Nov 1, 2021
We’re a couple weeks into the National Basketball Association season, and the battle for the title looks wide open. While the Brooklyn Nets are deserving favorites, the league has strong parity this year and there are at least a half-dozen teams that could challenge for the Larry O’Brien trophy. So before we get too deep in the season, let’s make some early predictions for how it’ll play out:
1. The Los Angeles Lakers are eliminated in the first round, again: Many pundits were raving about the Lakers offseason, but plenty of NBA sharps brought up the spacing issue created by adding Russell Westbrook to the lineup. And while he’s still putting up volume stats, Westbrook’s lack of spacing has clearly been an issue; not to mention the advanced age of the entire roster. We’re only six games into the season but I’m already jealous of the guys who bet the Lakers to miss the playoffs at 18-1 … and while I suspect they’ll make the cut, they’re only one key injury away from being on the outside looking in.
2. NBA Rookie of the Year won’t be won by a top 3 pick: The 2021 draft class looks to be one of the strongest in years, and while the top three picks of Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley have plenty of talent, I don’t think any of those three will win the award. While Green still has the shortest odds in the field, he doesn’t provide much outside of scoring and even that’s been streaky so far. Mobley looks like a stud, but Cleveland is overpopulated with bigs and he doesn’t put up the type of flashy stats that attract awards. Cunningham started his season late, setting him behind the pace of the field. Meanwhile, a number of lower picks like Scotty Barnes, Chris Duarte, and Josh Giddey have impressed in starting roles. I’m hoping for Giddey after betting him at 28-1, but thus far Barnes in Toronto looks like the man to beat.
3. Ben Simmons won’t get traded before the deadline: And it wouldn’t shock me if he doesn’t get traded at the deadline. His poor playoff performance mixed with offseason drama has tanked his trade value, and the two most desirable players for the Philadelphia 76ers to pursue (Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal) are currently unavailable. There’s some chance that changes for Lillard—especially if his play and the Portland Trailblazers performance remains lackluster—but he hardly sounds like a guy ready to force his way out. Considering the Sixers need for a high-level guard, there’s no clear third option to target; and Simmons can’t improve his trade stock while refusing to play. So while the headlines around Simmons trade status will dominate the NBA news until the deadline, I won’t be surprised when nothing happens.