For fans familiar with the Association, we call this time of the year the dog days of summer.
The draft came and went, with Andrew Wiggins going first to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The majority of the top three tiers of free agents have agreed to new contracts already, with some big name players taking their talents elsewhere. Lastly, scouts and GM’s got to see their rookies play first hand in the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues.
What’s next? Team USA began holding a six-day training camp on Monday, with the FIBA Basketball World Cup beginning Aug. 30. Teams will then open official training camp in September.
The 2014-15 season is shaping up to be the equivalent of a soap opera you would see on ABC. From The King’s return to Cleveland to Kobe Bryant’s attempt at recovering from another catastrophic injury to Carmelo Anthony trying to live up to the $120 plus million in New York, the league is sure to have its storylines.
With that in mind, here are two bold predictions for Anthony and James to get you geared up for the season.
1. Carmelo Anthony will finish top 5 in the MVP voting
Over the course of his career, Anthony has been a ball stopper and an offensive juggernaut capable of scoring wherever he wants to on the court. Last season, he was second in scoring at 27.4 points per game and 8.1 rebounds (a career-high) but that went to waste as the Knicks went from the second seed in the conference two years ago to missing the playoffs altogether. Because he didn’t do much besides accrue his own numbers, the Knicks struggled.
When he agreed to re-sign with the New York Knicks, Anthony stated that he wants to win, implying his belief that Phil Jackson will do what he has to do for him to accomplish that with the Knicks. Anthony believes the supporting cast around him is not that far off from competing this coming season, especially with a fresh start in the triangle offense under rookie coach Derek Fisher.
So what will the triangle do for Anthony and the Knicks? As arguably the top overall scorer in the game, Anthony’s efficiency will increase as the system is primarily built on cutting, spacing and a player being able to demand attention from opposing teams in the post.
Jackson’s blueprint with the triangle has proven before that it can take great isolation players (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant) and mesh their skill set into transforming the team as a whole.
That will be the challenge for Anthony though, sacrificing some of his one on one opportunities for the overall growth of the team. That is part of the vision that Jackson successfully sold to Anthony, and it’s what will help Anthony have one of his best seasons as a pro.
With a supporting cast full of young perimeter players (Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early), versatile bigs (Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani) and Jose Calderon initiating the offense, Anthony will flourish in his first season under the Jackson regime and grow into more than just an elite offensive player.
2. LeBron James will average a career-high in assists, close to 10 per game
Going back to Cleveland is the ideal situation for James. He’s got a 22-year-old sidekick in Kyrie Irving who will only get better and he’ll either have Wiggins running alongside him on the fast break or Kevin Love throwing him the outlet passes. Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao are all players whose game will be elevated due to James’ presence and leadership on the floor. This Cleveland team is much better than the one he originally left.
In 2009-10, James averaged a career-high 8.6 assists on a team with Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker, a diminished version of Shaquille O’Neal, Delonte West and J.J. Hickson. Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison were the second and third scoring options, both averaging 15.8 points per game. That team went 61-21.
This time around, James returns to Cleveland as a two-time champion who knows how to win and handle the expectations that come along with it. By playing with a young, hungry squad, his playmaking ability will rise to new heights, and the Magic Johnson aspect of James’ game will shine bright being back in Cleveland.