New Arena’s Preview/Predictions For The 2017-18 NBA Season


The start of the NBA regular season is right around the corner. We’ve seen an absolutely bonkers offseason include loads of drama and intrigue. The potential storylines surrounding this upcoming year are truly tantalizing.

New Arena senior NBA analysts Harris Ahmadzai, Jason Fray, and Blake Hoffman were tasked with predictions on award winners, all-league teams, and the postseason for the 2017-18 season.

Without further adieu, here is our jam-packed season preview:


Rookie Of The Year

Ahmadzai: In what should be one of the best races of the season, LA’s newest star seems primed to take home this trophy. Ball is a lock to start for the Lakers and log big time minutes. His playmaking is the best single skill of any rookie in this class. Playing in Los Angeles and having 35 nationally televised games will greatly help his exposure.

A modest 13-8-4 stat line while increasing the Lakers win total from last season might be enough to get it done. Especially considering his direct competitors – Dennis Smith Jr. (inefficiency), Josh Jackson (not enough scoring), Jayson Tatum (crowded frontcourt), Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons (splitting the vote) – all have more hurdles to climb.

Winner: Lonzo Ball — Los Angeles Lakers
Runner-up: Markelle Fultz — Philadelphia 76ers

Fray: LaVar Ball has been called loud, obnoxious, overbearing, and any other adjective one would want to bestow upon the magnetic character. After this year, we’ll be attributing one more description towards Ball: A prophet. He’s been consistent in his opinion that his son Lonzo will win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

I tend to agree – largely because he’ll instantly be given the keys to the Lakers’ offense from the start. His passing ability is highly transcendent – as is his intelligence on the court. With Luke Walton employing a free-flowing style of play, Ball will get many opportunities to showcase his talents.

Winner: Lonzo Ball — Los Angeles Lakers
Runner-up: Dennis Smith — Dallas Mavericks

Hoffman: Lonzo Ball will steal the headlines, but it’s Ben Simmons who will walk away with this award. Opposing point guards will be gunning for Ball every single night, but teams won’t have as much success trying to contain Simmons.

At 6’9” running the point, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick will be a match-up nightmare leading Philly’s dynamic offense. Expect a 14-point, 8-rebound, 6-assist stat line for Simmons as he helps guide the 76ers to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Winner: Ben Simmons — Philadelphia 76ers
Runner-up: Jayson Tatum — Boston Celtics


Sixth Man Of The Year

Ahmadzai: After playing 34 games with the Rockets, Sweet Lou is back in Los Angeles and in a prominent role for the Clippers. Doc Rivers’ squad doesn’t have a go-to scorer outside of Blake Griffin, which should allow Williams to eclipse 20 points per game for the first time in his career.

Winner: Lou Williams — Los Angeles Clippers
Runner-up: Tyler Johnson — Miami Heat

Fray: Usual suspects Eric Gordon, Jamal Crawford, and Lou Williams will invariably be in the hunt for the Sixth Man Award. This is a virtual given considering the dearth of quality scorers off the bench currently in the league. With that said…I’m going to mix it up this season. Will Barton will emerge this season as one of the NBA’s best reserves. He averaged over 17 PPG per 36 minutes last season. Duly, he’ll be a free agent next season. Barton will be more than motivated by the desire to secure a hefty contract at year’s end.

Winner: Will Barton — Denver Nuggets
Runner-up: Jamal Crawford — Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoffman: The Clippers aren’t good at winning playoff games, but they’re really good at serving up Sixth Man of the Year winners. Super-sub Jamal Crawford won two as a member of the LA franchise, and Sweet Lou should step right in to Crawford’s role. Williams won’t offer anything on the defensive end, but for a Clippers team in dire need of playmakers who can create their own shot, he is an ideal fit.

Winner: Lou Williams — Los Angeles Clippers
Runner-up: Andre Iguodala — Golden State Warriors


Defensive Player Of The Year

Ahmadzai: Losing George Hill and Gordon Hayward obviously stings, but all the Jazz did in response was go out and grab two of the league’s best perimeter defenders in Ricky Rubio and Thabo Sefolosha. Gobert was all over the leaderboards for every advanced defensive metric last year (1st in Defensive Win Shares, 1st in Block Percentage, 3rd in Defensive Rating). Voters love these numbers, and the 25-year old only has room to grow.

Winner: Rudy Gobert — Utah Jazz
Runner-up: Draymond Green — Golden State Warriors

Fray: Much like the Sixth Man of the Year Award, we have a constant trio virtually always in the running for the Defensive POY honor. Rudy Gobert, Kawhi Leonard, and Draymond Green are clearly in a class by themselves when it comes to grinding defensively. With Gordon Hayward leaving, Gobert figures to hold a bigger role offensively. This could take away from his prowess slightly on the other end of the floor.

As for Green and Leonard, the Spurs rely far more on Leonard than the Warriors do on Green. For San Antonio to have any chance at finishing within the Top 3, Leonard will have to have an MVP-like season.

Winner: Kawhi Leonard — San Antonio Spurs
Runner-up: Rudy Gobert — Utah Jazz

Hoffman: It’s hard to envision anyone other than Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green or Rudy Gobert taking home this award. Each offers their own compelling case as Kawhi is the best wing defender, Draymond offers the most versatility, and Gobert is the best rim protector. Even though Leonard already has two to his name, I think he’ll narrowly edge the other two out.

Draymond will cede some small-ball center minutes to Durant, Gobert is on a Utah team that might miss the playoffs, and Kawhi gets the extra exposure of being the face of San Antonio’s franchise. He’s the best wing defender in the league by a mile, and will once again be rewarded for it at season’s end.

Winner: Kawhi Leonard — San Antonio Spurs
Runner-up: Rudy Gobert — Utah Jazz


Coach Of The Year

Ahmadzai: The additions of George and Anthony have risen expectations in Oklahoma City. Reaching those high expectations will be tough, but the voters will appreciate the job Donovan does managing his trio of stars. This team has the recipe for disaster. Donovan leading them to a 2-seed in the West with only one basketball to go around should be commended.

Winner: Billy Donovan — Oklahoma City Thunder
Runner-up: Jason Kidd — Milwaukee Bucks

Fray: The Coach of the Year Award race is perhaps the most intriguing of any in the NBA. Ironically enough, Steve Kerr’s teams are too good for him to get any serious consideration. The same likely can be said for Gregg Popovich’s consistent brilliance. Boston and Cleveland are the preemptive favorites in the East – which likely cancels out Brad Stevens and Ty Lue (barring a historic run). OKC’s Billy Donovan, Denver’s Mike Malone, Philly’s Brett Brown and Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau appear to be the early front-runners.

The Thunder could finish as high as second in the treacherous Western Conference. However, I’m giving Thibodeau the slight edge – primarily because the Wolves should see a large win increase from last year’s 31-51 record.

Winner: Tom Thibodeau — Minnesota Timberwolves
Runner-up: Billy Donovan — Oklahoma City Thunder

Hoffman: Much like LeBron deserving the MVP award each season, Gregg Popovich should win this each year. Instead, this has become an award dedicated to the coach whose team experiences the most improvement. Since the three-headed monster of Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is going to carry Philly to the playoffs this year, Brett Brown will take home the hardware.

Winner: Brett Brown — Philadelphia 76ers
Runner-up: Tom Thibodeau — Minnesota Timberwolves


Most Valuable Player

Ahmadzai: The MVP race is as wide open as ever entering the 2018 season. LeBron is always a contender, though his minutes will have to come down at some point. The Rockets brought in Chris Paul which will bring down Harden’s ball handling opportunities. Westbrook is now contending with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony for touches. The Warriors would need to win 73 games for either of their two stars to get serious consideration. All of this sets up a chance for a potential dark horse candidate like the Greek Freak.

Milwaukee should improve on their 42-win season from last year with Jabari Parker fully healthy and another year with that young core. Even a slight increase in Giannis’ overall numbers from last year (22.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 5.4 APG on 52-percent from the field) puts him firmly in contention.

Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo — Milwaukee Bucks
Runner-up: Kevin Durant — Golden State Warriors

Fray: The MVP race will be fascinating. It’s difficult to envision Russell Westbrook replicating his heroic efforts from last season. James Harden will have to adjust his game with the arrival of Chris Paul – as will LeBron James with the departure of Kyrie Irving. James likely will have to shoulder more of the load. As he approaches his 33rd birthday, one has to wonder whether Cleveland will rest him more to preserve freshness for the postseason.

The Kevin Durant-Steph Curry dynamic will be one to watch for, as Durant will enter this year far more comfortable than he did the prior season. However with Irving gone and Isaiah Thomas out until January (if not later), James will take it upon himself to have a herculean-like season.

Winner: LeBron James — Cleveland Cavaliers
Runner-up: Kevin Durant — Golden State Warriors

Hoffman: LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA. Russell Westbrook is the best stat stuffer and Kawhi Leonard is the best defender. But what do all of these MVP candidates have in common? They aren’t on a juggernaut Warriors team that will win 70 games this season. This award tends to go to the best player on the best team (with last year serving as a rare exception), and Durant will keep the momentum from last year’s Finals rolling.

Curry is the face of the franchise, but Durant is Golden State’s best player. He’ll lead the league in scoring, play elite defense and post the second 50-40-90 season of his career en route to a second MVP award.

Winner: Kevin Durant — Golden State Warriors
Runner-up: LeBron James — Cleveland Cavaliers


All-NBA Team Selections

Ahmadzai:

First Team: Steph Curry, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Second Team: Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Karl-Anthony Towns

Third Team: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert

Fray: 

First Team: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Second Team: Karl-Anthony Towns, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard

Third Team: Rudy Gobert, John Wall, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin

Hoffman: 

First Team: Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Karl-Anthony Towns

Second Team: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis

Third Team: John Wall, Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert


Top 4 Teams In Each Conference

Ahmadzai: 

West

  1. Golden State Warriors (69-13)
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder (58-24)
  3. Houston Rockets (56-26)
  4. San Antonio Spurs (54-28)

East

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (55-27)
  2. Boston Celtics (51-31)
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (50-32)
  4. Washington Wizards (47-35)

Fray: 

West

  1. Golden State Warriors (68-14)
  2. Houston Rockets (59-23)
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder (57-25)
  4. San Antonio Spurs (56-26)

East

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (52-30)
  2. Boston Celtics (50-32)
  3. Washington Wizards (49-33)
  4. Toronto Raptors (47-35)

Hoffman: 

West

  1. Golden State Warriors (71-11)
  2. Houston Rockets (57-25)
  3. San Antonio Spurs (56-26)
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-31)

East

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers (55-27)
  2. Washington Wizards (52-30)
  3. Boston Celtics (50-32)
  4. Milwaukee Bucks (47-35)


Finals Prediction

Ahmadzai: We haven’t seen anything like this Warriors team. They’re talented, in their prime, have a great coach, and have no egos (unless you count Draymond). Adding Nick Young and Omri Casspi only made them deadlier from three-point range – if that’s even possible. It’s Golden State’s title to lose. And lose they will not.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers in 5

Fray: As if Golden State could get any deeper, the roster was enhanced further with the additions of Omri Casspi and Nick Young. Durant will be even more comfortable this season (and we saw how well that went for him). When looking at Cleveland, the guard trio of Dwyane Wade-Isaiah Thomas-Derrick Rose may be the worst set of defensive players in the league. I have a hard time envisioning Cleveland winning a series against Golden State — despite James’ utter greatness.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers in 5

Hoffman: I like what the Cavs did this offseason. Losing Kyrie Irving and adding Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade better equipped them to compete with the Warriors. But Golden State is too talented, too deep and will be even better this season with another year of familiarity playing together. This time, the Warriors win back-to-back titles and their third in four years to further stake their claim as the best team since Jordan’s Bulls.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers in 6

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