Warriors

NBA predictions 2019-20: Steph Curry wins MVP, Lakers reclaim title

NBA predictions 2019-20: Steph Curry wins MVP, Lakers reclaim title

For the first time in five seasons, the NBA finds itself in new territory entering the 2019-20 season. 

No longer are the Warriors prohibitive favorites. League uncertainty, coupled with notable player movement across conferences, makes the upcoming season as unpredictable as it has been in recent years. 

Nevertheless, that doesn't stop one from predicting an uncertain season in the association. To get you ready for opening week, here are your predictions for the upcoming year.  

Defensive Player of the Year - Rudy Gobert

Gobert dominated defensively last season, ranking third in the league in blocks and held teams to just 45.2 percent from the field. Gobert's contribution's helped Utah rank second in the league in defensive efficiency. 

If Gobert were to win, he'd become just the second player to win three straight DPOY awards, joining Dwight Howard.

[RELATED: Draymond not focused on DPOY]

Rookie of the Year - Ja Morant

With Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson out six-to-eight weeks due to meniscus surger, Morant is in the driver's seat for the award. 

Morant -- who averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists and 6.5 rebounds in his sophomore year at Morgan State -- will be featured on a Grizzlies team in transition, having traded away franchise pillars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in the last year. 

With that in mind, Morant will have ample opportunities to show his ability this season. 

MVP - Stephen Curry

With Kevin Durant gone to Brooklyn, and Klay Thompson not expected back this season, most of the offensive burden will fall on Curry. 

Curry has shown to be worthy to carry the offensive torch. In 2016, Curry had the highest player efficiency rating since 1991, while leading the league in 3-pointers made (402), steals (169), win-shares (17.9) and value over replacement (9.8) while finishing second in usage.

The key to Curry's season will be his health. Over the last two seasons, Curry has missed a combined 44 games due to injury, including 31 during the 2017-18 season. Last season, it was a non-contact groin injury that forced the guard to miss more than two weeks.

[RELATED: MJ claims Steph not a HOFer 'yet']

Most Improved Player - Lonzo Ball

During his first two seasons in the league with the Lakers, Ball struggled through injuries, expectations of Los Angeles, and ongoing litigation centered around his company Big Baller Brand. 

Now, in New Orleans, he is far away from the distractions, and is alongside a healthy young cast featuring Brandon Ingram and Williamson. If Ball can recapture the magic that made him a No. 2 overall pick, the Pelicans could be a fringe playoff team. 

Sixth Man - Lou Williams

At this point, Williams is like Nicki Minaj at the BET Awards in the late 2010s. If he is on the floor, an award is expected to come his way. 

Last season, he won his second straight award (and third overall), averaging 20 points, three rebounds and five assists. In the playoffs, he helped the Clippers push Golden State to six games in their first-round NBA playoff matchup. 

This season, Williams is expected to play starters minutes off the bench, giving yet another opportunity for the veteran the claim an award that should be named after him when its all said and done. 

Coach of the Year - Doc Rivers 

Last season, despite the Clippers trading away Tobias Harris -- the team's leading scorer -- Los Angeles surprisingly won 48 games and nearly eliminated Golden State in the first round. 

Now, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the roster, Rivers is expected to lead the current roster to a title. 

Rivers has experience coaching stars, having led the 2008 Celtics -- featuring Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen -- to a title, earning COY honors along the way.

Best Record - Milwaukee Bucks

The best way to quiet the noise of Giannis Antetokounmpo's pending free-agency will be to get off to a hot start. 

Milwaukee has the team to do it, with shooters like Kyle Korver, Brook Lopez and Wes Matthews to spread the floor around the Greek Freak. 

Antetokounmpo, months removed from winning his first MVP, should be primed for a run at another award.

[RELATED: Steph 'optimistic' about Warriors in 2019]

NBA Champs - Los Angeles Lakers

With a historic offseason, the Lakers seem to have their most balanced team in years on paper. The tandem of LeBron James and Anthony Davis should help with the bulk of the offensive output. 

The signings of Avery Bradley and Danny Green give Los Angeles top-level defenders, a welcome sign for a team that finished in the middle of the league in defensive rating last season.

But the key will be James, who is entering his 17th season on Tuesday evening. With Golden State no longer a contender, he should push to his first title since 2016.

Programming Note: Get ready for the 2019-20 Warriors and Kings seasons with the NBA Tip-Off Show, streaming live on the MyTeams app at 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Download MyTeams and tune in to the show by clicking here!

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

Warriors' Steve Kerr says trade rumors don't affect D'Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell is rapidly approaching a date some NBA observers have circled since the Warriors acquired him this summer.

Golden State can trade Russell as soon as Sunday, Dec. 15, and the 23-year-old has been the source of trade speculation during his time in the Bay Area. The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski reported Wednesday, citing sources that the Minnesota Timberwolves "remain interested in Russell" and that the guard "seems to be realistic in understanding that he may not be long for the Warriors once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return to full health."

Russell is averaging a career-high 22.4 points per game this season to go with 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds, serving as the top offensive option in the absence of his All-Star teammates. He knew he wouldn't play much with Thompson this season as he recovers from a torn ACL, but Curry's broken hand threw a wrench into the Warriors' -- and thus Russell's -- prospects this season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr praised how Russell has handled the rumors surrounding him. 

"Money doesn't buy peace of mind," Kerr said Friday morning (H/T San Francisco Chronicle's Connor Letourneau). "It doesn't buy a sense of belonging, a sense of, 'Alright, this is my team.' If there's speculation that you're going to be traded all the time, I don't care how much money you make, I don't care who you are. That's tough. That's no fun to deal with, and this season has been nowhere close to what D'Angelo thought it would be when he first signed with us.

"There's no Steph. We're struggling to win games. He's had his own injuries, and we're throwing all kinds of different lineups out there based on the other injuries we've faced." 

Russell has played in just 15 of the Warriors' 27 games this season, playing on a team that looks far more like the Los Angeles Lakers of his first two seasons than the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets a year ago -- let alone the reigning Western Conference champion Warriors. 

[RELATED: How Warriors' Chriss earning chance to start at center]

Kerr, who entered this season with the highest winning percentage in NBA history (.785), is as aware of Golden State's dramatically different reality as anyone. He said it has only brought out the best in Russell. 

"So given all that, he's played really well, and he's been a great teammate and he's doing everything he needs to do to solidify his position here," Kerr continued. "But this is the NBA here, and we never know what's coming, what's happening. So, it's a difficult position to be in in general, but for him in particular it's strange set of circumstances and he's handling it really well." 

Whether or not the Warriors trade Russell, it's clear Kerr holds him in high regard.

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Watch Warriors' Ky Bowman dominate for Santa Cruz in G League debut

Warriors two-way guard Ky Bowman made his G League debut Friday night in Santa Cruz.

He dominated the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. 

The Boston College product could have scored 40 points if he really wanted to, but he picked his spots and made sure his teammates were getting good looks.

After shootaround in Utah on Friday, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked what Bowman can work on while he's with the Sea Dubs.

"He's got a really aggressive mindset -- which I like -- but there are still circumstances and situations where he needs to think more pass," Kerr said. "And more strategic, rather than just score, score, score."

Bowman clearly listened to the eight-time NBA champion.

[RELATEDWhy Dubs might be very active before, after trade deadline]

Also, "Sky Bowman" was on full display.

The 22-year-old will be back in action Sunday afternoon as Santa Cruz faces the Northern Arizona Suns. Watch the game at 2:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area.

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