The+B%26W%E2%80%99s+2021%E2%80%9322+NBA+Predictions

Greer Vermilye

The B&W’s 2021–22 NBA Predictions

October 20, 2021

The 2021–22 NBA season tipped off on Tuesday night with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks dismantling the Kyrie-less Brooklyn Nets in Milwaukee. With the new season upon us, a few B&W staff members — Online Managing Editor Quentin Corpuel, Senior Columnist Danny Kotelanski, Sports Writer Alex Weinstein and Sports Writer Zach Rice — compiled their standings, playoff and awards predictions for the 2021–22 NBA season. 

Final Standings

 

 

Corpuel

East

  1. Bucks
  2. Nets
  3. Hawks 
  4. Sixers
  5. Knicks  
  6. Heat 
  7. Celtics 
  8. Bulls 
  9. Hornets 
  10. Pacers

 

The Eastern Conference, at least on paper, has a wider chasm between playoff and non-playoff teams than the Western Conference. Everyone on the defending champion Bucks returns except for PJ Tucker, and they should run the East led by somehow-only-26-years-old-yet-fresh-off-of-one-of-the-most-incredible-Finals-performances-ever Giannis Antetokounmpo. The sole reason I put the Nets as the second seed and not the first is because there’s a slim chance they make it to the playoffs in one piece; other than that, their Death Star should reign supreme over the entire league. I have high hopes for a Hawks squad returning almost everyone from last year’s ECF team. Sans the Ben Simmons drama, the Sixers have enough talent to win a lot of games. However, should the Simmons drama leak into the season — which it already has — I wouldn’t love the effect it would have on both team morale and performance. The Knicks swapped a little bit of defense for a little more offense this offseason, and I think it’s going to pay off in a substantial way en route to another exciting season in the Big Apple. Miami got a searing infusion of Heat culture with the additions of Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker, and the rest of the returning core has me excited about the prospects of the Heat. I might have put the Celtics a little too low, especially with widely-respected Ime Udoka as coach. While they return Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and many other promising young players, I firmly believe the six teams I have ahead of Boston are better than them. The Bulls and Hornets are going to be extremely fun to watch, and while Indiana isn’t exactly the most entertaining team, they should at least make the play-in tournament, especially with universally disliked head coach Nate Bjorkgren out of the mix. 

Conference Finals: Nets over Bucks 

I’m not sure if you all have heard, but the Nets have three of the five most gifted scorers in the league on their roster, and when at least two of them were healthy last season, they were one of the most unstoppable offensive teams in NBA history. Plus, they were obliterating the Bucks in the Eastern Semis last postseason before Irving went down with an ankle injury. Even with Durant as the lone scorer, the Nets were only half a shoe size away from the Eastern Finals. Even if Kyrie Irving doesn’t play half of Brooklyn’s regular season games, this team is loaded. With an improved bench and almost everyone from last year’s squad returning, health should be the only barricade stopping the Nets from their first NBA Finals appearance since 2003. 

West 

  1. Jazz 
  2. Lakers
  3. Suns
  4. Nuggets
  5. Warriors
  6. Mavericks
  7. Clippers 
  8. Grizzlies 
  9. Blazers 
  10. Timberwolves  

 

The Jazz return their core of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and other solid supporting cast members that have led them to great regular season success over the past few seasons, and I don’t expect their success from October to April to stop. The Lakers, as old as they are, have the experience and talent to keep up with any team in the league. If DeAndre Ayton can continue improving and Devin Booker continues to ascend, I’m loving the outlook for the Suns to snare a top three seed in the West. Denver would’ve been my Western Conference champion prediction last May had Jamal Murray not gotten injured, and they return a squad that I wouldn’t be shocked to see in the West Finals. The Warriors should be rejuvenated with the return of Klay Thompson and potential pops from other young guns, and if everything clicks, I think they can make some serious noise in the playoffs. As long as Luka Doncic is the only guy on the Mavericks that consistently contributes to winning, they’ll be considered semi-contenders, but will remain in the lower half playoff team tier in the West. With no Kawhi Leonard, I still think the Clippers will be fine, but they definitely won’t play as well as last season. Despite a few questionable moves this offseason, the Grizzlies should still be squarely in the play-in mix with a continually ascending Ja Morant leading the way. Frankly, I have no idea what to do with the Blazers considering potential Lillard/McCollum trades, but they’re good enough with those two to at least make the play-in tournament. In a toss-up between the Pelicans and Timberwolves for the final play-in spot, I went with Minnesota. I’m liking their firepower more than New Orleans, who may not have Zion Williamson until the winter. 

Conference Finals: Warriors over Lakers 

Boom! Non-chalk prediction number one has been made. After all, the four of us will most likely be wrong about these predictions anyways, so why not spice it up a bit? We saw last season how the Warriors still made the play-in despite being ravaged by injuries riding the back of Stephen Curry. I also can’t stress enough how huge Klay Thompson’s return will be, even if it isn’t until the winter. I also love how Golden State’s offense looked in the preseason; I try not to buy too much stock into preseason, but their movement and chemistry on offense looked unbelievably crisp in their few preseason contests. Coupled with a potential sophomore surge from James Wiseman, a potential explosion from Jordan Poole and potential pops from rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, this Warriors squad is promising enough for me to at least semi-confidently put them back in the NBA Finals. 

Kotelanski:

East 

  1. Nets
  2. Bucks
  3. Celtics
  4. Heat
  5. 76ers
  6. Knicks
  7. Hawks
  8. Bulls
  9. Hornets
  10.  Wizards

 

If the Nets can keep it together — and that’s a big if — they should be a lock for the NBA Championship. The Nets “Big 3” have been talking their talk this summer, but considering all the injuries, missed games and controversy from last season, it’s unpredictable where they’ll land. The Bucks should stay consistent with Giannis Antekotounmpo hungry for another championship. My biggest surprise comes with the Celtics at the three seed. They’ve been stuck at the bottom of the high-tier Eastern Conference teams for years now, but I think Jayson Tatum can surge his team to the top this season. Big offseason acquisitions from the Heat, Bulls and Hornets should win them spots in the playoffs this season as well.

Conference Finals: Nets over Bucks

The Nets have Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Thank you very much, have a nice day. 

West

  1. Lakers
  2. Warriors
  3. Jazz
  4. Nuggets
  5. Suns
  6. Mavericks
  7. Clippers
  8. Pelicans
  9. Trail Blazers
  10. Grizzlies 

 

Here we go with the newest big three of the NBA, and once again, Lebron is a part of it. Russell Westbrook, Lebron James and Anthony Davis could be an unstoppable force in the Western Conference despite their veteran status. The Warriors, although it seems they are years out of their legendary prime, are coming out this year with still MVP-caliber player Steph Curry and seemingly healthy Klay Thompson. With all this being said, I think the duo could make a run for it late in the season and secure the #2 spot in the West. The young talent of the Nuggets, Suns and Jazz franchises makes them  competitors in the West, but not enough to break through the veteran-loaded Warriors and Lakers. The Clippers and Trail Blazers will slowly remain on a decline, since their star-power simply won’t be enough to win in the West. This could also be the year that Zion and the Pelicans crack a spot in the playoffs.

Conference Finals: Lakers over Warriors

Yes, this Lakers squad is old. Yes, the fit of Westbrook with LeBron and Anthony Davis doesn’t seem fully cohesive on paper. But look at the Lakers roster and tell me that’s not, at the very least, a conference finals team. Last year, the Lakers were on their way to defeating the Suns in the first round of the playoffs before injuries sunk their season. With a new supporting cast and every player healthy, I expect a rebound season from Los Angeles en route to their second Finals appearance in three seasons. 

Weinstein

East

  1. Nets
  2. Bucks
  3. 76ers
  4. Hawks
  5. Heat
  6. Celtics
  7. Bulls
  8. Knicks
  9. Hornets
  10. Pacers

 

You’ve got the star-studded Nets, complete with an unbelievable supporting cast. You’ve got the reigning 2021 champs, the Bucks, led by walking trophy case Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s safe to say that he hasn’t nearly reached the top of his prime yet; the preseason gave us glimpses of a more polished jump shot from him, and Giannis with a consistent jumper is a terrifying thought for the rest of the league. The third seed is my beloved Philadelphia 76ers. They have a loaded roster behind arguably the best center in the league, Joel Embiid, in addition to the enigma that is Ben Simmons. Anything can happen with Simmons — chances are he won’t even be on the team come the season. If the 76ers do end up trading Ben Simmons for someone like CJ McCollum, D’Angelo Russell or De’Aaron Fox, it will definitely give Philly a boost. However, behind Embiid and Simmons is Tobias Harris, one of the most underrated scorers in the league. They have Seth Curry, one of the best spot up shooters in the league. They have a young lockdown defender in Matisse Thybulle and rising star point guard Tyrese Maxey. Let’s not forget their new addition, Andre Drummond, who’s going to provide needed depth down low. Then, there’s great roleplayers like Danny Green and Shake Milton. I can’t wait to see what the 76ers have in store for their season; even so, the previously mentioned Bucks and Nets are simply better. My 4th seed Hawks are a solid team who can hold their own with any team in either conference, and their playoff performance last season was extremely impressive. They have a ton of young talent and will only improve with time, but besides Trae Young, they aren’t quite talented enough to outcompete the more elite teams in the East. After the Hawks, the competition falls off. Miami, Chicago, Boston, and New York all are decent, but wouldn’t be higher than the seventh seed at best in the West. 

Conference Finals: Nets over Bucks 

I’m aware that this prediction is chalkier than a sidewalk next to an elementary school, but the Nets and Bucks are clearly the best two teams in the Eastern Conference. After those two, it’s tough to make an argument for the Sixers, Hawks, Heat, Knicks, Celtics and others as one of the two best teams in the East. In this re-match of the 2021 East Semis, I have the Nets edging the Bucks with Kevin Durant nailing a few clutch shots in Game 7. 

West

  1. Lakers
  2. Suns
  3. Nuggets
  4. Warriors
  5. Clippers
  6. Jazz
  7. Trail Blazers
  8. Mavericks
  9. Grizzlies
  10. Pelicans

 

The West is absolutely stacked. All of the top eight seeds are loaded with some combination of talent and depth — some extremely deep, others not so deep (Dallas, for example). However, Dallas has a golden boy in Luka Doncic, and his efforts will almost certainly get them into the playoffs. The Suns and Nuggets are both tough teams with multiple stars, but as I see it, the Nuggets suffer from a lack of depth, and the Suns’ Finals run last year was due to a lucky break. They remained mostly healthy during the playoffs, while key players on opposing teams, namely Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Jamal Murray, did not. The Warriors with a healthy Klay Thompson will be a conference finals team with a real shot at the Finals. I also have faith in the Clippers as long as Paul George can play well.

Conference Finals: Lakers over Warriors

I’m not making particularly bold claims on these. The best teams in each conference will meet in the conference finals, and the teams with the most scorers will win. The Warriors will undoubtedly prove to be an extremely competitive playoff team behind Curry, Thompson, Draymond and Wiseman as long as they stay healthy. I would love to see them win it all, but unfortunately there’s no way they’ll get past the Lakers, who I see as the Nets of the West and easily the second most talented team this season. Led by the massive three of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, the Lakers feature a phenomenal supporting cast, including Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Rajon Rondo, Malik Monk and Avery Bradley. This veteran-loaded team is seasoned, talented and ready for anything the West throws their way.

Rice:

East

  1. Bucks
  2. Sixers
  3. Nets
  4. Heat
  5. Hawks
  6. Celtics
  7. Bulls
  8. Knicks
  9. Pacers
  10. Hornets

 

The defending champion Bucks are my top seed in the East, since the Nets will likely take the regular season easy to resting players. The 26-year-old superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is already the best player in basketball, and he keeps on improving. The Bucks found a great fit with Jrue Holiday, who helped them break through and win a championship last year, along with shooter Khris Middelton, who has thrived alongside Giannis his whole career. Obviously, the Nets will be a top seed if KD and Harden can stay healthy. I really like the Kyle Lowry addition for the Heat, but they’re still no match for a full-strength Nets team. I don’t know exactly how I feel about the Sixers, but if they have the same roster as last year, including Ben Simmons, they remain in the contender conversation. However, I don’t think they can truly contend for a chip unless Simmons can spread the floor unlike we’ve ever seen. The other six teams in the East need too many things to happen this year to get to the Finals. 

Conference Finals: Nets over Bucks

The flawed yet overpowered Nets team, possibly the most talented NBA team ever assembled, should steamroll through the NBA pending health. At full strength, the only team that can possibly compete with them, at least on paper, are the Lakers. However, problems have already arisen for Brooklyn, and the season hasn’t even started yet. Kyrie Irving won’t get vaccinated, which could cause him to miss all of Brooklyn’s home regular season games. That would be half the season. Throw in KD and Harden’s injury history, and it isn’t impossible that the Nets might fall short again this year. I love this Bucks team and Giannis, who I think will put up another MVP caliber season that we have grown so accustomed to. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are in perfect condition to thrive again this year; however, the Nets vs. Bucks went to seven last year with the Bucks at full strength. The Nets were without Kyrie half of the series — which will likely be the case again this year — and with Harden for only the last three games, during which he was nowhere near his typical self.

West

  1. Jazz
  2. Suns
  3. Lakers
  4. Warriors
  5. Nuggets
  6. Clippers
  7. Mavericks
  8. Grizzlies
  9. Blazers
  10. Timberwolves

 

The talent in the West, as usual, is exponentially higher than the talent in the East. There are six teams that can truly contend — seven if Luka can finally get some help. The top six seeds in this conference are true competitors, though. The Lakers, who suffered injuries throughout last season, are at full health, and they added Russell Westbrook to run the point, along with several more exceptional role players to round out the squad. There’s no doubt they’re the team to beat, and at full strength, they may be unstoppable. The Warriors, who I have losing in the WCF with Klay, become an elite team, and if Wisemen improves, they will be the second scariest team to face when the playoffs come around. On top of Curry, Green and Wiggins, I love Jordan Poole and the two lottery pick rookies, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. The Jazz and Suns are both coming off of incredible seasons; the Jazz had the best record in the league and the Suns were two games from a championship. Both of these teams have the talent, coaching and depth to contend for their first finals victory. The Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray, but by the end of the year, the tandem of him, Jokic and a rapidly improving Michael Porter Jr. can contend for a chip. They’re definitely a sleeper team. You also, of course, can’t forget about a healthy Clippers team. Kawhi and Paul George are the two best two-way players in the league and will have as much as ever to prove this season after disappointing fans over the past several years. The stacked West could go so many different ways, especially since all of the superstars besides Jokic seem injury-prone. Who knows who’s healthy come playoff time?

Conference Finals: Lakers over Warriors 

I really, really believe that LA’s new big three is going to work out. I think Russell Westbrook brings the energy and skill needed to take the Lakers over the top. I’m confident that LeBron, Anthony Davis and Co. can lead the Lakers back to the NBA Finals.

NBA Finals + Finals MVP

 

 

Corpuel: Nets over Warriors

FMVP: Kevin Durant 

A relatively healthy Nets squad should conceivably steamroll everyone with offense en route to a championship. Will there be bumps along the way? Absolutely. Will they stay healthy for the entire season? Highly unlikely. Will Kyrie Irving play more than half of Brooklyn’s regular season games? That remains to be seen. But as long as at least one of the big three is in the lineup, the Nets can run with any team in the league. As long as they can stay somewhat healthy and keep any off-court drama to a minimum, Brooklyn will be a city of champions for the first time in 2022. 

Kotelanski: Nets over Lakers

FMVP: Kevin Durant

It’s safe to say that a Nets vs. Lakers NBA Finals would be an instant classic. Six of the greatest players of our generation in one matchup? It doesn’t get better than that. Offensively, I see the Nets Big 3 clicking more than the Lakers’. Not to discount the Lakers who I believe will bring it down to the wire, but the offensive firepower that Harden, Irving and Durant have combined seems completely unstoppable. There is no doubt that Durant will lead his squad in scoring on his way to securing his 3rd FMVP.

Weinstein: Lakers over Nets 

FMVP: LeBron James 

LeBron James is the second greatest basketball player of all time as of now. He’s on a mission to change that — and he doesn’t have much time left. With Westbrook, Davis and an extremely deep bench, the Lakers-Nets finals will be competitive and extremely fun to watch. LeBron’s performance to lead the Lakeshow past the star-studded nets will consist of 30 point games, triple-doubles, and clutch plays that NBA fans will remember for decades to come.

Rice: Lakers over Nets

FMVP: Lebron James

My winner of the championship this year solely depends on the status of Kyrie Irving. If Kyrie can’t play home games in this series or doesn’t play at all, then I believe the Lakers will win this series. If Kyrie plays the whole series, which isn’t the case as of right now, then the Nets would be title winners with KD as finals MVP.

Most Valuable Player 

 

 

Corpuel: Giannis Antetokounmpo 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ascended to the status of legends last postseason, with the cherry on top being an all-time Finals performance and a 50-point masterpiece in the title-clincher.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is only 26 years old.

Which means Giannis Antetokounmpo is just entering his prime. 

Holy moly.

Kotelanski: Giannis Antekountomnpo

At this point, the question is not “How will Giannis win MVP again?” but rather “Who can stop Giannis from winning again?”

Truthfully, it’s hard to say who this might be. Contenders include Kevin Durant, who will be slightly overshadowed by his other All-Star teammates. Or Steph Curry, who has a real shot considering how well he played last season and how I’m expecting the Warriors to play this year, but is still a few years removed from his prime while Antetokoumpo is just entering his.

So frankly, there is no stronger dominating force in the NBA right now than Antetokounmpo.

Weinstein: Stephen Curry

The Warriors will return to dominance despite playing in a competitive Western Conference, and Stephen Curry is going to prove why he’s the most talented point guard ever. Since his initial rise to stardom in the early-mid 2010’s, Curry has never truly faltered. His 2020 and 2021 seasons were plagued by injuries that affected both to him and his teammates. However, Curry didn’t let that stop him. Every time he stepped onto the court, he was without a doubt one of the most exciting players in the NBA to watch. Last season, Curry went supernova, dropping eleven 40 and 50 point games and single-handedly kept the Warriors in the play-in conversation. Stephen Curry is the greatest point guard of all time, and his ability to lead and reinforce his teammates will win him his third MVP.

Rice: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is coming off of an incredible season, a season in which he likely would’ve won MVP until he suffered a partial tear of his meniscus. Embiid is set for another monster season, as it doesn’t seem like his role will be any different this year. The only thing that can hold back the 27-year-old superstar is another addition to his extensive injury history.

Rookie of the Year 

 

 

Corpuel: Cam Thomas 

When considering a rookie for ROTY, I consider two factors: Are they good at basketball, and are they going to get enough playing time to warrant consideration?

Thomas absolutely checks the first box. His natural scoring ability was on full display in college, as he averaged 23 points per game in college and looked every bit an NBA scorer. His range is legitimately inside of half court, and his dribble toolbag is a mile deep. Simply put, Cam Thomas is a bucket with arms and legs, and his game should translate nicely from college to the pros. 

The second factor is a little dicey, considering that there are two guards ahead of Thomas on the depth chart who are also pretty good at basketball themselves in Kyrie Irving and James Harden. There are also other rookies who, as of now, are projected to get far more playing time than Thomas. However, considering Kyrie and Harden’s injury and off-court history — more so Kyrie with the latter — combined with the lack of on-ball scoring threats behind KD, Kyrie and Harden, Thomas will likely have an increased role in the Brooklyn rotation and more opportunities to show off his scoring prowess. The Nets are also going to be on national television a lot — 38/82 games are on TNT/ESPN/ABC/NBA TV — and the Nets are on the East Coast, so Thomas will get plenty of exposure to the national media. 

Kotelanski: Jalen Green

This definitely isn’t a hot-take nor an original one, but there’s no need for novelty. Jalen Green really is that guy. I questioned his ability to score in the NBA considering his slim frame, but he has proved me and many others wrong in his performance in the NBA Summer League and Preseason. Outdueling #1 pick Cade Cunnigham in Summer League, Green proved that he could be one of the best young offensive talents in the league within a matter of months.

Weinstein: Jalen Green

Jalen Green has the sauce. He’s going to immediately become a fan favorite among not only NBA fans, but House of Highlights. Green is representative of what the future of the NBA is going to look like. He’s a freakishly athletic wing who possesses the handles, touch and IQ of a franchise player. He can score in so many different ways, and I’m eager to see him on a Rockets squad that will be doing a lot of losing this season. He’s going to be their primary option on offense, which will give him more chances than probably any other rookie in contention to show why he deserves the award. While his draft class is filled with tough competition and future stars, Jalen Green easily gets my pick.

Rice: Jalen Green

Boy, was it tough to pick a rookie of the year. I could make a legit ROTY case for Cade, Mobley, Barnes, Giddey, Kuminga, Mitchell, Moody and Cam Thomas, just to name some players I love. But at the end of the day, Jalen Green is who I have to pull out with the award. Green’s pure scoring talent is unlike that of not just any other rookie, but almost any other player. He has Bradley Beal-like scoring and Zach Lavine-like explosiveness. I see him coming in and averaging over 20 points per game immediately in Houston. 

Sixth Man of the Year 

 

 

Corpuel: Derrick Rose

As a Knicks and Derrick Rose fan, it was enjoyable seeing Rose look the most like his old self since, well, he was his old self. On a Knicks squad that lacked consistent on-ball scoring — especially in the playoffs — Rose was a lone reliable scoring option, and it was clear that the Knicks were a better team when he was on the floor. However, it was also clear that the burden was far too heavy on Rose with him as the starting point guard; he looked exhausted in the second half of games, especially in the playoffs when he was New York’s top scoring option. With a (hopefully) healthy Kemba Walker now taking over the starting point guard role for New York, Rose should thrive as a reliable bench option, exactly where he should be playing. 

Kotelanski: Jordan Clarkson

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jordan Clarkson repeated as the 6th man of the year. Clarkson proved to the league last year that he can play at the All-Star level coming off of the bench. It’d been a while since a 6th man was as efficient as Clarkson last year, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be as great this year too.

Weinstein: Alex Caruso

Memes aside, Alex Caruso is going to be a crucial part of the Bulls this year. He’s an excellent playmaker with an incredible IQ that will create scoring opportunities for Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. He’ll be backing up Lonzo Ball, who is also an elite playmaker who, although he had a somewhat disappointing start to his NBA career, has shown a lot of growth and potential recently. I can’t wait to see him in action on what’s likely to be an exciting Bulls team.

Rice: Tyler Herro

After a somewhat disappointing season for Tyler Herro, especially after an atrocious playoff performance in which he scored just nine points per game and was wildly inefficient, I think Herro is due for a bounce back season off the bench. The Heat will likely start Lowry, Robinson, Butler, Tucker, and Bam. With the departure of Goran Dragic and Kendrick Nunn, Herro will have a sizable role on a Heat squad that should contend for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.

Most Improved Player

 

 

Corpuel: Michael Porter Jr. 

I genuinely believe this is the year Michael Porter Jr becomes one of the NBA’s deadliest scoring threats. He’s shown flashes of scoring dominance over the past two seasons, as his incredible fusion of size and athleticism combined with his natural scoring ability have enabled him to hit shots not many basketball players can make. Porter also averaged 19 points per game and shot a ridiculous 44.5% from three on seven attempts per game last season. If Denver is going to have any shot at an NBA title this season, Porter has to explode, which I’m confident he can. 

Kotelanski: Kevin Porter Jr.

KPJ had a breakout in the second half of the season last year, but that wasn’t enough to secure him the MIP award. What I thought was a short stint of great offensive play turned into a solid full development for Porter. If he can lead the Rockets’ young squad out of the deep depths of the West, the MIP title could easily be his.

Weinstein: Ben Simmons 

We’ve all seen the videos. Ben Simmons can shoot, he just doesn’t do it in games. But he’s gotten this far, and the fact that he’s in the NBA at all, let alone an All-Star, means that he knows how to work, improve and overcome adversity in his game. Simmons will figure everything out and become a stud this year… I hope. As a Sixers fan, I’d love to see him take his game to the next level and help Philly get far in the postseason. Unfortunately, his days with the Sixers seem to be limited and possibly over.

Rice: Anthony Edwards

I see this year as a turnaround year for the Timberwolves. They’ll likely contend for the play-in game and the playoffs, with the young stars KAT and Edwards leading the way along with D’Angelo Russell. Edwards averaged 19.3 PPG  last year and played incredibly well in the second half of last year. Don’t be surprised when Edwards puts up 25 PPG this year.

Defensive Player of the Year 

 

 

Corpuel: Ben Simmons

Regardless of the off-court drama that has transpired over the past few months, Ben Simmons is an incredible defender who I thought should’ve won DPOY last year. He’s one of the few NBA players who can actually guard 1–5, and he’s locked up plenty of touted offensive threats throughout his career. Is he a liability on offense? So far, yes. Is he going to play this year? Likely not for the Sixers, especially after getting kicked out of practice by Doc Rivers. Will this prediction look incredibly foolish in 2–9 months? It’s very possible. Regardless, Ben Simmons is absolutely the best all-around defender in the league and succeeds on defense like few players have in my lifetime. 

Kotelanski: Ben Simmons

Aside from the jokes and memes and the controversy surrounding Simmons’ place in the 76ers organization, it’s hard to deny Simmons is one of the best defenders in the league. Simmons’s agility at his size allows him to defend the best bigs and guards of the league. Regardless of where Simmons ends up this year, he should be very productive as a defender.

Weinstein: Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert is someone I would not want to try to shoot a layup over, I’ll tell you that. The man is a block machine and grabs a ton of rebounds. He’s won the award three times, and he’ll take it home again.

Rice: Rudy Gobert

It feels like voter fatigue has to get to Gobert at some point, but it’s just impossible for me to pick someone else as my defensive player of the year. Gobert was a force to be reckoned with last year in the paint, like he has been throughout his career. He racked up a career-high 2.7 blocks per game last year and 13.5 rebounds per game. What fans don’t realize is that when we watch Gobert, we watch one of the best interior defenders in the history of basketball.

Coach of the Year 

 

 

Corpuel: Nate McMillan

McMillan sold me last year when he completely turned around a Hawks squad that constantly blew games late and couldn’t seem to win consistently. The entire team is back together, and I believe McMillan will play a significant role in leading the Hawks to a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.

Kotelanski: Steve Kerr

Pulling Klay Thompson and Steph Curry into the legendary duo they used to be would be an incredible feat for Kerr, and I think it’s possible. He’s done it before, and for a solid few years, he led one of the strongest dynasties in NBA history. A comeback and the putting together of old pieces — Green, Curry and Thompson-— could give Kerr the nod for COTY.

Weinstein: Nate McMillan

Nobody expected the Hawks to be as decent as they were in the playoffs last year. Sure, Trae Young is incredibly talented and on his way to elite point guard status, but when the whole team suddenly started clicking and finding underdog success when McMillan took over, McMillan became the one who deserved a ton of credit. The Hawks will play equally as well this season as they did during last year’s playoffs, and McMillan will deserve recognition for that.

Rice: Erik Spoelstra

The Heat are a team I’m eyeing this year, and Spoelstra is a wonderful coach who, shockingly, has never won a Coach of the Year before. He’ll be the Heat’s glue.

Bold Prediction

 

 

Corpuel: The 2021 rookie class will be in the GOAT class conversation a few years down the road 

This is more of a long-term bold prediction, but I’m dead serious when I say this rookie class has a good chance to be one of the greatest of all-time. Allow me to explain. 

The number of guys from this draft that I believe will be impactful players and will still be in the league in a decade is far higher than any one in recent memory. You’ve got potential franchise cornerstones (Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs), elite scorers (Cam Thomas, James Bouknight, Bones Hyland, Josh Christopher), all-around guys that’ll find roles on championship teams (Davion Mitchell, Trey Murphy III, Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride), sharpshooters (Corey Kispert, Chris Duarte, Moses Moody, Jared Butler, Joe Wieskamp), lockdown defenders (Scottie Barnes, Usman Garuba), guys budding with potential (Jonathan Kuminga, Alperen Sengun, Jalen Johnson) and a whole lot of solid role players. Don’t be surprised when fans rank the 2021 class among the likes of 1985, 1996 and 2003. 

Kotelanski: John Wall has an epic comeback season

Fans were taking big shots at Wall last year after his performance looked nothing like that of his old self. When he was ruled out with a heel injury in the 2018⁠–19 season, Wall was widely considered a top five point guard in the league, one of the best passers in the league and one of the most athletic players in the league. Sure, his dropoff from star player to solid starter on the Rockets was pretty drastic, but people don’t give him the credit he deserves. He still managed to average 20.6 PPG and 6.9 APG in 40 games played. He was also nowhere near fully recovered last season, and if he takes the time to gain back his athleticism, he could be an All-star on an improving Rockets team.

Weinstein: Ja Morant will dethrone DeAndre Jordan for the greatest poster dunk of all-time

Ja Morant is my favorite player in the league. He’s been a thrill to watch since he entered the league. The one facet missing from his game, however, is his inability to finish a poster dunk to save his life. His situation is similar to Dennis Smith Jr.’s: The guy jumps 40 inches in the air, bodies the defender and blows the dunk off the back of the rim. If he could just finish, he would have some of the most exciting and highlight-worthy plays every season. We’ve all seen the dunk where he almost ended Kevin Love’s career. This offseason, Morant has honed his dunking skills, and we’re going to see something amazing this season.

Rice: For the first time since 2011, the WCF won’t feature a 1 or 2 seed. 

The West is, without a doubt, stacked with teams that can contend for a championship. However, no team compares to the Lakers. The Lakers are my three seed due to the fact that I believe they’ll struggle early on with another ball-dominant star in Russell Westbrook. Anthony Davis has never completed a full season and will almost certainly deal with some injuries throughout the season. The Warriors, again, are my other WCF team. The Warriors with a normal Klay Thompson this year, and a second year player in James Wisemen ⁠— who can only improve from last year ⁠— help round out an incredible starting lineup with Curry, Green and Wiggins. They have an improved roster; however, depth and lack of any big man talent keep them from being a top seed. I still like their chances of beating the Jazz or Suns in the second round. 

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About the Writers
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Quentin Corpuel, Online Managing Editor
Grade 12

Why did you join the Black and White?

I enjoy reporting, writing and podcasting, all three of which I can do on the B&W.

If you could see one movie for the first time again, what would it be?

Kung Fu Panda
Photo of Danny Kotelanski
Danny Kotelanski, Senior Columnist
Grade 12

Why did you join the Black and White?

Writers are so cool and awesome and cool and awesome

If you could see one movie for the first time again, what would it be?

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie
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Alex Weinstein, Sports Writer
Grade 11

Why did you join the Black and White?

I like sports and I think I'm a decent writer. 

If you could see one movie for the first time again, what would it be?

Borat
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Zach Rice, Sports Writer
Grade 11

Why did you join the Black and White?

I like journalism and wanted the chance to write about things I'm interested in.

If you could see one movie for the first time again, what would it be?

The Wolf of Wall Street

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