On the one hand, the month of May means all of the NBA’s most fun things. It means Conference Finals and NBA Draft Combine and annual awards, but on the other hand it also means that it’s time for me to take my medicine and revisit the 50 NBA predictions I made in the fall.
Every year, I begin this project with extremely high hopes. I tell myself that this year will be different, that this is the time where I finally break through and get the overwhelming majority of my predictions correct. But these predictions are hard. In fact, I purposefully make them that way because if they were too easy, I’d get just as much flak in going 50-for-50 on “no duh” predictions as I do for going 25-for-50 on ones that take a little bit of gumption.
Back in October when I made all of these, I tried to take some risks. This year, more than most, those risks didn’t pay off.
But I really do mean well, and one thing about these 50 predictions articles is that I do hold myself accountable in coming back to them. So here I am, coming back to them, even though I never hate myself more than when I look back on what I thought were reasonable predictions seven or eight months ago. In any event, here’s the first half (and the other half is coming on Friday):
1. Carmelo Anthony will play 70+ games and finish among the top five in the league in points per game.
HALF RIGHT – Anthony only finished 13th in points per game with 21.8 a night, but he did stay healthy enough to play in 72 games.
2. Pau Gasol, who finished fourth in the league last season with 11.4 rebounds per game, will not finish among the top 10 rebounders in the league this season on a per-game basis.
WRONG – He finished sixth in that category this year with 11 rebounds per game.
3. Stephen Curry will see small drops in his field goal and three-point field goal percentages this coming year, seeing two percent decreases in both.
WRONG – Both went up, from 48.7/44.3 to 50.4/45.4. He had a historical year behind the arc. Again.
4. That said, he’ll still make 40 more three-pointers than anybody else in the league.
RIGHT – Make it 126 more than anybody else in the league. His record-setting 402 threes topped teammate Klay Thompson, who finished second with 276.
5. Monta Ellis will be among the top 10 scorers in the NBA as the No. 1 scorer for the Indiana Pacers.
WRONG – He finished 69th in the NBA this year with 13.8 PPG. He didn’t have quite the effect on that offense that I thought he would, apparently.
6. Anthony Davis will finish among the top three in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage.
WRONG – Davis was seventh in scoring, ninth in rebounding, 28th in field goal percentage and fourth in blocks. In other words, he was top three in none of those things.
7. Before his blood clot scare last season, Chris Bosh was averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 rebounds. He will surpass both numbers this season.
HALF RIGHT – He only played in 53 games before the blood clot issue came up again, but in that time he averaged 19.1 PPG and 7.4 RPG.
8. Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor will combine for 18+ rebounds per game in Philadelphia this season.
WRONG – They combined for 15.1 RPG, which isn’t bad. It’s just not as outstanding as I thought it would be.
9. Kevin Durant will play 50+ games this season, but not more than 70.
WRONG – Durant played in 72 games, but this is one where I’m glad things turned out better than expected.
10. Kevin Love will see both his rebounding numbers and his three-pointers per game increase this season.
HALF RIGHT – Love’s points per game dropped a bit from 16.4 to 16, but his rebounds increased a touch from 9.7 to 9.9. Either way, he was pretty much exactly the same player he was last year.
11. Ty Lawson will score fewer than 15 PPG for the first time since his sophomore season, but he also will average double-digit assists for the first time in his career.
HALF RIGHT – I really thought I had that one for a second! Lawson was abysmal this year, scoring 5.8 PPG while in Houston and 4.9 in Indiana. His assist numbers were just as bad, averaging 3.4 with the Rockets and 4.4 with the Pacers this year.
12. Damian Lillard is going to average career-highs in points, assists and usage rate.
RIGHT – Lillard’s 25.1 PPG was a 4.1-point boost over last season, while his 6.8 assists also were a career-high. He also finished among the top-eight in usage rate this year with a 31.8 percent – the first time in his career he topped 30 percent.
13. While Andre Drummond may not lead the league in rebounds, the gap between him and league-leader DeAndre Jordan will shrink by half this year.
RIGHT – The gist of this was that Drummond would catch up to Jordan, and he did, by way of finishing atop the league in terms of rebounds per game this season.
14. The Sacramento Kings will be a .500 team this year.
WRONG – And it wasn’t even close. At 33-49, they finished as one of the Western Conference’s worst teams.
15. The Dallas Mavericks will not.
WRONG – The Mavs finished 42-40, two losses away from embarrassing me a whole lot less than I’ve embarrassed myself in these predictions this year.
16. Golden State will take something of a step backward, failing to win 60 regular season games following their championship season a year ago.
WRONG – Oh so very, very wrong.
17. The L.A. Clippers will have the best record in the Western Conference.
WRONG – I hate myself.
18. Atlanta also is due for a drop-off from last season. They’ll not only fail to win 60 games again this year, they’ll finish no higher than third in the Southeast Division.
HALF-RIGHT – Atlanta saw a 12-game dip in the win column this year, placing them in a tie with Charlotte for second place in the Southeast. That technically means they’re both also tied for third in the Southeast, but the Hawks won the tie breaker and finished ahead by the skin of their teeth. At least I was close on this one.
19. The best team in that division this year will be the Washington Wizards, who will finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference this year.
WRONG – They didn’t even make the playoffs.
20. The San Antonio Spurs will boast the best home record in the NBA this season.
RIGHT – And they almost went undefeated there in the process.
21. The Charlotte Hornets will see a 10+ game improvement over last season and will make the playoffs.
RIGHT – The Hornets won 15 more games this year than last year (from 33 to 48) and did, in fact, make the postseason this year.
22. Despite some measured improvement and loads of hype, the Milwaukee Bucks will not win 50 games this season.
RIGHT – They fell quite a bit short of that mark, winning only 33 games. Things did not end up quite as rosy as we thought with the young Bucks.
23. With Kobe Bryant healthy, the L.A. Lakers will see a 10-game improvement over last season, but still will fall short of the postseason.
HALF-RIGHT – Well they sure as hell didn’t make the playoffs.
24. The Toronto Raptors will win the Atlantic Division for the third consecutive year.
RIGHT – It was their tidiest and most impressive Atlantic Division title yet, and now they’re in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
25. The New York Knicks will finish the year with a better record than the Brooklyn Nets.
RIGHT – Easily, though neither team ended up looking like much when it was all said and done.
And that’s it for now. Check back for Friday, when I revisit my other 25 predictions!
#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors
With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.
Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.
Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.
Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.
The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.
#27 – Robert Williams III – Boston Celtics
With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.
With the 27th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics have selected Robert Williams III.
Although there were early week rumors that the Celtics might try to trade up, they’ve ultimately elected to find a difference-maker at the end of the first round instead. For a team that nearly reached the NBA Finals despite debilitating injuries to Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, Boston’s roster didn’t need a wholesale change on draft night. But at No. 27, they’ll be more than happy to leave with the mysterious-but-talented Williams.
Last year, Williams was viewed as a potential first-rounder before he returned to Texas A&M for his sophomore year. In 2017-18, Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds on 63.2 percent from the field, fueling the Aggies to a 22-13 record. During this current pre-draft process, Williams looked poised to become a mid-first-round selection once again — but his stock faded as the big night got closer. In fact, Williams even decided to watch the draft with his family, even though he was a green room invitee.
His stock has undoubtedly dropped as of late, but this may end up being the steal of the draft — naturally, he dropped right into general manager Danny Ainge’s lap. Williams, 6-foot-10, is a freak athlete that’ll bring a new look to an already fearsome defensive unit in Boston. At A&M, Williams won back-to-back SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and averaged 2.5 blocks per game. Of course, he’ll get the opportunity to learn from the hard-nosed Al Horford, a five-time All-Star and the defensive linchpin for Boston — a win-win situation for all.
Williams, 20, joins an extremely young core in Boston that also includes Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum, among others.
#26 – Landry Shamet – Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers select Landry Shamet with the 26th overall pick.
With the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select guard Landry Shamet of Wichita State.
Shamet, if he is able to fulfill his potential, should provide the Sixers with some much-needed shooting, as their rotation was noticeably starved for another deadeye sniper.
A career 43.7 percent three-point shooter, Shamet sank 44.2 percent of his shots from downtown last season, and he did so while firing nearly six attempts from deep a game. Sliding Shamet at the guard position alongside franchise point guard Ben Simmons allows for another weapon at Simmons’ disposal.
Standing at 6-foot-5 and 21 years old, Shamet has the size to play either guard spot in the NBA (especially given Philadelphia’s lengthy and versatile lineup). Along with his shooting ability, Shamet also led the American Athletic Conference with 166 assists last season. With Markelle Fultz still a question mark for Philadelphia, Shamet provides a secondary ball-handler and playmaker, whether in the starting lineup or in the reserve unit.
The first round of the 2018 NBA Draft was a whirlwind for the Sixers, and they ultimately land two guards of very separate varieties: an upside-laden athlete in Zhaire Smith, and a skillful “veteran” rookie whose skillset is established.