Will Kobe Retire? Will OKC Win the Title? Bold Predictions for NBA Season Ahead

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterOctober 26, 2015

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) during the first half of Game 6 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago on Thursday, May 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

What's even better than a crystal ball? A crystal calendar.

With the 2015-16 NBA season opening Tuesday night, B/R offers a key-date-by-key-date look at what is to come in the months ahead…

Oct. 27

The energized Bulls beat the snot out of the disjointed Cavaliers on opening night at the United Center, 106-88. Jimmy Butler scores 20 first-half points, LeBron James gets into foul trouble and Kevin Love shoots 8-of-22 from the field.

And Derrick Rose doesn't suffer any new injuries!

Oct. 28

ANDY KING/Associated Press

At Kevin Garnett's poignant request, the Timberwolves leave an empty seat on the near side of their bench in honor of Flip Saunders.

During the game, though, Julius Randle outshines Karl-Anthony Towns, D'Angelo Russell, Andrew Wiggins and Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers open with a 101-93 victory over Minnesota at Staples Center.

Afterward, Garnett says, "Randle was playing his first full NBA game? That's already a beast right there."

Nov. 9

The Warriors lose to the visiting Pistons, allowing Andre Drummond to go wild for 26 points and 24 rebounds. The defeat drops Golden State to 3-5.   

Following the loss, Draymond Green says, "Teams are going to give us their best shot. We're the champs. Everyone wants to beat us. It's no surprise. We'll pick it up."

Nov. 20

Axel Schmidt/Associated Press

The Jazz go into Dallas and physically own the Mavericks, outrebounding them, 50-24. Dirk Nowitzki plays 25 minutes and doesn't get a single rebound.

The Jazz soon displace the Pelicans as the up-and-coming team everyone is talking about in the West. The Mavericks start to fall out of the playoff picture early as they stagger through their first 22 games, 14 of which are on the road.

This gives Mark Cuban a lot of time to hatch trade scenarios to worsen his team and keep his top-seven-protected pick that will otherwise go to Boston from the Rajon Rondo trade.

Nov. 25

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 23:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball against Ramon Sessions #7 of the Washington Wizards at the Centre Bell on October 23, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

LeBron James looks like he's just going through the motions as the Raptors rout the Cavaliers, 98-80.

After Kyle Lowry goes off for 24 points and 10 assists, Toronto fans are set to make another epic All-Star push for their stud floor general, particularly with the game at Air Canada Centre this season (voting won't begin for another two weeks, though).

Asked about Lowry's trimmed-down physique, James says, "He looks great. Looks like he's eating right. Other guys have time to work on stuff. I've been playing in the Finals every year."

Nov. 26

Trimmed-down, eating-right Kyle Lowry is happy to be in Canada to avoid being tempted by a Thanksgiving feast (Canadian Thanksgiving takes place the second Monday in October).

Dec. 3

Ronda Churchill/Associated Press

The Celtics play the Kings in Mexico City in an NBA Global Games showcase. Rajon Rondo is averaging just 8.1 points on 39.3 percent shooting—worse scoring numbers than he posted for the Celtics last season before his trade to Dallas…but the Kings are winning. They improve to 13-7 with a 108-89 victory over the Celtics.

Asked about the Celtics, Rondo says. "I'm smarter than everyone in that organization. Well, I'm smarter than everyone in this organization, too, but you asked me about them."

Dec. 10

The NBA All-Star ballot is released. With Kobe Bryant playing small forward this season, he moves into the frontcourt section of the ballot—creating the likely scenario whereby he finishes in the top three there to land a starting spot while Stephen Curry and James Harden, via popularity and performance, can rightfully take the two starting guard positions.

ONTARIO, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors on October 08, 2015 at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

Bryant appears as a guest on the Dan Patrick Show and is asked, "True or false, Kobe: Now that you and Dwight Howard are in the same category in the West frontcourt, you will finish with a million more votes than Dwight."

Laughing, Bryant replies, "Oh, that's a lock right there, Dan. Mamba Army don't mess around. And Dwight's army? Would you want to be in a foxhole with that guy?"

Dec. 16

Mitch McGary (25 points) and Dion Waiters (22) combine to outscore Kevin Durant (20) and Russell Westbrook (16) in the Thunder's 109-89 victory over the Trail Blazers.

Part of it is Billy Donovan resting Durant and Westbrook for a game at Cleveland the next night. But part of it is that the Oklahoma City bench, with Enes Kanter and D.J. Augustin being valuable contributors every night, is flat-out better than anyone imagined.

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 13:  (L-R) Blake Griffin #44, DeMarcus Cousins #36 and Dwight Howard of the 2015 USA Basketball Men's National Team laugh on the bench during a USA Basketball showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nev
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Jan. 16 

The Clippers beat the Kings, 112-106, at Staples Center, with Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins each taking eight three-point shots as Griffin continues to grow his game and Cousins enjoys his license under George Karl (Griffin hits three; Cousins hits one).

All of last season, Griffin shot just 10-of-25 on threes, and Cousins shot 2-of-8. No coincidence: Griffin and Cousins had a three-point shooting contest after one summer practice in Las Vegas during the USA Basketball minicamp.

Jan. 21

LOS ANGELES CA - OCTOBER 20: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors signs an autograph before the start of the pre-season basketball gamer against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center October 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

NBA All-Star voting results are announced, and Stephen Curry is the top vote-getter for the second consecutive year.

Kobe Bryant: 1,408,024. Dwight Howard: 241,208.

Jan. 23

The second meeting of the season takes place between the Bulls and the Cavaliers. This time in Cleveland.

And the Bulls beat the snot out of the Cavaliers again, 103-86.

Newcomer Fred Hoiberg, his neatly spaced offense zipping right along, is well on course to be named NBA Coach of the Year.

The loss, however, is a wake-up call for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Feb. 14

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Eastern Conference in action against the Western Conference during the 2015 NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden on February 15, 2015 in New York City. The Western Conf
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Never one to minimize a big stage and healthy enough to showcase all his moves, Carmelo Anthony scores 30 points and is named NBA All-Star MVP.

The honor just adds to the shine from Anthony leading the Knicks to some respectability. They have a 22-33 record, already five more victories than all of last season.

Matt Barnes has his kids over during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. Derek Fisher is not invited.

Feb. 18

At the NBA trade deadline, with Byron Scott playing Lou Williams 27 minutes a night and Nick Young zero, the Lakers send Young to the Hornets for a future second-round pick.

With Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum playing far more efficiently than last season, the Hornets are surprisingly within striking distance of a playoff berth.

Young promises to shoot 40 percent on threes for Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who promises in return to let Swaggy raid MJ's personal shoe collection if he comes through.

Feb. 24

Gerald Green scores 50 points in the Heat's 129-120 victory over the Warriors, moving to the head of the Sixth Man of the Year race.

Feb. 25

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Joakim Noah tells reporters in Chicago, "If you guys vote for Gerald Green for Sixth Man just for his dunks and threes instead of my 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists off the bench every night and all my defense for a better team, you don't understand basketball at all."

March 8

Kawhi Leonard becomes just the second player to post a five-by-five game in the past 10 seasons (at least five points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks), leading the Spurs to a 91-80 victory in Minnesota. Leonard has 21 points, six assists, eight rebounds, seven steals and five blocks.

Leonard's best and longest quote after the game: "Pretty cool."

March 23

In the final meeting of the season against the rival Clippers, Stephen Curry falls awkwardly after colliding with Lance Stephenson and sprains his left knee, although Curry's once-problematic ankle holds up with the help of his sturdy brace. Curry misses the next 10 games, not returning for the regular-season finale, further disrupting the rhythm of Golden State's season.

Chris Paul has 12 assists and helps the Clippers to a 105-99 victory. But after playing all 82 games last season, Paul has already missed 22 games this season because of injury.

April 5

BROOKLYN, NY - OCTOBER 18:  Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball against the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game on October 18, 2015 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Jahlil Okafor enhances his case for Rookie of the Year when he pours in 25 points, mostly against the defense of New Orleans' Anthony Davis, in the 76ers' 98-94 victory over the Pelicans.

It is, however, only the Sixers' 15th victory of the season.

April 13

Kobe Bryant scores 18 points—a far cry from 81, but not too shabby—against the Jazz on the final day of the regular season. Nine of the points come via Bryant's three three-pointers—one for each of the three-pointers he air-balled in overtime against the Jazz back in those 1997 playoff games.

After the game, Bryant takes to his Facebook page in the wee hours of the evening to announce he is retiring from the NBA.

May 2

James Harden is the 2015-16 NBA MVP. He averages 28.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.0 rebounds—all increases from last season despite the trade arrival of Ty Lawson in Houston—while dramatically lowering his turnovers per game from 4.0 to 3.2.

And the media folks love a good narrative, so Harden's avenging his MVP defeat to Stephen Curry works quite neatly.

June 19

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 13:  (L-R) Russell Westbrook #0 and Kevin Durant celebrate a 105-104 win against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 13, 2014 in
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Thunder beat the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, 103-96.

Russell Westbrook is NBA Finals MVP. Kevin Durant says he will re-sign with Oklahoma City.

LeBron James drops to 2-5 in championship series and is left reiterating exactly what he said on media day back in late October: "Every year that you lose in the Finals, it gets worse and worse."

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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