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."
No. 1: Tobias Harris will be a breakout player
Last season at the trade deadline the Orlando Magic acquired Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih, and Doron Lamb from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Gus Ayon, J.J. Redick, and Ish Smith- 3 players who are coincidentally not on the Bucks roster anymore. However, we're only here to talk about one of those six and that's Tobias Harris who's primed for a breakout year after showing major promise at the end of last season. In his 27 games with the Orlando Magic, Harris dropped 17 points per game and 8.5 rebounds including 9 double-doubles, all the while posting a very respectable 16th best PER amongst small forwards ahead of guys like Rudy Gay, Evan Turner, and Nic Batum. Further, with the return of Big Baby Davis and Jameer Nelson to full strength, Harris is bound to benefit from that veteran presence and leadership- keep in mind that's two guys who have played big minutes in an NBA finals. Now I'm not saying Harris is ready to be the face of the Orlando Magic franchise, but I think he's primed to have a BIG year and a breakout season akin to that of Paul George last year. Hope's up that Tobias is the next Carmelo.
No. 2: A healthy Big Baby Davis will make all the difference
When Big Baby went down with injury last year the Orlando Magic were a respectable 11-13, a record very capable of garnishing a playoff spot should it hold up. However, it didn't and the Magic struggled all season long to replace his bruising presence down low. Rookie Andrew Nicholson was too young and couldn't quite put it together in his inaugural season, and Al Harrington is too much of a stretch player to get down low and do the dirty work as much as he should. Now, the Magic get to return Glen's physical presence to the fold which frees up Nikola Vucevic to add even more rebounds to his top-10 rate. People underrate the impact of having a player who boxes out really well; it does wonders for his teammates stats and ability to get into a rhythm. True, neither Davis nor Vucevic are really world killers on offense, but you have to love their toughness, willingness to bang down low, and work for easy buckets, which they tend to get a lot of. Now if Davis' can stay healthy and play somewhere in the ball park of sixty games (he might not be available to start the season due to a foot injury), the Magic will be in good shape. Like I've said a million times, you can't undervalue the impact of a having another professional in your locker room.
No. 3: Orlando Magic are a playoff team if everything goes right
Going into this season, there is a lot to be hopeful for if you are a fan of the Orlando Magic. You return a starting five of Nelson-Afflalo-Harris-Davis-Vucevic that is very potent, and have capable backups at nearly every position in Oladipo, Harkless, Nicholson, and newly signed Jason Maxiell. Your team is budding with young talent, and you can finally feel the Otis Smith stench wearing off your jerseys. Throw in Hedo Turkoglu's expiring contract which could be useful come trade deadline as well. Furthermore, your starting point guard Jameer Nelson is in a contract year with the Orlando front office holding a team option, so he's got to show out if he wants to get paid next summer because we all know Jameer's not getting more than $8 million on the open market. That's a lot of positivity going in Orlando's direction, and barring some catastrophic injury or devastating slump, these Orlando Magic are conceivably a playoff team if everything goes right for them. Never hurts to be an optimist.