c/o Adam Pantozzi

c/o Adam Pantozzi

The NBA regular season is over, the Playoffs are in full swing, and for me, things have gone full circle. In my first ever Argus article last September, I made predictions about how all 30 NBA teams would do this season, and just about seven months later, I have evaluated those predictions. I can now tell you what I predicted right, and more importantly, what I got very wrong about this historic NBA season.

Part 1: I Should Start Betting

I felt most confident with my Eastern Conference predictions and I had good reason to feel this way. I accurately predicted the top four teams to come out of the East as the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers, although I reversed the order of the Celtics and Bucks. If you had told me that Bucks star Khris Middleton would only start 19 games this season, I might have hesitated when ranking them so high, but veteran point guard Jrue Holiday picked up the slack and made his first All-Star Game since 2013 to propel Giannis and the Bucks to the best record in the NBA at 58–24. Outside the top teams, I also predicted which 10 teams from the East would make the cut for the Play-in Tournament and Playoffs, and the five that would be eliminated.

When it comes to the Western Conference, my picks were not as ironclad, which shows my preference for the East (the conference where my Brooklyn Nets play), but there were still some bright spots among the mess. I predicted the exact records of both the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans. 

Great, should I stop there? Well, this season was anything but predictable, so although I may ruin my prophetic reputation, I’ll keep going.

Part 2: The Crystal Ball Was Foggy

Overall, I would say that my predictions were safe, and although that may have worked in the Eastern Conference, I did not have the same luck in the Western Conference. Coming into the season, the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, were the overall favorites. I bought into the hype and predicted that they would be the best team in the NBA and win 59 games. There were some worrying signs before the season started, forward Draymond Green threw a punch at guard Jordan Poole in practice, but the NBA media and I did not lose hope. Through their first 25 games, the Warriors were 11–2 when playing at home, a record which sounds befitting of champions. Yet, there was something holding them back: they were 2–10 on the road. Road wins evaded Golden State all throughout the season, and they finished with a home record of 33–8 and a road record of 11–30, putting them at 44–38 overall as they made their way into the playoffs as the 6th seed. The main problems lay with the defense. At home, the Warriors had an average defense, but when they played away they gave up 122.6 points per game, the second-highest mark in the league. Even though they had the best offense playing away from home, they were outscored by 4.3 points per game on the road. The team lacked chemistry and cohesion for most of the season, and although they acquired him again midway through the season, defensive guard Gary Payton II’s absence from the team was apparent. 

The Sacramento Kings also undermined my prediction skills. The Kings came into the season as a promising young team with breakout candidate De’Aaron Fox and All-star center Domantas Sabonis. That said, many were not optimistic about what the team could achieve. They were given +40000 (400 to one) odds to win the championship at the beginning of the season. As a result, I predicted that they would win 30 games and take the 11th seed in the Western Conference. Just like the Warriors, there is no one single explanation for the team’s success. In fact, I would argue that almost everyone in the organization elevated their games. Sabonis rose to superstar status if he was not there before, as he led the league in rebounding while coming in 5th in total assists. Fox scored 25 points per game and dominated in clutch scoring, which is a basket made in a game with less than five minutes to go and less than five points separating the teams. Contributions were made by guards Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter, who added scoring boosts off the bench, as well as by rookie forward Keegan Murray who started 78 of 82 games and led the team in three-point shooting. The Kings finished 48–34 securing the 3rd seed and their first playoff berth since 2006. 

Part 3: Conclusion

So how did I do overall? I would give myself a B- with a note to remember that playing it safe can only take you so far, especially in a league like this. Unpredictability is what makes the NBA so addictive and has left many fans eager to see who will come out on top during what are set to be an exciting series of playoffs. 

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu

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