How Did My NBA Regular Season Predictions do?
In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to follow up on my NBA preview column (Part 1 here, Part 2 here) for 2020-2021. I have mostly shifted to NFL coverage, as that seems to be where more of the interest is from readers, but I do still love the NBA. I haven’t been able to follow it very closely this year, unfortunately, so I have refrained for the most part from writing about it.
There were a number of interesting sub-plots to follow this year, some of which I correctly identified in my 10 topics to follow for the year. The Lakers did indeed have trouble staying healthy (all of the teams that went far in the bubble have). Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid did finally connect. The Sixers have the best record in the East, and they look poised to have their best team around Embiid ever in the playoffs. The Bucks are a very interesting team headed into the playoffs. They had the best offense this season in points per game, and they experimented a lot on defense (which cost them). I feel like they might actually be a better team this year than last, even if the record doesn’t show it. A tough matchups awaits in round one with the Heat. As I supposed, Harden did move on from the Rockets, and he has proven to be a good team player with the Nets so far (the suitor I mentioned in the article). The Nets were very interesting, and the addition of James Harden made them even more exciting. They also have had trouble staying on the court… it just hasn’t really mattered. I was right on a few of the rookies, and VERY wrong about Lamelo Ball, who looks fantastic. This was truly the year of the rookie, as almost all of the first round players and some second round guys found meaningful roles for their teams. The Mavs found their defense in the second half and are poised for a challenging first round date with an experienced Clippers squad. I shot a solid 60 percent on my tank team. The Knicks were the surprise team of the season, and I was totally off with them. The Wizards also proved to be decent and snuck into the playoffs. The Cavs, Pistons and Minnesota are all in the top 5 picks or so. The biggest subplots I missed were the effect Chris Paul would have on the Suns (and the Thunder who collapsed without him). The magic that is Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. The Knicks obviously.
I laid out some predictions, which didn’t go great.
The Lakers may indeed repeat, but it will not be easy. Injuries have proven even tougher than I expected, and I expected them to sit out a lot in the regular season.
The Raptors were an absolute disaster. I really think the pandemic ruined them more than most teams. Playing in a different city, with a new mix of players really set them back. Their fall was as surprising to me as the Knicks rise.
James Wiseman was not even close to rookie of the year. It was all Lamelo, who was much better than I expected.
Luka Doncic got off to a slow start that shot down any chance of the MVP, but picked it up as the season went along. He should be in the mix for MVP talk, but he won’t be the winner.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a tough year with injuries and streaky play. He certainly is improving, but Julius Randle seems like a cinch for this award.
The Golden State Warriors had a massive improvement and were the most improved this year.
(and 9) As predicted, the Rockets plummeted. Regardless of whether or not Harden was going to be traded, it wasn’t hard to predict their fall.
The Bulls missed the playoffs entirely and surprised me by trading away future picks to pick up Nikola Vucevic to lock down a VERY mediocre core. Barring a lottery surprise, this team just handed the 9th (ish) pick to the Magic.
This one is still open for interpretation. They seem likely to face a tough Bucks squad in the second round.
Over / Unders: I faired ok going 3-2-1.
Toronto Raptors over: Uh no
Chicago Bulls over: Barely but yes.
Portland Trail Blazers over: Barely, but yes
Houston Rockets under: Definitely got that one
LA Clippers under: A push. Not much to say there
Brooklyn Nets under: Not quite. They ended up being a little over, thanks to Harden