Back in October, weeks before the season began, before we really had any idea what would lie ahead of us in the year to come, I made a whole bunch of predictions about what would happen in the NBA over the course of the next nine months. I do this every year, with increasingly comedic results, but even though it never stops being embarrassing to come back to the moronic things I thought would be true all the way back in in the fall, I can’t help but think that readers sure do enjoy a good cold take.
And that’s what these are, essentially—a subzero bucket of dry-ice-freezing cold takes. I nailed some, as I usually do, but the misses are pretty nasty. Read, enjoy, and berate without prejudice. Here they are, my 50 predictions for the 2016-2017 NBA season, revisited:
James Harden is going to lead the league in scoring with over 31.0 PPG.
WRONG. I meant to say Russell Westbrook, obviously. I got everything right except the name! It’s not like Harden wasn’t close, though. He finished second among all scorers with 29.1 PPG.
Hassan Whiteside is going to lead the league in blocks with over 3.8 BPG.
WRONG. Not even close. Whiteside finished fourth in blocks per game, averaging 2.1 per game. Even the league leader, Rudy Gobert, finished with just 2.64 BPG. Nobody came close to 3.0 per contest this year, let alone 3.8.
Jonas Valanciunas will finish among the top rebounders in the league.
RIGHT. Valanciunas finished with the 12th most rebounds in the NBA this year with 779, behind all the usual mainstays but ahead of Nikola Jokic, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Andre Drummond, however, will once again lead the league in rebounds, this time with over 15 RPG.
WRONG. Whiteside did lead in this category, with Drummond and his 13.8 RPG finishing in second place.
Last year’s assist king Rajon Rondo (11.7 APG) will see his assists-per-game average drop under 10.0 per game.
RIGHT. Harden, Westbrook and John Wall were the only players to average double-digits in assists this year. Rondo averaged only 6.7 APG in the regular season.
Kevin Durant will score fewer than 25 PPG for the first time in his career since his rookie season.
WRONG. But barely. In 62 games this year, Durant averaged 25.1 PPG, still his lowest scoring output since his rookie season.
Karl-Anthony Towns will make his first All-Star team.
WRONG. While Towns had a perfectly lovely season, the loaded frontcourt position out west and team woes for the Wolves kept him out this year. It’s coming, though, and soon.
Zach LaVine will win the Dunk Contest for the third consecutive year.
WRONG. His injury kept him from even competing. To be fair, though, had he competed he would’ve won that horrible dunk contest by a bajillion points.
Derrick Rose will play in fewer than 60 games.
WRONG. This is getting frustrating. Rose played only 64 games, which is more or less what I expected to have happen this season. I just undershot those missed games by four.
The Golden State Warriors will win fewer than 70 games.
RIGHT. They may have won 70 again had Durant not gotten hurt, but there’s nothing wrong with 67.
As a team, the Boston Celtics will lead the league in rebounds.
WRONG. I’m trying to figure out what I was thinking here. With most of these predictions, especially the ones that I missed, it’s easy to think, “Yeah, but I can see what he was thinking.” Not with this one. Boston was near the bottom of the league in rebounding this year. It’s not like Al Horford was going to add a lot of boards per game. I’m an idiot sometimes.
The Utah Jazz will average over 101 PPG.
WRONG. The sound you just heard was me punching through the drywall in my living room. Utah averaged 100.7 PPG as a team this year.
The Houston Rockets will attempt more three-pointers per game than the Golden State Warriors.
RIGHT. And so did the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. The Rockets led the league with an insane 40.3 three-point attempts a game, while the Warriors finished fifth in that category with 31.2. The Rockets, for what it’s worth, also knocked down an extra 2.4 threes per game, too.
For the second consecutive year, the Phoenix Suns will lead the league in turnovers.
WRONG. The Sixers took home the turnover crows this year, with 16.0 per night. Phoenix at least was kind enough to finish fourth in this category with 14.9 turnovers per game.
The San Antonio Spurs will lead the league in defensive efficiency.
RIGHT. The Spurs topped all teams with a defensive efficiency of 100.9. Not surprising when they’ve got a two-time Defensive Player of the Year on the roster.
The Chicago Bulls will finish among the top six in team assists.
WRONG. The Bulls were nowhere near sixth in the NBA in assists. In fact, they were 17th with 17.0 APG per game, which probably is a byproduct of lots of isolation offense and entirely inefficient point guard play all season long.
Ben Simmons will not play a single game for the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
RIGHT. I hate that I was right about this, but it’s sort of a Sixers tradition to have a rookie sit the whole season. What kind of person would Simmons have been to have broken that? Markelle Fultz is currently walking around Philadelphia with queen-size mattresses wrapped around his knees.
Buddy Hield will lead all rookies in three-pointers made.
RIGHT. And it wasn’t even close. Hield dropped in 148 three-pointers this season, while the second-place rookie shooter from deep, Jamal Murray, poured in 115.
Kris Dunn will not play as many minutes as Ricky Rubio in Minnesota.
RIGHT. Rubio almost doubled Dunn’s floor time, 32.9 MPG to 17.1 MPG.
Thon Maker will show flashes, but won’t make much of an impact in his rookie season, failing to haul in either five points or five rebounds per game.
RIGHT. Maker grew increasingly effective as the season wore on, even starting games in the playoffs, but in his 57 regular season games this year he averaged only 4.0 PPG and 2.0 RPG.
Brandon Ingram will score well, but will not lead all rookies in scoring.
RIGHT. He wasn’t even close. Hield, Murray, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Malcolm Brogdon and Yogi Ferrell all scored more points per game than the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. There will be a day when it will look ridiculous that he wasn’t higher up on that list.
The Toronto Raptors will not have homecourt advantage in the first-round of the playoffs.
WRONG. After finishing with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors earned homecourt in their first round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Charlotte Hornets, meanwhile, will be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.
WRONG. Yeah, no. That didn’t happen.
The Indiana Pacers will play in the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
WRONG. Nor did this.
The Dallas Mavericks will not make the Playoffs.
RIGHT. I was correct on this account, however. An aging Dirk Nowitzki and relatively thin talent in other areas meant the Mavs weren’t able to sneak into the 2017 postseason.
Neither will the Memphis Grizzlies.
WRONG. At the time I made this prediction, I was thinking that Memphis’ style was antiquated and that the roster was uninspired. Despite all that, they still ended up four games above .500 and slotted a 7-seed against the San Antonio Spurs.
This year’s Finals will be a rematch of last year’s Finals between the Golden State Warriors and defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
RIGHT. Not the riskiest prediction, but here we are.
Yes, the Golden State Warriors will win the championship.
RIGHT. But I don’t have to be happy about it.
Joel Embiid will win Rookie of the Year
WRONG. Easily the leader among rookies in points and rebounds, Embiid would have run away with the award had he played anything remotely close to a full season, but with only 31 games under his belt it was impossible to give him the accolade. Instead, it went (rather surprisingly) to Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon.
Russell Westbrook will be named the MVP
RIGHT. He dominated the first-place votes in a year when he averaged a triple-double. I made this prediction thinking he’d go into what Bill Simmons calls “F You Mode,” but no one really thought he’d actually average a triple-double. What a year from an amazing player, the first in decades to win MVP for a sub-50-win team.
Zach Randolph will be named the 6th Man of the Year
WRONG. In most cases, when a player pours in 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game off the bench, he gets consideration for the year’s top accolade for reserves, but Randolph wasn’t even a finalist. He had a solid year as a reserve, but not as good as the actual winner, Eric Gordon.
Kawhi Leonard will be the Defensive Player of the Year for the third time in a row.
WRONG. Finally, it was Draymond Green’s time to “steal” this one away from Kawhi (get it?). Either guy could have won the award, but it was time to spread the love. Green absolutely deserved the award.
Brad Stevens will be the Coach of the Year
WRONG. Even though the Celtics shockingly finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference, Stevens wasn’t a finalist for this award, which make sense considering the years Mike D’Antoni had with the Rockets and Erik Spoelstra had with the HEAT.
Kenneth Faried will be shopped but ultimately will remain a Denver Nugget for the entire season yet again.
RIGHT. Somehow, someway, Faried made it through the year as a Nugget.
The 76ers will find a place for either Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel this season.
RIGHT. It looked like Okafor was going to be the one shipped out, but ultimately it was Noel who got the boot. If Philly can find a taker, Okafor will be out the door this summer, too.
Brandon Knight will be unhappy and underutilized in Phoenix, but despite that he will not be traded this season.
RIGHT. Phoenix has a loaded backcourt, but they haven’t done anything with Knight or Bledsoe, yet…
This is the year that Sacramento finally trades Rudy Gay. It’s happening.
WRONG. Had he not gotten hurt this absolutely would have happened. Damn the basketball gods!
This is not the year that Sacramento finally trades DeMarcus Cousins, however. Players that good are too important to let walk.
WRONG. This prediction was the setup, and the actual trade was the punchline.
The Orlando Magic will trade one of their frontcourt players before the deadline.
RIGHT. Too many cooks in that kitchen led Orlando to send off, of all people, the newly-acquired Serge Ibaka for very little in return. They essentially let Victor Oladipo walk to get their mitts on Terrence Ross. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a downgrade.
The Chicago Bulls will lead the league in attendance.
RIGHT. I won’t stop making this prediction until it stops being right.
The Brooklyn Nets will win the draft lottery.
RIGHT. Unfortunately they didn’t get to keep the pick. It ended up going to Boston, who traded it to Philadelphia.
There will be a new collective bargaining agreement in place before the end of the season.
RIGHT. And praise all of the gods that people praise for so swift a resolution. Nobody wanted another strike.
While not all of these distinguished writers are still with Basketball Insiders, they were back in the fall, and they each made a prediction of their own. Here’s how those panned out:
Oliver Maroney: James Harden will be MVP.
WRONG. If only Oliver were as smart as me when it comes to picking MVPs. It’s fine, though. At least he has something toward which to strive.
Ben Dowsett: The Memphis Grizzlies will miss the playoffs.
WRONG. They got in.
Jonathan Concool: The Minnesota Timberwolves will make the playoffs.
WRONG. They did not.
Jesse Blancarte: Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson will play at least 70 regular season games.
RIGHT. Of all the bold predictions, this one may have been the boldest. Gordon and Anderson are two of the most injured players of their era, and their prolonged health this season is a big part of why the Rockets were so good all year long.
Jabari Davis: The Minnesota Timberwolves will win more games than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
WRONG. My colleagues are nuts. This one was every bit as bad as the one about the Celtics leading the league in rebounds. Okay, so maybe not that bad.
Alex Kennedy: Russell Westbrook will record 25 triple-doubles this season.
RIGHT. We all know Westbrook broke the NBA record this season and racked up 42 triple-doubles. The real win here is that Kennedy actually was right about something for once.
Cody Taylor: The Miami HEAT will finish about .500 and make the playoffs.
WRONG. Oh, Cody. So close. Just like the actual .500 Miami HEAT and their playoff hopes, dashed by a tiebreaker.
Lang Greene: Dwight Howard will be named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
WRONG. Howard earned no such accolade this year. He averaged 13.5 PPG and 12.7 RPG this year, but there weren’t even whispers about him potentially making the All-Star team when voting was wrapping up. He wasn’t even close.
Come fall, I’ll be back in the saddle, making insane predictions. This year, I was 21 for 42 in my predictions, frankly one of my better win percentages ever, while my colleagues were just 2 for 8, but we’ll all try to improve next year. What’s an NBA preseason without a few hot takes, after all?
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