Top 5 Bold Predictions for Week 15 in the NBA
It’s such a fun time to be a sports fan (the Super Bowl is coming up, the NHL is in full force, spring training is on the horizon, Tiger Woods is back on the course, tennis’ first major of the year is in progress), but the NBA is still managing to hog headlines (thank you, James Harden). LeBron James’ imminent return will also spice things up. But the news isn’t all good (see: Victory Oladipo and the recent Enes Kanter shenanigans). With that, let’s try to sort out what will transpire over the next week—and beyond….
Enes Kanter has played his last game with the Knicks
It has been an absolute circus with Kanter of late. He did not travel with the Knicks to London due to security concerns, he has been accused by his native Turkey of being in a terrorist group, and he was a “DNP—coach’s decision” against Houston on Wednesday even though head coach David Fizdale said prior to the game that Kanter would start. With New York in serious Zion Williamson contention, there is no reason whatsoever to put Kanter back in the lineup and prolong this drama. The end is near.
Memphis’ losing streak will hit 10
The Grizzlies have lost seven games in a row and they have finally put both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol on the trade block. It’s the end of an era in Memphis, but it may not be the end of a losing streak—even though the upcoming schedule is favorable. Sacramento, Indiana, and Denver are paying visits to Memphis; the first two are winnable, while the Nuggets game is not. But the Grizzlies have for all intents and purposes admitted that they are more interested in staying in contention for a top-five draft pick than they are in winning, and both Conley and Gasol could be gone sooner rather than later.
James Harden will score 60—again
It’s gotten to the ridiculous point where predicting Harden to score 60 points is not even going out on a limb. He has delivered at least 57 three times in the last five outings and missed 50 by just two points on one other occasion during this stretch. Harden’s latest performance saw him pin 61 on the Knicks inside Madison Square Garden. The MVP favorite may get shut down by Kawhi Leonard (you know, like 40 points instead of 50) on Friday, which will inspire him to abuse Orlando and/or New Orleans in ensuing contests. The Magic are so bad that Harden can pretty much do whatever he wants with reckless abandon and Houston would still win with ease. Even the Pelicans’ defense is not very good despite boasting Anthony Davis in the middle.
Domantas Sabonis will be the East’s second-best big man the rest of the season
With star guard Victor Oladipo out for the year, it is time for the other member of Indiana’s 2017 Paul George trade with Oklahoma City to shine. Well, Sabonis has already been shining this season; but now it’s time for him to be the man in Indiana. Channeling his inner Arvydas Sabonis (yes, his former NBA-playing dad), the younger one is averaging 14.9 points and 9.5 rebounds in just 25.0 minutes per game during this 2018-19 campaign. With Oladipo gone, Sabonis will log more minutes (even though he obviously doesn’t play the same position as Oladipo, because the Pacers will generally go bigger) and become more of a focal point in the offense. Only Philadelphia center Joel Embiid will be a better big man on a better team in the East the rest of this season.
LeBron James will return against Philadelphia
I’m no doctor, but LeBron has missed 15 games—and exactly one month—with his lingering groin injury. He should be nearing a return, and from the sound of things that is exactly the case. The Lakers wrap up a four-game home-stand with a showdown against the 76ers on Tuesday night. That kind of marquee matchup in front of the Staples Center faithful looks like an intriguing target date. Sunday against Phoenix may be the one, but LeBron might as well rest a little bit more and gear up for Philly since even his mediocre supporting cast is good enough to beat the Suns.