With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Brandon Jennings/Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
Larry Sanders makes $3 Million this season. JaVale McGee makes $11 Million. Last season, Larry Sanders averaged 9.8 pts, 9.5 rebs, 2.8 blks. JaVale McGee averaged 9.1 pts, 4.8 rebs, and 2.0 blks. Sanders’ Rebounding Rate was top 10 well above McGee and his Estimated Wins Added were higher as well, although his PER was slightly lower. Sanders, however, played on a much worse team than the Denver Nuggets.. Larry Sanders is one year JaVale McGee’s junior. Larry Sanders agent is looking at these facts, and chomping at the bit. Sanders will be an RFA next season so there is hope that Milwaukee can resign him, keeping a key piece for the rebuild that is inevitably ahead. But (there’s always a but!) the qualifying offer that Milwaukee has extended is for $4.2 Million- well below McGee’s paycheck. There’s no way that’s going to fly with Sanders and his agent if they have even a lick of sense. Even Tyrus Thomas got $8 Million a year from the Bobcats a few years ago, and he was half the player Larry Sanders is now. Barring injury trouble it’s hard to see Larry Sanders not showing out, and earning the right to demand JaVale McGee money.
No. 2: Few teams will Fear the Deer
The Bucks are stuck in no man’s land. With an old owner, Herb Kohl, who wants to see the team “win now” there’s constantly pressure on the Bucks front office to publish or perish, so to speak. They can’t afford to bottom out for one season and get the number one pick in a loaded draft like they seemed primed to do before this offseason with conceivably both of the best players –Ellis and Jennings free to leave. Herein lies the problem: if the Bucks bring back an excruciatingly unhappy Jennings (I think they do), they will have a formidable, but not imposing starting lineup. Jennings-Mayo-Ilyasova-Henson-Sanders can work in this league, but it can’t compete at a high level. With Jennings, who will instinctively have to perform because he’s in a contract year, the Bucks are about a 38-41 win team by default and in the frail Eastern Conference that usually means playoffs. What playoffs mean for the probable #8 seed is a sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat. What a sweep in the playoffs mean is that your team has just “priced” itself out of the lottery in a stacked draft, which is precisely the wrong way to rebuild into a contender. Yet, such is the great dilemma of the Milwaukee Bucks. With a supremely average team, the Bucks will have to go to war. The days of Squad 6 are dead; no one will Fear the Dear.
No. 3: OJ Mayo is not the answer
OJ Mayo as a player is quite the enigma. He has regressed statistically since his rookie year in Memphis where his numbers were surprisingly good. However, he had an better year last than the 2 years prior. Mayo is the classic player that everybody thinks is much better than he actually is just because he can stroke it in NBA 2K14. He’s never “taken the reins” or been the crunch time guy, so it’s curious why Milwaukee pegged him as the replacement for Monta Ellis. Mayo is a shooter who gets too much credit for his scoring ability, and the ultimate paradox to Ellis who is a scorer that gets too much credit for his shooting. Mayo had a worse PER, Estimated Wins Added, and Value Added than Ellis last season; Mayo averaged 5ppg and 2rpg less than Ellis. Maybe it’s just because Mayo is less of a douche or more willing to let Brandon Jennings facilitate while he plays second fiddle. But it’s hard to see Mayo being the answer to the Buck’s shooting guard vacancy for the next 3 years. I get that Ellis was never coming back, but why not just keep J.J. Redick and add a Marco Belinelli/Gary Neal type as backup then use the extra money to give Jennings the paycheck he deserves instead of handicapping yourself to a league average shooting guard. This season will probably be a pretty big bummer for the Milwaukee faithful and I don’t trust OJ Mayo will be the guy Buck’s fans believe him to be.