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The Grid – NBA Preseason Predictions

Welcome to the very first edition of The Grid! The Draft Class thought it would be fun to etch some predictions in stone/screen for the upcoming season. Keep in mind these picks were made to ridicule each other and hold people to forever all in good fun. 

Response Rundown

Rookie of the Year

We had one brave soul – Gabe, I salute you – going with a non-Zion selection. I was actually toying around with the idea of this as well, until Zion was a human wrecking ball in his preseason games in the last week or so. Recency bias at its finest perhaps, but barring an injury, it is tough to see anyone derailing Zion. (Mere hours after this was written, it was announced that Zion would in fact be missing the start of the regular season due to injury) Albeit we’re talking about preseason, Zion is still shooting an absurd 70.4% from the field and at times appears to be a man amongst boys, despite being just 19 years old (or so they would have you believe). The non-Zion winner here was Ja Morant, and he was nearly everyone else’s runner up as well.

Best pick: Zion – it’s just correct.

Worst pick: NA

First 50 Point Game

Not all that important in the big scheme of the season, but very entertaining nonetheless.

Best pick: Harden – He had 9 of these last season. Dizzying.

Worst pick: Beal – Zero 50 point games a year ago. Who picked him? You’re darn right I did! Okay, part of me regrets this selection just a wee bit, but with Beal being the 1st 2nd and likely 3rd option on nearly every Wizards possession, I think he can catch fire and land a 50 spot within the first six weeks.

MVP

Not a ton of dissension found here. Giannis for the repeat, Curry regaining foothold post-KD (and Klay for awhile), and the always-gunning-for-MVP Harden were the only picks for the coveted MVP award. I always think it’s tough to repeat as MVP unless you really take things up a notch, so for Giannis to have a real chance I think his slowly budding outside jumper would really need to take off as a weapon this year. Harden’s insane 40% usage rate is going to have to fall with the addition of another ball dominant star in Russ. His efficiency may spike with Westbrook setting him up for more open looks but I expect the counting numbers to dip just enough to keep him from capturing his 2nd MVP. All of that leaves us with Steph. With two MVPs under his belt already and the offensive workload being severely ramped up this year down a few stars from their Dream Team of a year ago, I expect Steph to show out circa 2015-2016 again. The concern would be if they scuffle along in the mid 40s for win total, voters may not be too excited to give him the nod.

Best Pick: Steph Curry

Worst Pick: NA

Sixth Man of the Year

Best Pick: Fred Van Vleet – Anyone catch the Finals last year?

Worst Pick: Lou Will – Old news. I am also concerned he may not close games consistently enough to be catching voter’s eyes.

Highest New West Playoff Team

Best Pick: Kings (6) Love the Sacto faith. They should be fun to watch again, unless this Buddy Hield situation spirals quickly.

Worst Pick: Kings (8) If the Kings are the top new Western team and they are the 8-seed…The Lakers aren’t making the playoffs?! Smart money says this was an oversight, but I liked that it highlights either how quickly we can forget about a season ago with all that happens in the NBA offseason, or the fact that it was unfathomable that a LeBron team wouldn’t make the playoffs so three different people may have just not even considered LAL for this spot at all. 

Flag Planting Players

The one true category without a single duplicate response. A little bit open ended so not totally surprising, but a great variety nonetheless. This group shows an abundance of love for Orlando with Isaac, Fultz, and Gordon all appearing among the selections. What if they all hit? Chandler’s 3rd seed in the East call would have to be looking pretty on point. For me, Lauri Markaanen (Finnish Dirk) is someone I’ll be watching closely. With everyone pegging the Bulls to take a big step forward, he figures to be one of the main reasons.

Best Pick: Jonathan Isaac – 2017 Draftee is still oozing with untapped potential that I think we’re all hoping spills out this season.

Worst Pick: Caris Levert – Lukewarm on his long-term outlook. Beyond this season, tough to see where his offensive role lies behind the likes of Kyrie, KD, and Dinwiddie. Plus, I know Joe’s real pick is Terry Rozier he was just afraid to say it. (Sad Trombone)

NBA Champion

Ah, it sure feels good to have a bit of an open field again. As a proponent of competitive playoffs and avoiding inevitable outcomes, not having a behemoth Warriors squad looming as an (seemingly) indestructible final boss is a breath of fresh air as we open the 2019-2020 season. We have four different selections made here for champion, which doesn’t even include 76ers (just 8/1 title odds per Vegas Insider) or the Nuggets, who only fell out of the 1 seed in April last year and brought back nearly their entire squad. I probably struggled with this one the longest and ultimately just had a hard time envisioning either LA team gelling enough in year one to win four playoff rounds. Milwaukee has the most continuity of any of the preseason favorites and has the reigning MVP, which is a foundation I can get behind. Even though they were last seen losing four straight times to Toronto (which does still leave a bad taste in my mouth), I am confident in their ability to plow through the Eastern Conference this time around. Kawhi has moved out of their way, making Toronto no longer a viable threat. I don’t believe Boston, who they handled rather easily in round two a year ago, poses too big of a challenge for them, especially after losing Al Horford. In my mind, the 76ers are the only team on paper that will give them fits. I can’t wait to see that seven game slugfest. With the bottom of the East being extremely weak, I also expect Milwaukee to have home court advantage in the Finals, which gives them just enough boost for me to have them coming out on top over whichever West team emerges from that gauntlet.

Best Pick: Clippers – if healthy (huge caveat, I know) they are overwhelming. We just saw Kawhi go supernova so why wouldn’t he be able to do it again?

Worst Pick: RocketsI don’t actually hate it but the roster is thin and Westbrook’s recent playoff performances leaves me a bit reluctant to buy into their chances.

Quick Hitters

Orlando was feeling the love in this grid/chart. Aaron Gordon was a flag planting player for one, and an all-star or All-NBA pick for a couple others. 

-People are excited for the Lakers vs Clippers game on Christmas Day (8PM EST, ABC). 

Bradley Beal was a hot item for best player most likely to be traded. (Just hours after compiling this, Beal was extended for two seasons by the Wizards making him ineligible to be traded during this season – record time for confirmed wrong answers!)

Chicago is seen as quite the rising force, with three members predicting a 17+(!) win spike this season.

Let us know what you think – what did we nail? Where are they we all wrong? Check back with The Draft Class throughout the season as we navigate the ups, the downs and the Orlando Magic together.

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Sam Johnson
@SamJ015

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