The NBA is back! Teams and arenas are starting to get back to somewhat normal with full crowds from the start this season. The season is back to starting and ending on time with a full schedule of games for each team.

But that doesn’t mean all is normal, several cities (LA, San Francisco and New York) have indoor vaccine mandates that require all players on the home team to be vaccinated (why it excludes the visitors doesn’t really make sense to me if it is really a health and safety law, but I digress). Kyrie Irving is the only player on those impacted teams sticking to his guns and refusing to get the vaccine and therefore stands to lose about $17 million (not that he needs it). At least the Nets are not letting him be a part-time, road only, player, that would set a terrible precedent and unwanted distraction.

The Nets division rival, Philadelphia 76ers, are also dealing with a holdout distraction, but for completely different reasons. Ben Simmons is refusing to be apart of the 76ers anymore and has started racking major fines as a result.

Simmons baffles me. He plays as bad as possible during last year’s playoffs and rightfully gets booed as a result. That hurts his feelings, so he demands a trade. The 76ers rightfully don’t want to take pennies on the dollar for a star player so they don’t find a trade that works out. Now they are at an impasse, Simmons wants out, the 76ers aren’t letting him out. Simmons has 4 years left on his very large max contract. The 76ers are happy to just fine him and not pay him while he holds out. This is the diva attitude of star players that drives me crazy. You’re paid to play, play. If you work on your game in the off-season so you can actually shoot, maybe you won’t get booed.

In the west, the Lakers got older by acquiring Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza. Let’s see if that works out for them over a full 82 game season. They did add some youth with Kendrick Nunn and Malik Monk, so we will see.

Now on to the predictions:

Atlantic Division:
Brooklyn Nets
Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks
Boston Celtics
Toronto Raptors
Central Division:  
Milwaukee Bucks
Chicago Bulls
Indiana Pacers
Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons
Southeast Division:  
Miami Heat
Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Hornets
Washington Wizards
Orlando Magic
Northwest Division:  
Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz
Portland Trail Blazers
Minnesota Timberwolves
Oklahoma City Thunder
Pacific Division:  
Phoenix Suns
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Sacramento Kings
Southwest Division:  
Dallas Mavericks
New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies
San Antonio Spurs
Houston Rockets


Eastern Conference:  
1. Bucks
2. Nets
3. Heat
4. 76ers
5. Hawks
6. Knicks
7. Celtics*
8. Hornets*
9. Bulls*
10. Pacers*
*Play-in tournament
Western Conference:  
1. Nuggets
2. Suns
3. Lakers
4. Jazz
5. Mavericks
6. Warriors
7. Blazers*
8. Clippers*
9. Pelicans*
10. Grizzlies*
*Play-in tournament

Eastern Conference Finals: Bucks over Heat
Western Conference Finals: Lakers over Nuggets
NBA Finals: Lakers over Bucks

MVP: Kevin Durant (Nets)
Rookie of the Year: Jalen Green (Rockets)
Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers (76ers)
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
Sixth Man of the Year: Derrick Rose (Knicks)
Most Improved: Kevin Porter Jr. (Rockets)
Executive of the Year: Pat Riley (Heat)

Hot Take: Ben Simmons will not get traded this season.

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