With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
No. 1: The Clippers will garner the #1 seed
The Clippers make-up this upcoming year looks decidedly veteran in comparison to years past. Blake and DeAndre are both year older, hopefully wiser, and going to be given the lion's share of the Clippers front court minutes as the front office has conceivably put all their hope in the duo after signing no name-brand backup big men (Mullens and Hollins, really?). This move was questionable to many as the Western Conference seems to have a few tough front court lineups (Randolph & Gasol, Perkins & Ibaka, Howard & Asik, Duncan & Splitter), and Memphis bullied the Clips in the paint in last year's playoff bout. Yet, with savvy veterans Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley at small forward- who could probably both play the 4 if the Clips go small- and experience abounding at the guard spots in Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Willie Green, and Darren Collison, the Clippers should be just fine. That's before we get to Chris Paul, the best point guard in the league for the past 8 years (maybe 7/8, Rose was really good in 2011). The dude is a maniac of a competitor and hands down the 3rd best player in the entire NBA behind LeBron and Durant. CP3 is one of those guys that you can win a title with as your best player. He dragged this team to the brink back in 2008; that Spurs series was both incredibly devastating and maddeningly close as you could imagine.
Now, with a supremely seasoned squad it's very tenable that this Clippers team could win 60+ games and run the Western Conference because a veteran team like this Clips one won't just drop random games against bad opponents. This Clippers team, with Doc Rivers at the helm, looks to be no-nonsense and all business from the get-go. Time is running out on CP3's title window, and there's no doubt in my mind that it has created a frenetic urgency behind his leadership of the Clippers this year, especially with the best coach CP3 has had in his entire career. Then as you look at the Clippers pacific division: the Suns and Kings pose little threat, while the Lakers are a huge question mark, but the Warriors will be a good matchup this year. Yet that's no comparison to the southwest division where the Spurs, Rox, Mavs, Grizz, and Pels will beat up on each other all year like they usually do. There's no time like the present for the Clippers, and barring something catastrophic it's perfectly possible for Los Angeles' little brother to surge into the #1 seed with their depth and veteran experience.
No. 2: JJ Redick will hit so many 3's he won't know what to do with himself
Back in the Dwight days when Orlando was pegged as a 3 point shooter's dream, well a lot of those years weren't JJ Redick's best. He was dogged early on for not being strong enough to defend; JJ could barely find the court to drop haymakers from downtown- his strength- as he perennially resided in Stan Van Gundy's doghouse. But he finally broke out, right as the ship began to sink, posting his best numbers of the Dwight era in the lockout shortened season. Thus most of the time Redick was running alongside guys like Tyronn Lue, Jason Williams, Rafer Alston, Anthony Johnson, Ish Smith, and Chris Duhon; rare were the times he was alongside league-average point guard Jameer Nelson who's not exactly a Maravich-ian passer.
Then in his best season, last year he was shipped to Milwaukee midseason- after finally garnering trade value from all those years of hard work. But in Milwaukee he was stuck next to Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings all the time; that's two guys who may or may not understand the concept of passing. You think he's the least bit excited about playing with Chris Paul the greatest point guard in the league? JJ finally as a point guard who will actually feed him the rock when he's open. CP3 made Marco Belinelli and Morris Peterson look like decent shooters back in the day and that's saying something. JJ will have plenty of these moments this year after finally being freed up and liberated with a pass-first point guard for once in his career.
No. 3: Darren Collison will find himself again
Once upon a time, Darren Collison was just a rookie with a lot of promise. He and fellow-rook Marcus Thornton burst onto the scene running the Hornets second unit with such precision there was little drop off. Collison and CP3 were considered the best PG tandem in the league; Collison showed a lot of promise as a replacement to CP3 in what, at the time, was a bleak future- New Orleans had no owner, the GM who drafted DC and MT was now coaching the team, and CP3 was about to walk in free agency. Then he got dealt, he never quite found his footing in Indy, and was eventually usurped by George Hill. Last year, Collison was buried in Dallas in favor of Mike James. Ouch.
Collison has been very steady statistically speaking throughout his career, and actually returned to his rookie-year effectiveness when he moved into a backup role last year. So, maybe the guy is a lifetime backup, maybe DC was never meant to be "the guy." Now that he's back behind CP3, who no doubt takes a helluva lot of pressure off his backups by rarely putting them in a position where they are behind, I think it's about the time he finds his inner chi again (whatever the hell that means). Darren Collison is about as steady a backup as LAC could ask for, and I believe he's primed to regain that form that made him a rookie sensation back in 2009.