EDITORIAL: NBA season preview

Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic (77) looks to pass the ball as Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams (2) defends during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Cooper Neill)

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Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic (77) looks to pass the ball as Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams (2) defends during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Cooper Neill)

The NBA season is almost upon us.  The offseason offered a lot of headlines such as DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Warriors and creating a starting lineup of five all-stars.  Or Kawhi Leonard requesting a trade from the Spurs and ending up in Toronto for the Raptors.  And easily the biggest headline of the offseason, LeBron is now a Laker.  But the offseason is behind us and it’s time to look ahead to the regular season.

First off, and probably the most obvious opinion, the Warriors will win the finals and complete their three-peat.  The eastern conference is up for grabs with LeBron now in the western conference and I don’t believe the Rockets will be as good as last year.  The loss of Trevor Ariza of Luc Mbah a Moute will hurt the Rockets who were the main challenger to Golden State.  Plus, Houston still has to find a role for Carmelo Anthony which could cause problems.  So, Golden State will almost certainly be NBA champions once again.

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Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson celebrates after the Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-85 in Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals to win the NBA championship, Friday, June 8, 2018, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

My pick for MVP has to be the same force of nature that refuses to slow down, LeBron James.  Even in his 16th season, I believe LeBron is going to have one of the best years of his career.  The Lakers were second among teams in possessions per game last year and with the fast tempo offense, I conclude LeBron will be the assist leader at the end of the season.  Combine that with his 25-30 points per game and probable 7 rebounds per game, LeBron will run away with MVP.

Jimmy Butler requested a trade this offseason and it seems like he’ll still be on the Timberwolves to start the season.  Well, this is going to end up badly for the Timberwolves. Butler called out the two cornerstones of the franchise, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and the chemistry on the court will almost for sure not come together.  Butler should be an early season trade to a dark horse team that has a good start to the season.

As I said before, the eastern conference is up for grabs, after LeBron had represented the conference in the finals for the past eight years.  For me, it’s a three-team race between the 76ers, Celtics, and Raptors.  I think this will be the year we see Embiid and Simmons at their best, after a disappointing semi-final exit last year in the playoffs.  The Celtics starting five, looks amazing and along with their depth, they will be a crew not to be reckoned with.  The Raptors will be interesting as they had the best record in the eastern conference last year.  And with the trade that acquired Kawhi Leonard, they could be even better.  At the end of the day, my prediction is that the Celtics win the eastern conference.  I just don’t think the Raptors have enough star power and the Sixers still need one last taste of defeat in the playoffs before they reach the finals.

Lastly, the rookie of the year prediction.  And my pick is Mavericks 6-foot-7 rookie, Luka Doncic, although, I think the Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. will be the best player twenty years from now, when we look back at the 2018 draft.  Doncic has looked pretty good in the preseason putting up 14.7 PPG along with 4.7 RPG and 4.0 APG in only 29 minutes per game.  I don’t think the change to the US for the Slovenian born Doncic will be a problem, as he’ll have the 40-year old Dirk Nowitzki to look up to, who came over from Germany when he was drafted.  Also, the Mavericks should be nowhere near championship level contention, which means the Mavericks can really focus on the development of Doncic along with second year player, Dennis Smith Jr.

It’s going to be a great season, and it will start with a bang as the Sixers combo of Embiid and Simmons will take on the hungry Celtics led by Kyrie Irving at 8:00 Tuesday.  That will be followed by the defending champion, Golden State Warriors, on their home court against Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the rest of the Thunder at 10:00.