Before the start of the NBA season, I wrote an article giving some bold predictions for the year. You can read them in full here. Now that the regular season has concluded, let’s take a look and see how I did.
1) Prediction: The Warriors will finish with more than 70 wins
Actual: The Warriors finished 67-15. I never expected the Warriors to make a run at 74-8, and I made that point clear in the original article. Still, with the addition of Kevin Durant, I thought this team was talented enough to win 71. maybe 72 games without really pushing for it. Of course, when you’re playing with such a small margin for error, the most important factor is staying healthy. Following Durant’s injury against the Wizards, Golden State dropped five of seven, the first two of which snapped a 146-game streak without consecutive losses. Had Durant been active during that stretch, I fully believe the Warriors would have hit that 71 win mark, but who really cares? For the third year in a row, they’ll enter the playoffs with the league’s best record. This is still the team to beat.
2) Prediction: The Timberwolves make the playoffs (and win 50 games!)
Actual: The Timberwolves finished 31-51, good for 13th in the West. Right…13th is a far cry from the 6th I thought they could get. This was probably the boldest of the five predictions I made, and at the end of the day, the T-Wolves are still just too young. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are monsters and should continue to grow into one of the most feared duos in the league (if they aren’t there already). Injuries ended Zach Lavine’s season early, but he also made great strides. Minnesota, with a scoring differential of just -1.1 per game, is a better team than their record would suggest, but they found themselves unable to close out games this season. This remains one of the league’s youngest and highest potential teams. Maybe next year’s the year.
3) Prediction: The Bulls take a big step back
Actual: After finishing 42-40 in 2015-16, the Bulls fell this year to…41-41. Hey, maybe it wasn’t a big step, but they did win one fewer game. Not like they’ll care – the Bulls finished as the 8-seed in the East this year after missing the playoffs a year ago. I listed three-point shooting as one of the team’s biggest weaknesses, and that proved to be true. Chicago finished 28th in threes made and 26th in three-point percentage. Despite this, the Bulls managed to be a good, not great, defensive team who managed to grind out a .500 record. With an aging Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler set to leave in the offseason, the Bulls future doesn’t look bright. But hey, good job, I guess.
4) Prediction: Russell Westbrook sets the Single-Season Usage Percentage record
Actual: You bet he did. It wasn’t even close, either. Coming into this year, the record belonged to Kobe Bryant for his 38.74% usage rate in the 2005-06 season where he averaged over 35 points per game. Entering his final game of the season, Westbrook’s usage rate stood at 40.8%, roughly two points higher than Bryant and over four points higher than DeMarcus Cousins, who’s mark of 36.4% is second-highest this year. Much has been made of Westbrook’s ridiculous season, turning him into the single greatest stat-sheet stuffer in over half a century. Russ became the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 and broke The Big O’s record of 41 triple-doubles in a season by recording 42. Safe to say, he’s been almost entirely responsible for the Thunder’s success.
5) Joel Embiid wins Rookie of the Year easily
Actual: We don’t know yet. However, the fact that Embiid is one of the frontrunners in the conversation (along with Dario Saric and Malcolm Brogdon) despite only playing in 31 games this season and averaging just 25 minutes a game in those appearances says quite a lot. Had Embiid had played equivalent time to his competitors, he would’ve walked a way with the title just as I had predicted. Embiid averaged roughly 20 points and 8 rebounds per game in his rookie campaign to go along with 2.5 blocks and was simply a beast all over the court when active. His main struggles were fouls and turnovers, but as Embiid becomes a more disciplined player and the Sixers improve as a team, I think those problems will lessen. Embiid has brought excitement to one of the worst franchise in professional sports over the past few years and has possibly the greatest nickname in sports. As “The Process”, he symbolizes an entire franchise. If he can find a way to stay healthy, who knows what he’ll be capable of.