That sound you hear? It’s basketballs bouncing. Shoes squeaking. Whistles blowing.
After the most hectic summer the NBA has ever seen, the 2017-18 NBA season is finally here.
And with that, the NBA desk at USA TODAY Sports takes a look ahead to the newest campaign, with our annual semi-scientific record projections and even less scientific award predictions.
We have the Golden State Warriors leading the league in wins, again, after another stellar offseason. If they hit the 65-win plateau this year, that would be four consecutive seasons doing so (they became the first team in NBA history to do so three years in a row in 2016-17).
We see the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by their new Big Three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, finishing the regular season six games behind the defending champs, followed by the Chris Paul, James Harden-led Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs.
In the East, we see the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers winning a few more regular-season games than last season, while the Boston Celtics (and their roster full of unfamiliar faces) may take a little while to truly jell. And will the Washington Wizards win 50-plus games for the first time since 1978-79? We think so.
Then come the award predictions.
From MVP all the way down to Most Improved Player, the likelihood of any of us running the table is slim to none. The NBA season is a whirlwind full of injuries and unexpected occurrences, and to say we’re right on the money with these would be naive.
That said … one of us (and we won’t say who) is right on the money.
As for the division winners and postseason outlook, it may seem like another year of parity problems on the surface, but there’s more to this league than just the Warriors and Cavaliers. We swear.
While we all predict a Warriors-Cavs Finals four-peat, we don’t see Golden State’s path to the Larry O’Brien Trophy coming as easily as it did last season. Whether it’s Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio — or even a team like Minnesota or Denver — the much-improved Western Conference won’t go down without a fight, while the East features a few teams (most notably Boston and Washington) that could give Cleveland some trouble.