2016-17 NBA regular season preview: Roundtable discussion
This season will be highly anticipated with players joining super teams and players going back home.Photo: Wallpapercave.com

2016-17 NBA regular season preview: Roundtable discussion

VAVEL writers Sully Akbari, Oliver Gold, Youssef Machkhas and Austin McConnell each preview what is to come in the 2016-17 NBA regular season.

sully-akbari
Sully Akbari

Welcome to our VAVEL 2016-17 NBA regular season preview roundtable discussion. In this roundtable discussion, we will be previewing what will happen in the upcoming season.

Our VAVEL writers Sully Akbari, Oliver GoldYoussef Machkhas, and Austin McConnell will be giving their takes on who will be the league's Most Valuable Player (MVP), Rookie of the Year (ROTY), and Most Improved Player (MIP). Outside of individual awards, we will also discuss which team will sit on top from both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference along with which team will be a surprise from both conferences. We will conclude the roundtable discussion with a very early NBA Finals prediction. There is a lot to discuss so let's get started.

Sully's 2016-17 MVP, ROTY, and MIP

MVP: G Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

OKC is officially Russell Westbrook's team. He will now get the touches he didn't get with Kevin Durant leaving OKC for the Golden State Warriors. If 23.5 points, 10.4 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game and 18 triple doubles weren't enough to win him the MVP award last season then I don't know what to say. Simply put, Westbrook will take his first MVP award this season.

Russell Westbrook is favorite to win the MVP award by a long shot. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America
Russell Westbrook is favorite to win the MVP award by a long shot.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

ROTY: G/F Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons is a player that rarely comes around in this league. He has tremendous size on both ends of the floor, amazing playmaking skills, and an all-around style of play. All the opportunities are there for Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, it's just a matter of winning some games. With that, he will definitely win the Rookie of the Year.

Ben Simmons is the future of the Philadelphia 76ers and is favorite to win the Rookie of the Year. Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
Ben Simmons is the future of the Philadelphia 76ers and is favorite to win the Rookie of the Year.
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports

MIP: SF Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks

Harrison Barnes didn't have the best NBA Finals performance last season but that won't hold him down in this season. Barnes's minutes and productivity will increase with his new role with the Dallas Mavericks. His scoring will soar to 18-20 points per game on 34 minutes of action. The Mavericks paid big bucks for Barnes and it is going to pay off with him winning the Most Improved Player award.

The Dallas Mavericks went out and gave Harrison Barnes a four-year, $94M deal but in the end, will it be worth it? Photo: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Mavericks went out and gave Harrison Barnes a four-year, $94M deal but in the end, will it be worth it? Photo: Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

Oliver's 2016-17 MVP, ROTY, and MIP

MVP: G Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

With Kevin Durant gone, it's now Westbrook's team. In the last eight seasons, Westbrook averaged 28 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game without Durant as opposed to 20.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. Westbrook will be a man on a mission this year, and OKC will go as far as he takes them. 

ROTY: G Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves

No rookie is more ready for the NBA than Kris Dunn, and no top-five pick has more talent around their team than Kris Dunn. Hoping to be the point guard of the future for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dunn will be able to work with two former No. 1 picks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. Dunn has incredible explosiveness, and will be the readiest to produce in this year's rookie class. 

According to NBA.com, in a survey of 38 NBA rookies, Kris Dunn was picked to win Rookie of the Year. Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images
According to NBA.com, in a survey of 38 NBA rookies, Kris Dunn was picked to win Rookie of the Year.
Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images

MIP: G/SF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

This is the year that Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a star in this league, and this is the year that the Milwaukee Bucks can establish themselves as one of the top teams in the East. Still just 21 years old, the "Greek Freak" tallied 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game last season. Antetokounmpo will play some point guard again this season, forcing huge size mismatches. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ceiling is said to be growing everyday that he gets better as a player. Question is, how good will he be? Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports
Giannis Antetokounmpo ceiling is said to be growing everyday that he gets better as a player. Question is, how good will he be? Photo: Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Youssef's 2016-17 MVP, ROTY, and MIP

MVP: G Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook is going to win MVP this year. Critics point to two years ago when Kevin Durant was injured and the Oklahoma City Thunder narrowly missed the playoffs. It is true that he won’t win if his team doesn’t perform, but adding Victor Oladipo adds a duel threat at the guard positions, and both Steven Adams and Enes Kanter have vastly improved since then.

ROTY: G/F Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons will earn Rookie of the Year Honors. The dude is a beast at all aspects of the game and will one day lead the Philadelphia 76ers out of the last place gutter (a huge achievement). Brandon Ingram might have something to say to that, but he won’t be able to dominate like Simmons will because he’s on the same team as Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Plus there’s the chance that Russell backstabs him in some way, leading to a lot of chemistry issues and worse performances.

MIP: F Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks

This year is finally Jabari Parker’s to shine, as he already has two seasons of experience and will capitalize on this one by winning the Most Improved Player award. The Milwaukee Bucks have been a very odd organization, trying to create a hybrid team never before seen in the league, which is why they need results quick. Parker also needs to improve if he doesn’t want to be seen as a second pick bust. He will prove the doubters wrong, especially with Giannis Antetokounmpo having more of a playmaking than a scoring role. 

Jabari Parker was drafted as the second pick in 2014 but with a season ending injury in first season and a decent outing in his second, his third season must be his best. Photo: Aaron Gash/AP
Jabari Parker was drafted as the second pick in 2014 but with a season ending injury in rookie season and a decent outing in his second, his third season must be his best. Photo: Aaron Gash/AP

Austin's 2016-17 MVP, ROTY, and MIP

MVP: G James Harden, Houston Rockets

The popular choice here will most likely be Russell Westbrook, but how about some love for a guy who may get even more of a workload- James Harden. The Houston Rockets inked him for four more years at $118.1 million, let big man Dwight Howard walk, and brought in one of the most offensive-minded coaches in the business in Mike D’Antoni this offseason.

Will this year be the year that James Harden finally wins an MVP award? Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
Will this year be the year that James Harden finally wins an MVP award?
Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

ROTY: G/F Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

This is most definitely Ben Simmons’ award to lose. The minutes will be there in Philadelphia, and the lineup has been desperate for a ball handler. 

MIP: G Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks

With point guard Jeff Teague out of the picture in Atlanta, it’s now time to see what Schroder can do with the keys to the offense. Very few players will receive the increase in minutes that Schroder will, and with his combination of skill and confidence, he should be able to take the opportunity and run with it. 

With Jeff Teague gone, it is time for Dennis Schroder to rise up and lead the Atlanta Hawks. Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA
With Jeff Teague gone, it is time for Dennis Schroder to rise up and lead the Atlanta Hawks.
Photo: Erik S. Lesser/EPA

Moving onto the top team from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

Sully's Top Team From the East and West

First in the East: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers will still sit a top of the East even after the fact many teams improved and revamped their roster. LeBron James and his Cavaliers are still not done winning championships and with a weak Eastern Conference, this makes it easy for them to be title contenders year in year out. Expect Cleveland to win a minimum of 55 games this season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their way in this weak Eastern Conference. Photo: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Cavaliers will have their way in this weak Eastern Conference.
Photo: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports

First in the West: Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors hit a 500-foot home run in signing Kevin Durant. The Warriors are loaded on offense with the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Their defense is not to take lightly either with Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, and Green. A team that is a two-way threat will always get the best of you no matter what. With that said, the Warriors are definitely going to be first in the West but don't expect them to win 70-plus games this season. 

Oliver's Top Team From the East and West

First in the East: Cleveland Cavaliers

The East is getting much better, but at the end of the day, it's still LeBron James' conference. The Cavs are coming off a championship run, and although they do not pace themselves in the regular season like other teams do, there will not be a question they will be the best team out of the East this season.

First in the West: Golden State Warriors

Any team that adds a player like Kevin Durant automatically improves. The Warriors already had tremendous success last season, winning an NBA-record 73 games during the regular season and coming one win away from a second consecutive championship. The starting five is arguably the greatest of all time in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Durant, Draymond Green, and Zaza Pachulia. 

The West looks but the Golden State Warriors will be no match to the conference as they will finish first in the West. Photo: Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters
The West looks tough but the Golden State Warriors will be no match to the conference as they will finish first in the West. Photo: Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters

Youssef's Top Team From the East and West

First in the East: Cleveland Cavaliers 

The top team in the East will once again be the Cleveland Cavaliers, no explanation necessary.

First in the West: Golden State Warriors

The top team in the West will once again be the Golden State Warriors, no explanation necessary.

Austin's  Top Team From the East and West

First in the East: Cleveland Cavaliers

Well, this looks familiar a LeBron James-led team at the top of the East. There have been a lot of moving parts for teams like Toronto, Boston, and Indiana, but nobody can rival the one-two punch of James and Kyrie Irving.

First in the West: Golden State Warriors

It’s almost impossible to pick against this “super team” to finish first in the West this season. The addition of Kevin Durant is unbelievable, even if it means sacrificing some of the depth they enjoyed off the bench. The San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers look good, but no team is challenging the Warriors in the West.

Moving onto the surprise teams from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference.

Sully's Surprise Team From the East and West

Surprise team in the East: Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers' offense will be lethal. This team will at least be top ten in the league in offensive efficiency and offensive rating. Of course, this is easier said than done, but with the addition of Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague, and Thaddeus Young, the Pacers will have a complete, offensive team. Not to forget, Paul George who played in the Rio Olympics and helped Team USA win gold, Monta Ellis, and Myles Turner, this team will definitely turn heads in the Eastern Conference.

Paul George, Myles Turner and the new look Indiana Pacers look to turn heads in the East. Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America
Paul George (13), Myles Turner (33) and the new look Indiana Pacers look to turn heads in the East.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images North America

Surprise team in the West: Portland Trail Blazers

This season is the season where the Portland Trail Blazers will show the league not to mess with them. With additions of Festus Ezeli, Shabazz Napier, and Evan Turner, the Blazers will indeed be a top-four team in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard, who seems to get snubbed every All-Star Game will finally play in New Orleans in Feb. 2017. He will play with no heart this season and take out anyone who get in his way. The others will follow Lillard's lead to become title contenders.

Watch out for Damian Lillard (0), C.J. McCollum (3) and the Portland Trail Blazers this season. Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports
Watch out for Damian Lillard (0), C.J. McCollum (3) and the Portland Trail Blazers this season.
Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports

Oliver's Surprise Team From the East and West

Surprise team in the East: Boston Celtics

It's tough to list a team that finished tied for the third-best record in the East a playoff team, but the Celtics have the biggest chance in the East to knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers this year and have the potential to do so. Adding Al Horford gives them the big-man star they needed, and still have lots of depth. 

Al Horford (42) and the new look Boston Celtics look play like their championship teams. Photo: Charles Krupa/AP
Al Horford (42) and the new look Boston Celtics look play like their championship teams. Photo: Charles Krupa/AP

Surprise team in the West: Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz just missed the playoffs last season, but with their players progressing and adding both George Hill and Joe Johnson, they have the capability to shake a lot of heads. The Jazz will have a lot of depth this season, led by Hill, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Johnson, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert, and Jeff Withey. Very solid core that general manager Dennis Lindsey has put together.

This is the new generation of the Utah Jazz and they are young and scary. Photo: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports
This is the new generation of the Utah Jazz and they are young and scary.
Photo: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Youssef's Surprise Team From the East and West

Surprise team in the East: Boston Celtics

In the East, the biggest surprise the New York Knicks’ downfall, but positivity is better, so instead the biggest surprise will be the Boston Celtics being second in the Eastern Conference.

Surprise in the West: Utah Jazz

Watch out for the Utah Jazz in the West, they are improving and are looking to be dark horses in the Western Conference.

Austin's Surprise Team From the East and West

Surprise team in the East: Atlanta Hawks

Although the organization has seen quite a bit of success the past couple seasons, many experts expect a decline in production. Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard will bring new dynamics to the lineup and lead to a top-four finish in the East.

Atlanta's biggest acquisition in the offseason was Dwight Howard. Will the three-year, $70M deal pay off? Photo: NBA.com
Atlanta's biggest acquisition in the offseason was Dwight Howard. Will the three-year, $70M deal pay off?
Photo: NBA.com

Surprise team in the West: Utah Jazz

There’s nothing to suggest this team can’t finish fourth in the conference, boasting tremendous depth at all positions and a lot of young potential. Dante Exum returns for his second season after an injury cost him last year, and established stars Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors return. 

Finally, finishing off with NBA Finals predictions.

Sully's NBA Finals Prediction

Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors, 4-2

The Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors Episode III. Although with Kevin Durant boosting the Warriors' offense, the Cavaliers having LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love will be too much for the Warriors from a defensive standpoint. With that said, James will inch closer to chasing Michael Jordan's Greatness with four NBA Championships.

Oliver's NBA Finals Prediction

Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors, 4-1

Yes, the Golden State Warriors got better on paper adding Kevin Durant, but that could produce turmoil. The Cavs roster now has championship experience under their belt, and there will not be as much pressure for LeBron. In fact, it won't even be close, as I predict that the Cavs will take home their second consecutive championship in just five games. Oh, and if this does happen, LeBron James is the greatest player to ever live. End of story.

Youssef's NBA Finals Prediction

Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-3

Sadly, there will be no surprises in the playoffs and the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers in a series for the ages 4-3. 

Austin's NBA Finals Prediction

Golden State Warriors over Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-1

The Warriors will be able to beat you in so many different ways, and it’s just going to be too much for the Cavaliers to handle this time around.

There you have it. That concludes our 2016-17 NBA regular season preview roundtable discussion. Stay tuned for Opening Night in the NBA on Oct. 25, 2016. Look out for more VAVEL roundtable discussions in the future. Enjoy the season.

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