Updated: Sep 18
By Max Hirsch
Although the previous season just ended in October, it’s never too early to talk basketball, since the 2020-21 season begins December 22. While it seems like the experts and spectators say this every year, I think it’s possible that next season will go down as one of the most competitive to date. The teams across the National Basketball Association haven’t been this balanced going into the season since 2010, right before a superteam was formed in Miami. Here are my predictions for the 2020-21 basketball season, which will undoubtedly be one to watch closely.
LeBron James just won his 4th championship—this time with the Los Angeles Lakers—and with his superstar teammate Anthony Davis likely to re-sign with the Lakers, many are picking them to repeat. The now infamous duo are the favorites in Vegas (with +380 betting odds) and have been the consensus early finals pick. You can never go wrong with betting on LeBron, right?
Right behind the Lakers (with +460 odds) are the Clippers, a team that had high hopes entering last season after making huge off-season acquisitions, but ultimately disappointed in the playoffs. After blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the NBA playoffs, superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George vowed they will bring the Clippers franchise their first-ever championship. The team’s management surprisingly fired Doc Rivers, a legend in his own right, showing just how far they’ll go to fit their superstars’ needs.
While the Clippers are another solid pick to win the finals, I’m betting on the NBA’s known underdog: the Golden State Warriors (with absurdly high +1200 odds). Although the Warriors have not fit the description of “underdog” in this era, losing players Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to injury damaged their game beyond repair last year as they recently finished last in the NBA. However, I don’t think that last year’s atrocities will dictate this year’s performance. The Warriors have always been a well-coached team, and now that two of the best shooters of all time are back, the Warriors will likely uphold their glorious legacy as they have been the most dominant team this past decade, with the exception of last season. I expect them to surprise a lot of people next season and return to their elite shape, potentially winning over 60 games.
Most Valuable Player:
This is a really tough award to pick, however, it is notable that out of the last 35 MVP awards, the MVP’s team has finished 3rd or better in their conference. So in my eyes, we can eliminate around 22 teams, leaving us with the Bucks, Raptors, Sixers, Heat, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, and Rockets. Out of all of these teams, Jamal Murray has the best opportunity to win MVP because of the numbers he’ll put up. His usage rate topped 27% in the playoffs last season, and with the best passing center in the league alongside him, Murray is bound to put up MVP statistics. If I told you before last season’s playoffs that Jamal Murray was my pick to win MVP, you’d call me crazy. However, he became a completely different player in the playoffs. He has proven to be a confident and passionate team player with a remarkably high shooting percentage and assist to turnover ratio. He was two games away from bringing his Nuggets to the NBA Finals, and I’m convinced he’s going to continue his hot streak into next season and improve even more (especially on the defensive end).
Most Improved Player:
This award is notoriously random, but towards the end of last season, Tim Hardaway Jr. really found his stroke and I see his transformation this season being even greater than last year’s. He shot so efficiently in the second half of last season that he finished the season shooting 40% from three, well above league average and a remarkable percentage for a high volume shooter like him. With Luka Doncic cementing himself as a top player in this league, it’s safe to say his teammate Hardaway will only get better as a complementary piece. I think he might develop into that third superstar in Dallas, something they need in order to compete in today’s league.
Alternatively, I also think Donovan Mitchell has a fair shot at this award despite his current All-Star status. He surprised a lot of people when he came into the league, becoming the top option for the Jazz and leading them to the playoffs, but hasn’t really improved statistically since. I think it’s possible that he takes his game to another level, becoming the superstar Utah needs him to be. He had multiple 50 point games in the playoffs and although he lost, he evidently played his heart out.
It’s safe to say that next season will be very entertaining. I can’t guarantee any of my predictions (although I do feel good about them), but I can promise that the NBA is going to be very competitive and balanced in this upcoming season. All of these awards are up for grabs, and will be thrilling to watch out for.