By Sonny Sachdeva, October 30 2014 —
As the NBA season gets underway, preeminent sports writer Sonny Sachdeva answers all you need to know.
Will Kobe bounce back from injury? Or will his season end the way Steve Nash’s did?
Few athletes are as driven as Kobe Bryant when it comes to off-court training. Bryant is an absolute beast in the gym. Those years of keeping his fitness at an elite level will pay off as he reaches the final years of his career. While he’s had a few setbacks thus far, it’s impossible to count Kobe out if he’s healthy. The five-time champion should be hungry to prove his doubters wrong, and ready to put in a big season to solidify his legacy.
Who is your pick for MVP?
If Lebron James could win an MVP award on the star studded Heat, then it’s going to be tough to take it from him now that he’s back in Cleveland and playing with a lesser cast of characters. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are tremendous players, but the Cavaliers will be more of the Lebron show than Miami was. This, combined with James’ propensity to improve every season, will lead to another MVP award for King James.
Who will be the scoring champ?
With the other top scorers seeing their stock fall this summer, James Harden will snag the scoring title away from the perennial favourites. Harden has been a top-five scorer since his move to Houston, and he certainly has the talent to make a bid for the top spot.
Most importantly, the competition is tilting in his favour. Reigning champ Kevin Durant is set to miss time with an injury. Carmelo Anthony says he’s moving away from high-volume scoring. Lebron James has taken on a team-first mentality. Kobe Bryant will play his first basketball since December 2013. With a revamped roster in Houston, this could be Harden’s year.
Who is your favourite to win East/West?
The Chicago Bulls look like this year’s best bet to take the Eastern crown especially because Derrick Rose is looking like his old self. Also, Joakim Noah has improved every year and the Bulls’ head office brought in the veteran Pau Gasol this summer. Chicago will be a tough team to beat in 2014–15. Lebron’s Cavs will put up a fight, but the Cavs’ record will suffer early while the new group goes through some growing pains.
In the West, Oklahoma City is a lock to take the top spot. No one is taking down the Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs from the top two, so it’s going to come down to which of these two storied clubs finishes above the other.
San Antonio is still an unstoppable squad. But they’re a team that’s getting older every year, and they’ve played a lot of basketball over the last few years of deep post-season runs. OKC, on the other hand, is young, hungry, and ready to turn Durant’s virtuoso play into a championship.
Who is your dark horse team?
I would tab the New York Knicks. After a few seasons of overhype and underachievement, the Knicks have been written off by everybody, with most assuming the experiments will fail and New York will flounder at the bottom of the East once again. It won’t happen easily, but New York has some serious tools in place to surprise people this year.
With the legendary Phil Jackson heading the front office, and his understudy Derek Fisher taking over as coach, the Knicks have the leadership group in place to take a step forward this time around. Also, the Knicks boast promising young talent in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert. Add in the fact that Carmelo Anthony is still in the prime of his career and Amare Stoudemire is eager to prove he can still dominate in the NBA — New York is a stronger contender than many think.
Will the Cavs’ rookie coach be the Cavs’ X factor?
I’m not sure if he’ll be the X factor, but he is certainly going to be an excellent leader for this team. He may be new to the NBA, but Blatt’s coaching record stretches back to 1993, when Lebron James was nine years old.
Since then he has racked up six coach-of-the-year awards and 16 championships over various competitions. He knows what he’s doing out there.
Blatt will rely on Lebron to use his elite understanding of the game to lead his team. The duo should guide Cleveland to a solid season.
Perspective on Andrew Wiggins. Is all the hype for real?
Andrew Wiggins is going to be a tremendous basketball player. He’s sure to be the best Canadian in a long time, but he isn’t the next Lebron, or Kobe, or anybody else. While his pre-season debut with Minnesota was promising, the rest of the exhibition schedule showed us that Wiggins is young and still has room to grow before becoming a dominant NBA mainstay. He’ll get there one day, but it’s going to take time.
What are you most excited for about the upcoming season?
It’s hard not to get excited about seeing Lebron back in a Cavs jersey. The story of the Akron kid getting drafted to his own lowly Cleveland Cavaliers was a perfect one when he was a rookie back in 2003. While his years in Miami were certainly legitimate from a basketball standpoint, it just wasn’t the same seeing Lebron in a Heat jersey. After becoming more and more dominant during his time away from home, it will be exciting to see James return home to lift the Cavs out of the basement as part of the new big three alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.