By Neil Patrick Healy and Jack Rieger
Rookie of the Year
Neil Patrick Healy says: Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets
With the departure of former point guard Ty Lawson, The Nuggets took Mudiay with the seventh overall pick and it looks like he will take over the starting point guard role on opening night. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches, he is what NBA general managers dream about from the point guard position. He is fast, can run the floor, has good ball handling skills and can get to the rim and draw fouls. Add on his rebounding and potential to play tough defense against top-tier Western Conference point guards and he is exactly what the Nuggets need. He and the freakishly athletic forward Kenneth Faried will be regulars on SportsCenter.
Jack Rieger says: Mario Hezonja – Orlando Magic
NBA scouts are calling Hezonja the “J.R. Smith of Europe” because of his streaky shooting from three-point land and his cocky demeanor on and off the court. When asked if he has respect for his opponent, Hezonja responded, “Respect? No I never had respect to anybody on a basketball court. Whether it’s a veteran or a young player standing in front of me, I always have the same goal. I want to run over everybody.” Hezonja was drafted fifth overall by the Magic this year. He’s a 21-year-old Croatian born player who spent the last three seasons playing for Barcelona in Spain. He’s also a human highlight reel.
Sixth Man of the Year
Neil says: Corey Brewer – Houston Rockets
The Rockets could be bringing in a lot of hardware this season if things shake up the way they’re supposed to. Like teammate James Harden, Brewer will benefit from the arrival of Ty Lawson and Brewer, standing at 6 foot 9 inches, should be a matchup problem all season. His three-point shooting leaves a lot to be desired, but don’t get it twisted. Brewer gets buckets. Look for his 11.9 ppg average to go up with Houston having a capable point guard.
Jack says: Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics became a different team when Isaiah Thomas was traded from the Phoenix Suns in February. Although Drake may disagree, Thomas had a statistically better season than last year’s six man winner, Lou Williams. Although Thomas will come off the bench for the Celtics behind Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, he might end up playing more minutes because of Boston’s dependence on Thomas’s offensive production. Brad Steven’s up-tempo, fluid offense should inflate Thomas’s offensive numbers as well. If Thomas ends up winning Sixth Man of the Year, expect Drake to find another way to rap about Toronto’s irrelevant basketball team.
Neil says: James Harden – Houston Rockets
Fear the beard, ladies and gentlemen. After averaging 27 points and seven assists a game last year, Harden came in second behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry in one of the closer and most debated MVP decisions in recent memory. With Houston’s addition of former Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, Harden won’t be looked to create every shot for himself. Lawson will make Harden’s job a lot easier and baring another injury to Rockets center Dwight Howard, Harden will finally put down the Lil B curse so we never have to hear this weak-ass rapper ever again. NBA fans please stop making this dude relevant.
Jack says: Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans
Every NBA superstar has a “breakout year” when they introduce their greatness to the basketball world. LeBron James’ breakout year was in 2004 when he averaged 27 points and 7 assists per game, as well as hoisted the win-deprived city of Cleveland on his shoulders. Warrior point guard Steph Curry’s emergence came in 2013, when he averaged 24 points per game to go along with 8.5 assists. Davis’ breakout year came last season at the ripe age of 21. He averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game, and asserted himself as the most transcendent talent since King James himself entered the league. Last week, 86.2 percent of NBA general managers voted Davis, who stands at 6 feet 10 inches, as the ideal player to start an NBA franchise with. Davis recently signed a contract for $145 million over five years, yet still refuses to buy a razor to shave his infamous unibrow.
Neil says: Warriors/Cavaliers
Many NBA fans, mostly delusional Laker and Clipper fans, seem to have forgotten that the Warriors could still ball. You don’t just “get lucky” and win 67 games and the NBA finals. The Spurs are the popular pick to come out of the West, but the Warriors bring back their entire core besides David Lee. The Warriors should still be the title favorites going into next season because along with bringing back the reigning MVP in Curry, the Warriors still have Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and Andrew Bogut. Cleveland should have no problems getting out of the Eastern conference because the East is atrocious. LeBron will make his amazing sixth NBA finals, probably lose because Kevin Love plays zero defense and then Laker fans will randomly bring up Kobe and shout “five rings!” for some reason. You have to love the NBA.
Jack says: Cavaliers/Spurs
With a “Big 3” of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavaliers have one of the best rosters the NBA has seen since the 2002 Lakers. It’s hard to even name another Eastern Conference team that will compete with the Cavs in the playoffs this year. The Western Conference reminds me of the GOP race. Everyone seems to think there are six or seven serious finals candidates, when in fact only two have a legitimate shot (Spurs/Warriors and Bush/Rubio). 15 years of watching the NBA has trained me to never bet against the Spurs in the playoffs. By the way, if Donald Trump were an NBA team he would be the Los Angeles Clippers — an overconfident, flashy team owned for over 30 years by a serial racist.
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NeilTheJuiceMan.
Jack Rieger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JackRieger.