By: OTP Staff
Congratulations, basketball fans. You've made it. The 2017-18 NBA season is upon us, which means it's time for our 3rd annual OTP Season Predictions Roundtable.
Most Valuable Player
Dan: Karl-Anthony Towns. He averaged 28 and 13 in Minnesota's final 31 games last year. Sure, he won't get as many touches with Butler on the team, but I think 26 and 12 is a realistic line for KAT. With improved defense, KAT could be a darkhorse for NBA MVP, let alone Wolves MVP.
Zach: Jimmy Butler: I think KAT will be the best player on the team but Jimmy Butler will be the most VALUABLE. He is the player that will put this team back into the playoffs. His defense will affect the whole team positively and make life much easier for Wiggins and KAT offensively. Butler will also be able to be like a 2nd coach to these young players which is incredibly valuable.
Jonah: Jimmy Butler. Butler will be the defensive stalwart while carrying a heavy share of the scoring load. Essentially, he’ll do it all for the Wolves.
Cal: It’s between Jimmy and Karl. If I had to pick one I would say Karl, but he needs to play consistent defense and still produce on the offensive end at a high level.
Louie: While many people will want to jump to Jimmy Butler here right away, I think this year belongs to KAT (again). While adding Jimmy is a huge addition for the Timberwolves, I think that the player that will add the most value this year will be Karl, and the outcome of the season weighs heavily on his shoulders.
Most Improved Player
Dan: Andrew Wiggins. The roster is much more set for Wiggins to be successful now. Minus the fastbreak points Ricky got him, the offensive is now more conductive for him. Teams can no longer double him and prevent him from getting to "his spots" on the court. If he can shoot the three ball at a 36% rate, Minnesota will have a better third-fiddle than 95% of the league.
Zach: Andrew Wiggins. Even though Wiggins scored at a high rate last year there were parts of this game that we needed more from. I think this is the year that we see Wiggins take a big step with his entire game. The addition of Butler will give Wiggins more favorable matchups and with Butler in his ear I think his defense will improve. Wiggins said he will make a collective effort to rebound better. His three point shot looks improved as well, which will help him score more efficiently.
Jonah: Tyus Jones. Last year we saw flashes of a true backup point guard in Tyus. With another year in the same system, he has the opportunity to take over as the sole backup.
Cal: Shabazz Muhammad. I think he has shown signs of improvement and potential. I think the addition of some veterans like Butler and Jamal Crawford will be very beneficial to him.
Louie: Tyus Jones. We saw glimpses of what Tyus can do, and while his athletic ability will limit his NBA career, his basketball IQ will not.
Defensive Player of the Year
Dan: Jimmy Butler! He's always been a "Thibs guy", one who plays defense first and offense second. He'll play as many minutes as Thibs wants him to and always play the hardest.
Zach: Jimmy Butler. Butler is the best defensive player on this team and it really isn’t close. He can guard 3 positions with ease and is a good team defender as well. His combination of strength and speed is what makes him an elite defender, not just on the Wolves but in the NBA.
Jonah: Jimmy Butler. Butler and Kawhi Leonard are the only active players with more steals than fouls. Enough said.
Cal: Jimmy G Buckets! I think this one is pretty obvious. Jimmy Butler was already an elite defender in Chicago, and is considered one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Not to mention he is reunited with Thibs, who have had a lot of success together.
Louie: I’ll be watching Jimmy closely this year when it comes to defense, and not necessarily what he is doing directly. The effect he will have on the other players on the defensive side of the ball will give him the crown of defensive player of the year.
Who leads the team in scoring?
Dan: Karl-Anthony Towns. With the ability to post-up, handle the ball, and shoot, the 2016-17 all-star snub has established himself as one of the top offensive forces in today’s game.
Zach: Karl-Anthony Towns. This is a tough one with three great scorers on the team but I think KAT is just too dynamic and can score in so many ways. He may average the least shot attempts of the big three and average the most points. Put packs will be where he has the advantage over the other two.
Jonah: Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT is the only player on the team who can play inside and outside virtually anywhere on the court. His soft shooting touch and near robotic post moves should allow Towns to remain nearly unguardable.
Cal: Karl-Anthony Towns. He led the team in scoring last year, and played out of his mind after the All-Star break. I see no reason why he can’t do it again.
Louie: While the Timberwolves now have three players who do not struggle to get their own on offense, look for Karl-Anthony Towns to do a bulk of the scoring this year (see 2016-17 post All-Star game stats).
Three bold predictions
Dan: 1. The Wolves trade for Jared Dudley at the deadline. 2. Gorgui Dieng finishes in the top 5 in 6th Man of the Year voting. 3. Wolves win at least one game versus the Cavs AND Warriors.
Zach: 1. Bjelica shoots 40% or above from three point land – not much to go off to give me this feeling. I think his shot selection will help. 2. Jeff Teague makes us forget about Ricky Rubio….well maybe not forget about it but he will win over the Wolves fan base with his quick play. 3. The Wolves make a trade deadline deal that plays a big role in the second half of the season and in the playoffs. Aldrich and a 2nd? Will the OKC pick need to be used? Not sure, but it will be a needed.
Jonah: 1. The Wolves take the 4 seed. 2. Shabazz plays a key bench role. 3. The Wolves make a trade at the deadline.
Cal: 1. Wolves will at least make the Western Conference Semi-Finals. 2. Wolves will be the 3-4 seed in the stacked Western Conference. 3. KAT will be All NBA First team.
Louie: 1. The Timberwolves win the division. 2. Jimmy, Karl, AND Andrew make the All Star game. 3. Tom Thibodeau wins coach of the year
Vegas Over/Under (Currently at 46.5)
Dan: Barely over. I'm placing them at 47-35. 6th in the West.
Zach: Over. I have the Wolves winning 48 game this year. It’s a little under what some national projections put them at but is still a huge jump and SHOULD put them in the playoffs.
Jonah: Over. I said this before last season but I guess I’ll have to repeat myself; this year is finally the Wolves year. The places are all in place for an extremely successful season.
Cal: Over. I think the Wolves have brought in a lot of what they needed this off-season and really have improved. They brought in defense which was much needed, and another star in Butler.
Louie: With the over sitting at 46.5, I’ll be optimistic and say the Wolves are going to win 48-50 games this year. But Vegas knows, Vegas always knows.
Any All Stars?
Dan: KAT and Jimmy! These stars will light up Target Center night in and night out and will have the opportunity to light up New Orleans next February.
Zach: KAT. Karl-Anthony Towns will be an all-star this year. He put up all-star type numbers last year but the Wolves record made it tough on him to get it. Another year of recognition and being even better will be enough to get KAT the all-star game bid.
Jonah: Towns and Butler. Butler has been an All Star previously and as one of the two faces of an up and coming team he should be more popular than ever. Towns is the other face of this up and coming franchise and possibly one of the most skilled players in the league. That combined with his infections personality will get KAT into his first All Star game
Cal: Jimmy and KAT. Jimmy was an All-Star last year so I see no reason why he couldn’t do it again. I think it will be more difficult with the West being so stacked, but he is more than capable. Karl should have been an All-Star last season, so I think this year people will recognize how great he really is.
Louie: See three bold predictions.
And finally, the burning question: Will the #Wolves end their 13-year playoff drought?
Dan: I answered it above, but yes, they will. There is too much talent on this team (feel like I've said this for three years) to miss the playoffs in a league where 8 of the top 15 teams in each conference make the playoffs. Biggest difference maker will be an improved defense.
Zach: The Minnesota Timberwolves WILL end the 13 year playoff drought! This isn’t that bold if you go off of projections, but still extremely exciting. I can’t even imagine what it will be like to have playoff basketball back.
Jonah: Yes, as I said above all the pieces are in place. If it doesn’t happen then this team is cursed and we’re all doomed.
Cal: Yes, the Wolves will make the playoffs this season. They have the talent and offensive capabilities. Its going to come down to defense. Bringing in Taj Gibson and Butler is definitely going to help.
Louie: Yes, especially with the recent coach Thibodeau quote about not waiting and being patient, I feel like all of the Timberwolves eggs are in this years basket.
Most Valuable Player
Dan: Kawhi Leonard, who finished third in MVP voting last year. If San Antonio, can grab a top three seed in the Western Conference playoffs, Leonard will have been a massive factor and receive the attention he rightfully deserves. BEST TWO-WAY PLAYER IN THE GAME!
Zach: I know it’s an easy answer but I believe LeBron James will be the MVP this year. He will play massive minutes white IT is out and will be determined to put up huge numbers. Durant and Curry came to mind as well, but I think there is just so much star power on that team that it neutralizes the numbers a bit.
Jonah: LeBron James. After last year’s Finals loss, LeBron seems extremely motivated. The only NBA player to average 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists on 54 FG% + was 2016-17 LeBron James.
Cal: Kawhi Leonard. He was already in the running for MVP last season as well as DPOY, so I see no reason why he can’t win this year. Especially sense the two other candidates last year (Westbrook and Harden) have added more stars to their rosters than the Spurs. He just needs to get healthy.
Louie: Kevin Durant. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in NBA Math’s #CrystalBasketball rankings this year, and I am proud to say I am the one of the only people who voted KD as the best player in the league this year.
Most Improved Player
Dan: D'Angelo Russell. His career has been nothing short of a roller coaster so far. However, his talent remains undisputed and he will have every opportunity to find himself in Brooklyn. Being away from the bright lights of Los Angeles will only help.
Zach: Brandon Ingram. I chose Ingram for a couple of reasons. First off, his season was so bad last year that it will be easy to improve greatly. Secondly watching Ingram play this preseason he looked like a different player this preseason confidence wise. Lastly, the Lakers aren’t going to be a very good team and Ingram is going to have the freedom to put up a ton of shots.
Jonah: Nikola Jokic. Jokic should be able to fully assume the role of franchise centerpiece with another off-season under his belt while being paired down with the underrated Paul Milsap.
Cal: Derrick Rose. He is in a good atmosphere with Cleveland and I think LeBron can teach him a lot.
Louie: I can see this going to many players, but I think with Carmelo getting shipped off to OKC, look for Porzingis to make some big strides in his game this year.
6th man of the year
Dan: Will Barton. One of the Association's top bench scorers in the league. He's not only the first guy off the bench for Denver, he's entrusted with anchoring reserve lineups as the main scorer and shot-creator.
Zach: Eric Gordon. This is a tough one this year with Crawford and Igudola becoming older and especially in the case of Crawford, less effective. Gordon may be counted on less with the additions Houston made, but if he continues to hit shots he will get the minutes again and put up big numbers.
Jonah: Nick Young. Young hit 43% of his threes for a mediocre Laker team last year. Now he’s in one the most talented offensives ever.
Cal: Nick Young. I just think that he will thrive in Golden State.
Louie: As bad as I want to tell you our very own Minnesota Timberwolf Jamal Crawford will be the 6th man of the year, again, I know this wont happen. Lou Williams and Eric Gordon are a couple names to watch out for.
Rookie of the Year
Dan: Dennis Smith Jr. He is the rookie class’s pick to win Rookie of the Year, earning just over 25 percent of the vote. Smith Jr. has boatloads of potential and the athleticism to win Rookie of the Year.
Zach: Lonzo Ball. I think Ball will have enough of an impact on the Lakers to have what most consider a productive season. Ball will also be in the spotlight all year playing in LA and make a lot of splashy plays, which always help with this award.
Jonah: Kyle Kuzma. Forget Lonzo Ball, forget Markelle Fultz, Kyle Kuzma is going to take the league by storm.
Cal: I have to go with Lonzo Ball or Dennis Smith. They are both great young talent and will be a big focal point with their teams. They were both great in the summer league as well.
Louie: Ben Simmons is a name you will hear all year for a Rookie of the Year candidate, as long that he stays healthy. After the preseason, Kyle Kuzma will be a fun “sleeper” pick for Rookie of the Year.
Team that will surprise people
Dan: Charlotte Hornets. Nicola Batum's injury hurts, but a couple-month absence isn't nearly enough to write them off. Charlotte is well-coached with a fairly cohesive rotation full of players who’ve developed chemistry together. The Hornets are a highly likely a playoff team, not someone who many think will be fighting for a playoff spot . After all, they play in the East.
Zach: Washington Wizards: I think people forget that it’s more than just Boston and Cleveland in the East. Washington has the players and experience to compete for the second spot in the East.
Jonah: Boston Celtics. I don’t believe the Irving-Hayward pairing is a match made in heaven. It will take some time for these guys to learn how to play with each other.
Louie: I think that a team, out of the West, that will surprise many people will be the Utah Jazz with our beloved Ricky Rubio. I think this year will be Gobert’s breakout year from “VORP Twitter” to “Everyone Twitter”.
Defensive Player of the Year
Dan: Rudy Gobert, who will block nearly 3 shots per game into the hands of Spanish wonderboy Ricky Rubio. Gobert alone makes Utah a top 10 defensive team.
Zach: Rudy Gobert. I think this one explains itself. Gobert is a beast inside and will put up huge block numbers and great rim protection numbers. Gobert is also a bigger name now and that usually helps with winning these awards.
Jonah: Kawhi Leonard. Year in and year out Kawhi brings top tier defense to a defensive system that swallows up the opposition.
Cal: Draymond Green. That’s what he does best and Golden State needs him to continue to be that guy.
Louie: As I just mentioned about Rudy Gobert and his breakout season, I think the Stifle Tower will grab the defensive player of the year trophy this year.
Coach of the Year
Dan: Erik Spoelstra. If the Heat finish get a top five seed the East, Spoelstra will take home the Coach of the Year award that he rightfully deserved last season. I'm all in on Erik Spoelstra.
Zach: Tom Thibodeau: This is probably a homer pick but I think Thibs will at least be in the running. The Warriors are so good every year I don’t think Kerr will get it. If the Wolves can end the 13 year drought and win 50+ games, Tom will be as good of a pick as anyone.
Jonah: Tom Thibodeau. The Wolves should win 45+ games this season. After winning only 31 last season this level of improvement would not go unnoticed.
Cal: Tom Thibodeau. The Timberwolves made some great offseason moves and will make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.
Louie: While my bold prediction for Thibodeau to win coach of the year is fun to entertain, Brett Brown may be a bold prediction to lead the 76ers out of the depth of hell.
Bold predictions, anyone?
Dan: The Bulls finish last in the East. Joel Embiid finishes top 10 in MVP voting. James Harden rolls his eyes at Chris Paul and everyone claims the Rockets have massive chemistry issues.
Zach: 1. LeBron and IT don’t mesh well on the court and the Cavs have to limit IT’s minutes with LeBron. 2. The Warriors finish with the best record in the NBA. BOLD I know! 3. The Spurs lose in the first round of the playoffs
Jonah: The Lakers suck and Lavar Ball gets thrown out of a game.
Cal: Joel Embiid will be healthy for an entire season.
Louie: With the new All Star Game format, 75% of the players will be from the west.
Eastern Conference Playoffs Predictions
Dan: (1) Cavaliers
Zach: (1) Cavaliers
Jonah: (1) Cavaliers
Cal: (1) Cavaliers
Louie: (1) Cavaliers
Western Conference Predictions
Dan: (1) Warriors
Zach: (1) Warriors
Jonah: (1) Warriors
Cal: (1) Warriors
Louie: (1) Warriors
Eastern Conference Finals Matchup
Dan: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Zach: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Jonah: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Washington Wizards
Cal: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Louie: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Western Conference Finals Matchup
Dan: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
Zach: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
Jonah: Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
Cal: Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Louie: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
NBA Finals Matchup
Dan: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Zach: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Jonah: Dan: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Cal: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Louie: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Dan: Golden State Warriors
Zach: Golden State Warriors – I wish this wasn’t my prediction, but they are just so darn good!
Jonah: Golden State Warriors
Cal: Golden State Warriors
Louie: Golden State Warriors