NBA

NBA PM: 50 Early Predictions Revisited

Back in the fall, Joel Brigham made 50 predictions for the 2014-15 NBA season. Here’s how he did.

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Updated 1 year ago on

14 min read

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Who were the losers of the 2015 NBA Draft? Jessica Camerato and Moke Hamilton discuss.

50 Predictions Revisited

Every fall, I make 50 predictions about the season to come, and now that everything is all wrapped up, it’s time to come back to those predictions and see how well I did.

Keep in mind that these are all made at the very beginning of the preseason, long before rotations are decided and way, way before much has been solidified about the upcoming season. I almost always do pretty poorly in terms of number of predictions right vs. number of predictions wrong, but 40 percent isn’t bad considering how tough these are to make every year.

And, as you’ll see, a lot of the ones I did miss came from a place of educated guessing. At the very least, I’m holding myself accountable, right?

Alright, onto the predictions results:

Individual Predictions

1. LeBron James will still finish in the top five among all players in usage rate, despite his new team.

RIGHT – James was fourth in the league with 31.8, behind Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant (in his 35 games) and Dwyane Wade.

2. Kevin Love’s usage rate will be the lowest of “Big Three” in Cleveland, but he’ll still finish among the top three in the league in rebounds per game.

HALF RIGHT – Irving stayed in the top 30 in usage, but Love didn’t even make the top 50. So that part was correct. Love did not, however, finish in the top three among rebounders. He was 12th this year with 9.7 RPG, the first time since his rookie year that he failed to average double digits boards per game.

3. Andre Drummond will be the guy that leads the league in boards this year.

WRONG – Oh, so close. DeAndre Jordan led the league this year with 15 RPG, but Drummond did finish second with 13.5 RPG.

4. Anthony Davis will end up with more MVP votes than Kevin Durant.

RIGHT – A lot of that had to do with the fact that Durant hardly played because of injuries, but separate of that, Davis had a monster season and deserved his MVP votes, though not necessarily the MVP award.

5. But Davis will not lead the league in blocks; Thunder forward Serge Ibaka will take back the blocks crown this year.

WRONG – Davis did, in fact, lead the league in blocks with 2.94 per game. Ibaka finished third with 2.42 BPG.

6. As much as he may want to, Paul George will not play a game this season.

WRONG – He wanted to play badly enough to find his way back to the court. We didn’t want to keep all those PG13 jerseys in boxes all season, anyway. It was good to see him back, even if it was just for a few weeks before the end of Indiana’s season.

7. Kobe Bryant will play at least 65 games this year and will average at least 20 PPG.

WRONG – Bryant played in 35 games this year. He’s a broken, broken man.

8. Goran Dragic will lead all Suns point guards in PPG and APG.

WRONG – So this one’s hard to quantify since only Eric Bledsoe is actually still with the team, but in 52 games with the Suns, Dragic averaged 16.2 PPG and 4.1 APG, while Thomas averaged 15.2 PPG and 3.7 APG during his 46 games in Phoenix. Bledsoe, however, averaged 17 PPG and 6.1 APG, topping both categories, with or without those other two guys on the roster.

9. Brook Lopez will play fewer than 60 games this season.

WRONG – I thought his foot would give him more problems considering his size and weight, but Lopez got through 72 games this year and stayed good and healthy.

10. Derrick Rose will play more than 60 games this season.

WRONG – Things were going quite well before the meniscus tear. Because of that, Rose only played in 51 games this year.

11. Lance Stephenson will see drops in rebounds and assists this season now that he’s moved to Charlotte, but he will also average more PPG as Hornet.

HALF RIGHT – Lance dropped everywhere as a Hornet, including points. It wasn’t a strong year for him in new digs.

12. Chris Bosh will have his best year as a member of the Miami HEAT.

RIGHT – Okay, so Bosh played in only 44 games this year because of that scary blood clot that benched him for the second half of the season, but it was his best year on the HEAT so far. He averaged 21.1 PPG (the most since coming to Miami), and saw his three-point shooting grow more voluminous and efficient. He got his rebounds back up to 7.0 RPG and averaged 2.2 APG (again, the most since coming to Miami). It’s easy to wonder how that success would have looked for a full year.

13. Russell Westbrook will lead the league in both usage rate and turnovers again this season.

RIGHT – Westbrook was responsible for an insane 38.2 usage rate and also led the league with 4.4 TOPG. No one did more with the ball this year than Westbrook, and frankly, it wasn’t even close.

14. DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond will both make their first All-Star teams this year.

HALF RIGHT – After some controversy, Cousins got himself in as an injury replacement, but Drummond didn’t quite get there, mostly because the Pistons just didn’t have the record to justify an All-Star. Neither did Sacramento, frankly, but Boogie’s year was transcendent enough to get him in anyway.

Team Predictions

15. The Chicago Bulls will finish with the most regular season wins in the Eastern Conference.

WRONG – But how was I to predict the Atlanta Hawks?

16. The San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, will finish with the most regular season wins in the West.

WRONG – But how was I to predict the Golden State Warriors?

17. The Portland Trail Blazers will have one of the three best records in the Western Conference this year.

WRONG – They ended up with the sixth-best record, five games back of the top three.

18. No team will come within six losses of the Philadelphia 76ers.

WRONG – Somehow, both the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves ended up with more losses than the Sixers, which is crazy, frankly.

19. The Miami HEAT, winners of 54 wins a season ago, still will win no fewer than 49 games.

WRONG – They ended up at 37 wins, which is pretty brutal, but injuries were not their friend this year. A healthy Chris Bosh probably gets them closer to the predicted number.

20. The Toronto Raptors will once again win the Atlantic Division.

RIGHT – Not that it did them any good in the postseason, but for the second straight year, the Raptors did win their division.

21. The Golden State Warriors will top their 51-win season from a year ago.

RIGHT – By 16 games, they did, winning a franchise-high 67 games in one of the most dominant regular seasons of all time.

22. The Memphis Grizzlies, meanwhile, will win fewer than their 50 wins from last season.

WRONG – But everybody in the Western Conference wins 50 games.

23. The Dallas Mavericks, 26th in the league last year in team rebounds per game (40.9), will add at least two boards per game to that total and finish in the top half of the league this year.

WRONG – They “moved up” to 24th with 42.3 RPG, but that’s not much of an improvement. That said, guess who led the league in team rebounds during the playoffs? Dallas topped all teams with over 47 per game.

24. The Mavs also will lead the Western Conference in points scored per game.

WRONG – Golden State averaged 110 PPG as a team, but the Mavericks were third with 105.2 PPG.

25. The Atlanta Hawks will be among the top five teams in the league in team assists per game.

RIGHT – Atlanta finished the year second among all teams with 25.7 APG.

Playoff Predictions

26. The Detroit Pistons will not only make the playoffs this year, they’ll be a top six seed.

WRONG – They were never really even in the conversation, but they’re on the right track and the East is a wide-open space. Maybe next year.

27. The Washington Wizards will be lower than Detroit in playoff seeding.

WRONG – I should get a half a point for knowing Washington would be in the playoffs. Right?

28. The Indiana Pacers, who have made the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row, will not make the playoffs at all this season.

RIGHT – Losing Paul George was a death blow, and losing Lance Stephenson to free agency didn’t help them deal with that PG injury. After two straight years making the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers dropped off considerably.

29. The Phoenix Suns, despite posting an above-.500 record for the second season in a row, will narrowly miss the postseason in a very competitive Western Conference.

RIGHT – Okay, so the record wasn’t quite there but the West was competitive and the Suns finished 10th in the conference. It just wasn’t quite as exciting a season for them as it was a year ago.

30. The L.A. Clippers will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals this year.

WRONG – It sure looked like it was going to go that way for a while, though. They made some progress this year, but ultimately fell short again. They can’t afford to waste any more Chris Paul years.

31. They will face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will represent the Eastern Conference.

RIGHT – It never was going to be anybody else, was it? Even without Kevin Love or much Kyrie Irving, LeBron James is enough to float through that minor league conference.

32. They (Cleveland) also will win the NBA Finals in 2015.

WRONG – LeBron put up a valiant effort, but this was the year of Stephen Curry and the Warriors.

Rookie Predictions

33. Jabari Parker will pretty obviously be the Rookie of the Year, though this year’s crop looks like an undeniably strong one.

WRONG – It probably would have happened had he not torn his ACL, but Wiggins was my second choice.

34. Nerlens Noel and Andrew Wiggins will also make the All-Rookie First Team.

RIGHT – Wiggins was the Rookie of the Year, and Noel came on strong as one of the more versatile defensive players in the league.

35. Noel will lead all rookies in both rebounds and blocks.

RIGHT – He topped all rooks with 8.1 RPG and 1.9 BPG. Those are good for anybody, let alone a first-year player.

36. Elfrid Payton will lead all rookies in assists.

RIGHT – By a long shot. Payton averaged 6.5 APG, which actually was 14th among all players. He didn’t do everything well, but dishing dimes definitely is a strength.

37. Dante Exum will generally struggle in his rookie season, and will finish with worse numbers than Trey Burke had in his rookie season.

RIGHT – Exum played about 22 minutes a game and scored only 4.8 PPG to go along with 2.4 APG. By comparison, Burke averaged 12.8 PPG and 5.7 APG during his rookie season, clearly a better overall start than his burgeoning Aussie buddy.

38. Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine will both participate in the Slam Dunk contest this year, and one of them will win it.

HALF RIGHT – LaVine did his thing and won the most entertaining dunk contest in years. Wiggins easily could have participated but opted not to dunk. He could have and should have, though. The contest would’ve been even more fun to watch with both young Minnesota leapers in the game.

39. Outside of the injured Joel Embiid, Nik Stauskas and Aaron Gordon are the only top-eight draft selections who will not make one of the All-Rookie teams.

HALF RIGHT – Parker and Julius Randle lost their seasons to injury and Marcus Smart still has some work to do. On the other hand, Stauskas and Gordon also did not make an All-Rookie team.

40. Philadelphia’s K.J. McDaniels will generally be considered the best of the second-round picks after his first full season in the league.

WRONG – This looked like a reasonable prediction before the trade to Houston, but even had he stayed, Jordan Clarkson had the best season of any second-round pick by a mile.

Transaction Predictions

41. Rajon Rondo, once he’s healthy, finally will be dealt to another team at some point this season.

RIGHT – It wasn’t pretty before or after the trade, but by the deadline Rondo was a Dallas Maverick.

42. The Houston Rockets will be involved in at least one major trade this season.

WRONG – The Josh Smith acquisition was pretty major, but it wasn’t technically a trade and so can’t be counted. I knew they wouldn’t stand pat, though, and they didn’t. Does the Jason Terry trade or Corey Brewer trade count as “major?”

43. To clear out their crowded frontcourt, Milwaukee will trade Ersan Ilyasova before the deadline this year.

WRONG – He got traded in the middle of the NBA Finals, which technically is before the season ends, but it didn’t happen before the trade deadline. Once again, so close!

44. Despite Nikola Pekovic’s not really fitting into the Timberwolves long-term plans, they will struggle to return what they deem fair value for him, and so will keep him through the end of the season.

RIGHT – He’s an odd contract for them to have on the books, but he is still on their books. Pek remains a Wolf.

45. After spending so much time in trade rumors almost since he was drafted, the New York Knicks finally will trade Iman Shumpert this season to clear up a logjam at shooting guard that also includes J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway, Jr.

RIGHT – And they shipped off Smith in the same trade to Cleveland. The Cavaliers actually did quite a bit with New York’s logjam. Both guys made a huge difference for them in the postseason.

46. He’ll appear in some trade rumors, but ultimately the Denver Nuggets will hold onto JaVale McGee through the end of the year.

WRONG – $10 to the person who can tell me which team actually rosters McGee right now. Trick question! He was cut by Philadelphia back in March after playing only six games for them. The guy’s a free agent and has been since the spring.

Miscellaneous Predictions

47. Anthony Davis will be the #1 player in fantasy by the end of the season.

RIGHT: It depends on the game and the rules, but there are certainly some that Davis topped. He only played 68 games, but in those games he averaged 24.3 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.9 BPG, 1.5 SPG and 1.4 TOPG, while shooting .535 from the field and .805 from the free-throw line. The only thing he doesn’t do is shoot threes. Everywhere else he’s elite.

48. Despite rumors to the contrary, the NBA Draft Lottery process will not change midseason.

RIGHT: Much to the pleasure of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.

49. That said, the Utah Jazz will win the NBA Draft Lottery this spring.

WRONG: Utah was better than expected. The Wolves made the top pick this year, selecting Karl-Anthony Towns with that selection.

50. Per tradition, because I’ve made this prediction every year since I’ve been doing this column and I’ve always gotten it right, the Chicago Bulls will lead the league in attendance.

RIGHT: With 21,343 fans per game, the Bulls topped the league once again this year. Just like they always do.

All in all, I got 22.5 out of 50 possible predictions correct this year, which is right around where I usually land. I like to take risks every year and not make these too easy, but that also means I miss the mark. Still, it’s one of my favorite articles to write every year, and I love coming back to these and seeing how I did. In a few months, we’ll do 50 more, and I know that one year I’ll be perfect.

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Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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