NBA Predictions: NESN Experts Make Their Finals, Celtics Season Picks

Almost all of us like the Bucks, many of us like the Lakers

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The date we’ve had circled on our calendars for weeks has arrived.

It’s Dec. 22, meaning the NBA officially begins Tuesday.

Two games will be played to tip off the season, with the Brooklyn Nets hosting the Golden State Warriors, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers facing one another.

With that in mind, we at NESN.com slipped on our prognostication hats and took a crack at making some predictions for the upcoming season. Some of the staff expounded on their reasons, others kept it simple.

But here we go.

Mike Cole, Digital Content Editor
NBA Finals: Lakers over Nets — After coasting through much of the season, LeBron James plays like a man possessed, further cementing his legacy against his old running partner and the player widely considered the best player in the game today.

NBA MVP: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Rookie of the Year: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 42-30, lose in the second round of the playoffs

Ricky Doyle, Digital Content Editor
NBA Finals: Clippers over 76ers — The Clippers’ chemistry was a problem last season, but sometimes a quick dose of adversity can catapult a team to the next level. They still have a supremely talented roster, headlined by two legitimate superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and they’ll undoubtedly have chips on their shoulders after watching the other team from Los Angeles hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy inside the Orlando bubble. And why not take out their former coach, Doc Rivers, along the way?

NBA MVP: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Rookie of the Year: Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 43-29, fourth in the East, then bounced in the second round of the playoffs

Pat McAvoy, Digital Video Sponsorship Coordinator
NBA Finals: Lakers over Celtics — This finally is the year the Celtics get over the hump and earn a trip to the Finals thanks to the continued ascension of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and a top-three defense led by Marcus Smart and Tristan Thompson. But it won’t be enough as they take on the significantly improved reigning champs.

NBA MVP: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Rookie of the Year: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 46-26, third in the East

Logan Mullen, Digital Content Producer
NBA Finals: Bucks over Nuggets — The Torrey Craig revenge series, if you will. In all seriousness though, the Nuggets have one of the most exciting cores in the NBA, and they are reminiscent of last season’s Miami Heat team. They absolutely can compete with the Lakers and Clippers. But the Bucks are just so talented, and they got significantly better this offseason. These two sides will be among the top five teams in the NBA for at least the next few seasons, and Milwaukee takes the NBA Finals over Denver this campaign.

NBA MVP: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks — I feel like load management is going to take guys like Kevin Durant and LeBron James out of the mix. That makes it a two-horse race between Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. If Dallas is going to be a legit contender this season, it will be because the otherworldly talent that is Doncic elevated the supporting cast around him. That’s not far-fetched, so I’m calling this the Season of Luka.

Rookie of the Year: Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks — Okongwu is in the right situation for winning Rookie of the Year. He’s talented enough to be a big-minute guy right off the jump, and he’s playing for a team that is rapidly improving but also will afford him the opportunity to play a lot. He plays with a ton of energy and is efficient in both ends, so he should get a prime opportunity to show out this season.

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 40-32, fifth in the East and eliminated in the first round of the playoffs — You can read more on why I think the Celtics aren’t legitimate title contenders in this roundly-criticized piece here. The truth of the matter is they didn’t get better this offseason and Danny Ainge did nothing to address one of the longest lingering issues: Shooting. Meanwhile, the East got way better. Yes, Jayson Tatum will continue to improve, and so too might Jaylen Brown. And, indeed, they did get better in the frontcourt with the Tristan Thompson addition. But be real, they’re not better than they were last season, all while teams around them continued growing.

Marcus O’Mard, Digital Content Producer
NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks — Since no one is capable of challenging the Bucks’ and Lakers’ status as the best teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, expect Milwaukee and Los Angeles to meet in the NBA Finals. The Lakers will win it because of their experience and ability to make better on-the-fly adjustments than the Bucks. 

NBA MVP: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks — Doncic will end Giannis Antetokounmpo’s quest for an MVP 3-peat in a controversial vote.

Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets — Because LaVar Ball has to be right about one of his sons at some point, right?

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 45-27 — The Celtics will go 45-27 in the regular season and exit the NBA playoffs in the Eastern Conference finals because that’s what they do. 

Dakota Randall, Digital Content Producer
NBA Finals: Bucks over Lakers — While it likely is unwise to bet against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the defending champs, I’m taking the Bucks in a competitive series. This is the season Giannis Antetokounmpo gets over the hump, carrying an improved Bucks roster to the franchise’s second title. I really believe Jrue Holiday is that much better than Eric Bledsoe, who is wildly overrated.

NBA MVP: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks —  I think many of the typical MVP front-runners will see their normally strong candidacies weakened by an uptick in “rest” days. Ultimately, I think the award will be decided between Doncic and Antetokounmpo, with Doncic ultimately coming out on top due to his ability to propel an otherwise pedestrian Mavericks team to contender status.

Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets — I don’t think he’s the best player in this class, but I think he’s in position to make more of an immediate, noticeable impact than any other top rookie.

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 42-30, third in the East — It will be shaky at the beginning with Kemba Walker out, but I think Jayson Tatum takes another developmental leap and keeps the Celtics near the top of the conference.

Ben Watanabe, Digital Content Manager
NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks in five — The Mavericks and Clippers will own the regular season in the West, but come playoff time, the two best players in the NBA will face off when it matters. But while Giannis Antetokounmpo will finally get over the hump in the East, LeBron will win L.A. its record 18th banner.

NBA MVP: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz — He’s been on the precipice of breaking into the league’s elite for a while, and the Jazz will need him to do so this season in the crowded West.

Rookie of the Year: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors — He’s basically the only rookie that I’ve seen play before. And that was for like three games at Memphis. He played well. So, there you go.

Celtics record and where they’ll finish: 41-31, fourth in East — A lot of pundits are predicting the specter of the play-in tournament will create a superior product, with more mediocre teams incentivized to try. My feeling is that the opposite will happen, with everyone — top to bottom — just sort of coasting and then turning it on (or off) down the stretch to set their seeding. Look for Brad Stevens to tinker with new perimeter additions Jeff Teague and Payton Pritchard (whose outside shooting they need) during a crapshoot regular season, knowing the playoffs are what really matter.

Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images

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