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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

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NBA Preseason Predictions: Who will be the next NBA champion?

Photo+by+Markus+Spiske+on+Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

After an offseason of excitement — with Damian Lillard being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday being traded to the Boston Celtics, and Jordan Poole being traded to the Washington Wizards for Chris Paul — the 2023-24 NBA season is ready to begin. With a new year of basketball on the horizon, what matters now is who will be the next NBA champion. Continue reading to find out why I believe that a certain team in the Eastern Conference will dominate this year’s season.  

 

Rookie of the Year: Victor Wembanyana

Victor Wembanyama is the clear front-runner for Rookie of the Year after being the number one overall pick in this past draft. Wembanyama was already playing tough competition in the French basketball league, so his adjustment to the NBA should not be a slow one. What helps Wemby is his video game-esque size and athleticism; at 7 ‘4, he can dribble like a point guard and pull up from three like Steph Curry. Looking at his preseason stats only reinforces my confidence in him; Wembanyama averaged 19.4 points per game and 2.8 blocks per game while averaging only 20 minutes per game. Wembanyama should be the runaway favorite for this award. 

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Evan Mobley 

Evan Mobley has been hailed as one of the best defenders in the league since he was drafted in 2021. Mobley is only 22 years old, and this season, he will improve further to prove himself as one of the better big men in the NBA. Last season, Mobley finished in the top three in DPOY voting, so the voters have already noticed how strong Mobley is on the defensive end. He averaged 1.5 blocks per game and boasted a 108 defensive rating (estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions), the second-lowest rating amongst all the candidates for DPOY last season. Mobley will take the jump on the defensive end that will inevitably win him his first DPOY.  

 

Most Improved Player: Jordan Poole

Jordan Poole was traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Washington Wizards this offseason, where he’ll now get to lead his own team. Poole will have the freedom to score as many points as possible for the Wizards, which, in recent years of this award, has been the main reason why the candidate won. Poole will probably go from the 20 points per game he averaged last season to around 26 points per game and may possibly even make his first All-Star appearance. Ultimately, his statistical output on a bad Wizards team will lead him to the Most Improved Player award.

 

Coach of the Year: Mark Daigneault 

The Oklahoma City Thunder head coach, Mark Daigneault, has the best chance to win this award, as his young roster is only improving. The Thunder finished as the 10th seed in the West at 40-42 last season while missing integral pieces due to injury. Chet Holmgren, the team’s second overall draft pick, has recovered from his injury and is returning to the Thunder, which will be a huge boost to the team. Young superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will prove why most people think he is a top 10 player in the world. This Thunder roster will cement themselves as a playoff team in the west, which will help Daigneault win Coach of the Year.

 

Most Valuable Player: Jayson Tatum

The MVP this year will be Jayson Tatum. Picking the Celtics’ star is a hot take, but I believe this will finally be the year for Tatum. The MVP award is usually about who has the strongest narrative in the eyes of the voters and the media. The majority of the other candidates are facing voter fatigue and negative storylines. Tatum finished 4th in MVP voting last season while averaging 30 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game, and his team finished as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. This year, Tatum will find himself leading the best team in the league while having a career year in most statistical categories — building him the perfect narrative to win his first MVP award. 

 

NBA Champion: Boston Celtics

I believe that this year’s Boston Celtics will dominate the Eastern Conference and walk their way to the NBA finals. They’ve been close the last two years, making the Eastern Conference Finals both years and losing in the NBA Finals in 2022. The additions of point guard Jrue Holiday and power forward Kristaps Porzingis will push this team over the line. In Holiday, the Celtics added a reliable third scoring option on the team and brought in a lockdown defender at the point guard position. Holiday is also a reliable playmaker, which the Celtics haven’t had in the past few years. From the outside looking in, it seems the Celtics have addressed a lot of their weaknesses this offseason, setting them up for the title of 2023-24 NBA Champions. 

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About the Contributor
Jake Lannon
Jake Lannon, Senior Staff Writer
4th year Communications major. Looking to work professionally in the field of sports media in the future and you should all read my articles no matter what.
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