Time is a flat circle and the 2021 NBA Season kicks off tonight. The Tailgate Society NBA Slack channel joined forces to form the ‘Big Four’ and gave our 2021 NBA Predictions. From the MVP to the hottest take.
Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. However, I think the West this year will be one of the most competitive conferences we have seen in a while. COVID and injuries will play a large role in deciding who gets those last spots in the West. I do expect the Lakers to come out of the West when it is all said and done though.
Eastern Conference Champion: Milwaukee Bucks. I have to pick them or I wouldn’t be a good fan. However, don’t be shocked if the Bucks are not the 1 seed as I think the top spot in the Eastern Conference will come down between Philadelphia and Boston. But my fandom kicks in and sends the Bucks to the Finals.
NBA Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers are the best team in the league. They improved by getting more help from a bench that underperformed last season. Although they improved their bench I think the defensive tenacity they had during the bubble will decline. Losing Howard and Rondo is significant. I can also see Lebron playing a lot more passive this season which will lead to Davis being top 5 in the MVP discussion.
Regular Season MVP: Luka Doncic. If the Mavericks can put together a better record this season, the MVP front runner should be Luka. The League won’t allow Giannis to get another MVP, you don’t 3x MVP’s often. I can also see Steph Curry making a case for MVP if the Warriors find themselves more competitive this season.
Most Improved: Markelle Fultz, Shake Milton, Talen Horton-Tucker. I have all these guys having improved seasons. I love the Deandre Ayton pick. Having Chris Paul in the lineup running pick and roll action is going to help Ayton in this race. I want to throw some positive energy towards these guys as well, all three are people we can easily root for.
Rookie of the Year: Patrick Williams. I had a chance to watch him play in some pre-season games and I think he is going to be a solid NBA player. Assuming he gets a lot of opportunities in Chicago. That will put him ahead of other rookies who may see less playing time.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Simmons. He made the first team last year and finished 3rd in voting for the first team. I expect him to get more respect this year on the defensive end of the floor.
Hottest Take: The Brooklyn Nets lose early in the playoffs. The Washington Wizards will be competitive in the East and they make the Playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks will miss the Playoffs. Talen Horton-Tucker will become a household name by the end of the season.
Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. They drastically improved this off-season and with the hype around Horton-Tucker, they may have just found a diamond in the rough.
Eastern Conference Champion: Brooklyn Nets. This team was a solid team while KD and Kyrie sat on the injured reserve last season. A fresh KD and Kyrie will lead this team through the unpredictable East.
NBA Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. They dominated last season and got even better.
Regular Season MVP: Luka Doncic. He nearly took down the Los Angeles Clippers single-handed in the Playoffs and Giannis won’t win it 3 times in a row…
Most Improved: Talen Horton-Tucker (THT). With the hype surrounding THT and the Lakers constantly being on National Television and if he plays up to that hype, the NBA better watch out.
Rookie of the Year: Isaac Okoro. Biased Cavs fan here, but this man can flat out ball. I think the Cavs will win more games this year with the help of a potential stat stuffer in Okoro.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis. He should have won it in 2020… With the Lakers being a better offensive team this year, I think AD will be able to use more energy on the defensive end to claim his award.
Hottest Take: Cleveland Cavaliers. The young Cavs roster figures it out and lands as an 8 seed for the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. Had they kept Doc Rivers around, I would have said the Clippers. I think a normal-ish season with the entire returning cast back (and healthy) could have done them a lot of good, but they hit reset with Tyronn Lue. That’s enough for me to just take the reloaded Lakers.
Eastern Conference Champion: Boston Celtics. I choose to believe this is finally it for the Celtics. Brad Stevens is 205-113 with 7 playoff series wins in the past 4 seasons. Using SRS, they have improved each season. In that span, the Celtics have been bounced by LeBron twice, Giannis once and the Heat once. The lumps have been taken. It’s time.
NBA Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. I can’t get myself all the way to a Celtics championship, but this does feel like 6–7 games already. LeBron adds to his legacy.
Regular Season MVP: Luka Doncic. We’ve reached a point where it seems like Anthony Davis and LeBron James may just cannibalize each other’s MVP chances for the rest of time, even though one of them might actually deserve it. It just feels like a Luka year. He finished 4th last year, and he and the Mavericks are both poised to improve immensely.
Most Improved: Deandre Ayton. His 2020 was set back by suspension and injury and he still lit it up. I predict he raises his level of play (as a former #1 overall pick should do) with Chris Paul running point, which will also mean improving on an 18-point, 12-rebound average. That’s enough for me.
Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball. This is purely a pick for who I think will be the most prolific player in a pretty wide-open field. I don’t love it. Tyrese Haliburton is the dark horse here, but he probably won’t score enough.
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. If I have Giannis getting bounced in the Eastern Conference Finals, and I’m also not giving him the MVP, we better give him the DPOY. This silly exercise aside, it would be legitimately surprising if he didn’t win.
Hottest Take: The Pelicans make the playoffs and win a series as a lower seed. I believe they’re in the top half of the league in terms of talent and projected to be just 10th in the West. I think Stan Van Gundy finds a way to sneak them in and knock off one of the teams in the tier break after the Lakers and Clippers.
Western Conference Champion: Los Angeles Lakers. There is no doubt the talent that this team has. LeBron James wakes up every start of the season just ready to eat other opponents for dinner. He’s going to come back and show everybody why he’s the GOAT and I’m going to be salty about it because I am always bored watching the same people go to the finals.
Eastern Conference Champion:
Washington Wiz–Brooklyn Nets. With Russ making me jump to another team I felt I had to find a new team to call my home. After basically everyone I loved and supported is gone from OKC, my OG team, including the coach, just doesn’t feel right anymore. IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE HOME. So the Nets will have my attention this season and because one of my bff’s told me to come to the dark side. KD is going to come off fresh from the bunch healthy and ready to remind everyone he can do more than talk trash behind his burner. Plus, Kyrie will also be back. I see big things happening here and I want to make bold choices here as I embrace my new team.
NBA Champion: Probably the Lakers *insert eye roll*
Regular Season MVP: Luka Doncic. Luka came in fourth last season so baby boy has to be HUNGRY after the crazy season he had last season. I have high hopes for this angel as he comes back and hopefully just blows everyone out of the water. I truly believe the Mavericks will improve from last season which should make it a no-brainer this sweet prince will be deserving of that recognition. I’m already daydreaming of a dunk compilation. Will also leave a window for my sweet baby Russ but also Kevin Durant. I said what I SAID.
Most Improved: Michael Porter Jr. I feel it in my gut.
Rookie of the Year: James Wiseman. Will average a double double a game. You heard it here first. He will be a valuable member of that team and will be playing alongside Draymond and Steph who will be wonderful to his development.
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. This doesn’t feel like a very difficult decision and I am sure everyone agrees with me even though I know a very solid case can be made for AD. I did feel as though AD got snubbed last season but I’m sticking with Giannis (as I type this wearing my Antetokounmpo sweatshirt).
Hottest Take: Everyone gives me shit about my love for Russell Westbrook. That’s fine because I don’t care. I only call this my hottest take because everyone is acting super skeptical. Russ is looking fresh and happier than when he arrived in Houston. For whatever reasons in the background there just happen to be a disconnect among the coaching staff and clearly his pal James Harden. I think the Wizards are going to the playoffs AND will go far. I don’t know if it’s just because I love Russell so much but I just feel like he’s about to have the best season we’ve seen from him in a while. I feel as though he’s been in this funk and the switch to the Wizards will be that culture reset he’s been needing to really hit a stride.