5. Trey Burke will be the Rookie of the Year
The Jazz decided in February that the Michigan point guard was the guy they wanted in the draft, and they made the necessary moves on draft night, dealing picks 14 and 21 to Minnesota for the No. 9 pick) to ensure that they got their man. Burke will have an opportunity to do what Damian Lillard did in Portland last season — play somewhere in the area of 40 minutes per night and put up heavy numbers as a result. It will help if Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have honed their pick-and-roll games, because Burke’s assist numbers and assist-to-turnover ratio will be especially scrutinized if he has a worthy competitor when it comes time to vote. If the Jazz can win 30 or more games, it will help his cause tremendously. But if Burke’s shooting percentage is below 40, it will hurt him. His main competition, IMHO, will come from Anthony Bennett in Cleveland, where the Cavs will be a playoff team (and please, please let there be a Cavs-Heat first-round playoff series).
6. Nikola Vucevic will put up better numbers than Roy Hibbert
Not that it will matter on the All-Star ballot, because you can’t vote for centers anymore. But I am a huge fan of Vucevic, who was the prize acquisition in the ill-fated Dwight Howard-to-the-Lakers deal. (Howard and Andre Iguodala turned out to be one-year rentals and Andrew Bynum never played a game for Philly. Can’t wait to see what Rob Hennigan ends up getting for Jameer Nelson at the deadline. He has set the bar pretty high for himself.) FYI, last season Hibbert averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds, shooting 44.8 percent. Vucevic averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds on 52 percent shooting, so this does not qualify so much as a prediction as a statement of the obvious.
7. Steve Novak will make more 3-pointers than Andrea Bargnani
Top 10 Things I did This Summer, from a writing perspective, is take more shots at the Knicks than any other writer for this montrosity of a trade. First of all, Novak is a better shooter. Flat-out. Second, Glen Grunwald threw in a first-round pick and two second-round picks. When you include the two second-round picks he sent to Houston in the Marcus Camby trade, it makes for an astonishing five (or six, if you include Toney Douglas, who went in the Camby deal) draft picks to acquire the only player in Toronto who was nearly as unpopular as Vince Carter. For the record, Bargnani made 38 3-pointers (on 123 attempts) in 35 games last season, playing an average of 29 minutes, while Novak worked his way into Mike Woodson’s doghouse and shot 149-for-351 on 3s. The previous season, Novak made 133 and led the league in accuracy. Bargnani was 34-for-113 that season (29 percent). For more on this fleecing, see this column and these power rankings.
8. Canada will get a wild-card berth into the 2014 World Cup
In a disappointing finish at the Tournament of the Americas, Canada failed to make it to the elimination round, falling short in its final attempt by losing to Argentina. Mexico went on to win the tournament, and you could have had 500-1 odds on that happening. Tournament MVP Gustavo Ayon will be playing for the Hawks this season, FYI. The Bucks waived him amid their decision to extend Larry Sanders for $44 million. Anyway, if Andrew Wiggins commits to playing on Team Canada in 2014, it says here that Canada will get one of the four wild-card berths disbursed by FIBA in late November (China and Italy are virtual shoo-ins). I have gone back and forth on this with long-time Toronto Raptors and Team Canada beat writer Doug Smith, and he thinks the locals have no chance. But my retort is this: FIBA has been dying to get American viewers interested in this tournament, and the one way they can do it next summer is by giving the American fans a small taste of Wiggins. Canada can field a team of five NBA starters, too, including Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Nicholson and Cory Joseph. They have some other youngsters in their junior program that will make them medal contenders at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
9. The Pelicans will make the playoffs
Basically, there are two spots up for grabs from last year’s playoff field – the one that went to the Lakers, and the one that went to the Nuggets. The Lakers will be in Tankapalooza mode even before they trade Gasol, so we can count them out, and the Nuggets will be without Danilo Gallinari at the start of the season after losing Andre Iguodala and Kosta Koufos from their starting lineup and Masai Ujiri and George Karl from their team hierarchy. So who is in contention for those two spots? I’m telling you, the Pelicans are one of them. Anthony Davis is on his way to becoming the NBA’s best American-born center, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are outstanding additions, and Ryan Anderson can light it up like he did back in Orlando now that he is surrounded by other players who can break down defenses and kick out to an open teammate at the 3-point line. I’ve got them sneaking/surging into the No. 8 spot with a great finishing kick in April.
10. SheridanHoops will have a monster November
The wheels are in motion for a one-month (maybe longer) relocation of the home office from New York to Las Vegas, so I can put my money where my mouth is. Deals still must be finalized with sponsors and co-bettors, but my plan is to take 10K of my own money, put it together with 10K of a partner’s money, gamble on NBA games every day and night (East Coast early games start at 4 p.m. Vegas time), and write about it throughout the month in diary form. The goal is to turn the 20K into 40K by Dec. 1, and who knows what will happen from there. People pay good money to good touts, so that is a possibility. Losing every last cent is a possibility, too, which (as we all have heard) is why they build great big casinos on The Strip. But every once in a while you need to take a big gamble in life, and this is the one I am leaning toward. No mainstream writer has ever undertaken such a project, combining journalism with NBA sports betting. Mark Cuban predicted something like this long ago when BlogMaverick was in its infancy.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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