It’s mid-July and the sports world is quiet, so it’s a fitting time to assess the landscape of the NBA and make speculative predictions as to how the next five years will play out.
How long will Golden State’s reign atop the league continue? Where will LeBron be in 2018? Are there titles in store for teams like Boston, Minnesota, and Philadelphia?
Those answers and more, as I try to accurately predict the next five NBA seasons.
*Note: team logos represent NBA Finals matchup.
Conference Finals: Cleveland over Boston; Golden State over Oklahoma City
NBA MVP: Kevin Durant, GS
First-Team All NBA: Stephen Curry (GS), Russell Westbrook (OKC), LeBron James (CLE), Kawhi Leonard (SA), Durant (GS)
It’s going to happen again for the fourth consecutive Finals…Golden State will ride the momentum from their 16-1 postseason and top their 67-win regular season from last year…Cleveland will once again rule the East, but they’ll be even less competitive against the Warriors than they were last season…Durant will be the league’s best offensive player and claim his second MVP award after staying healthy for a full season…I like Oklahoma City to thrive with Paul George now alongside Russell Westbrook, and I bet they’ll pull a minor upset over Houston in the West semifinals…speaking of the West semifinals, San Antonio will take a step backward and be swept in that round by the mighty Warriors…Lonzo Ball will not win rookie of the year…Ben Simmons of the 76ers will.
Conference Finals: Boston over Washington; Golden State over Los Angeles
NBA MVP: Stephen Curry, GS
First-Team All NBA: Curry (GS), James Harden (HOU), LeBron James (LAL), Anthony Davis (NO), Kevin Durant (GS)
Another one…a fourth title in five years, to be exact…this could be the last year that Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green all play together (it will be Thompson’s last season under contract)…and if that’s the case, I bet these Warriors will go out strong by securing their place among the greatest NBA dynasty’s…LeBron James, meanwhile, will no longer be a Cavalier…him and Paul George will join Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to make one of the NBA’s proudest franchises, the Lakers, relevant once again…as for the Cavs, they’ll fall to the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference, allowing the Celtics to take their place as the East’s best team…in other news, the 76ers will finally make the playoffs and Stephen Curry will have another 50-40-90 season en route to his third MVP award.
Conference Finals: Washington over Milwaukee; Los Angeles over Houston
NBA MVP: Anthony Davis, NO
First-Team All NBA: John Wall (WSH), Damian Lillard (POR), Kawhi Leonard (SA), Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL), Davis (NO)
LeBron’s dominant years may be winding down three years from now, but he’ll still be great enough to lead a third franchise to an NBA title…Lavar Ball will say it was all because of Lonzo, though…the Wizards will finally break through after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins to play alongside his college teammate, John Wall…Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo will be neck-and-neck for the MVP award after averaging roughly 30 points and 10 rebounds respectively.
Conference Finals: Philadelphia over Boston; Minnesota over San Antonio
NBA MVP: Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN
First-Team All NBA: Stephen Curry (GS), Kyrie Irving (NYK), Kawhi Leonard (SA), Towns (MIN), Joel Embiid (PHI)
One of these years, Sam Hinkie’s ‘Process’ will be proven right…A healthy Joel Embiid will one day be the NBA’s best center, while Ben Simmons will develop into a mini-LeBron…However, it will be the Timberwolves, with their dynamic core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Jimmy Butler, that will win a title first…Towns will also win MVP after establishing himself as the league’s most dominant post player…Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs will make another run to the West Finals after a three-year absence…and the Knicks, after luring Kyrie Irving away from Cleveland in free agency, will finally be a contender again in the East.
Conference Finals: Boston over Chicago; Golden State over Minnesota
NBA MVP: Anthony Davis, CHI
First-Team All NBA: Stephen Curry (GS), Andrew Wiggins (MIN), Ben Simmons (PHI), Davis (CHI), Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)
My Celtics will win one title within the next five years…sooner or later, all those high draft picks–Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, next year’s picks from Brooklyn and Philadelphia–will help make Boston unstoppable in what will still likely be a relatively weak Eastern Conference…the East will get stronger, though, after Anthony Davis departs New Orleans and signs with his hometown Bulls…as for the Warriors, they’re poised to be this era’s San Antonio…they’re such a well-run organization…Curry, Durant, and company will still be the NBA’s premier franchise five years from now.
Durant photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated; NBA logos courtesy of Sportslogos.net