#NBA 2015-16 Roundtable Season Predictions

The NBA season is formally underway and to welcome our favorite players and teams, how about some predictions and thoughts from three avid hoopnut junkies! 

Our 3-on-3 panel consists of: 

Enzo Flojo (EF) - founder of hoopnut.com; writer for Rivals PH; regular guest on The Score; UAAP basketball television analyst; solid and proud supporter of Gilas Pilipinas.  

Rolly Mendoza (RM) - writer for hoopnut.com and Rivals PH; collects shoes and sneakers; teaches chemistry during the day; watches a lot of basketball and loves NBA2K16 for the PS4. 

Alwin San Jose (ASJ) - A corporate slave now in the US; battling homesickness by buying huarache shoes, playing Destiny in PS4 and watching all things NBA and Boston sports (Go Celts and Pats!)

Image taken from: NBA.com

1. Will the Warriors repeat and who is their biggest threat?

Enzo Flojo (EF): I think GSW will remain a very strong team this season, and they should finish among the top 5 teams by the time the Playoffs begin, but it’s so difficult to win back-to-back. It’s also very difficult to be the healthiest team in the league for two straight seasons, so even if the Dubs are gonna be awesome, I don’t think they will repeat. I have LBJ’s Cavs chugging throughout the regular season, finishing #1 in the East, and facing anybody among GSW, OKC, San Antonio, the Clips, or even the Rockets in the Finals. And I have the Cavs winning their first NBA title in history.

Rolly Mendoza (RM): The Warriors have all the tools to repeat but I don’t think they can actually accomplish that. The Western Conference is just too stacked and there are challengers left and right. Other teams are hungrier and more prepared to face the Warriors this time around. The leave of absence by Coach Steve Kerr could cost them a few crucial games that could give the home-court advantage to other teams. While the whole Western Conference poses a threat to the Dubs, the Spurs might be their biggest threat. San Antonio has the firepower to hang with the Dubs and they also have a solid defense that might hold Curry and company below 100 points in the playoffs.  

Alwin San Jose (ASJ): The Warriors are still the best team in the league and have a great shot of repeating...if they can sustain their health and get through the gauntlet which is the West.  If I have to narrow down the possible team that can upset the Dubs, I'd still have to go between the Spurs (the Vinyl version of the Dubs) or the Zombie Sonics (granted the Durant/Westbrook combo can stay healthy) 

2. Name one sleeper team in the East and West who might make the playoffs.

EF: I think Miami is a pretty strong team, provided they stay healthy, which is a HUGE IF. If they’re complete, they’re among the deepest teams in the whole league. I expect Chris Bosh to be near-unstoppable, Justise Winslow to be a strong ROY contender, and guys like Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, and Hassan Whiteside to be effective in their supporting roles. Also, I have too much faith in Erik Spoelstra. Out West, I think the Jazz are sleepers. I don’t think they’re a title contender by any stretch, but I do think it wouldn’t be a shock to see them make the postseason. With the Blazers and maybe the Mavs dropping off this season, I think the time is ripe for a young, hungry, and talented team like Utah to make a good run. Remember that they were very good after the All-Star Break in 2015, winning 19 of their last 29 games. Also, Gordon Hayward will get more than a few All-Star Game votes.

RM: For the East, the Detroit Pistons might surprise a few teams. The additions of Marcus Morris, Ersan Ilyasova and rookie Stanley Johnson definitely improved their overall talent. Holdovers like Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are above average players for their positions plus their coach, Stan Van Gundy knows a thing or two about winning games. For the West, I think it will either be the T'wolves or the Kings. The Kings have more talent but they are also most likely to fight among themselves which would sabotage their season. Having George Karl, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo in one team might be a recipe for disaster. Thus, the T'wolves should have the advantage of team chemistry especially since they have veterans like Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller. There's also the angle of dedicating their season to the late Coach Flip Saunders. 

ASJ: The sleeper team in the East for me might be the Pacers (I have been watching PG13 during the preseason and I am liking what I am seeing; it all depends on how the pieces fit around him). For the West, all I hear is the Jazz is the sexy sleeper pick. Somehow, I am intrigued by Phoenix Suns as sleeper in the West. They still have to sort out the Morris issue though.

3. Name a coach who might be fired first and name a player who might be traded first.

EF: I think Sacramento will give us so much drama this season mainly because things there are going to be so unstable, and that’s a very fitting atmosphere for someone’s head to roll. Since the Kings are surely not getting rid of Boogie, I’m thinking veteran coach George Karl may be headed out the door sooner rather than later. 
As for a player being traded early on, I’m thinking maybe Brandon Jennings mainly because I don’t see him coexisting well with Reggie Jackson. Jackson just landed a sizeable deal, and he looks to be in for the long haul, which is a bit of a shame since Jennings was solid for Detroit before he went down with an injury. 

RM: The Portland Trailblazers will not make the playoffs this season. You can take that to the bank. Thus, head coach Terry Stotts will probably be fired first this season especially when the Blazers have a prolonged losing streak in the loaded Western Conference. The Blazers lost LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Wes Matthews and Nic Batum during the off-season. Only Damian Lillard remains and he is not good enough to carry the Blazers to the playoffs. It would be very unrealistic to expect them to win more than 25 games. The player that will get traded first might be Rajon Rondo. He is now considered a "coach killer" and there were reports of friction between him and coach Karl. I don't think the Kings will fire a coach they recently hired so Rondo will probably get the boot if the Kings struggle early. Also, Darren Collison played better than Rondo during the preseason so a potential trade involving Rondo will be easier for the Kings to stomach.

ASJ: The Knicks would be the center of my answer to this question. If they start the season like 5-15, Fisher would be the best bet to be fired (personally I think he does not know what he is doing as a coach; it's a legacy hiring, if you ask me, by Phil Jackson). As for the 1st (major player) to be traded, Melo would a trade candidate as the Zen Master would try to get some pieces and draft picks just to start over (ala Philly).

4. Who will be ROY and MVP?

EF:  like Jahlil Okafor’s ROY chances. He and Nerlens Noel should form an interesting Yin-Yang duo in Philly, and I don’t think even Karl Anthony-Towns can tough Okafor’s projected production in their rookie campaigns.
As for MVP, that’s a tough call. I’m vacillating between LBJ and KD, but, right now, I’m leaning towards the Easy Money Sniper. I think Durant is gonna be extra hungry to prove himself this season given how he missed 55 games last year and he’s at the end of his OKC deal. His winning MVP will make next summer very interesting for BOTH OKC and Washington!

RM: My ROY pick goes to Karl-Anthony Towns of the T’wolves. He will get a lot of minutes and opportunities in Minnesota to become a very good player. He is already their starting center. The presence of veterans especially Kevin Garnett should help Towns develop into a mature, everyday player. One more thing about Towns, he is apparently a decent FT shooter so fouling him is not a good idea. 
My MVP pick is Anthony Davis. This guy developed a three-point shot during the off-season and he displayed that during the preseason by shooting over 50% from downtown. He can get you double-doubles daily and then there's even the chance of getting a triple-double with 10+ blocks. Davis led the NBA in blocks for 2 straight years. The Pelicans have a slew of injuries to start the season so Davis will have the chance to carry them. If the Pelicans make the playoffs, Davis should be a heavy favorite for the MVP. 

ASJ: ROY - I'd go Vegas on this one (since I checked as well) and pick Mudiay of Denver on this one. He has the opportunity, playing time and the stats that would come with it for the award. The only thing that might stop this bandwagon is if either Towns or Okafor would lead their teams to surprising records.
MVP - It's between the Brow and the Beard for me. Steph would pace himself this time for the title defense, so as LeBron. Harden seems to want it badly; He even said that he deserved last year's MVP (well I believed his point until the Dubs took care of erasing his point) and the Brow...well he is a freak. And this would be highlighted more if the Pels would be off to a good start while waiting for their other players to recuperate. So this would be the showcase part for the Brow this early in the season for his MVP case.

5. What is your prediction for the NBA Finals?

EF:  I think the Cavs make it and win it. I don’t think it’ll be easy. I don’t think it’s in the bag. But I think that LBJ won’t let another shot at giving his home state its first NBA title slip away.

RM: The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge will catapult the Spurs over the other contenders in the West. Meanwhile, LBJ will have his full complement of players (no injuries) and that should be enough for the Cavs to finally bring a ring home to Cleveland.

ASJ: Cavs vs. Zombie Sonics becasue the Dubs and Spurs will meet earlier in the playoffs and that would be a war of attrition. This means that the team from Oklahoma would escape out of the West with a motivated Durant and Russ sensing that this could be a last shot at title as a tandem with #kd2dc looming.

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