With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Brandon Jennings/Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: John Wall dons an All Star jersey
John Wall finished last season on a torrid pace after missing the Washington Wizards first 33 games. Wall bounced back from a slow start to average an impressive 24/7/5 (p/a/r) split in April, while his per 48 stats were even more ludicrous. John Wall finished 6th amongst point guards in Player Efficiency Rating, and was a hot topic on conversation to end the season. Now with an $80 million contract looming, there is no time better than the present for John Wall to prove his worth. Considering all the momentum snowballing behind John Wall heading into next season, what's to stop him from producing an All Star season - barring injury of course?
When you survey the landscape of the Eastern Conference, there is certainly hope for John Wall's All Star candidacy. Last year 3 point guards were selected to the East team; they were Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving, and Jrue Holiday. While Holiday is no longer a member of an Eastern conference team after his trade to the Pelicans, Rajon Rondo figures to be a scratch from a repeat appearance barring a miraculously quick, Adrian Peterson-like comeback. So that leaves 2/3 EC All Star guard spots available, assuming Kyrie Irving balls out this season like Kyrie Irving does to garner a repeat performance. That realistically leaves only 3 players competing for those final guard spots with John aside from a statistical anomaly of a season from somebody like Kyle Lowry or George Hill. First off, Derrick Rose is an easy choice to pencil in, but no one can honestly call how closely he will return to previous MVP form, although we're all thinking he will. Deron Williams is the next option to watch for, and frankly a backcourt of Kyrie, Derrick, and Deron wouldn't be one you can particularly argue with. Yet, with the Nets having added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both players with high usage rates - Pierce 4th among SFs, Garnett 6th among PFs- that might take the ball out of Williams hands enough to detract from his numbers. On the flip side of that idea is Kemba Walker, who is bound to have the ball in his hands enough to put up big stats for the hapless Bobcats. Kemba looks great on paper, his advanced statistics are certainly likable, and he's bound to have a dark horse shot if (big if) the Bobcats do alright before the All Star break. Given those odds, I think John Wall has a damn good shot at fetching his first All Star nod in only his 4th year should he hold up last season's form.
No. 2: A parade will be thrown when Emeka Okafor's contract comes off the books
Look, I'm not here to dog on Emeka Okafor. He was great for my hometown Pelicans (formerly Hornets) for a number of years and a really stand up guy who did a lot for the community, etc. Let's be honest though, despite being a career double double player, great locker room guy, and a lifetime student of the game Okafor is criminally overpaid. MJ had no clue in hell what he was doing when he gave 'Mek $72 million over 6 years. Okafor is the 25th highest paid player in the league, and save for Brandon Roy or Gilbert Arenas adds the least to his team by far. Taking 'Mek for what he's worth, he is a league average center who rebounds like a beast and always comes to work like a professional. In some ways, maybe that's where his true value lies, but I don't doubt Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld will be throwing the good people of Washington DC a parade or at least a couple of these next summer when his abominable contract comes off the books.
No. 3: The Wiz are a fringe playoff team
Like a lot of Eastern Conference teams, the Wizards are hard to place in the rankings. The top 6 are all virtually set - Miami, New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, Indiana, Atlanta in whatever order- barring significant injuries. Then those last two spots are an absolute crapshoot to call, but the Wiz are certainly close. Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, Orlando, Washington, Milwaukee all did some new things, added some pieces this off season and put themselves in positions to compete differently this year. However, until that first month concludes, it's going to be terribly tough to call who actually improved and who was all talk. Then there's of course the injury bug that's bound to bite somebody hard.
At this point, I'd say the Wizards are in. They were 24-25 (.489%) last season with Wall which has been more than enough to make the playoffs these past few seasons. The additions of Glen Rice Jr. (D-League champion) and Otto Porter, re-signing of Martell Webster, and growth of Bradley Beal will all do wonders to bolster their backcourt depth. Should the Nene-Okafor front court hold steady, there's no reason this year's Wizards team can't dream playoffs.