With it being the holiday season, it only makes sense to compile a list of things I'd like to see happen throughout the remainder of the season. I've come to realize just how bad I am at making predictions, so wishing for things to happen seems like the next best thing. There's no pressure on me to be right and if something goes sideways, well, I can deal with disappointment. It's safe to assume that none of these will come true, so take anything I say here (or in general) with a grain of salt. In the meantime enjoy going to your Christmas mass or watching your uncle drink one or five too many Coors; I'll be lighting a "Home Sweet Home" Yankee Candle and praying to my Steve Nash shrine.
Side note, Christmas Day is easily one of the best days in basketball all year, nothing like watching the Knicks lose at 11 AM.
Anthony Davis gets traded to the Lakers
This would be the ultimate gift. AD is a top-five player and LeBron clearly needs another bonafide star next to him in order to win another ring (or two, or three, or four...). There have always been trade rumors centered around AD, but this is the first time they feel legit. The New Orleans Pelicans, Davis' current home, are once-again finding themselves in a state of semi-shitty-ness as they'll (likely) enter 2019 as the 14th seed in the West. The Lakers, however, are enjoying much more success as of late; they're at a comfortable 19-14 (4th in the West). Obviously they're much better than the last few years, but the current roster is in no state in win a championship. Even though the signing of Tyson Chandler brought significantly more paint protection, bringing a generational talent into the mix wouldn't hurt. In 29 games, AD is averaging 28.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.7 blocks, and 1.7 steals on 50.5/33.3/80.5 shooting. He can do it all, and him alongside LeBron should make opposing offenses AND defenses shit their Nike-branded compression shorts.
Who do the Lakers give up in a potential AD trade? If the Pelicans are going to send one of the best players of this generation to arguably the best franchise (historically) in the entire league to play alongside the best player ever, they have to get a little something in return. There's only a handful of players that the Pelicans could derive value from: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. It's undoubtedly hard to move on from young talent so early in their careers, but in order for a deal like this to go down, some potential needs to be sacrificed. The least impressive offensively of the bunch is Lonzo, but I'm still riding that bandwagon hard. The defensive prowess he's put on display this season has been uber-impressive (https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1077038507879813120), and the recent calls for him to be named to the All-Defensive First Team are far from unwarranted. Out of the Lakers young core, Lonzo is the one who should absolutely remain in purple and gold. Kuzma has been an animal as of late and has reaffirmed his abilities as a supporting scorer (18.3 points on 48.4% shooting), but AD is AD; Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka probably realize this, and I can see them taking a few risks to pull off such a monumental trade. Brandon Ingram has been largely disappointing this year, but there have been flashes of high-volume scoring potential. He's far from a worthless prospect; Ingram still has value, and he's a piece the Pelicans would likely be interested in. Josh Hart is shooting 4.5 threes a night at a near-38% clip, which is solid, but his skill set and upside aren't nearly high enough to make-or-break a deal. A package centered around Ingram and Kuzma makes sense, and while it would hurt to depart so soon after drafting them, AD is a surefire megastar; kind of hard to say no.
There's still plenty of time until the February trade deadline, so this situation is going to be an interesting one to follow. The Pelicans aren't likely to be in contention in a few months, and with AD recently saying that he cares about his legacy over money, it kind of clears the way for a big deal to happen. There's of course also been the mini media fiasco around LeBron saying he wants to play with AD, but what's he going to say when asked? "Nah, fuck playing with one of the best players in the league. I got KCP and Lance." I don't think so.
The Paul George-for-MVP talk heats up
A little while back, I predicted that Paul George would win Defensive Player of the Year. He's averaging 2.2 steals and 0.7 blocks, both career highs, and the Thunder have a top-six defense, putting him squarely in contention. While it'd be a great boost for my prediction ego if he were to win DPOY, it seems pretty clear that PG has his eyes set on another accolade: MVP.
George is playing so out of his mind right now that it's hard not to root for him. In his last 10 games, he's averaging 32.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.2 steals on 53.9% shooting. The Thunder are 6-4 over that stretch, not great, but they still sit at 3rd in the West (21-11), only a game behind the first-place Denver Nuggets. Even though Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double for the third straight year (I'm not a big fan but still absolutely insane), he's actually taken a reduced role in the offense and it seems as if George is the clearcut number-one option (right now). He's averaging 26.2-8.2-4.4 (all career highs) on 45.4/38.8/83.8 shooting, and his PER is a highly efficient 24.14. There's zero doubt in my mind he'll be an All Star, and if PG keeps up this high level of play while OKC secures first-round home court advantage, he should at least get a few first place votes.
Ultimately I think the MVP is going to go to Giannis or LeBron, but there has been more PG-for-MVP takes on the Twitter timeline. The storyline isn't really as appealing nationally as Giannis' emergence or Kawhi's first-year success with Toronto, so there probably won't be enough hype going into award selection for PG to actually bring it home. It is the NBA, though; crazier things have happened.
The Sacramento Kings make the playoffs
The Kings have definitely been the "Oh shit, they're good?" team this season. They've been awful for twelve years; their last playoff appearance was 2006. Something has clicked this year, though, and their young core has turned into a fast, competitive squad that pushes teams every night. They're currently the 7th seed in the West (18-15), but they have a tough stretch ahead of them with matchups against some really good teams (Golden State, Portland, Denver, both LA teams). The next few weeks are going to be a true test, and we'll get a better idea of just how good they are after it.
The fact that every team in the West except the Suns is fighting for a playoff spot benefits the Kings. Everyone's like a half game apart from each other, so a few losses not only give them lessons but it also doesn't really affect their chances at making the playoffs. If they were to make it, the Kings would be one of the feel-good stories of the year. It sucks that they couldn't reach the playoffs with DeMarcus Cousins, but trading him allowed them to form the team they have now. There's finally a sense of organizational cohesion for the first time in my NBA fandom, and the Kings actually seem to be a good team.
De'Aaron Fox, Willie "Trill" Cauley-Stein, and Buddy Hield have all been balling and they're going to be a solid Big Three the more they get to play together at a high level. This summer's number-two overall pick (Marvin Bagley) hasn't played big minutes yet, but he's played efficiently in the 23 minutes a night he's gotten (12.7 points on 53.6% shooting). The Kings could potentially be buyers at the trade deadline for once, and they could definitely be contenders to land a veteran for a playoff push. The fans in Sacramento have been suffering ever since the whole ref-mob gambling scandal; it feels about time they get some playoff basketball.