers 4, LA Lakers 2, Portland Trail Blazers 1
NBA Finals Champion + Finals MVP
DJ – LA Clippers + Lou Williams (over the Miami Heat)
I could go with one of the two superstars on the Clippers. But I’m not going to. No one on the Heat can match Lou Williams’ scoring punch off the bench. He’s going to feast. Also, Clippers in six against the Heat.
ER – LA Lakers + LeBron James (over the Milwaukee Bucks)
It’ll be a tough contested series, but the combo of Davis and LeBron will prove too much just as it did for everyone else along the way with LeBron just edging the MVP award based off some great clutch moments
SS – LA Clippers + Kawhi Leonard (over the Milwaukee Bucks)
No explanation needed.
CP – LA Clippers + Kawhi Leonard (over the Milwaukee Bucks)
I think the Clippers win it all and Kawhi repeats as Finals MVP. I wouldn’t say he’s the most impactful player in the league or overall value, and I certainly think some people overrate the whole “will to win” thing, but I do think Kawhi just knows how to win late in games. More so than the Sixers, who for some reason I just feel like will have something hold them back from winning it all.
MK – Portland Trail Blazers + Damian Lillard (over the Milwaukee Bucks)
I originally had the Bucks winning because I believe that Giannis needs to get over the hurdle, but this Blazers team is filthy. As mentioned above, I love their pieces. I think Dame and CJ are driven to make the next step and elevate Portland to the promised land. Give me the team full of dogs compared to the team with just one (very big, very scary) dog.
JG – LA Lakers + LeBron James (over the Philadelphia 76ers)
Could see this going either way but this is probably LeBron’s last chance at a championship so I think he really brings it. Don’t think the Sixers can match up with him well enough and he always sons Horford. LAL in 7.
CC – Philadelphia 76ers + Joel Embiid (over the LA Clippers)
They’re just too good on defense for me to bet on anyone else.
Final Count: LA Clippers 3, LA Lakers 2, Philadelphia 76ers 1, Portland Trail Blazers 1
DJ – Charlotte Hornets
They won’t win the lottery, because Hornets, but this team is absolutely terrible. They have some young pieces but they are going to win less than 20 games this season.
ER – Memphis Grizzlies
Whilst a couple of teams may have worse rosters than the Grizzlies, I believe that their schedule will be so tough in the West that its hard to picture them getting to 20 wins this season.
SS – Charlotte Hornets
No explanation needed.
CP – Cleveland Cavaliers
I could definitely see Kevin Love either getting traded or just not playing very many games for this team
MK – Washington Wizards
Dare I say that the Wizards are more clueless than our Hornets? I have no idea what they are doing. John Wall is still injured with his Achilles injury. They just gave Bradley Beal a massive extension instead of shopping him. They’ve already peaked as a team as the fourth seed in the East back in 2017. Their roster as is doesn’t stand out in the slightest.
JG – Cleveland Cavaliers
I think the Cavs trade Love at some point and after that, it’s rough to look at their roster. They’ll be bad this year.
CC – Cleveland Cavaliers
Worst defense in the league, and not really much better on offense.
Final Count: Cleveland Cavaliers 3, Charlotte Hornets 2, Memphis Grizzlies 1, Washington Wizards 1
First Overall Pick in the 2020 NBA Draft
DJ – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC
He’s talented. The Hornets NEED him.
ER – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC
In the UNC system, Cole Anthony will show all the ability required to be considered worthy of a number 1 overall pick, hopefully, it’ll be the Hornets making that decision come June…
SS – LaMelo Ball, Guard, USA
CP – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC
He is very good
MK – LaMelo Ball, Guard, USA
I’ve had the luxury of watching LaMelo play in person three times and each time was better than the last. Highlights or rankings don’t properly describe just how good he is. He moves like a gazelle on the court, has the best court vision I have seen for someone his age and can be a gifted scorer. I’m ALL IN on LaMelo Ball.
JG – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC
Watch Cole Anthony at UNC this year. He’s the perfect Roy Williams guard. He’s going to be first-team All-America & may even win player of the year. His ability to be able to get to the rim and pull-up from 3 will be amazing to watch. We could be looking at a Dame clone.
CC – Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC
I reserve the right to change my mind after a year of CBB, but as of now I love Cole’s shot creation, athleticism, and handle. It seems like he’s going to be an efficient creator out of high PnR.
Final Count: Cole Anthony 5, LaMelo Ball 2