NBA Bold Predictions and Hawks Recap

March 11th 2020:

The Hawks are playing a regular season game against the Knicks. They don’t know it yet but that will be their last game of their season. The Hawks, led by Trae Young, hold a storming comeback, forcing the game into overtime. Yet, a rumor begins to spread. The NBA will be shutting down indefinitely after Jazz all-star center and two time Defensive Player of the Year tests positive for Covid-19. The Hawks eventually lose the game 136-131, with Vince Carter hitting a three in the waning seconds. Carter’s consolation basket will be the last of his hall of fame career, sending him off into retirement after a record-breaking 22 seasons. 


Now, just over nine months later:

The Hawks will be playing in competitive NBA games again. They were not invited to the NBA bubble because of their 20-47 record. Most notably, the Hawks had a 4-21 record while the dynamic pick and roll specialist John Collins served a 25 game suspension for using banned growth hormones. However, the Hawks look to become competitive this season, for the first time since the 2016-17 season when they lost in the first round to the Washington Wizards. Since that season, they entered what General Manager Travis Schlenk called “retooling while remaining competitive”. 


While last year the Hawks filled out their remaining cap space on aging, below average veterans, this year Schlenk made moves in free agency, beginning with drafting Onyeka Okongwu in the NBA draft with the 6th pick. Okongwu is a proven talent already after setting USC freshman records for blocks and field goal percentage. The next day they traded old team captain Dewayne Dedmon to the Pistons for Tony Snell and Khyri Thomas, with the latter being waived. They then proceeded to go on a spree of signings:


  • Kris Dunn, a guard who, although isn’t flashy, brings All-Defensive level defense to a team desperately needing it. Although he’s gotten into scuffles with Trae Young, he’ll be a perfect fit alongside him.


  • Rajon Rondo, a veteran point guard who brings very needed veteran experience as well as championship DNA. Not to mention, he’s one of the greatest passers of the 21st century who will only improve Trae Young’s already great playmaking ability.


  • Danilo Gallinari, another guy who will bring veteran leadership to a young team. His ability to stretch the floor and be a true three level scorer at the forward position is unheard of. Although he’s not a great fit defensively alongside John Collins, Coach Lloyd Pierce and Travis Schlenk have already said he will come off the bench and be a much needed boost offensively to the second unit.


  • Bogdan Bogdanovic, the near perfect guy for this Atlanta Hawks team. He is a versatile weapon offensively who can shoot the three and has solid playmaking abilities. He also brings slightly above average defense to the table as well which will fit nicely to whomever the Hawks run at the 3, whether it be Cam Reddish or De’Andre Hunter, both exceptional defenders.


The Hawks are in a prime position to make a run for the playoffs this year, for the first time in 3 years, and anything less than a playoff spot will be seen as a failure. This team looks drastically different from the team the Hawks put out last season, with money spent on quality veterans instead of wasting money on bad ones to help the tanking process. The Hawks did end last year on a positive note, remaining competitive in nearly every game after the all star break with young players showing growth. And while this year, Vegas currently puts the Hawks at the projected 8th seed at 36.5 wins, or slightly above .500, don’t be surprised to see the Hawks potentially make it up to even the 6th seed. 


The projected starting line-up of Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela and a good bench unit for the first time since their Eastern Conference Finals run in 2014-15, the Hawks bring an exceptional mixture of young players, veterans, defense, shooting, and playmaking throughout the entire lineup. 


While the national media keeps sleeping on the Hawks, like they do for every major Atlanta team, don’t be shocked when the Hawks surprise the NBA this year. They’ll finally make the jump and finish with a 40-32 record ending up with the 7th seed, making the playoffs for the first time since their “Spurs of the East” reign.


NBA Bold Predictions


Ben’s Picks:

  • Damian Lillard Wins MVP

It’s officially Dame Time. Although Lillard finished last season with a career high in points, assists, and field goal percentages, he still finished 8th in MVP voting. This was mostly due to the lack of team success and just barely making the playoffs, thanks to the bubble play-in system. However, this year, the Trail Blazers have put one of the best teams around Lillard in his career with key offseason acquisitions of Robert Covington and Enes Kanter, along with the signings of Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney Hood and Harry Giles. While some of Dame’s stats may reduce slightly because of the increase of quality depth around him, if he can still put up similar numbers and the Blazers end up with a top 4 seed, don’t be surprised when he’s in the MVP conversation.


  • The Heat Make It Back To The Finals

While contending teams like the Nets, Bucks, 76ers and Celtics made moves to patch holes in their teams, the Heat stayed quiet during free agency, with their biggest move being re-signing All-Star Center Bam Adebayo. And although this same team just made the finals and pushed it to six games, many experts expect a drop off. However, the Heat are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, with a mixture of shooters, gritty defenders, and athletic finishers. The Heat also thrived in the underdog roll they were given last season, one likely to be given to them again. With the expected growth of Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro’s games, two players who had a big part of the Heat’s surprise run last year, the Heat will be one of the best all-around teams and nobody will want to face them in the playoffs. Expect another big playoff run from Jimmy Butler and company.


  • Cam Reddish Will Be A Most Improved Player Finalist

Cam Reddish was drafted with the tenth pick in the 2019 draft, likely falling that far because of a nagging core injury that followed him from Duke. While starting the year historically terrible, including a horrendous 63 offensive rating in October, a stat which shows how many points the player helps produce in 100 possessions, Reddish eventually found his groove around January. Throughout his first season, Reddish improved his scoring, efficiency and seemingly his confidence each month of the year, playing extremely well in the last 15 or so games before the NBA got shut down. Coming into this season, Reddish will be fully healthy for the first time in his career and surrounded by a good team. With stats easily improvable upon, Reddish should find himself in the middle of the Most Improved Player award.


Adrien’s Picks:


  • Isaac Okoro Wins Rookie of the Year

Selected fifth overall by the Cavaliers, Okoro is easily one of the best defenders in this draft class. He has already shined in preseason, scoring double digits and proving that he is a two-sided player. Currently, Okoro is in a tight battle with veteran Cedi Osman for the starting job at small forward, but the Cavaliers are likely to go with the smaller rookie so that he can contrast with star rebounders Kevin Love and Andre Drummond. Even if he comes off the bench, Isaac Okoro has the potential to cover any perimeter player in the league and shut down rising stars and veterans alike. If Okoro manages to rack up points alongside franchise player Collin Sexton, he can put up enough stats to win the Rookie of the Year award.


  • Ja Morant makes the All Star Game

Ja Morant lit up the world stage with his 17-11-16 stat line in the first round of the March Madness tournament— at Murray State. His talents continued in the NBA, where he won Rookie of the Year and was easily the best player on the Grizzlies last season. However, Memphis just barely missed the playoffs after losing in the play-in game to a spectacular Damian Lillard. Morant is also entering his second season, where Trae Young and Luka Doncic differentiated themselves as rising MVPs in the league, leaving Morant with exciting footsteps to follow. The fact that Morant’s surrounding lineup is subpar could actually help his all-star bid in a similar way to Trae Young, who averaged almost 30 points a game. Morant’s already electrifying career will continue with an All Star Game appearance in just his second season.


  • The Suns will make the Conference Semifinals

It is finally Devin Booker’s year to make the playoffs. Booker started his career with high expectations but his team has never been strong enough to contend in a loaded Western Conference. Last season, Booker led the Suns to an undefeated record in the bubble, but came up just short of his first playoff appearance. With the acquirements of All Star Chris Paul and veteran Jae Crowder in the offseason, the Suns finally have a point guard to support Booker and 2018 #1 pick Deandre Ayton. This year, a decade of rebuilding will finally pay off and the Suns will exceed expectations, making the second round of the playoffs. With veteran experience from Chris Paul and scoring ability from Devin Booker, who at his best, is comparable to a dribbling Klay Thompson, the Suns have the potential to upset playoff hopefuls like the Mavericks and Jazz.