Basketball is back: Lariat sports experts share predictions and opinions about the upcoming NBA season

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant drives against Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Las Vegas. Lariat Sports picked the Warriors to win the NBA title. Associated Press.

By Ben Everett | Sports Editor, Adam Gibson | Sports Writer, Noah Torr | Broadcast Reporter, Cameron Stuart | Radio Director, graphics by MJ Routh | Multimedia Journalist

With the NBA season starting this week, four Lariat sports experts offer up their picks, predictions and opinions on the upcoming season.


The Celtics can challenge the Warriors’ throne

By Ben Everett | Sports Editor

The Golden State Warriors have won three of the last four NBA Championships and are arguably the greatest team in NBA history. This offseason, Golden State added four-time All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. Despite all this, the Boston Celtics have a legitimate shot at taking them down.

The most valuable position in the NBA right now is wing. The Warriors built their dynasty by investing in this position. Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant are versatile wings that fit well around offensive superstar Stephen Curry.

NBA teams have attempted to combat this trend but none have been able to compete. The Boston Celtics are looking to buck that trend this year. Led by an offensive savant in point guard Kyrie Irving and versatile big man Al Horford, the Celtics are glued together with skilled, athletic wings. Gordon Hayward is an excellent off-ball scorer who complements Irving’s game. Jaylen Brown is athletic and defensively versatile with a budding 3-point shot. Jayson Tatum is an offensive star in the making. Marcus Morris is a veteran who provides instant offense, experience and versatility.

Led by one of the best coaches in the game in Brad Stevens, the Celtics have the personnel and schemes to challenge the two-time defending champions.


The Spurs are underrated

By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer

The San Antonio Spurs are not going to fall apart this season. Yes, they lost Manu Ginobili to retirement, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Raptors, Tony Parker to the Hornets, starting guard Dejounte Murray to an ACL injury this preseason, but there is still hope for the squad. Ginobili came off the bench this past season and averaged 20 minutes per game with 8.9 points per game. Leonard played in just nine games this season and, after an injury put him out, decided to sit out the entirety of the season. Parker averaged even less playing time than Ginobili with 19.5 minutes played per game and 7.7 points in those minutes. The biggest blow will be Murray having to miss the season due to his injury.

Losing those three players will not have a huge impact on the Spurs this season compared to how the team played last season. With Kawhi playing almost not at all last season and the Spurs adding All-Star DeMar DeRozan, it is not now going to be all LaMarcus Aldridge having to be responsible for scoring and taking the team to the playoffs.

Patty Mills will be taking over for Murray, and Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay will have to step up. Mills is coming off scoring the second-most points in a season in his career and averaged 37.2 percent three-point shooting and Gay averaged 11.5 points per game. San Antonio is still set to make a run into the playoffs with a healthy squad.


Defensive Player of the Year is up in the air

By Noah Torr | Broadcast Reporter

The NBA season is finally here and while there is not a lot of question about who will be in the finals, there is uncertainty about an award that has been consistent for so long: Defensive Player of the Year.

Last season, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz won the award. When Gobert was healthy, the Jazz allowed only 97.5 points per 100 possessions after he returned from his knee injury. Gobert, not Donovan Mitchell, was the reason the Jazz went 30-8 after Jan. 19.

But this year is a new dynamic. Anthony Davis improved his defensive ability last season and willed the New Orleans Pelicans to a sixth seed in the Western Conference. The runner up for DPOY last year, Joel Embiid, was stellar in and out of the paint. Kawhi Leonard was out for most of last season and he looks to re-establish his presence on the Toronto Raptors and reclaim his title as the best defensive player in the league.

There’s also Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who finished fourth in last year’s voting, Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors, Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.

Finally there is competition in a award category that has been dominated by three people for so long. As NBA offenses are putting up record-setting performances, defense is becoming even more important.


Jimmy Butler will regret what he’s doing

By Cameron Stuart | Radio Director

Jimmy Butler has been very vocal in his distaste of his current situation in Minnesota. This year, he has very publicly asked to be traded, insisting his talents be sent to South Beach to help the Miami Heat. He even went as far as showing up to Timberwolves practice and telling his team, “You can’t win without me.”

What Jimmy Butler is doing is not uncommon in this diva-run era of professional sports. Butler’s charade has provided plenty of media fodder and has put the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season in limbo before it has even begun. It remains to be seen where Butler will finish this season but whatever happens, it is not a wise career move.

While Butler may be right, the childish way he has gone about it will bring nothing positive to him or his team. He doesn’t make Miami any better, but we’ve seen the immediate impact he had on the Timberwolves.

On the court, Minnesota is his best fit, but he has now infected the locker room with a poison he can not rid it of. With an exceptionally young team, he is meant to be the leader and after having no confidence in his teammates or his coach, it’ll be hard for Minnesota not to be the soap opera central of the NBA. Minnesota is on a downward spiral, and it’s all Butler’s fault.