Son of Weekend Dime will return to its chatter-y format next week.
With the regular season starting this week, we’ve opted instead here for 10 Fearless Predictions to help prepare you for the ride ahead.
1. The widest of wide-open Most Valuable Player races will inject some much needed drama into the next six months.
San Antonio throttling Golden State by 29 points in the first real game for the Warriors’ Fab Four should have been the first hint that the 2016-17 regular season might not be the straightforward snoozefest so many folks fear.
Another reason to tune into the 82-game prelude to the playoffs: How else are we going to figure out who in the heck should win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy?
Can any of the league’s best solo stars -- Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, etc. -- win enough games with their respective teams to make a run at a trophy that hasn’t been awarded to a player from a sub-50-win-squad since Moses Malone in 1981-82?
Is Kawhi Leonard really just going to keep getting better and better?
Shouldn't everybody in this conversation be concerned that LeBron James, who just happened to uncork the first triple-double on Opening Night since Jason Kidd in 2006, says reclaiming the Podoloff is a goal of his this season?
We just gave you a lot of reasons to stay tuned in between now and April 12.
2. Big men, for the first time in a long time, will be loved and appreciated again.
And those are just the young (or younger) ones.
Size still matters in basketball. A lot. We haven’t been very warm or nurturing to the 7-foot set in recent years -- scrubbing centers from the All-Star ballot is one prominent example -- but look around. Highly skilled and freakishly agile bigs are emerging in so many different cities and bringing some balance back to this world gone trey crazy.
3. The aforementioned Mr. Westbrook will exceed 20 triple-doubles for the season.
While it’s true that we haven’t seen a player cross that threshold for triple-doubles since Wilt Chamberlain rang up 31 back in 1967-68, Angry Russ had 18 of them last season.
He was one assist away from getting there in Philly on Wednesday night.
You don’t think he’s good for three more in his first season uncoupled from KD?
Given that the Thunder went 18-0 in Westbrook’s triple-double games last season, they’ll surely be encouraging him.
4. James Harden is going to do something we haven’t seen for more than 40 years.
Nate Archibald is the only player in NBA history who has led the league in both points per game and assists per game in the same season, pulling that double off for the Kansas City Kings in 1972-73. For all the (valid) questions about the Rockets’ defensive frailties, Harden has a real chance to go Tiny on us.
I suppose you could say the same for Westbrook, but all-too-legit concerns that the Rockets might have to routinely score 120-ish points to win games make Harden's conditions to reach the heights of Tiny Territory as favorable as we've seen for ages.
5. February will be dominated by DeMarcus Cousins speculation.
Can’t promise you that the Kings will actually trade Cousins. If you insist on squeezing a firm prediction out of us on this one, as we speak on Oct. 28, I’d have to say he’ll stay.
Sacramento is determined to make the playoffs this season, or at least a credible playoff run, which somewhat compels the Kings to keep their best player.
But the reality is that Cousins has only one season left on his current contract after this one. If the Kings keep him beyond Feb. 23, they better be sure they can re-sign him, because they’re sure to fetch less in return for Expiring Contract Boogie.
6. Portland is the surest team to make a trade this season.
So keep an eye on them.
The suspicion among numerous league observers is that the Blazers' non-stop spending this past offseason was asset collection as much as anything. Scan through all those names again and it's clear Portland has no shortage of options to thrust itself into all kinds of trade talks as GM Neil Olshey continues to shape the roster around backcourt bedrocks Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
7. Three established names we expect to be dealt are …
8. The Warriors will win a game by 60 points.
That 53-point lead Golden State amassed in the preseason against their old friends from Clipperland gave you a glimpse of what they’re capable of.
Something else that figures to be in play for the Warriors: 90 points in a half.
We haven’t seen that since 1990, when the Suns -- with a rookie out of Cal State Fullerton named Cedric Ceballos rumbling for 32 points in 23 minutes -- erupted for 107 points in the first two quarters in an unforgettable 173-143 trouncing of the Denver Nuggets.
9. But the Warriors will settle for a win total in the low 60s.
Vegas has consistently spit out over/unders in the 66- or 67-win range leading into the season, but the belief here is that Golden State's determination to emphasize freshness over the standings could leave them 10-ish wins shy of last season's historic 73-9 mark.
10. The Warriors and Cavaliers will not meet in the NBA Finals for the third successive June.
We said fearless, not brainless.
Predicting any other outcome, no matter how underwhelming Golden State looked in its opening act, can’t be justified.