Fearless predictions for the N.B.A. in 2020



It's a must this time of year: let's break out the crystal ball to make eight more (almost) fearless predictions for the N.B.A. in 2020.

Although the initial forecast of an absence of six to eight weeks two weeks ago has passed, Williamson has gradually stepped up his activities in court behind closed doors. He was even held in front of the camera when he took a pregame dunk over the weekend.

These are hopeful signs.

However, the reality is that Williamson has not yet participated in the full-speed N.B.A. Drill since surgery October 21 for a right knee meniscus tear. He will surely have to go through a few contact sessions before he is released to return. (The dunk mentioned above was driven from his left knee for recording.)

The pelicans would of course love to see Williamson on the ground for at least part of his first season after shooting an average of 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds to 71.4 percent from the ground in four exhibition games. The team is still surprisingly in the playoffs, even in the weaker west, thanks to a four-game winning streak and the cheapest second-half schedule among the conference's eight Sub-500 teams.

If Williamson could play in the next few months, this could only help New Orleans as it rates how players like Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday stand alongside him. In the near future, the pelicans are faced with major decisions when it comes to achieving the maximum contract extension of five years that Ingram is aiming for this summer – and whether they should go on vacation or exchange.

But if Williamson is left without a game for another month, it's getting easier to imagine that all parties will choose to only postpone his return to the next season. Don't forget that missing Year 1 has worked for Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Blake Griffin due to a recent injury.

The next few weeks should tell us a lot.

Brogdon's arrival in summer and the resulting excellent performance have enabled the Pacers to achieve 52 victories despite the ongoing injury break from all-star guard Victor Oladipo. And Dinwiddie has found a new level to help the Nets hold a top 8 spot, although Kyrie Irving was only so healthy that she showed up in 11 games.

Indiana, of course, expects Oladipo to return in the second half of the season. The networks, however, still don't know when they will get Irving back. Irving's first season in Brooklyn was puzzling. He has missed the last 21 games of the Nets and last spoke to the media on November 14th.

My forecast for the coming season: Leonard and Paul George would play together in less than 60 games. It turned out to be too optimistic. My instinct now is that Leonard, who continues to avoid playing against each other to reduce the demands on his vulnerable left knee, doesn't even reach the 60-game mark alone.

Clipper's coach Doc Rivers knows he has to be reluctant to deal with such inconveniences, no matter how much they could affect the sowing of L.A. playoffs. More continuity in the playoffs would of course come in handy, but it has proven to be the safest way to have Leonard set health priorities to keep him happy.

It would be a fun declaration of intent for the Bucks if they were the third team in league history to reach the 70-victory plateau – especially after they were gradually exposed in Milwaukee to experts who said the regular season was largely meaningless.

The problem: Milwaukee has to go 40-7 for the rest of the regular season to get there. The amount of concentration and energy it would be difficult to put together in late March or April if the bucks were expected to reach the top of the East by then.

These annoying experts, mind you, are really not wrong. As impressive as the Bucks were, they started 30: 5 and scored a ruthless 21: 0 loss to teams that currently have records under 500, no less than an N.B.A. The final tournament is of paramount importance for this franchise before Giannis Antetokounmpo is eligible for a five-year contract extension worth nearly $ 250 million in July.

There is noticeable opposition in many corners of the league to many of the suggested changing the schedule for 2021-22 when the N.B.A. commemorates its 75th anniversary.

For example, running a tournament in a season where the results of eight regular season division games per team go into an eight-team knockout field would require each of the league's 30 teams to give up two home dates. The potential loss of revenue from this change alone has led to a major setback.

However, Commissioner Adam Silver is determined to implement some of these new concepts. He understands that interest in the regular season is waning, even after the wildest off-season regarding player movement in league history, and is ready to take a gamble or two to tackle the decline.

The resistance from various front offices was strongest against the idea of ​​filling the four teams that reach the conference finals based on the season record. This is due in part to the possibility that the trips are one lap earlier than the N.B.A. Final. So look for Silver to finally discard this element of the proposal and focus on getting the necessary approval for the Football Cup competition and playoff play-in games.

The Clippers were widely regarded as the off-season champions after entering into the contract with Kawhi Leonard by entering into a trade for Paul George. However, The Heat has since become the season's leading Cinderella team.

Riley still managed to signal to make the difference that Jimmy Butler made. Riley and his team have also discovered and developed a range of gems, from the late lottery picks Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro to the naughty trio of Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson and Derrick Jones Jr.

As practically nobody predicted, Miami only reached second percentage points on the last day of 2019 in the east. Riley or Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra or maybe both will be rewarded if the heat can stay up there.

James has made it clear that he doesn't even want to have the idea of ​​making a fourth trip to the Olympics before finishing his second season with the Lakers. Still, the tire romantic remains convinced that James, together with his Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis, will ultimately be brought to Tokyo by American basketball coach Gregg Popovich.

Rest assured that the US squad will definitely be infinitely stronger than the star-studded group that finished seventh last summer at the World Cup in China under Popovich.

Popovich turns 71 on January 28. Although the Spurs will of course let him train as long as he wants, he will say goodbye to the bank after a triumphant farewell at the Olympic Games in Japan.

He might even find a way to spur a N.B.A. record 23. control consecutive season into the playoffs; San Antonio woke up to the 8th position in the West on Tuesday, although the start at 13:18 was overwhelming. But I suspect it will be too tempting for Popovich after a gold medal summer in Tokyo has finally brought a series of disappointments about the national team to a standstill to pass on the chance to exit the picture book.

When did pop ever take care of picture books? Fair question. But I repeat: only my gut feeling.

LaMarcus Aldridge's $ 24 million next season salary will be officially guaranteed tomorrow, January 1, 2020, after the Spurs agreed in October to increase the June 29, 2020 date

Golden State is also actively exploring ways to provide the flexibility necessary for Damion Lee to remain in the squad after the 45 days of his two-way contract. The Warriors have made it clear that they want Lee next season, but remain confident they won't lose him long this season.

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Stone: Sorry, Abdul. I know there have been various reports of teams "monitoring" cities in the past few days in the hope that the defeat will cause the All-Star Center to seek trade, but legitimate trade discussions with Minnesota's best player next month are unlikely to be extreme.

In every conversation I had with them, the wolves insisted that they build "everything" around cities. The rapid drop from Minnesota's promising 10: 8 start to 12th place in the west at the beginning of Tuesday is undoubtedly alarming, but I was advised that the idea of ​​swapping cities is pretty much the last thing the wolves are thinking about.

Don't forget that Towns is in the first year of a five-year $ 190 million contract renewal. The Wolves also have a new front office regime led by Gersson Rosas. Rushing into a trade of this size makes little sense.

Competitors always expect the wolves to be active, but that's mostly because Rosas is from Houston and is one of the league's most aggressive organizations. It is wiser to monitor this: Interest in the seasoned Swingers from Minnesota, Robert Covington, remains high as the trading season is in full swing.

Question: "As a lifelong Celtics fan who lives in the Bay Area, I was able to achieve the two 30-point achievements I received on Christmas Day from Boston's Jaylen Brown (10-for-13 shoot) and Houstons Russell Westbrook (11- Points shoot), compare. " for-32). I was wondering if the great Rockets experiment of the 2019-2020 season could be really successful. Although the "Shoot everyone but Harden" defense has been tried, it seems to be more effective this season because Westbrook is on the ground. Her thoughts? – Noel MacDonald (Petaluma, California)

Stone: If we look at the low point of the season so far in Houston, it is certainly difficult to put up a counter argument. The missiles had a terrible Christmas loss in the Golden State.

But they were also one of the top 4 teams in the West throughout the season. After nine consecutive seasons in the 1920s, Westbrook only shoots 23.4 percent of the 3-point range and has a player efficiency of only 18.4.

I was just as skeptical of Harden-Westbrook reunification as everyone else, but you have to remember: it was no longer a realistic option for Houston to keep Chris Paul and try again with this group. Paul's relationship with the Rockets was irretrievably broken after last season. And there simply wasn't a long list of trading partners willing to accept Paul's massive contract.

In other words, Houston had to try this great experiment. Nobody predicts a big post-season for this version of the Rockets yet, but coach Mike D & # 39; Antoni has made it happen thanks to another MVP season by James Harden – and Westbrook, who missed some of the Rockets. Lineups when Harden is at rest.

Question: Steph probably had the best M.V.P. Season and he is undoubtedly the best shooter ever. But the player of the decade was LeBron and it's not a competition. None. This is an insult to the New York Times name. – @ email from Twitter

Stone: This tweet was a symbol of the palpable outrage of social media that greeted us Employees' roundtable last week, at which a majority of Times writers surveyed – including yours – chose Stephen Curry over LeBron James as an outstanding player of the decade.

Scold the selection of curry as often as you want, but don't expect tracing in this corner. I applied the principles of the Most Valuable Player Award to this selection. So my choice was not about who would be perceived as the most talented individual, who would you choose first in a pickup game, or who would be the most out of control leader of the decade. The nod went to the player, whose achievements made up the best decade objectively and subjectively.

James certainly had a sensational time, especially thanks to these eight consecutive trips to the N.B.A. Final. But the 2010s will be remembered as a decade dominated by the Golden State Warriors – and a decade defined by more N.B.A. Teams as not grown, especially to appreciate the 3-point shot. Curry, who has significantly changed the idea of ​​what constitutes an acceptable shot in professional basketball, was the most important figure in both of these developments.

In my answer last week, I noticed how painful it was to choose between them, as LeBron's decade, in addition to his court work, had a significant cultural and extrajudicial impact. You will remember that for my ten-year Rundown – King of the Decade and Revolutionary of the Decade – I created separate categories to avoid an either-or choice.

But please save me from insulting our name. From the moment he uncorked those memorable 54 points in Madison Square Garden in February 2013 until last season's finale, Curry's presence has spread across the league, even amidst the various domination spells of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and von Of course, LeBron.

Mark Cuban's reign as the team owner of the Dallas Mavericks will hit the 20-year mark on Saturday when the Mavericks host Charlotte. Cuban made an agreement on January 4, 2000 to purchase Ross Perot Jr.'s team for $ 285 million. Dallas has had a regular season record of 980-646 (.603) since taking over Cuban, including a run of 11 consecutive seasons with at least 50 wins, culminating in 2011 with the first championship in franchise history.

The last season, in which a western conference team hit the playoffs with a loss record, was almost 23 years ago from 1996 to 1997, when three teams under the age of 500 entered the postseason. Minnesota and Phoenix qualified with 40-42 – just like the Clippers with 36-46.

Starting with the Knicks (37-45) and Celtics (36-46) in 2003-04, 12 Eastern Conference teams reached the playoffs and had record losses in the last 16 seasons.

In Clippers' last 41 seasons in California, including six in San Diego and the first 35 in Los Angeles, they have never played in a playoff series against the Lakers. The Clippers parted 2-0 in the season against their tenants at the Staples Center and triumphed over the Lakers on Christmas Day.