With the season's start looming large in our windscreen, we thought it would be a good idea to mine this deep and talented group of writers for some nuggets of prognostication. Some of these are well-supported by fact. Some of these are wild shots in the dark. All of these are fun*.
*Disclaimer: All of these were also written before the announcement of Kevin Durant's injury. Even boltsfan21's. Really. In the interests of journalistic integrity, or something like that, these predictions are presented to you unaltered.
Now, let's start with the boss:
Steve Perrin: When this question was first floated, the prediction was to be bold — and I don't really do bold. I do reasoned. I do data-driven. I like to think I do insightful. But as a general rule, I don't do bold. When I did think of a bold prediction, I migrated to Chris Paul winning the Most Valuable Player Award — but then my sensible side took over and I decided that no one not named LeBron or Durant was going to win an MVP this season, or any time in the immediate future for that matter.
So then I moved to team success, and while I'm not predicting an NBA title, I do think the Clippers will have the best record in the Western Conference. Which brought me back to the MVP race.
We all know that the MVP does not always go to the most talented, most productive player. Voters like a narrative, they like a story, and team success is a huge part of that. Derrick Rose certainly didn't deserve the MVP in 2011 — but the Bulls overachieved and he became the story. If indeed the Clippers have the best record in the West (and if, say, LeBron's numbers slide a bit with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love getting more shots, and Durant falls back from what seem like unsustainable levels, both of which are certainly conceivable), voters looking for an alternative to the former MVPs might just turn to a Clipper.
Would it be Paul or Blake Griffin? We can't know that, but for my money, if the Clippers are the best team in the West, it will be on the strength of a huge season from Paul. He's the leader, he's the point god, he sets the tone.
So let's be bold. There will be a huge element of team success if indeed it happens, but Chris Paul will be the NBA MVP in 2015.
boltsfan21: Blake Griffin will win the MVP Award.
It is, they say, a foregone conclusion: either LeBron James or Kevin Durant, the two most celestial bodies in the NBA universe, will win every MVP trophy from now until humans land on Mars. Unless of course an alien creature with one eyebrow and arms longer than ET's forces his way into the conversation with his evolving offensive game and otherworldly defensive prowess. James, Durant, Davis — end of discussion.
Thing is, someone forgot to tell that to the guy who can launch himself into the stratosphere without help from a rocket. Blake Griffin, not Anthony Davis, was the third-best player in the league last year, and he, too, has yet to engage the secondary thrusters on his ascent into the zero-G realm of superstardom. But that changes this year. LeBron's Cavs will take time to gel, leading to a disappointing 55-win season and a 2-seed in the East. Durant, meanwhile, will finally stretch the elastic holding together those skinny ankles a little too far and will succumb to the injury for which he's long overdue, causing him to miss 30-odd games and costing him his usual place in the hardware race. And Davis? Sorry, MVPs don't play for... well, let's be generous and call the Pellies an 8-seed.
Into that breach flies Griffin, who this year adds to his arsenal a deadly jumper from 18 feet and a semi-reliable corner three that he hits at a ±35% clip. Which, when combined with his pick-and-roll game, his post game, and his open-court game, makes him about as unstoppable as those interplanetary fleets that always blow up the White House when they invade Earth. Griffin hits 55% from the field, 78% from the line, and averages 27 and 11. The Clippers finish with the best record in the Western Conference and Blake Griffin is rewarded with his first MVP. (Bold prediction #2: It won't be his last.)
Also, a Clippers season ticketholder will be hurt during a game at Staples and will file a $2 million personal injury lawsuit.
Big Baby dives into the crowd going after a loose ball and flattens Olivia Wilde? Good guess, but nope. Stadium sushi is finally revealed to be as bad an idea as it sounds? Right there with you, but again, no. Serge Ibaka can't help himself and punches a 5'5" Asian guy in the nads just as he's about to take home $500 from the Chumash Casino shooting contest. Well, I wouldn't put it past him, but that's not the one I'm predicting here. Instead, my SurfaceTM Pro Crystal Ball sees an accident involving an overly exuberant owner, an unsuspecting fan, and a celebratory headbutt. Profuse bleeding, concussion-like symptoms, and an out-of-court settlement ensue.
John Raffo: Alright, my prediction, and I don't know how BIG it is, comes in two parts, the first connected to the second. Part A is that Doc Rivers' junkyard collection of small forwards will pan out to be predictably junky. Doc would love to send Matt Barnes to the bench. Barnes is an adequate but not superior defender and an adequate but not superior shooter, and he'll get most of the starts in the first half of the season. The other guys, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joe Ingles, and Reggie Bullock, won't pan out (Doc might be tempted to give minutes to Hedo Turkoglu at the 3-spot as well but that is a disaster waiting-to-happen). CDR will prove to be the best of the bunch not named Barnes, but without Barnes' toughness or rebounding (which is why Barnes is better).
Part B is that by the end of January, Doc will tire of being burned by any variety of talented two-guards and small forwards of the Western conference, and tire of looking down the bench and having no one to throw at these clever beasts, and he'll conjure a trade. That trade will have as its centerpiece one Jamal Crawford and also contain either rookie CJ Wilcox or sophomore Bullock, and maybe Barnes as well. Hopefully the new guy will be a better defender than any of the aforementioned but he'll probably come with a few holes in his game... perhaps someone at the level of Iman Shumpert, who Doc chased at the trade deadline last year.
Is a Shumpert (by any other name) worth Crawford? No, but you gotta do what you gotta do — and Doc isn't really a GM, is he?
Erik Olsgaard: My prediction is that Chris Douglas-Roberts will ultimately become the starting small forward by the end of the season. This is parallel to Swami Raffo's prediction, but with some minor differences. I wholeheartedly agree that Barnes and Bullock will play themselves into permanent spots on the bench. Barnes will indeed start, but he's a mediocre three-point shooter who shoots like he's an elite one. There were seven guys who played significant minutes last year that were better three-point shooters than Barnes, but only two, Redick and Crawford, who had more three-point attempts per game.
And Bullock simply doesn't know how to handle the ball, which makes him something of a liability. It's not that the Clippers need him to be a point forward, but they need him to not panic when he's under even the slightest amount of pressure. And while Bullock is at least an average one-on-one defender, he's pretty clueless when it comes to team defense. As for Jingles... well, I don't think he'll be with the team after training camp, unless he gets some serious burn in the preseason soon. I have absolutely no opinion on CJ Wilcox, other than that his hair looks cool.
But why do I think CDR will start? First, I have a hunch, and I always trust my hunches. Second, I think his 38.6% shooting from deep last year was a product of practice and improved ability, not fluky small sample sizes. Third, while Barnes is a better rebounder, CDR fouls much less (including the costly techs). Fourth, CDR has way better hair. And fifth, his short shorts will allow him to move laterally much more quickly, making him a plus defender. Look, no one said they had to be good reasons. Just trust the hunch.
As for the second part of Raffo's prediction, if CDR becomes the starting SF, I don't think the Jamal trade happens as he's still a fantastic 6th man. If I'm wrong and CDR doesn't become the starting SF, then the Jamal trade definitely happens. But I'm not going to be wrong, because TRUST THE HUNCH.
Johnny Stark: My prediction is that we will see the Monstars lineup early and often — DJ at the 5, Hawes at the 4, and Blake at the 3. We have heard news of Blake working on his corner three this preseason. Also, dating back to last season, Blake's shooting coach Bob Thate had promised that he would be shooting from beyond the arc regularly this season. While some 3s would be able to out-quick Blake, I think he would be at an advantage the majority of the time. With Hawes able to stretch the floor, Blake can make Barnes-like cuts and also space the floor for JJ to have a track meet before catching the ball on a curl. I don't think this lineup will be the main look on the floor, but I think we will see it more and more as the season progresses.
citizen zhiv: DeAndre Jordan will shoot 60% from the free throw line.
Okay, we know that this probably won't happen, but it could. I've been obsessed with trying to see a light at the end of the tunnel on DJ's free throws for a while now. He shot 52% from the line in 11-12, before the VDN-fueled 38% in 12-13, and with Doc leaving him on the floor he was at 42.8% (160 for 374) last season. If it continues, DJ's futility will be an uncomfortable fit alongside Griffin's steady improvement and progress towards being a Karl Malone-like free throw making machine. Both Griffin and DJ got off to horrible starts at the line last year, digging themselves extremely deep holes. Griffin slowly worked his way out, finishing at 71.5% on a stunning 674 attempts in impressive fashion, and it's not an especially bold or interesting prediction to say that Griffin will be at 75% or even flirt with 80% this season.
DJ is a very different story, of course, but he seemed to finalize his basic form last season and had something of a good run of his own late in the season. He hit some big free throws in the playoffs, but missed just as many and on the whole he was close to his dismal regular season percentage — a better playoff number would bode well, but it isn't there. Still, there were a few times when he looked like he really knew what he was doing, and that's all we have to go on. I think it's all about the first 10 free throws, then the first 25, and onwards from there. If he can start above 50% maybe he can keep hitting them and keep the percentage up. Maybe.
Ray Samora: I predict that TMZ will catch one or more Clippers players and/or coaches using an iPhone or iPad. They''ll make such a big deal about it that it'll even get its own name: iGate.
Larson Ishii: Inspired by the marketing plan of the Grizzlies giving away flip flops when the Clippers come to town, the Clippers decide to initiate their own special fan give away nights:
— October 30th vs. the Thunder: Wine bottles with Wussel, Kevin, and the rest of the Thunder's faces on them. Be warned, the KD wine bottles are extremely sensitive and could break if slightly touched.
— January 7th vs. the Lakers: Ring Pops that expired 5 years ago, to which Laker fans swear they're still good.
— January 16th vs. the Cavaliers: Free trials of Rogaine.
— February 23rd vs. the Grizzlies: Black Belts.
Shap: My prediction for the season, based on early returns, is that Spencer Hawes' pick and roll defense will be "that thing" I obsessively nitpick about all year round. I know, he's the best bench big we've had since, um, a long, long time. He's solid in the post on defense and offense, the stretch big Doc's coveted, great passer, decent rebounder, all those nice things. But that defense off pick and rolls... Against the Warriors alone he got caught on switches that flat out embarrassed him, making him look like he was stranded on an island. Even when he retreated back to his man, he got there so slowly that it left easy opportunities just waiting to be had.
This isn't the first time big defense has driven me crazy, even off pick and rolls. I particularly remember DeAndre's poor decision-making off of screens also being a nuisance during the Vinny years. The problem with DJ was just that, his decision-making, something he's improved greatly during his ascent to being a top tier defensive big (No doubt with some assistance from headier, more consistent coaching). But with Hawes, it's in his footspeed, and smart teams will attack him, like Kerr did even in a preseason game. I've grown to know and accept what we have with our top returning players, but with Hawes? It's a whole bunch of pros, and unfortunately cons, for me to obsess over.
Danielle Greenberg: Joe Ingles will become the primary back up small forward and play most of the minutes. First, he has to make the roster. Offensively, his size, shooting touch, and playmaking ability from the wing will be too hard to pass up, and he may well be the most "complete" option at that position if he can be more consistent than Barnes from behind the arc. None of our other options have proven to be elite defensive players, so even if Ingles is no Kawhi Leonard, he shouldn't be that much of a liability defensively.
FlyByKnight: The Clippers, the lone team in the NBA to not have a 3-game losing streak at any point last season (including playoffs), will endure at least a 4-game losing streak at some point during this season. The Clippers have a few tough stretches in their schedule this year that features some long road trips and the second one is the one I'm keying in on as the one they lose at least four games in a row.
They have an 8-game road trip from January 30th to February 9th. So they'll play eight games in eleven days. The final stretch of that road trip has a 4-in-5 stint where they play Cleveland, Toronto, Oklahoma City, and Dallas. None of those teams are slouches and the Toronto and Dallas games will be on the second night of a back-to-back. I feel like that would be the stretch where the Clippers go on a rough patch of losses. So, for a team that was as consistent as any other in the league last year when it came down to not stringing losses together — longest losing streak all year was two games — I can see the Clippers struggling at points during this season. Just a hunch.
Matt Heller: We will go from the team with the second most technical fouls in the league to the team most resembling the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (in terms of techs — obviously, in terms of talent level, the Lakers and the MTC are neck-and-neck). And all because of one reason:
After a mind-blowing non-call in which Blake is decapitated by three defenders, Blake's disembodied head will yell something in rage at Joey Crawford. As Crawford's hands instinctively begin to from a "T", Sam will open a large binder with "Sam's Super Secret Ref Notes" written in sharpie on front.
"Crawford, Crawford, Crawford..." Sam mumbles to himself while flipping through the binder.
Then, right before the whistle is about to blow, Sam stands up from the bench.
"Joey! Hey how you doin' Joey?!?! Been a long time, been meaning to talk to you about something..."
Crawford looks up quizzically.
"You remember Amber? You know, Atlanta Amber? From the Gold Club? Way back in '98?"
Crawford's expression begins to sour.
"You know, the one who danced to that REO Speedwagon song you put on? We got pretty hammered that night, Joey. You probably don't remember. Anyway, just reminiscing. Tell your wife I said hi!"
Crawford literally chokes on his whistle. On the next Clippers possession, the entire OKC frontline is ejected for looking at Blake.
*Note: This prediction does not hold if Blake and DJ adopt the big balls dance after dunks, which they totally should and would be worth every T we got. Also, Sam got T'd up a ton, but I choose to believe most of his professional success was based on a silky mid-range jumper and tons of strip-club related ref extortion.
Thomas Wood: I predict this will not be the last Clips Nation Roundtable.