The 2018 NBA Season got underway this week. While it’s almost a certainty the season is going to end with a fourth straight Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers, we still don’t know how exactly we will get there. There are injuries to overcome, trades to be made and an MVP to decide.
Here are three predictions that are undoubtedly correct and I will be looked at as a genius for by the end of the season:
3. The Spurs don’t reach 55 wins.
The Spurs have been the NBA’s model of consistency the last two decades. Since 1998, San Antonio has won 55 games in all but four seasons. And two of those seasons were shortened by a lockout.
If the Spurs somehow do it again this season it would be one of the greatest coaching feats of Greg Popovich’s career. This is one of the shallowest rosters the Spurs have ever rolled out.
Last season, the Spurs relied on Kawhi Leonard more than they ever relied on any one player. He was the quarterback of the Spurs offense and was also the middle linebacker of the defense. While Leonard isn’t expected to miss a lot of time with his current quad injury, it’s the sort of injury that has nagged him throughout his career. Leonard suffered right quad tendinitis in 2012, missed three games in 2016 and missed a game in March of last season due to a right quad contusion. If Leonard is out of the lineup for an extended period of time, it will be tough for the Spurs to survive.
While Houston added Chris Paul and Oklahoma City swung blockbuster trades for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, San Antonio’s biggest acquisition was Rudy Guy, who self admittedly “couldn’t walk five months ago.”
Tony Parker also isn’t going to be back until around the All-Star break leaving the Spurs lacking in guard depth.
Come playoff time I expect the Spurs to be dangerous as ever, but with all their question marks, San Antonio should just be focused being healthy in April.
2. At least two All-Star Centers are traded
Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan could all be in different uniforms at the end of the season. While I wouldn’t be shocked if all three of these moves happen, I’m going to realistically only expect two.
Memphis looks like it’s ready to hit the reset button. With a couple years left on his deal and Gasol still playing at an elite level, the Grizzlies should get a hefty return for the 32-year old. The Grit and Grind Era was fun but in the stacked Western Conference, the Grizzlies need to build for the future.
If New Orleans trade Cousins, it will be out of necessity. Cousins is in the last year of his deal and has given no indication of his future plans. If the Pelicans aren’t in a playoff position by the trade deadline and don’t feel confident in their ability to retain him, New Orleans is probably best served trading Cousins rather than lose him for nothing in free agency.
DeAndre Jordan is the least likely of the bunch to be moved, but the Clippers face an interesting decision. Jordan is likely to hit free agency this summer by opting out his contract. If the Clippers want to retain his services they will have to open up the checkbook. But should they really want to?
Jordan is an elite rim protectors but doesn’t do much else. He’s led the league in field goal percentage the last five seasons but with Chris Paul taking his talent and lobs to Houston, that’s unlikely to continue.
The Clippers just re-signed Blake Griffin to a $173 million, 5-year contract this summer. The Clippers are going to spend a lot of time figuring out their new identity and without a Hall of Fame point guard conducting the offense, Griffin and Jordan might not be two-headed monster they once were. Los Angeles should be hesitant to tie up most of their cap space in two players that might not be an ideal fit together anymore.
1. John Wall is the 2018 NBA MVP
Vegas currently has John Wall at 33/1 odds to win the MVP. That is way too low for a player that checks of all the boxes you would look for when trying to find an MVP. Wall is the undisputed best player on his team, in the prime of his career and is going to have to be a superstar every single night.
Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry will split votes while writers try to figure out which of the two is actually the most valuable.
Westbrook is unlikely to have a repeat performance of last year and he shouldn’t have to now that he has two All-Star running mates. Similarly, Harden isn’t going to have the offensive workload he did a year ago sharing the backcourt with Chris Paul.
Kawhi Leonard is by far and away the best player on the Spurs but his nagging quad injury is enough to raise concern that he will be able to play a full season Popovich has said that Leonard’s current injury is related to the one that he had last season. If an injury is affecting Leonard some six months after he first suffered it, it’s enough to raise concerns that it’s something the former Finals-MVP will have to deal with all season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name has been brought in the MVP conversation but if the 22 –year old phenom were to take home the hardware, he would be the league’s youngest MVP winner by over two years. The Greek Freak is incredible but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. He is likely a couple years away from being a true MVP contender.
This seemingly leaves LeBron James the MVP by default. But James isn’t at the stage of his career where winning an MVP is the most important thing to him. The only thing that is going to add to James’ legacy at this point is adding another title to his resume. Racking up mileage in the regular season and chasing stats would put that in jeopardy. As long as the Cavaliers are healthy and James is operating close to 100 percent, Cleveland should have an easy path to the Finals and a fourth consecutive meeting with the Warriors.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.