Looking Back on Preseason NBA Predictions

Managing Sports Editor Hedi Skali ’25 predicts Paolo Banchero will win Rookie of the Year, while Luka Doncic’s MVP candidacy has been hindered by the Mavericks’ offseason moves.

Rookie of the Year

Earlier this year, I picked Paolo Banchero to be the Rookie of the Year. He played exceptionally well in the NBA’s Summer League, and more importantly, he was the No. 1 pick of the 2022 draft. So it’s not like I picked an underdog. Still, at this point in the season, Banchero is pretty clearly the favorite to win the award, with Vegas even having him at over (-3000). I initially thought Keegan Murray would be the one to challenge him for the award, especially after earning the Summer League MVP Award. While Murray has definitely become a superb complementary piece for the Sacramento Kings, adding excellent 3-point shooting and isolation defense, his counterpart Banchero is leading his own team, and averaging 20 points per game. At the beginning of the season, Benedict Mathurin started making some noise with a few 30-bombs. For a time, it seemed like Mathurin had, in a way, backed up his insane “Lebron is going to have to show me he’s better than me” statement, especially with his 23 points against the Lakers, outscoring Lebron himself. At this point, in his last 15 games, Mathurin has come down to a cool 14 points per game, taking him out of the race. It’s hard to put into words, but it goes beyond the numbers for Banchero. He plays like a veteran — like he isn’t only a year older than me. Paolo will win Rookie of the Year, and I called it.

Most Valuable Player

My preseason MVP pick was not as successful as the last one. Luka Doncic finds himself around fifth place in Vegas’s odds. My initial logic was based on the idea that the Mavericks’ offseason moves would make them one of the top teams in the Western Conference, adding to Luka’s career MVP-like numbers. However, the two major moves they made, frankly, did not pan out. On paper, adding Javale McGee would’ve been the exact rim protection this team needed, however, he fell out of the rotation after quite literally eight games. Christian Wood, on the other hand, needed to be costar and at least a serviceable defender. Those things also did not happen. Thus, the Mavericks were left with the same problems as they had last year, minus (should’ve been) All-Star Jalen Brunson. Doncic has still carried his team to a 33-32 record, good enough to be only three games behind the fourth seed. While he definitely has MVP numbers, other candidates are still playing at a similar level and holding the top seeds in their respective conferences. Jokic is leading in Vegas by a lot, however, I personally believe Giannis or Embiid deserves it more. I did say an international player would win the award, so I guess I got pretty close to being right.

NBA Championship

I picked my Boston Celtics to win the chip this year, and after starting off the season 21-5, the pick seemed golden. Now, the Celtics have recently lost three games in a row and even fallen out of the first seed they held the entire year. The spoiled Boston fan inside of me thinks we are now destined to become a lottery team, however, Vegas still has Boston as the odds-on favorite to win the championship. Bias aside, the NBA is probably the most unpredictable it’s been in forever, which makes for incredible TV but makes it impossible for college sports journalists to be right about their takes. Nevertheless, I do believe Boston is the deepest team in the league, but I am worried about the variance that comes with a team that relies so much on three-point shooting. If the Celtics can at least revert to their old defensive ways, I wouldn’t mind a stagnant offense once in a while — they just need to become tougher, both physically and mentally. Overall, I still think my preseason pick was the right one. However, if I were Vegas, the Phoenix Suns would be the favorites. Adding the greatest plug-and-play athlete in NBA history has already led to three straight victories for Phoenix, and it has allowed Devin Booker to flourish into a different beast since teams can no longer double-team him. I love Jokic and Giannis, but to me, Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the league and has made an incredible step defensively that I believe could finally bolster Phoenix to their first-ever title. Or not. After all, Jayson Tatum exists.