Monday, October 27, 2008

NBA Season Preview

I've finally gotten a chance to do something productive with this blog and make some predictions before the league I'm talking about actually starts. In my opinion, there are more questions than answers this season in the NBA, but i'm pumped up.

Truthfully, the NFL has been garbage this year, so I'm more ready for the NBA than I think I've ever been in October. Without further ado ...

Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – The time is now for LeBron to put up or shut up. Last season, he snickered and sneered his way to 30, 7 and 7 despite an open disdain for the play of many of his teammates. Now, they seem to be one of the deepest teams in the east. I expect them to make the leap, with King James finally ascending to the NBA’s throne.
2. Boston Celtics – This year, I expect a lot of parity in the NBA for a change. That said, the Celtics and Pistons will probably do what most veteran contender teams do in the NBA; take off the first 1/4 or 1/3 of the season, then turn it on down the stretch.
3. Detroit Pistons – Joe Dumars should’ve blown this team the past few years. The problem is, they are always good enough to finish no worst than third in the East and make a championship run, even though they need a chemistry change to get them back to the top.
4. Miami Heat - D. Wade is back, and he has a nice mix of youth and experience with him. If they pick up the pace (which they should sans Riley), they can easily take control of the weakest division in the NBA.
5. Toronto Raptors - The 4th best team in the East is here only because of NBA alignment rules. The pick up of Jermaine O’Neal shows an interesting potential rift between coach Sam Mitchell (a traditionalist) and Bryan Collangelo (a big fan of the international, fast pace style of ball). J.O. will also relegate more bench time for Andrea Bargnani, who may never live up to his #1 pick potential.
6. Philadelphia 76ers – A good, but not great team with too much hype.
7. Charlotte Bobcats - I don’t know how, but I have a feeling that Larry Brown will find a way to get these guys in the playoffs.
8. Washington Wizards – These next few teams are pretty much interchangeable (and definitely Charlotte at #7 as well), as far as potential. The Wiz have too many injuries to really be a threat, and are married to this bunch of players that doesn’t quite fit for the foreseeable future.
9. Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks have good talent, but an aging Bibby and constant friction between players and the coach, the coach and front office and the front office with each other usually isn’t a good mix for a winning program.
10. Orlando Magic - I might be the only person who has these guys out of the playoffs, but I’m not sold.
11. Indiana Pacers – If they stay healthy, they could easily sneak their way into the playoffs.
12. Chicago Bulls – They need to make some moves quickly to get better fitting parts if they want to make a playoff run this year.
13. New Jersey Nets – Everyone is expecting Vince to mail it in. Also, I’m not that big on the whole Devin Harris going to the next level in New Jersey theory. I saw a stat somewhere that showed his shooting percentage dropped by like 6% after he moved to Jerz. This is because in Dallas he was taking mostly open jump shots and layups. Asked to carry more of the load in New Jersey, he’ll be prone to taking bad shots.
14. New York Knicks – Love D’Antoni, hate this team.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Probably like this team more than most, hate Skiles.

Western Conference

1. New Orleans Hornets – I think Posey puts them over the top. Overall, I think this year will have the most parity/mediocrity in the league in recent history. I expect them to be one of the few dominant teams.
2. LA Lakers – I think the West will be N.O. and the rest. These guys could easily drop lower, with injury and chemistry problems seemingly on the horizon. It would be in their best interest to trade L.O. as soon as possible.
3. Utah Jazz – The Boozer situation could get ugly, and so could the situation with D-Wil’s ankle. If they hold it together and keep Booz or get equal value, they could jump the Lakers.
4. Houston Rockets – T-Mac and Yao are going to get hurt. They will likely be hurt at the same time, at least for a few games, putting the keys in Ron Artest’s hands. This could either validate them as a title contender or validate the critics of the Artest experiment.
5. San Antonio Spurs – They’ll mail in the first half season, especially with Ginobili out for a while, then turn it up after the all-star break. Be prepared to read several articles abut how scary they are in March.
6. Denver Nuggets – Like spots 7-13 in the East, 6-14 is up for grabs in my opinion. The Nuggets have an ugly team but before you put them out of the playoff picture, you have to remember that Melo always makes the playoffs.
7. Dallas Mavericks – Do not be surprised if they don’t make the playoffs, especially when Jason Kidd misses the inevitable 10-15 games.
8. Phoenix Suns – Definitely don’t be surprised if they miss the playoffs. Nash, Shaq, Raja Bell and G. Hill could combine to miss 100 games this year. Even if they all play 82, this team doesn’t fit well together and Nash is essentially a waste in a slow paced offense.
9. LA Clippers – Don’t be surprised if they make the playoffs. They have a team of hardheads, which could be problematic for chemistry, but if B. Diddy stays healthy, the team meshes quickly and Dunleavy gets his rotation in order, they’ll definitely be playing ball well into April.
10. Portland Trailblazers – Too many people on the bandwagon, but should definitely be a playoff team in 09-10.
11. Minnesota Timberwolves – A potential sleeper this year, should be a definite sleeper next year.
12. Sacramento Kings – Ditto.
13. Memphis Grizzlies – Ditto.
14. Golden State Warriors – Ugly, ugly situation in Oaktown. They are definitely “Atlanta Hawks West.” It sucks because they had so much momentum with fan support after they knocked off the Mavs a few years ago.
15. Oklahoma City Liberty – Bad karma from Seattle, worst uniforms in the history of professional sports hands down. I hope they only win 8 games and still miss out on the #1 pick.

MVP – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Coach of the Year – Jerry Sloan, Utah Jazz
ROY – Greg Oden, Portland Trailblazers
6th Man – James Posey, New Orleans Hornets
Most Improved – Jose Calderon, Toronto Raptors
Defensive – Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

C – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
PF – Amare Stoudamire, Phoenix Suns
SF – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
SG – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
PG – Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets



1st Round
def Washington (again); Boston def Charlotte; Philadelphia def Detroit; Toronto def Miami

Conf. Semi’s

def Toronto; Boston def Philadephia

Conf Finals

Cleveland def Boston


1st Round
New Orleans def Phoenix; Lakers def Dallas; Utah def Denver; San Antonio def Houston

Conf Semi’s
New Orleans def San Antonio; Utah def Lakers

Conf Finals
New Orleans def Utah

NBA Finals
New Orleans def Cleveland

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