The Breakdown: Billy’s 2018-2019 NBA predictions

Billy Dunkleman, Broadcast Manager

Read Nathan’s side here

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken the NBA by storm the past few seasons and is showing no sign of slowing down. Stats mean everything in today’s NBA, and Giannis has improved his game every season he has been in the league. The Greek Freak led the Milwaukee Bucks in 4 of the 5 major statistical categories (points, rebounds, steals, and blocks.) He will surely put together another statistical outbreak after averaging 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks last season. What makes this even more phenomenal is that he’s only 26 years old. Which means he still has much more room to improve.

At the start of last year’s NBA season there was a lot of talk of Giannis winning the MVP. That talk dwindled down as the season went on and Giannis wasn’t even a finalist in the voting come end of the season.

After losing in the first round of the playoffs last year against the Celtics, Giannis and the Bucks have a lot to prove this season. They have a new coach and some new faces on the team. If they win enough games during the regular season, Giannis Antetokounmpo will receive the award.

Rookie of the Year: Luka Dončić

Luka Dončić is entering the NBA with three years of professional basketball experience in Spain and won the EuroLeague MVP this past year. Dončić was selected as the third overall pick in the draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on draft night.

The native Slovenian averaged 16 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals during his EuroLeague MVP season. He also shot 57% from the field and 33% from beyond the 3-point line.

With plenty of talent and mentors surrounding him, Dončić has the necessary tools to succeed his rookie season and later in his NBA career. If Dončić adjusts to the NBA and performs the same way he did in Europe, he has a strong chance to win the Rookie of the Year award this season.

Western Conference: Golden State Warriors over Houston Rockets

Even though the Houston Rockets gave the Warriors a run for their money last year during the conference finals, the chances of beating Golden State are slim to none. There is almost no way possible that the Warriors are not champions of the western conference.

James Harden and Chris Paul might be the best guard combination in the NBA, but the shooting ability of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will be too much to handle. If Houston were to have a chance in this series, their main action would be to guard the perimeter.

Even if Houston somehow shut down the Warriors’ shooting ability, they still have to worry about one of the greatest scorers of all time in Kevin Durant. Add in a former Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green and you have a recipe for disaster. The Rockets’ Clint Capela is one of the better rim protectors in today’s NBA. Although, if DeMarcus Cousins gets healthy that might not matter. There is almost no way that the Warriors don’t make it to the NBA Finals.

Eastern Conference: Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers
This past year during the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics were without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, their two best players. They were also going up against one of the greatest to play basketball in LeBron James. They almost made the NBA Finals last season while being led by young, talented players in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. With LeBron now in Los Angeles, the Celtics have somewhat of an open path to win the Eastern Conference this season. If Irving and Hayward remain healthy this season, the Celtics have a great chance of doing so.

I would be more sure about this if it weren’t for the Philadelphia 76ers. Former Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons is looking like he is turning himself into a future great and has already drawn comparisons to LeBron James. These comparisons are far from inaccurate. I only expect Simmons to improve his game this year making the 76ers have a chance in this series. Joel Embiid has already established himself as a top center in this league and will be a huge factor for this team’s success.

NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors over Boston Celtics

No matter how much talent there is in the NBA, there is no way that any team in the Eastern Conference can top the Warriors. With LeBron moving to Los Angeles in the Western Conference, there is now a huge talent gap between the conferences and I believe that the Warriors will defeat not just the Celtics, but any eastern team that makes it to the Finals.

That being said, the Boston Celtics are a tremendous team that have star players and young talent, but the Warriors will just be too overwhelming for them. If they were facing Golden State three years ago, Boston would have made it an interesting series. With the additions of Kevin Durant in 2016 and DeMarcus Cousins this past year, the Warriors are a cheat code in today’s NBA. If the Celtics play their cards right and catch the Warriors off guard then maybe they can steal one game. That’s not likely, but it could happen.

The Celtics have a great future ahead of them and can win championships, just not in the near future. Golden State’s fast pace three-point shooting offense will make short work of Boston in four games.