NBA 2016-17 predictions: our writers forecast the playoffs and award winners


Will anyone stop the Warriors? Who will be named Most Valuable Player? Guardian writers give their takes on whats coming up this season

Im most looking forward to watching …

How teams deal with the Warriors. Or how the Warriors deal with themselves. Ill go with both. Seeing teams try to defend a lineup that has Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will be fascinating. As will seeing how the Warriors keep everyone happy in an offense that features Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. DG

Last year injuries kept the Utah Jazz from making the playoffs but by January they should be completely healthy. Utah might not be the most exciting team but they are deep, good defensively and well coached. LC

How the Golden State Warriors are going to integrate Kevin Durant into their already historic offense. If anyone answers this differently theyre lying. HF

The most significant move of the NBA off-season is about to become the biggest story of the regular season. Just how might free agent signing Kevin Durant change the dynamic at Golden State? If he gels as quickly as pre-season suggests, the Warriors could push for 70 wins again. If not, theres the potential for the drama of disharmony. CS

Im least looking forward to watching …

The inevitable demise of Russell Westbrook. The (lone remaining) Thunder star plays with an edge and tenacity like no other athlete in sports and this season hell be more motivated than ever. But without Durant around anymore to help, the Thunder dont have a real shot no matter how well or angry Westbrook plays. And thats pretty depressing. DG

While most people will be excited to see how Golden State will fit all their stars into one lineup, there are enough players without big egos to make this work seamlessly. Perfection might actually make the Warriors more boring than people expect. LC

The New York Knicks, on and off the court. Its almost depressing to realize that Kristaps Porzingis is tied to this horrifically dysfunctional franchise. HF

The Houston Rockets. The NBAs most uninspiring team undermined my efforts to stay awake for last seasons midweek west coast games. Beyond the strange fascination with James Hardens beard, Ive no idea why theyre on TV so much. CS

The biggest surprise will be …

The Timberwolves grabbing a playoff spot in the West. A team featuring Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine (reportedly now armed with an NBA-quality jumper) nabbing a playoff spot in the West with 40-45 wins may not shock avid NBA watchers. But the Timberwolves have missed the postseason 12 years in a row. Basketball being played in Minnesota in late April would be news. DG

The Minnesota Timberwolves showed signs of growth last year with the growth of Karl-Anthony Townes and Andrew Wiggins. Now they have added the promising Kris Dunn to a backcourt with Zach LaVine. By seasons end they should be playing excellent defense. LC

The Eastern Conference will be more competitive and more entertaining than the Western Conference (Warriors excluded obviously). HF

Will this be the year the Clippers finally put it all together? Nope. Rather, itll finally sink that in Griffin, Jordan and Paul wont bring a Championship to LA. The Clips will lose in the first round of the play-offs and Paul will take a giant deal elsewhere next July. CS

The biggest disappointment will be

Will the Nets fail again this year? Yes, they probably will. Photograph: Noah K Murray/USA Today Sports

The Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are expected to be awful and will likely have the worst record in the NBA. So where does the disappointment come in, you ask? Its because the franchise and their fans will get almost nothing out of suffering through this season. Thanks to the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade with the Celtics in 2013, Boston has the right to swap their first-round pick with Brooklyns in the 2017 draft. So the Nets are going to lose most of their games AND lose out on the opportunity to bring in a franchise savior. Lets hope that 2014 trip to the Eastern Conference semis was worth it. DG

New Orleans tumbled last year, but really should be a better team than their record showed. They have the talent to be a playoff team just as they were two seasons ago but it seems like the mix still isnt there in a deep Western Conference. LC

The Chicago Bulls are going to drop off despite the addition-by-subtraction of losing Derrick Rose and bringing in a motivated Dwyane Wade. The pieces wont fit. HF

Having offloaded injury-prone Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Chicago Bulls snubbed a refresh and a chance to hand the reins to Jimmy Butler. Instead it signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, who have beef going back to the Celtics-Heat wars and will both want the limelight. On the Chicago sports scale, the Bulls will be far more Bears than Cubs. CS

LeBron James is

Durable. James has now played 1,186 NBA games in his career between the regular season and playoffs. Thats already 77 more than Michael Jordan logged in his career (not including his two forgettable seasons in a Wizards jersey). Theres a lot of mileage on LeBrons legs, but other than a slight reduction in minutes from his early twenties, there are no signs of slowing down. We are all witnesses to a man who has only aged along his hairline. DG

Not going to be able to pull the Cavs over the Warriors this time. LC

Already, at the very least, the second greatest basketball player who has ever lived. And hes not close to finished. HF

The man. Regardless of who performs miracles during regular season play, can we please refrain from proclaiming Curry or Westbrook or Durant has usurped him as the games best player? They wont have. Games 5-7 of the Finals where it James played-out the longest con in the history of sports – put that debate to bed until the post-season. CS

Steph Curry is

Now a full-on villain. If Kevin Durant is a bad guy for joining Golden State, Curry looks even worse for needing another superstar to get back on top. A fresh-faced NBA superstar everyone was rooting for two years ago today is today the face of a team many want to see crash and burn. Every behind-the-back pass Curry chucks out of bounds this season will be a moment of viral glee. DG

A player too unselfish for his own good. His need to please others sometimes destroys his focus. LC

The most embattled reigning MVP for two years running in NBA history, or at least among those whove won a ring. HF

A man with something to prove once again. Although an ill-timed knee injury may be mitigating, the undisputed league MVP had a Finals series to forget. LeBron made him look like a pretender again, now well see what Currys really made of. CS

One change to improve the NBA …

This will never happen because it would be a significant change to the entire sport of basketball but, hey, if the floor is mine: get rid of the free throw and penalize players who commit a foul by removing them from the floor for 30 seconds, hockey-style. This ends the awful free throw-fests that mar the end of so many basketball games and we also get some fun 5-on-4 action. I await your call, Adam Silver. DG

Revive the draft lottery reform that owners rejected two years ago that would havegiven all seven of the worst teams a better shot at the No1 pick thus reducing the incentive to tank. LC

Theres no reason that the NBA season should be 82 games long other than money. Unfortunately, thats more than reason enough for owners to continue with it. HF

Two free throws plus the ball if deliberate Hack-A fouls are committed more than three times a game on poor FT shooters like DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard. Theres no channel-turner in basketball like a Hackathon. CS

One bold prediction …

Joel Embiid will win rookie of the year. Picking a 7ft 0in center who can do this and this might not seem incredibly bold, but injuries have kept Embiid from playing in a single NBA game since he was drafted No3 overall in 2014. Predicting he stays healthy and plays well and that something good happens for the Sixers is as bold as bold can be. DG

Luke Waltons Lakers will have surpassed his entire 2015-16 loss total (four) by the time they face the Warriors for the first time (in their sixth game). LC

LeBron James will have a tough time leading the Cavaliers to another title. Photograph: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Im going to keep predicting that the Minnesota Timberwolves to end the season over .500 every single season until it actually happens. HF

Miamis resigned center Hassan Whiteside will win Defensive Player of the Year. The $98 million man, who finished third in voting last season becomes the focal point of a Heat team minus superstars. If pre-season is anything to go by, he looks ready for the responsibility. Hes also a triple double machine in the making and, as he likes to say; aint nobody doin it with blocks either. CS

Which rookie will impress the most?

When Ben Simmons returns from injury – hopefully by mid-season – hell quickly add footage to his passing highlight reel. (And many of those passes will go to Embiid, my bold Rookie of the Year pick. Hey, great choice!) DG

Kris Dunn, the Timberwolves point guard from Providence, looked fantastic in the Summer League and might be the most polished rookie in the league. LC

If Joel Embiid, who finally will be making his NBA debut with the Philadelphia 76ers, counts as a rookie, then it will be him. The 76ers will still be awful, though. HF

With Ben Simmons out until January, this is more open. Bostons Jaylen Brown drafted third out of Berkeley will have plenty of opportunities to shine in a big market team thats primed to contend. While the short forward might struggle for ROTY-worthy minutes/numbers behind Jae Crowder, he could be the most impressive. CS

Wholl win the MVP award?

Russell Westbrooks consolation prize in losing Kevin Durant might just be the MVP. If he can keep the Thunder above .500 and reach the playoffs, hell win the award and he surely wont thank Kevin Durant or Kevin Durants mother. DG

While I would be tempted to pick Russell Westbrook who could run free to as many points as he wants in the Thunders offense, the smart pick here is LeBron James. LC

Russell Westbrook. If he remains healthy, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is going to have a monster year now that he doesnt have to share his the ball with Durant. HF

Steph Curry will split the limelight with Kevin Durant, while LeBron James saves his absolute best for the postseason and hasnt won the award since 2013. Russell Westbrooks numbers will explode without Durant and theres a legit chance he can smash last years tally of 18 triple doubles. CS

Atlantic winner

Toronto Raptors. DG

Boston Celtics. LC

Boston Celtics. HF

Im going with the Cs. CS

Central winner

Cleveland Cavaliers. DG

Cleveland. LC

Cleveland Cavaliers. HF

The Cavs will take this. CS

Southeast winner

Atlanta Hawks. DG

Atlanta Hawks. LC

Orlando Magic. HF

Close. Atlanta is the favourite, but Charlotte or Washington could easily take this one. CS

Northwest winner

Portland Trail Blazers. DG

Utah Jazz. LC

Oklahoma City. HF

Utah and Portland look strong, but OKC will win it. CS

Pacific winner

Golden State Warriors. DG

Golden State Warriors. LC

Cant see anyone but Golden State. HF

Although last years regular season dominance could be beyond the Warriors, theyll win this division by at least 10 games. CS

Southwest winner

San Antonio Spurs. DG

San Antonio. LC

San Antonio. HF

Business as usual for the Spurs. CS

Eastern Conference Finals prediction

Cleveland over Indiana. DG

Cleveland over Boston. LC

Cleveland Cavaliers over literally any opponent they could face. Lets say the Boston Celtics. HF

A comfortable series for the Cavs, wholl win in five. CS

Western Conference Finals prediction

Golden State over LA Clippers. DG

Golden State over Utah. LC

Go for the Golden State Warriors over the San Antonio Spurs. HF

Warriors in seven in an all-time classic. CS

NBA championship winner

Everyone knows the classic scene in Gullivers Travels where the resting giant is overrun by tiny Lilliputians and secured to the ground by strings. Thats kind of how I see this NBA season. LeBron is the giant of the sport and no other player is close to matching him, but in adding Kevin Durant the Warriors now have enough to take down even the biggest star in all the game. Now I should probably note that Gulliver broke out of those strings in the story and that LeBron never rests. But Ill still give the Warriors 3-1 odds. DG

Last spring Golden State appeared certain to win their second-straight NBA title against Cleveland. But Draymond Green was suspended for a game, Steph Curry lost his focus and the Warriors were outplayed by the Cavs and LeBron James. They signed Kevin Durant to make sure that doesnt happen again. The same two teams are destined to meet once more but this time Golden State will have too many elite players to slump again. Expect a more locked-in Curry, a motivated Durant and enough contributions from Green and Klay Thompson to go the distance next June. LC

The Golden State Warriors, taking out the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, I know, this would be the third straight Warriors-Cavaliers finals, but its hard to imagine this season going any other way barring injuries that are too depressing to contemplate. The funniest possible result would be for the Cavaliers to take a 3-1 series lead this time around, only to lose to the Warriors. Call them the meme busters. HF

The Dubs will have learned a lot from last summers humbling loss to Cleveland and its all the motivation theyll need to put it right. Should the NBA Finals be a three-peat, Im picking Golden State to take a 2-1 lead over the Cavs in Finals match-ups. Warriors in six. CS

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