It's officially the dawn of a new season. Tonight, the Lakers and Clippers will begin the battle for Los Angeles while the Toronto Raptors attempt to prove they can still compete without Kawhi Leonard as they take on the Zion-less New Orleans Pelicans.
The offseason was the craziest we've ever seen and with a plethora of new duos and an unpredictable league landscape, this season has set itself up to be the best in years, possibly ever. Over/unders can be released by Vegas, talking heads can give their commentary, and us at Burbs can predict the future, but it's safe to say not a soul knows what is about to unfold.
Matty 1c3 and I (Martin) have been talking hoops since our sophomore year of high school, so in the name of Bill Simmons, here are our predictions for the 2019-20 NBA season.
Martin: Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
I actually dropped an awards prediction piece a few weeks ago, so check that out if you want to see how my picks have changed following preseason.
My MVP pick has not changed and I don't think it ever will. The preseason is the preseason, but it really looks like Anthony Davis can bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to their dynastic ways.
In only 20 minutes per night across his four preseason appearances, Davis averaged 13 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 blocks, and one steal. Those stats might not jump off the page but it's not the numbers that matter; Davis provides LeBron James with something the GOAT has never had: an ultra-dominant big man who can run pick and rolls as the roller OR ball-handler, space the floor to nail threes, and have the entire offense run through him. Sure, LeBron has played with Hall of Fame talents (Chris Bosh, Kevin Love*, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard) but they either didn't check all the above boxes or were out of their prime.
Davis has long been considered one of the top talents in the NBA, and at only 26-years-old entering his first season as a true contender, this will be the first time we see the true impact Davis can have. The Pelicans had solid cores under Davis during his seven season tenure in New Orleans, but he's never had a teammate like LeBron. People can point to LeBron's age and Davis' health as much as they want, and they may be valid points, but those two at full strength are hands-down the best duo in the NBA and by the end of the season, Davis will be hailed as the best in the league as he is handed his first career MVP.
*I called Kevin Love a Hall of Fame talent, what's it to you?
1c3: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
This may come as a shock to some people. I have been known in the past to bash the Warriors because they take way too many three's and dumb contested shots. It worked though, as they won three titles in the decade and assembled potentially the greatest team of all time. With Kevin Durant gone and Klay Thompson out for awhile, this is Steph's time to shine. We all know he's an incredible player and he's going to prove to us once again how great he is. Additionally, I think the Warriors are going to be a lot better than people are predicting. I think they still are a top three team in the West. Curry puts up around 33 a game with 7 assists and leads the Warriors to around 55 wins and cements his status as one of the greatest, if not the greatest point guard in the history of basketball.
Honorable Mentions: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Rookie of the Year
Martin: Coby White, Chicago Bulls
I picked Cam Reddish of the Atlanta Hawks in my awards predictions because I wanted to be different, maaaaan, and not conform to society and have Zion taking home the award. I was actually going to take Zion for this article until it was reported that he'll be out 6-8 weeks following surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
It's time for my bias to shine. Even though he's going to be coming off the bench, I'm going to take Coby White to take home ROY. After being selected seventh in this summer's draft, Coby showed that he can be a go-to scorer and offensive spark-plug for the Bulls, something they were seeking in a guard.
In his five preseason appearances (25.8 MPG), Coby averaged 19.2 points (43.2% 3FG!!!) and 4.2 rebounds. He put up a less-than-stellar one assist per night, but I guess he's not here to dish the ball. Coming off the bench alongside Kris Dunn, Coby will be able to score right away and help bring the Bulls back to the playoffs.
1c3: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
This was a difficult choice between Ja Morant and Zion Williamson. With Williamson expected to miss the first few weeks of the regular season, I believe this gives Morant the huge edge in the race. Before the draft, I said that Morant was going to be the best player out of the class and I'm still sticking with it. His athleticism is off the charts, his playmaking is unbelievable and his basketball IQ is unheard of for someone his age. Does he have flaws? Yes, he needs to consistently hit from the perimeter and he needs to cut down on turnovers. With Memphis likely to struggle, and without any true scoring threat, expect Morant to have the ball a lot and put up big numbers. I think he puts up a stat line of around 20-5-7 and takes the race with relative ease. (Note: I Drafted Ja on my fantasy team, he better not disappoint).
Honorable Mentions: Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), R.J. Barrett (New York Knicks), Tyler Herro (Miami Heat)
Defensive Player of the Year
1c3: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Boring pick here, but Rudy Gobert is the best defensive player in the NBA. He's proved not only on an individual level, consistently being at the top of the league for shot blocking and opponent field goal percentage, but also as a team defender. Utah's defense over the past three to four years has been near the top of the league in every category and Gobert is a huge part of that. Gobert has win the award twice in a row, and despite a few guys expected to make a run at his crown, I believe Gobert will cement himself as one of the greatest defensive players of all time.
Martin: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Sorry, but I can't think of a better candidate. Rudy Gobert is a master craftsman of defense and with an improved Utah Jazz team around him, he's going to anchor one of the best teams in the league. There will surely be other guys fighting for the award (Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Paul George) but at the end of the day, Gobert is the best defensive player in the league.
Most Improved Player
1c3: Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
I love the Kings young core. If the Western Conference wasn't so stacked, I would pick them to make the playoffs. However, I still think they're one year away from the playoff hunt. That doesn't mean that they can't make any strides though. It starts with Marvin Bagley. Bagley only started FOUR games last season. Yet, he still managed to put up around 15 points and eight rebounds per game. Yeah that was off the bench. Just imagine what he could do if he was the starter. What also helps Bagley is the frenetic pace of the Kings, as they were one of the fastest and highest scoring teams in the NBA a year ago. In addition, he has an unselfish point guard in De'Aaron Fox who will look to get him the ball. Bagley has the potential to put up 22 and 11 a night, and I think he takes this award with ease and could even flirt with an All-Star or All-NBA selection. (Note: I also drafted Marvin Bagley on my fantasy team, so Marvin, no pressure but let's put up some numbers this year)
Martin: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
I don't know why, but I'm high on the Miami Heat, one of the reasons being Bam Adebayo stepping into a full-time starting role. After putting up 8.9 points and 7.3 boards a night in 23.3 minutes per game last season, Bam is going to become a double-double factory.
With the additions of Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, the Heat are bringing a solid team to the floor, especially in the feeble Eastern Conference. With Hassan Whiteside set to prove himself again in Portland, Bam has nobody to compete with; he's the man in the middle. Part of me feels as if the Heat can compete for the third-seed, and if they do, Bam will play an integral part.
Honorable Mentions: Mitchell Robinson (New York Knicks), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Lonzo Ball (New Orleans Pelicans)
Sixth Man of the Year
1c3: Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
There's no better sixth man in the history of the NBA than the bucket getter himself, Lou Williams. Williams could go out there with no warm up and give you 20-25 a night. Whenever the Los Angeles Clippers needed a bucket last year, especially in their first round series with the Warriors, it was Williams taking, and usually making the shots. This year might be Williams best team ever, with the Clippers adding two time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and 2019 First Team All-NBA member Paul George to an already deep roster. While Williams scoring numbers could dip, expect him to lead the second unit and expect him to be in the game during crunch time, where he'll likely have the ball in his hand with the time winding down. He adds yet another sixth man trophy to his collection and interestingly could be making a case to be inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.
Martin: Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons
I said it in my original picks and I'm going to say it now, Rose is an effective player (when healthy). If he can stay on the floor for this Pistons team, he can average over 20 points a night. Last season showed that his three-point stroke is legit and if he follows the trend that players become better shooters with age, a 45% clip wouldn't be crazy.
The explosiveness is still there and the confidence is back; Rose is a good NBA player. Hopefully he can put the injuries behind him and just hoop because if it all works out, D-Rose will perfectly fill his role.
Honorable Mentions: Montreal Harrell (Los Angeles Clippers), Monte Morris (Denver Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)
1c3: Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are trending upward. They have a good young core, led by Trae Young and John Collins. While I don't think those guys can be the best player on a championship team, they're really good pieces and have individual skills that can help a team win. They drafted well this year too, adding a three and D player in De'Andre Hunter, and a potential lethal bench shooter in Cameron Reddish. I like the look of the Hawks roster, but I am concerned about defense, especially in the backcourt. Despite Young's high steal tot