The NBA is back! Let’s jump right into the predictions!

REGULAR SEASON AWARDS

Coach of the Year:

Tom Thibodeau — Minnesota Timberwolves

The KAT/Wiggins/Dunn/LaVine core it LEGIT. I believe Towns will be the first-team all NBA center on a Wolves team that starts seriously building up their future contender status under Thibs.

Sixth Man:

Brandon Knight — PG, Phoenix Suns

This is one of the tougher awards to predict because so much changes with rotations during the season. As it stands, Knight is by far the best player in the league that will be playing a reserve role.

Defensive Player of the Year:

Avery Bradley — SG, Boston Celtics

It’s going to be close with Draymond and Kawhi, but AB is determined to win one of these awards. The Celtics take a huge step forward this season (Brad Stevens finishes second in coach of the year voting) and Bradley will be a huge reason why as he terrorizes opposing guards.

Most Improved Player:

Devin Booker — SG, Phoenix Suns

Booker topped my list of breakout players heading into this season and is primed for the MIP award. At just 19-years old, Booker took huge steps towards the end of last season and got the recognition he deserved around the league. He’s just going to keep getting better. Fast.

Rookie of the Year:

Joel Embiid — C, Philadelphia 76ers

We finally get to see Embiid in action. With his teammate Simmons out for about half the season, Ingram will give Jo Jo some competition out west. But when it comes down to it, Embiid is too special a talent. I think it’ll be a runaway presuming he stays healthy. Embiid may rival Towns as one of the most valuable assets in the league by season’s end.

Most Valuable Player:

James Harden — PG, Houston Rockets

Just picture Steve Nash running the point for Mike D’Antoni back in the mid-2000’s. This is going to be just like that, except Harden’s going to flirt with scoring 30 a night. The assist numbers won’t be quite like Nash, but I think Harden’s going to give us a solid 29/8/8 line for a surprisingly good team out west. We won’t be able to ignore it.


Check out the Top 10 Dunks From Last Season


REGULAR SEASON STATS LEADERS

Points:

Russell Westbrook — PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

As you’ll see as you continue reading, Westbrook’s going to be the stat king this season. His team just won’t win enough games to have him justifiably win the MVP. I believe Westbrook will keep Harden behind him in the scoring department by topping 30 a game, though.

Rebounds:

Andre Drummond — C, Detroit Pistons

Maybe it’s boring to pick a repeat winner, but Drummond averaged nearly 15 boards last season and he’s only getting better. I can’t see anybody taking this crown from him.

Assists:

Russell Westbrook — PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Leading the league in scoring and assists!? Yup! Sure he won’t have KD to dish to, but he also won’t have KD handling the ball half the time. With the ball always in Russ’ hands, he’s got the potential to carry the scoring load and find his teammates 10-12 times a game.

Blocks:

Hassan Whiteside — C, Miami HEAT

Another boring repeat winner. But did you know Hassan averaged 3.68 blocks last season!? Next up was DeAndre Jordan at 2.3. Whiteside may struggle with his individual defense, but he’s still the best pure shot blocker in the league.

Steals:

Russell Westbrook — PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Here he is again … look, Westbrook’s going to be a beast this season. Combine the impact of KD leaving on the court and the chip on Russ’ shoulder and he’s going to be lights out this season. I think he’s the fantasy MVP and Harden’s the only guy that’s even close.


Playing on the Opening Night Slate? Find the top targets for tonight’s game HERE


EAST PLAYOFF SEEDS

1. Cleveland Cavaliers — Need I explain this one? Even if LeBron plays less minutes, I think they’re at the top.

2. Boston Celtics — The C’s are going to be really good due to their scrappy play, deep bench, coaching and leadership from Thomas and Horford. That makes them my pick to finish just a few wins behind the Cavs, but there’s a mile wide gap in talent.

3. Indiana Pacers — Indy has a sneaky good team this season. Just look at the starters: Teague, Ellis, George, Young, Turner (Al Jefferson off the bench). That squad should be good enough to lock down home court in the first-round of the east.

4. Toronto Raptors — Some minor regressions from last season combined with Boston and Indy’s improvements cause for a small step back for Toronto. They’re a nice team, but did nothing to improve.

5. Charlotte Hornets — The losses of Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee will hurt, but this is still a strong, young team on the rise. MKG will be back to fill those minutes lost on the wing, and Kemba and Batum will lead the charge offensively.

6. Washington Wizards — The Wizards talent has to eventually pay off. If Wall and Beal remain healthy, a playoff birth is inevitable. Remember, they had a real shot at the Conference Finals back in 2015 until Wall hurt his hand in the playoffs before disappointing last season.

7. Detroit Pistons — They’ll have to play without Reggie Jackson for about six weeks, but a playoff team from last year should be able to manage in the East. Factor in the natural progression of their young core and Detroit should be in a similar situation this season.

8. New York Knicks — Fine, I think the Knicks will get in (sorry Bulls fans). They’ve got enough talent, clearly, but putting it all together will be an issue at times. If an older, wiser ‘Melo buys in, Porzingis takes big steps and we get good D-Rose I’d be willing to discuss a higher seed. I don’t see all that happening, though.

WEST PLAYOFF SEEDS

1. Golden State Warriors — Once again, not much to explain. Definitely under 73 wins, though. There will be some minor, minor, minor growing pains (like maybe none, but still … 73 again? That’s a lot of wins).

2. Houston Rockets — Surprise! I think the Rockets are going to crash the party out west this season. Once again, I’ll compare them to the mid-2000’s Suns — I don’t think the Rockets are real contenders, but they’re going to win a ton of games and my predicted MVP’s going to look good doing it.

3. San Antonio Spurs — The Spurs are simply going to plug Pau Gasol in for Tim Duncan and not skip a beat. I see another typical Spurs season in which Kawhi finishes top-5 in MVP voting.

4. Los Angeles Clippers — I don’t consider the Clippers a contender, but they’re still very good. I think they’ll be right where we expect them to be, as they were last season before all the wild injuries.

5. Memphis Grizzlies — Memphis feels really good about its offseason. Chandler Parsons will help, but certainly doesn’t put them over the edge. He does round out a very strong starting five for the Grizz, though.

6. Portland Trailblazers — Bringing the whole gang back from a young team that got hot late last season while adding Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli … this team’s going to be good. Damian Lillard will continue to grow and always make Portland tough to beat.

7. Utah Jazz — After just missing out on the postseason a year ago (because Kobe decided to drop 60 on them) the Jazz are expected to really improve this season. Some project them as high as fourth in the West. I’m not sure they’re that good, but certainly playoff worthy.

8. Minnesota Timberwolves — I really want to put the Wolves higher but there’s so many good teams in the West (by now you’ve noticed OKC doesn’t even make the postseason). Towns is a legit stud, Wiggins is right behind him along with a slew of young talent and great coaching. Baby steps for the Wolves until they become a powerhouse just as GSW’s reign of terror comes to an end.


FINALS PREDICTION

Warriors defeat Cavs 4-2

I’m not overthinking this at all. Sure, something crazy could happen, but it’d be crazy in my mind not to get Part III of this epic battle. Once we get there, it’s the Warriors’ turn this time. Too much firepower. Too much hunger. Too much revenge. Thus setting up an epic 2018 Part IV.

For questions or comments don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter @julianedlow


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.