Three weeks into the 2016-17 NBA season is too early to make any predictions about how the season will unfold.
But I'm going to anyway.
Ignoring the easy-to-jump-to probability of another Cavs vs. Warriors championship series, who knows how injuries, off-court drama, or good ol' fashioned ballin' will affect the season? We can't predict the future.
But I'm going to anyway.
I can be hopeful. And, based on every team having played less than 15 percent of their games, I'm going to make some hopeful predictions. So cross your fingers, and hope with me, or root against me. One of us will be right.
- The Warriors-Clippers rivalry will finally be realized. Is it, or isn't it a rivalry? For the last 4-5 years this has been a West Coast hot topic. Every regular season game between the California teams was guaranteed at least a few techs handed out and sometimes even lost tempers, fights, ejections, battles, blowouts, overtimes, you name it. In 2014, the teams went seven games in the first round out West with the Clippers advancing. Talks of a rivalry swirled.
The last two seasons have been great for Golden State, but in the days leading up to every matchup with the Clippers, both teams are asked about the budding rivalry. Most players deny that it's a rivalry. Some argue that neither team has been competitive for long enough for it to be considered a rivalry. But you can't deny they've been salty. I say this year will make it clear.
The L.A. squad is doing something right. Currently they are 10-2, atop the Western Conference (Golden State is 9-2), and Chris Paul is leading the charge. CP3 leads the league in steals, PER, offensive and defensive ratings, and while his numbers won't jump out on paper, his overall play is at an all-time high and it's definitely showing on the court.
We'll have to wait til Dec. 7 to see the two teams play each other. But we can definitely hope for a 1-2 seed matchup come the playoffs, and a Western Conference Finals melee that goes to seven games.
- The Bulls will shake up the East. Honestly, it's the only thing we can hope for as far as a shakeup goes. Without the Bulls this season's Eastern Conference leaders looks nearly identical to last seasons Eastern Conference playoff bracket. And barring anything extraordinary happening, LeBron James and Co. are going to waltz into the Finals, and deservedly so.
But I've said it before and I'll say it again. Dwyane Wade thinks it's 2006, Jimmy Butler is the truth, and Chicago has attitude (attitude I thought would fade without the sass of Joakim Noah).
Yes. I'm serious.
Charlotte is playing better and that's great, but until the NBA changes it's post season seeding format, it's going to take a real shakeup to make things competitive in the postseason. So we can only hope the Windy City does work.
- We will look forward to All-Star Weekend. I know February is down the road a bit. But as I was thinking about what I can be hopeful for this season, last year's dunk contest came to mind.
The All-Star game, the contests, all of it... the whole weekend has, over the years, lost all of its luster. But last year's dunk contest was a thing of beauty.
After the success of that, I have to think that the NBA will keep a more old-school dunk contest format. Maybe they'll get some A-list celebrities and figure out a way to make me care about that game (Arcade Fire and another Kevin Hart appearance aren't going to cut it). Maybe, all the big-name offseason moves, hurt feelings, and bitter departures will make for a more interesting and competitive All-Star game. We can hope. Fingers crossed.
Must Watch List
All times are Eastern. And a friendly reminder that the NBA doesn't have games on Thanksgiving. Turkey day is reserved for football.
Warriors at Celtics, Friday, 8 pm, ESPN. The Golden State super team hasn't had to prove itself too much this season. The Celtics are one of the more spunky and well-to do teams on the Warriors' early schedule.
Bulls at Clippers, Saturday, 10:30 pm, NBA TV. Two of the teams that are tearing it up right now. How can you not watch this game?!
League Pass Alert: Raptors at Clippers, Monday, 10:30 p.m. DeMar DeRozan is playing out of his mind right now. He's averaging 33.3 points, shooting 50.6 percent from the field. This is the Raptors' big game this week.