What is your boldest prediction for the 2020-21 season?
Steve Aschburner: The Milwaukee Bucks are going to not only make the Finals this postseason, they’re going to win the 2021 NBA championship. I think the onus of Giannis’ contract being gone will propel them past their two disappointments in the 2019 and 2020 playoffs. They can use a new Larry O’Brien trophy to book-end the championship’s lone franchise precisely 50 years earlier. And they can prove 81% of NBA general managers wrong in one fell swoops.
Shaun Powell: The Portland Trail Blazers win the title. This is Damian Lillard’s best team yet and, as we saw in the bubble, he’s thirsty for that first championship. A superstar plus depth will put Portland on the doorstep; some luck will push them into the promised land.
John Schuhmann: The Dallas Mavericks will finish in the top three in the Western Conference. The Mavs finished third in the West in point differential (+4.9 points per game) last season, with a healthy margin between them and the fourth-ranked Rockets (+3.0). But they finished seventh in the standings because they struggled (especially offensively) down the stretch of close games. If they turn around their late-game fortunes, improve defensively with the addition of Josh Richardson, and see continued improvement from Luka Doncic, the Mavs are a more serious Western Conference contender than they appear to be on the surface.
Sekou Smith: You asked for bold. But I figured overboard might be more appropriate in 2020. Houston’s on the clock. James Harden wants out. Daryl Morey’s in Philadelphia. Following the dots here? Harden to Philly in a package involving Ben Simmons and the Sixers, with Harden and Embiid leading the way, crash the Eastern Conference playoff party and make The Finals with Doc Rivers pulling the strings … you said bold, right?
Michael C. Wright: Since I reside here, let’s keep it in Texas. The fourth player since the merger to win the scoring title for three straight years, Houston’s James Harden won’t lead the league in scoring for a fourth consecutive season. Furthermore, the Rockets will eventually move Harden to another squad sometime before the late March trade deadline, and he won’t be headed to any of the teams on his reported wish list of contenders. Upon arrival at the new destination, Harden will produce at a clip similar to what we’re all accustomed to, but it won’t be enough to boost his average to another scoring title.