50 Predictions for 2018-19 NBA Season

Drew Maresca and the Basketball Insiders team offer their annual 50 predictions for the NBA season.

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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Basketball Insiders has done a 50 Predictions piece since before it was Basketball Insiders — literally. This article has been handled exclusively by the talented Joel Brigham each and every year. Joel has done an incredible job with this piece and it saddens me that he won’t be writing it any longer. Having said that, I couldn’t be more excited to try and step in and pontificate a bit about how I think the NBA season will play out. 

I welcome the challenge of making bold predictions and look forward to revisiting them after the season, just as Joel has done year after year.

Note: Look out for the expanded “Predictions from Insiders” portion of the article (predictions 40-50). Instead of asking the team to make random predictions (that’s my job), I leveraged familiarity with their respective regions and team(s) as much as possible. Their respective Twitter handles are cited next to each of their predictions, so feel free to connect with them and give your thoughts on their predictions.

I hope that all makes sense. If you agree with my predictions, or if you think you’ve got better ones, feel free to contact me on Twitter (@DrewMaresca). As Joel did in the past, I’ll reference some of the better ones when I revisit these in the Spring.

Award Predictions:

1. Not a big surprise here, but I feel obligated to lead with MVP —  Anthony Davis will win his first Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Remember the post-Boogie Pelicans last season? Yeah. Now imagine that for an entire season.

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo will be named Defensive Player of the Year.

3. Zach LaVine will do too much to separate himself from the MIP pack. Look for LaVine to join an esteemed group that includes Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler.

4. Nikola Jokic will be a top five finisher in MVP voting, posting career highs in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. 

5. Raptors coach Nick Nurse will win the Coach of the Year award behind the Raptors’ franchise-best season.

Other Individual Predictions:

6. Anthony Davis will lead the league in scoring, averaging more than 32 points per game. 

7. For the first time since 2013-14, Blake Griffin will play in more than 70 games. 

8. Lonzo Ball will benefit from LeBron James’ presence, seeing increases in scoring and three-point percentage despite playing less minutes per game. 

9. Kristaps Porzingis will return to the Knicks lineup after the All-Star break. Following his return, the Knicks will play .500 basketball, which pushes them out of the new lottery system.

10. For the first time this century, three players will average 15 or more rebounds per game.

Rookie Predictions 

11. Luka Doncic will be the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year.

12. Trae Young will finish in the top three in ROY voting. He will impress regularly in the first-half of the season but will slow quite a bit following the All-Star break. However, he will do enough to maintain averages of at least 16 points and seven assists per game.

13. Allonzo Trier will end the season with a higher scoring average than Kevin Knox in similar minutes per game. 

Trade Predictions:

14. Jimmy Butler will be traded before the All-Star break.

15. Despite needing to fully embrace a youth movement, the Cavs will not trade Kevin Love.

16. They will explore moving Tristan Thompson, but wont find a suitable deal for him either.

17. They will, however, move Kyle Korver and George Hill.

18. The Celtics will cash in Terry Rozier, considering there isn’t the requisite playing time for both him and Kyrie Irving.

19. Damian Lillard to the Lakers rumors will persist right up through the deadline, but nothing will materialize.

Team Predictions:

20. The Raptors will win 60 games and finish first in the east, ahead of the Celtics.

21. Like the Raptors, the Jazz will finishing the season with 60+ wins.

22. Considering I also believe that the Warriors will win 60+, that means the league’s streak of fourteen seasons with two or fewer teams ending the year with 60 or more wins will come to an end.

23. It may not be 60 wins, but the Nuggets will take a big step forward, too, winning at least 55 games.

24. The Sixers will struggle to shoot the three-ball, ending the season shooting in the bottom five for three-point percentage.

25. The Bucks will finally enter the modern-era of the NBA. Only five teams shot fewer three-pointers than they did last season. That trend will be flipped on its head. Under new Coach Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks will be in the top five for three-pointers attempted.

26. The Los Angeles Lakers will fail to qualify for the playoffs, breaking LeBron James’ 13 consecutive playoff appearance streak — this one scares me with James in tow, but I just don’t see how they can finish in the top eight of the Western Conference.

27. The Pelicans will qualify for the 2019 NBA Playoffs thanks to Anthony Davis and co.

28. Despite starting the season 2-2, the Hawks will finish with the worst record in the league, wining between 16 and 21 games. 

Playoff Predictions

29. The Bucks will advance beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

30. The Wizards will not enter the playoffs as a top-four seed.

31. And they get eliminated in the first round.

32. The Pistons enter the playoffs as a top-four seed.

33. And advance to the second round of the playoffs. 

Coaching Predictions

34. I hate the idea of predicting that anyone will lose their job, but it’s part of making predictions in the NBA. Coach Tom Thibodeau will be let go shortly after the team moves on from Butler. 

35. Rumors will swirl about the job security of Wizards Coach Scott Brooks, but he will hang on for the 2018-19 season.

36. He will be let go before June 1, 2019 following an elimination in the first-round of the playoffs.

Miscellaneous Predictions

37. The average score (per team) will be at or above 110 points per game. Last season, the average score was 106.3 points per team across 1290 games. The increase will be a result of new shot clock rules and the new emphasis on the freedom of motion rule.

38. Speaking of which — as a result of an added emphasis on the freedom of motion rule, we will see at least 10 percent more fouls called per game this season than last.

39. There will be fewer teams with less than 25 wins thanks in part to the revised NBA Draft Lottery. 

40. We will see at least five first-time All-stars.

Insiders Predictions

For the third consecutive year, the rest of the Basketball Insiders team made some of their own predictions:

41. For the second consecutive year, the Warriors will not win the most games in the NBA.

Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA)

42. Eight teams will finish at or one game below .500. 

Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA)

43. Kawhi Leonard re-signs with the Toronto Raptors on a 1+1 deal, allowing him the flexibility to hit Free Agency again in 2020.

Matt John (@MattJohnNBA)

44. The Denver Nuggets will enter the 2019 Western Conference Playoffs as a top-four seed.

David Yapkowitz (@David_Yapkowitz)

45. The Philadelphia 76ers will enter the 2019 Eastern Conference Playoffs outside the top-four seeds.

Shane Rhodes (@Shane_Rhodes1)

46. Tristan Thompson will average a double-double for the first time in his career.

Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies)

47. Speaking of career firsts, Carmelo Anthony will end the season posting less than 13 points per game and shooting worse than 40 percent from the field.

Lang Greene (@LangGreene)

48. Allen Crabbe will end the season in the top ten for three-pointers made.

Benny Nadeau (@Ben_Nadeau)

49. Speaking of three-pointers, Joe Ingles will continue his strong shooting from the last two seasons and finally lead the league in three-point percentage.

Jordan Hicks (@JordanHicksNBA)

50. And finally, Derrick Favors will be traded before the trade deadline.

Jordan Hicks (@JordanHicksNBA)

And that wraps up another Basketball Insiders “50 Predictions.” Remember to connect with the Insiders team and I on Twitter and give us your thoughts on our predictions.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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