The night before the season began, I made nine bold predictions about how the first month of the season would go. Some were gloriously accurate. Others were horrendously off. Let’s take a look at those picks, their accuracy (or inaccuracy) and what they might tell us about the season thus far.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers will only win 4 games by Dec. 1. Result: 100% accurate.
My prediction was that the Lakers would win just four games in the opening month and that they would look pretty rough in the process. Last night’s improbable overtime victory against the Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors helped this one to hit the mark perfectly. Of all the picks, this one was probably the least bold. This Laker team is terrible and the only reason the pick was perceived as bold is because a large section of NBA fans still believe that Kobe Bryant is good enough to drag an awful team to a .500 record. Which brings us to…
2. Kobe Bryant will shoot the worst FG% of his career. Result: 100% accurate.
Kobe has been able to raise his FG% up over the last few games but he is still at 39.2% on the year, below his previous low of 41.7% that he shot during his rookie season. The main reason for the decline in overall FG% is because he is struggling at finishing at or near the basket. He is significantly down from his career trajectory in FG% at the rim, short jumpers and mid range jumpers. Since he is struggling to get to the rim and finish at the rim, he is taking (and making) more long 2’s than ever before in his career. It’s actually pretty impressive that he is shooting 47.5% on long range 2 pt shots. However, unless Kobe can improve his ability to get to the rim and finish, his FG% should stay around 40%.
3. The Trailblazers will have more starting lineups by Dec. 1 than they did all of last season. Result: 100% accurate.
All it took was a minor injury from Batum and an illness to LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trailblazer’s amazing run of luck has ended. Portland is a unique case because their starting 5 is one of the best starting 5’s in all of basketball. And despite a boost from the addition of Chris Kaman, the Blazers bench is still less than intimidating. Nevertheless, the Blazers have managed to get off to a 12-4 start despite having three different starting lineups.
4. No player will score more than 50 points in a single game. Result: Accurate – with a few close calls.
The closest call came from Kobe Bryant who took 34 shots in 31 minutes against Golden State. Fortunately for my prediction, the game was out of hand by the end of the 3rd quarter and Bryant was given the 4th to rest his (probably) exhausted shooting arm. My prediction was also aided by the injury to Russell Westbrook who has scored 70 points in roughly 56 minutes of healthy action.
5. A team will score 145 points in a single game. Result: Right in theory, wrong in practice.
The reason this prediction was so bold was because it only happened twice in the last 5 seasons! The reason I made this pick was because I knew there would be a lot of great offenses and a handful of miserable defenses. Six times a team scored over 130 points, none of which required an overtime. Two of those games were against the Nuggets, Lakers and Timberwolves respectively. The Pelicans scored 118 points through 3 quarters against the Timberwolves before taking their foot off of the gas pedal and finishing with 139. Teams scored 80+ by half time in 3 separate games yet all failed to reach the 145 mark. I’m still calling this one a good prediction, despite the fact that it didn’t come to fruition. I am willing to bet that at some point over the course of the year a team will score over 145 points.
6. The Hawks will lead the league in Catch and Shoot ppg. Result: Wrong. But close.
This prediction started off great. At one point in the first two weeks the Hawks had a 3 ppg lead on this category. Around the same time I wrote an article praising their ability to score off of catch and shoot opportunities, the Hawks began to miss. They hit a rough patch around the middle of the month that included a loss to Cleveland, a home loss to the Lakers, and a low scoring win against the Pistons that took the wind out of their sale and allowed Portland to overtake them as the catch and shoot kings. I still think that the Hawks will end up #1 in this category by the end of the season. They are currently scoring 33.3 ppg on catch and shoot. That is a full 2.1 points more than they average last year, when they led the league.
7. The 3FGA rate will be lower than it was in 2013-14. Result: Wrong — Thanks to the Rockets
This was a bold prediction since the year to year upward trend of 3FGA is perhaps the most constant trend in all of basketball. My reason for picking a 1-month decline was A.) teams like the Lakers were openly advertising their plan to cut back on 3’s, and B.) I thought teams like the Warriors, Knicks and Rockets would slow their 3-point happy pace. I was way wrong. The Rockets’ 3FGA rate is currently .439. For perspective, the 2nd highest rate belongs to the Clippers at .322. League average is .265! That means the Rockets shoot nearly twice as many 3’s as league average. Perhaps we aren’t at or near the breaking point for 3-point attempts and the 2015 Rockets will be seen as well ahead of their time. It’s tough to say. For now, the Rockets are pulling a steady upward trend up and even steeper slope.
8. Carmelo Anthony will shoot above 47.5%. Result: Soooooooo close!
Carmelo is shooting 47.4% from the field, thanks in large part to an exceptionally hot streak right before his injury. Melo had a streak of 7 games above 50% from the field. It appears that he is getting more comfortable with Fisher’s new offense, or at least with his shot selection in the offense. Unfortunately, this hot streak hasn’t translated into wins for the Knicks, who sit at 4-14.
9. Jusuf Nurkic will lead all rookies in rebounds per game. Result: Wrong. Just, wrong.
Nurkic is very impressive in terms of per 36 minutes where he is averaging 14 rebounds per 36. However, he is only averaging 8.6 minutes per game, mostly in blowout wins and losses. I thought going into the season that JaVale McGee might take longer than expected to see the court and that Brian Shaw would give Nurkic a chance at center. Instead, McGee has played in 13 games and in games that he has missed, Shaw has gone with lineups that feature Darrell Arthur an/or JJ Hickson to fill the rebounding void. Nurkic might be a year or two away from putting up double figure rebounds, but if he develops into a rotational player that get’s 15-20 minutes per game, I am confident he’ll be among the league leaders in rebounds per game.