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On My Hill: NBA season predictions

The 75th NBA Season tipped off Tuesday night, and should resume the first full length basketball schedule since 2018. The Milwaukee Bucks look to repeat on their dream championship run, taking home the Larry O’Brien Trophy after a 50 year drought. A stacked rookie class awaits their debuts, headlined by Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, who’ll look to change the culture around two of the bottom teams in either conference. 

A fantastic season awaits, and here are my predictions:

NBA Champion: Brooklyn Nets

Yeah, I know. Bold. This makes too much sense to choose anybody else. Kyrie or no Kyrie, the Nets are too complete top to bottom to lose this year. I have faith in Kevin Durant and James Harden to put the controversy and distraction aside. Star power can be everything in today’s league and this will just be proven further. 

Runner Up: Utah Jazz

Utah reminds me of last year’s Bucks team before the season began. A dominant regular season as the one seed diminished by a crushing loss to a team they should’ve beat in the conference semifinals. Obviously, the Bucks followed that up with a ring. I think Utah has all the pieces and ability to follow in the footsteps of Milwaukee in 2020, but it just doesn’t seem probable that they have enough firepower to take down the Nets. Utah breaks the seal and shows their strongest season since Stockton-Malone, but gets downed by Brooklyn in six games.

Most Valuable Player: James Harden

I’m going with the assumption that Kyrie Irving won’t be playing anytime soon for the Nets. James Harden has entered a point of being underrated in today’s NBA. Still an elite scorer, Harden should easily be on pace to flirt with 30 PPG and has a genuine shot to lead the league in assists. His stat-line should look something like 28 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds on a nightly basis while the Nets coast to a top-two seed. While KD’s stats should be similar, it’s the playmaking and assist numbers that give Harden the edge. 

Runner Up: Luka Dončić

From a statistical standpoint, Luka will probably lead Harden (and the league!) with over 30 ppg and nearly averaging a triple-double. That being said, Dallas just doesn’t have enough help and star power to elevate them to the upper echelon of the Western Conference. New coach Jason Kidd can only do so much to help a roster that looks increasingly top-heavy. The Mavs should float around the five or six seed, not enough to sway voters into a first-time MVP campaign for Dončić.

Most Improved Player: Ja Morant

The 22-year-old went nuclear in his playoff appearance last season, averaging 30.2 points in the first round with a 47 point performance as well. Not to mention personally eliminating Steph Curry from playoff contention. Ja takes the next step this season and is a first-time All-Star. The biggest area of his game that can be improved while making a massive difference is his 3-point shooting. He shot just 30.8% from deep last year. With work this offseason, he can move back to an upper 30% range like he shot as a rookie. Adding a consistent jumper to being one of the league’s most athletic guards and stellar playmaking ability can make Ja as dangerous as anyone.

Runner-up: Donovan Mitchell

It’s well established that Mitchell is already one of the league’s brightest stars, but he’s primed to ascend to that next level of superstardom. The Jazz, and Mitchell, improve year after year and the sky's the limit with him at the helm. Mitchell will enter the MVP conversation but his stats won’t skyrocket like Morant’s will, leaving him second in the MIP race. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokoumnpo

Giannis is still undoubtedly a top five defensive player. I think Giannis gets this award due to voter fatigue in the MVP race, but still feel that he’s deserving to take home more hardware to an already HoF resume at 26. 

Runner-up: Myles Turner

Turner has been extremely underrated as a defender throughout his career, and most recently after leading the league in blocks per game in both 18-19 and 20-21. Turner will repeat this feat and average just under four blocks per contest. 

Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green

Green held experience with the G League’s Ignite, averaging nearly 18-4-3. A natural bucket, Green will likely be a starter out the gate and will play plenty of meaningful minutes for Houston. The Rockets are in the midst of a heavy rebuild, so all eyes are pointed on Green to headline a young squad looking to bring them back to contention.

Runner-up: Cade Cunningham

In a similar situation to Green, there is weight on his shoulders to lift the Pistons out of the basement of the Eastern Conference. The number one overall pick will have a strong rookie season, but Green’s experience will help his statistics as a first-year.

Basketball is in amazing hands for its 75th season. Anything can happen; it’s impossible to predict the trajectory of perhaps the most unique and dramatic offseason in recent memory.

Christo Siegel is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Christo by tweeting him at @imchristosiegel. 

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