Sports: Lakers And Clippers Enter NBA Season With High Hopes
by Isaiah Holm
With the season tipping off tonight, NBA fans everywhere are beginning to get excited for this year. This summer’s free agency was arguably the greatest off-season free-agent market ever, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George going to the Clippers, Anthony Davis joining Lebron at the Lakers, and Kevin Durant breaking up the powerhouse Warriors and joining Kyrie Irving at the Nets. This has created insane hype for the season, as there are more than just a couple teams that are title contenders going into the 2019-2020 season. Here are The Brave News’ “way too early” predictions of what will go down:
Western Conference Playoff Picture:
- Houston Rockets
- Denver Nuggets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Portland Trailblazers
- Utah Jazz
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Golden State Warriors
- New Orleans Pelicans
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture:
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Indiana Pacers
- Boston Celtics
- Toronto Raptors
- Miami Heat
- Brooklyn Nets
- Detroit Pistons
Western Conference Champions: LA Clippers
The Clippers have a returning team filled with role players that complement their two new superstars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George perfectly. In addition, they have an amazing coach Doc Rivers which can lead them through a stacked Western Conference.
Eastern Conference Champions: Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the return of a lineup that made the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Bucks are the favorites to win the East. Their only real competition is the 76ers, however, they lost Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, which will make it tough to compete with the Bucks this year.
NBA Champions: LA Clippers
Finals MVP: Kawhi Leonard
With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and a strong supporting cast, the Clippers have the perfect lineup to shut down the Bucks in the Finals. Last year Kawhi got Finals MVP and if he shuts down Giannis as he did in the Eastern Conference Finals last year with Toronto, he will get MVP honors again.
League MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis was a different beast last year in the regular season, and not much will change this year. In the regular season, there are not many teams that can stop this freak of nature. While James Harden and Anthony Davis are also favorites for this award this year, Harden is going to get fewer touches on offense due to the addition of Westbrook to the Rockets, and Davis has not played over 70 games in a season over the past 4 years.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
If Anthony Davis can stay healthy this season, the Defensive Player of the Year award should be his. The Lakers as a whole are not a great defensive team, which should give him the opportunity to rack up stats on the defensive end.
Sixth Man of the Year: Montrez Harrell
Coming in third last year in voting, this should be the perfect year for Harrell to get this award. While Lou Williams seems like a good choice to win the award again this year, his shot attempts will most likely go down due to the addition of two superstar wings. Harrell should not have that problem as a big man.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant
While many are saying that Zion will run away with this award, his size and knee problems could pose an issue to win the award. Ja Morant, on the other hand, is on a bad team in Memphis and has the opportunity to put up big numbers.
Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball
With a new environment and away from the influence of his dad, Lonzo is due for a big improvement. His janky shooting form which has held him back seems to be fixed now. If he can shoot above 33% from three and at least 75% from the free-throw line, along with his playmaking and defense abilities, Lonzo can win Most Improved Player without a doubt.
Notable Additions: Anthony Davis (Trade), Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook (FA), Danny Green (FA), and Dwight Howard (FA)
Notable Losses: Lonzo Ball (Trade), Josh Hart (Trade), and Brandon Ingram (Trade)
The Lakers dynasty has fallen on rough times over the past couple of years with them missing the playoffs the last six years. However, Laker fans can have hope this year with the addition of arguably the best big man in the game, Anthony Davis.
After the drama with the Pelicans, he was finally traded to the Lakers for their whole young core. Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball and three first-round picks were all traded to pair Anthony Davis and LeBron James together. Both are players that can carry a team to the playoffs by themselves, but now they are together which makes the Lakers another favorite in the West.
The concerns of the Lakers lie in the players surrounding the two stars. After the trade to get Anthony Davis, the Lakers were left with very few people on the roster, leading them to have to go to the leftover free agents that were still on the market. They still have Kyle Kuzma, but the point guard position is a bit shaky.
Rajon Rondo has had experience with Davis in New Orleans. However, he is getting old at 34, and the jury is still out if he can come out and be productive for them. In addition, they added big man Dwight Howard to the roster. The last time Dwight Howard was on the Lakers back in 2012, it did not go very well. What was supposed to be a big three, with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Howard, fell apart, and Howard’s career went downhill from there.
Howard’s character and back problems are supposedly fixed, but the Lakers still are worried about potential injury issues. Last year was the first year that LeBron really suffered a major injury, and Davis has always had his issues in playing a full season. With their top-heavy roster and a loaded Western Conference, if one of them gets hurt, they can risk getting a low seed, or even being on the fringes of making the playoffs.
Notable Additions: Kawhi Leonard (FA), Paul George (Trade), Maurice Harkless (Trade), and Terence Mann (Draft)
Notable Losses: Danilo Gallinari (Trade), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Trade)
For the first year in a while, the Clippers are no longer the underdogs. To get to this point, they had to make major changes to their roster this summer.
Adding the Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and one of the best two-way players in the game Paul George cost the Clippers a plethora of draft picks, a fringe All-Star Danillo Gallinari and a promising rookie in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Last year, the Clippers built their identity on being a gritty team that played hard and together as a unit. With the resigning of Patrick Beverley and the additions of Kawhi and George, their identity remains unchanged even though they are no longer the underdogs of last year. Additionally, the reigning 6th man of the year Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are still there, bringing the firepower off the bench.
The biggest worry for Clipper fans, like Laker fans, would be injuries. The star power is there, but Kawhi and George are injury prone, and the loss of one of them could knock them out of the championship race in the loaded West. However, by adding two of the best two-way players in the game to an already good roster, the Clippers are currently the favorites to come out of the gauntlet that is the Western Conference.