Quinn: NBA Predictions

As the mid-season NBA All-Star Break approaches, The Mirror’s NBA expert Kein Quinn makes his predictions.

NBA Champion: Golden State Warriors

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Source: Wikimedia

At this point in the season, the Warriors are the team to beat. Already back-to-back NBA Champions, this offseason the Warriors signed Demarcus Cousins, considered by many to be one of the best centers in the NBA. In 48 games for the New Orleans Pelicans last season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points per game, 12.9 rebounds per game, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.6 steals, all while shooting 47% from the floor before going down with a season-ending Achilles injury. When Cousins returns on January 18, the Warriors will boast a lineup of 5 all-stars, including 2-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and former regular season MVP and two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant. At the shooting guard position, they have Klay Thompson, one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, who holds the record for the most three-pointers made in a game with 18; Thompson once scored 37 points in a single quarter. They also have former Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green.

Eastern Conference Champion: Toronto Raptors

raptors

Source: Wikimedia

The Eastern Conference is much more up for grabs than the West, but so far Toronto has looked like the best team in the East. Currently sitting in 1st place in the conference with a record of  33-12, the Raptors are the team to beat. In the offseason, Toronto made a big trade for Kawhi Leonard, a former All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP, considered by many to be a top-five player in the league. The move seemed questionable at the time, as Leonard was coming off a season where he only played in 9 games, and the Raptors had to give up Demar DeRozan, who led the team in scoring for the last 5 seasons. But the move has paid off: Leonard is having one his best seasons as a pro, averaging 27.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Their point guard, Kyle Lowry is currently second in the league in assists with 9.6. Their bench unit is also one of the league’s best and highest scoring. Power forward Pascal Siakam is also enjoying a breakout season averaging 15.2 points per game up from his career average of 8.3.

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks

ginoa - espn

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo: ESPN)

In the early parts of the season Antetokounmpo seemed to be the clear favorite for the award, but lately after a hot streak from last season’s MVP, James Harden, it seems to be a two-man race. Harden is averaging 43.6 points, 9.3 assists, and 8.8 rebounds per game over his last ten games, but his team has only gone 6-4 in that span, including a loss to Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Rockets sit in 5th place in the West, 5.5 games out of first place and just a game away from falling out of a playoff spot. Antetokounmpo is averaging 26.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 steals. He is leading his team in points, rebounds, and assists while being top ten in the league for points and rebounds, as well as leading all Power Forwards in assists. The Bucks currently sit second in the East, just a game and a half back of the Toronto Raptors. Antetokounmpo has the edge over Harden in all defensive categories as well as field goal percentage, his team is also 7 games better than Harden’s.

Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks

Beijing Ducks v Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic (Photo: Dime Magazine)

Doncic, the third-overall pick in the 2018 draft was traded from at Atlanta to Dallas on draft night. He played his three previous seasons in the Euroleague with Real Madrid, winning the Euroleague MVP and leading his team to a championship last season. In the NBA, the 19-year-old is having arguably the best rookie season since Lebron James entered the league in 200. He is averaging 20.3 points, 5.1 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per game on 43.6% shooting from the field and 37.2% from three-point range. With all the ability Doncic has shown, he seems to be the cornerstone of the Mavericks rebuild and a future NBA superstar. Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns would have a good case for the award in most seasons, but for now, the award is Doncic’s.

Sixth Man of the Year: Derrick Rose of the Minnesota Timberwolves

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Derrick Rose (Photo: Sporting News)

In 2011, Derrick Rose became the youngest player in NBA history to win the MVP award. His explosiveness and effectiveness were derailed by a series of knee injuries, including a torn left ACL and a torn right meniscus. There was a point where many thought Rose was close to out of the league, but his former Head Coach Tom Thibodeau gave him a chance on the Timberwolves, which signed him to a minimum contract. This season, Rose leads all bench players in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game, including a career-high 50 points on Halloween, while shooting a career-best 46.8 percent on three-point attempts. Last year’s winner, Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers and Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers are also candidates for the award.

Defensive Player of the Year: Paul George of the Oklahoma Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder Introduce Paul George during Portrait Shoot

Paul George (NBA via Getty Images)

Before this season George, a top caliber wing player in the NBA, wasn’t known for his defensive prowess. He has been a lockdown perimeter defender for most his career but has really taken it to the next level this season. The Thunder currently have the best defensive rating in the league per 100 possessions, largely because of George locking up the opposing team’s best player on a nightly basis. He ranks third in the league in defensive win shares and second in steals and OKC’s defense thrives when he is on the court. Last year’s winner Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers are also players to consider for the award.

Most Improved Player: Julius Randle of the New Orleans Pelicans

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Julius Randle (Photo: NBA)

This offseason, in order to clear up cap space to sign Lebron James, the Lakers gave up their rights on Randle, a top 10 pick in the 2014 draft, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Pelicans signed Randle to a one-year deal to pair up with Anthony Davis, and Randle is having a breakout season. Randle is averaging 20.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the field, up from career averages of 14.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. Randle is becoming the player many thought he would be after leading Kentucky to a National Championship in 2014. Other candidates for this award are Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors and Zach Lavine of the Chicago Bulls.

Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks

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Mike Budenholzer (Photo: Getty Images)

In Budenholzer’s first season coaching the Bucks, they have become a great team. Last season the Bucks, coached by Jason Kidd and Interim Head Coach Joe Prunty after Kidd’s firing, finished 7th in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round of the playoffs. They currently sit second in the East and seem poised for a deep playoff run. Budenholzer’s style of coaching has been to surround the perimeter with three-point shooters and to allow Giannis Antetokounmpo to run the offense and score in the paint. Antetokounmpo is enjoying an MVP-caliber season, while Brook Lopez has had a resurgence in Budenholzer’s system. Mike Malone of the Denver Nuggets and the Toronto Raptors’ first-year head coach Nick Nurse are also worthy of this award.

All NBA First Team

G: James Harden, Houston Rockets

G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

F: Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

C: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

 

All NBA Second Team

G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

F: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder

F: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

 

All NBA Third Team

G: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

G: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

F: Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons

F: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

C: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

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