20 NBA predictions before the 2023-24 season tips; Wembanyama’s artificial length

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This is our last night without the 2023-24 NBA season for eight months.


Awards and more for the 2023-24 season!

With the NBA season tipping off tomorrow night, it’s that time of year everybody loves to screenshot! Predictions! Oh, it’ll make or break your career. Amazingly, I’ve never gotten a prediction wrong, but we don’t have time to fact-check that. Let’s just read 20 new ones for this season:

  1. Most Valuable Player: Jayson Tatum, Celtics. He’d be the first American-born player to win it since James Harden in 2017-18. Larry Bird (1984-86) was the last Celtic to do so.
  2. Defensive Player of the Year: Bam Adebayo, Heat. It feels right. Alonzo Mourning (1999-00) is Miami’s only DPOY winner.
  3. Rookie of the Year: Victor Wembanyama, Spurs. Scoot Henderson and Chet Holmgren will make it interesting. No need to get cute, though.
  4. Coach of the Year: Willie Green, Pelicans. I’ve decided to foolishly believe in their health.
  5. Sixth Man of the Year: Malik Monk, Kings. He could average 18 points this season after averaging 19 in their playoff run.
  6. Most Improved Player: Ben Simmons, Nets. Let’s get weird!
  7. In-Tournament Champ: Miami Heat. It feels like something they’d oddly care about.
  8. East Finals: Bucks over Heat in six games.
  9. West Finals: Nuggets over Lakers in five games.
  10. NBA Finals: Nuggets over Bucks in seven games.
  11. First person to dunk on Wemby: Scottie Barnes, in the sixth game.
  12. First coach fired: Billy Donovan, Bulls. Chicago’s teardown is coming.
  13. First player to drop 50: Jordan Poole, Wizards. It might happen in the first game. He’ll put up an insane number of shots all season.
  14. Where Harden gets traded: Toronto. I think it’s going to be a weird situation for everybody.
  15. Scoring leader: Poole, Wizards. We might see him average 35 points this season.
  16. Rebounding leader: Rudy Gobert, Wolves. Why not?
  17. Assist leader: Tyrese Haliburton, Pacers. It’ll be a great battle with Trae Young all season.
  18. Steals leader: Jimmy Butler, Heat. Do we still care about steals?
  19. Blocks leader: Wemby, Spurs. Manute Bol (1985-86) is the only rookie to lead the NBA in blocks per game. Wemby’s 11 preseason blocks tied for the league lead. Keep scrolling for the entire argument in a single image.
  20. Technical foul leader: Dillon Brooks. He had 18 in a contract year. How will he act with $80 million guaranteed? 

More 2023-24 NBA season previews:

Let’s tag in Shams to start the week!

The Latest From Shams

With a new head coach and a few veterans to fill out a young roster, the Rockets hope to improve on their 22-win campaign from a season ago. To do that, third-year guard Jalen Green will almost certainly need to take a leap for Houston.

Green and I chatted recently ahead of the season to discuss the summer lessons he’s learned from Kevin Durant, new Rockets teammate Fred VanVleet and much more.

“I do feel like (the All-Star jump) is going to happen,” said Green, who averaged 22.1 points per game last season. “If you win, everything will take care of itself.”

You can check out our full interview here. The Rockets open their season Wednesday night in Orlando.

What, What The Hell?

The league isn’t ready for Victor Wembanyama

I know the hype has been unreal for Wemby over the last year or two. And it’s reaching historic levels before he even plays a real NBA game. That last part will be fixed Wednesday night, when he makes his league debut against the Mavericks.

It may annoy people to see things about Wemby all the time. But let me offer a brief rebuttal: Look at the picture atop this story. That is one of the craziest basketball things I’ve ever seen. Three things:

  • Andrew Wiggins is 6-7 but looks like a child here. That, in turn, makes Chris Paul look like the size of Roscoe.
  • Nobody should ever have to worry about their shot being blocked at that point in the trajectory. That’s supposed to be a jumper’s safe zone. It looks like Wemby rappelled from the rafters to block Wiggins’ attempt.
  • I don’t know the record for blocked jumpers, but he’ll break it this year.

Preparing for him is now its own thing for NBA teams. Don’t believe me? Think I’m being overly dramatic here? Check out what the Dallas Mavericks were doing in practice recently.

That’s Mavs assistant and basketball legend God Shammgod using arm extenders and shouting, “Wemby! Wemby!” to defend Dallas players. Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News coined the phrase “artificial Wemby length,” which is perfect for a band.

This is just the start of trying to solve whatever problem Wemby will become. Good luck, everybody.

Big Blow To The Grizzlies

What do they do without Steven Adams?

The Grizzlies’ news about Adams being out for the season with knee surgery really sucks. Adams is an underappreciated player. He’s willing to do the dirty work and sacrifice for his teammates. He’s also got a super funny personality.

Memphis could really be in trouble here. Jaren Jackson Jr. might have to play a lot more center, and, while he is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, he’s also someone who commits a ton of fouls. More physicality for Jackson might mean more foul trouble if he doesn’t adjust his aggressiveness. And the Grizzlies can’t afford to have big stretches of games without Jackson out there either.

Xavier Tillman is a solid big-man option for 15 minutes a night. Santi Aldama is tall but more of a forward. He could present some matchup problems on offense, but he might not be prepared for the defensive physicality. Kenneth Lofton Jr. is a talented big man but stands only 6-7. David Roddy is built like a linebacker at only 6-6. We’re not sure when Brandon Clarke will return from his Achilles injury.

Maybe Memphis tries to pursue someone like Daniel Theis or another journeyman big out there to replace Adams. But make no mistake: This is a massive blow to a Memphis team already without Ja Morant for the season’s first 25 games.

Bounce Passes

Hall of Famer David Aldridge has 24 burning questions for this season, including, “Why are you hating on Luka and Kyrie?”

Tim Kawakami has five reasons the Warriors can be contenders again.

This Jeff Green pop quiz from Kelly Iko is tremendous.

Are we going to see a lot more Tobias Harris in the Sixers’ offense?

Mo Dakhil knows how NBA teams can fix their starting lineup problems

(Top photo:  Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

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