With the NBA season reaching the pointy end of the campaign, there is plenty to discuss. Coaches are being hired and fired, the lottery took place, Ben Simmons is on the verge of being picked up by a franchise as number one overall pick, and then there is the small matter of the Finals.
Such is the excitement of the sport down under, Delly thinks a one-off fixture would need a football stadium to meet demand.
So what better time than now to survey the sharpest domestic minds about the hot topics? We’ve asked three savvy NBA followers about their reflections on the 2015/16 season and to gaze into their crystal ball to predict a champion.
Kein Chua (KC), Editor from Pick and Roll. Follow Kein and the team @PickandRollAU
Benyam Kidane (BK), One half of Believe the Hype NBA Podcast and writer for 7 Sport. Follow Benyam @BenyamKidane
Andrew French (AF), Melbourne-based NBL and NBA fanatic who knows his basketball. Follow Andrew @AFrenchy91
- Enduring memory of the NBA season so far?
KC– Stephen Curry’s outstanding MVP season, and how his offensive arsenal has warped defences.
BK – It has to be Steph Curry tormenting everyone with his barrage of threes. He buried 402 of them, led the league’s best offence and had non-basketball fans talking about Steph Curry and the Warriors. He was the biggest story in the NBA, and arguably the biggest in sports.
Kristaps Porzingis’ making Knicks fans do a hilarious 180 after booing him on draft night was fun to. But that only really lasted half a season.
AF – The final day of the regular season, the Warriors breaking the regular season win record and Kobe’s last game. Neither could have been scripted better. Kobe dropping 60 and getting the Lakers a rare win while Steph dropped 46 with 10 from downtown to hit 73 wins. Amazing.
- Breakout player?
KC – CJ McCollum of the Trail Blazers – took a big leap forward this season.
BK – Aaron Gordon went from “that guy who is did a few cool dunks his rookie year” to maybe the next great generational two-way forward. The Slam Dunk contest made everyone know his name, but his play for the Magic cemented his arrival.
It’s no secret his jumper needs work, but his ability to defend forwards and wings, rebound the ball and erupt into a transition defence’s worst nightmare might yet make him the Magic’s most important player.
Shout out to Devin Booker, he balled out in his rookie year.
AF – We already knew what an amazing player Curry was, he took his game to a completely new level. You can’t go pass the MIP though, CJ McCollum. Going from a bench player to forming arguably the second best guard rotation in the league with Lillard. He increased every single stat category, going from 6.8 PPG last season to 20.8 this season.
- Best moment by an Australian?
KC – Slightly biased as I’m a South Dragons fan, but Joe Ingles guarding Kobe Bryant in his last game – great moment.
BK – March 14, 2016: Andrew Bogut joined the Splash Brothers draining a three against the Pelicans, officially putting the NBA on notice that literally their whole team will bury you from deep.
It was his first three-pointer since 2013, making the whole thing even funnier.
AF – Andrew Bogut being heavily involved with the greatest regular season team was pretty special. The key was staying healthy for the big centre, it was the first time since the 07-08 season he played 70 games. While his stats don’t jump of the page at you, he played an integral role as a starter in their 73 win season.
- Prediction on who Ben Simmons will be playing for next season?
KC – The Boston fan in me says he goes green, but I have a feeling the Lakers will draft him.
BK – I have to go with the numbers and Philly have the best chance to get the no. 1 pick and not drafting Ben Simmons is a “GM lost his job” move, so I expect to see him running point forward for Brett Brown.
AF – The draft lottery in under a weeks time will make it more clear, he will be a top two pick. As it stands right now Philadelphia, Lakers & Boston (via Brooklyn) are his most likely destinations. I believe he will thrive under Luke Walton’s system so let’s hope we see him in the purple & gold. West > Abdul-Jabbar > Magic > Shaq > Kobe > Simmons??
- Finals champion prediction (against which team and by what margin)?
KC – Warriors prevail against the Cavs in six.
BK – Cavs in 6 over the Warriors. *Runs from Warriors army*
AF – Warriors vs. Cavs. Should be a more competitive finals series this season with a healthy Cavs (knocks on wood). Kyrie is the key for the Cavs having any chance, he’ll have to play out of his skin to help LeBron push them over the line. Warriors in 6.