October 25, 2010

NBA Preview

    The 2010-11 NBA season brings many story lines, perhaps more then usual. The biggest is all the new faces in new places after the free agent frenzy.

    Without further wait, here is my NBA season predictions.


Atlantic Division

1. Boston Celtics
    The Celtics are an old team. The big three that brought home the championship three years ago are all in there mid-30s. Rajon Rondo is the only young player on the team who can really make a big difference. Bringing in Shaquille O'neal will help them sell tickets, but not win games. This division is weak, and the Celtics still can cruise to the playoffs. There still might be some gas left in the tank of the Celtics big three plus one.

2. Philadelphia 76ers
    The 76ers have great young players and a great back court. Evan Turner, the teams #2 pick, has a very bright future with the 76ers. Jrue Holiday is a great point guard that brings strength to the back-court. But the post is weak for this team. Elton Brand is old and has been a bust after coming from the Clippers. Spencer Hawes was brought in form Sacramento to help. This team has a solid chance at the playoffs only if the post can play consistently.

3. New York Knicks
    While the Knicks were not able to bring in LeBron, they did get Amare Stoudemire from Phoenix and made him the face of this franchise. The Knicks also seem to be a top contender in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, and if he comes to this team early, the Knicks could get one of the top spots in the East. For now though, the Knicks are a better team, and a low seed in the playoffs is very much in reach.

4. New Jersey Nets
    While only 12 wins last season may give the impression that the Nets were only capable of reaching that win total, the statement is hardly true. This team was hit by the injury bug harder than almost any team ever, and that's what led to the awful record. The Nets, now healthy, are a much better team, and a possible 25-30 win improvement is in reach and maybe even a playoff push. But they still might be a year away.

5. Toronto Raptors
    With Chris Bosh leaving to go down to South Beach, and Hedo Turkoglu being one of the biggest busts in team history, the Raptors are in heavy rebuilding mode. This team will not post many wins at all and will need to make big changes this off-season to get back to the top. Raptors fans need to look forward to the draft for a top 5 lottery pick.

Central Division

1. Chicago Bulls
    While the Bulls did not get Dwayne Wade from Miami (and feel cheated as to many other teams, especially Cleveland) they did improve. Carlos Boozer joins Derrick Rose and should compete for the East. Chicago also is in the 'Melo sweepstakes it seems, and if they can grab him, will become much better. Carlos Boozer is injured for the first few weeks though.

2. Milwaukee Bucks
    The Bucks are improving, and Brandon Jennings is leading this team full of good players, but not yet superstar players. Correy Maggette is a scorer and John Salmons is underrated. But even so they are a lock for the playoffs, and could get by the first round. The Bucks are a dark horse in the East.

3. Detroit Pistons
    They have changed their identity and are no longer a defensive team. They are offensive-minded with a lot of players who can score. On any given night, if they have it going, they can beat anybody. Rodney Stucky is underrated and can really help this team win. Chris Wilcox and Tayshaun Prince will be traded by the deadline, and this team is building for the future.

4. Indiana Pacers
    The Pacers feature one star player in Danny Granger, but have no one else that is near his caliber. Darren Collison can play, as can Roy Hibbert, but there still is not enough help here for Granger. They need to bring in more help if they expect to win. For now, it is just the Granger show.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers
    The Cavaliers lost LeBron, and at the same time lost all talent on this team. If you want to know just how good LeBron James is by himself, you will see this year. With LeBron. the Cavs won 61 games. With virtually the same team, but minus LeBron, expect a 60 loss team. But LeBron James could not win a championship by himself, so he went to Miami. For the Cavs, this season will be unbearable. Stick it out Cavs fans, and get ready for December 2nd, when James comes to Cleveland. But Mo Williams and Antwan Jameson will try to salvage this season.

Southeast Division

1. Miami Heat
    The biggest story line of the off-season was no doubt Chris Bosh and LeBron James leaving Canada and Ohio to come down to Florida and join Wade to win a championship. Apparently James could not win one by himself and be mentioned in the likes of Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Chamberlin. LeBron blew his chance, and will be the side kick with Bosh to Dwayne Wade and try to win a championship the easy way. Either way, the Heat are now arguably the top team in the NBA. And anything less then a championship win will be a failure for this city and team.

2. Orlando Magic
    Orlando is no longer the best team in the Southeast, but they still are a good team. Led by Dwight Howard, they have a very legitimate chance to return to the finals. Brandon Bass has been having a very good preseason, and we will see if that can translate to the regular season. The Magic are better then people think, and have a great shot at beating the Heat to get to the finals. But assuming the Magic and Celtics grab the #2 and #3 seeds in the East, and then win the first round series, can Orlando stop Boston and get to the Eastern Conference Finals and possibly another NBA Finals?

3. Atlanta Hawks
    Atlanta insisted on signing Joe Johnson this off-season. And while Joe Johnson is good, he is not worth a $119 million contract. This is one of the worst signings in NBA history. Not because of the player, but because of money. But while they will have Johnson, and great other players in Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Jamal Crawford, the Hawks can compete. They are a definite playoff team.

4. Washington Wizards
    The Wizards drafted star rookie John Wall out of Kentucky. However, there is one problem no one seems to be considering, Wall is a true point guard and is not very effective at shooting guard. The same goes for Gilbert Arenas. Still, the Wizards couldn't pass up Wall, even though #2 pick Evan Turner is a better fit for their team. Washington has some good, but not great players, in Josh Howard, Kirk Hinrich, and Al Thorton. The Wizards are still a good team, and can win games. However they will probably just miss the cut for the playoffs. 

5. Charlotte Bobcats
    The Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time in team history last year, a goal they have been working on for all six years of existence. But now that the goal has been reached, this off-season set them back as they lost talent, including one of the best players on the team, Raymond Felton. The Bobcats will most likely go back to the bottom of the Southeast division and will have to restart to get back into the playoffs.


Southwest Division

1. San Antonio Spurs
   The Spurs remind me of the Celtics. They have a big three in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. While still a good trio, age is a growing concern, especially for Duncan and Ginobili. But for now, like Boston, they have gas left in the tank. San Antonio also has a solid bench in George Hill, and DeJuan Blair. Rookie James Anderson from Oklahoma State will help them. The Spurs are still a force and are already on the right track, getting younger. When Duncan and Ginobili (both in mid-30's) are no longer a big contributors to San Antonio's success, the Spurs will keep on winning with all the young talent coming in now and being mentored by the best.

2. Dallas Mavericks
    The Mavericks feel they can still win and compete in the division and win the West with this team. That is the main reason they made re-signing Dirk Nowitzki the number one priority this off-season. Caron Butler and Jason Kidd made a good team last year, and now they can have a full season together. Tyson Chandler and Brendon Hayward will help add to this team's rebound total. Bottom line, this team will make the playoffs, but avoiding an early loss in the playoffs will be tough.

3. Houston Rockets

    Yao Ming is back after missing the whole season last year. Even without the star center, they were able to be above .500, and just missed the playoffs. Aaron Brooks is a rising star at point guard, and Kevin Martin is a very underrated player. Kyle Lowry and Courtney Lee make them one of the deepest teams in the league. The Rockets are back, and very well could get past the first round of the playoffs. Don't sleep on the Rockets. They can surprise this season.

4. Memphis Grizzles
    The Grizzles are one of the youngest teams in the league, and very well could surprise this year. Mike Conley may be a bust to this point, but Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Mark Gasol make this team good. The bench could use some depth to make this team better. Team chemistry is also a concern as it could be stronger. When Rudy Gay plays good, does anyone else on the team? No one seems to be making anyone else better. But if they can change that, and add some depth, this team will be ready to compete in the West.

5. New Orleans Hornets
    Chris Paul is a player that could very well be traded soon with Denver's Carmelo Anthony. I think Paul will be traded at the deadline to an Eastern Conference team. The Orlando Magic seem like a good fit. For the Hornets, this season won't be anything special. Not much was added, or lost. Jerryd Bayless was added in exchange for a first round pick and will add a scoring threat. But the Hornets can expect another 30 win season.

Northwest Division

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
     The Thunder have quickly become one of the most exiting teams to watch in the NBA, and also the youngest team. The average age on the active roster is 24 years old. Only one player, Morris Peterson, 33, is over 30 years old. Kevin Durant is already a top 5 player in the league, and could become the best player in the NBA once Kobe Bryant retires. The Thunder will be winning titles soon and I would not be surprised for a dynasty to start soon. Surprised by the bold predictions? Don't be. This team is legit and is ready to win, now. A little more experience and a title will find its way to Oklahoma City.

2. Portland Trail Blazers 
    Brandon Roy is a great player, and is the face of this team. The Blazers are a very active team and are always trying to improve. They have the mentality of a winning franchise, but injuries are still a huge concern  and really held them back last season. If  Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, and Andre Miller can stay healthy, the Blazers will make a deep playoff run. 

3. Utah Jazz
    With Carlos Boozer leaving for Chicago, Al Jefferson was brought in from Minnesota and should definitely be able to replace him. Deron Williams is still a great player and one of the leagues top point guards. Mehmet Okur's health is big to the Jazz's success. The Jazz still can grab a playoff spot, and should not play any worse then last year. But they will still probably not do any better.

4. Denver Nuggets
    The Nuggets are not going to get much back for Carmelo Anthony, who has about a 99% chance of being traded by the deadline. Perhaps even sooner. If he leaves, the Nuggets will plum-it and miss the playoffs. Chauncey Billups can not lead this team himself. The Nuggets will try to win as much as they can before they are forced to trade Carmelo, and then look towards the draft and off season. 

5. Minnesota Timberwolves
    There is not much is to be happy about in Minnesota. But three things are good: Kevin Love is a very good player and should have a long career, Wesley Johnson has great potential, and finally, Michael Beasley was traded to the T-Wolves. This is his chance to prove he is not a bust and that he and Derrick Rose were both great draft picks. I believe Beasley can become great and revamp his career.

Pacific Division

1. Los Angeles Lakers
     The Lakers are coming off back-2-back championships, and they seem ready to go for the three-peat. Kobe Bryant continues to be the best player in the NBA. Pau Gasol is playing like an all-star. Ron Artest, Shannon Brown, and Lamar Odom add great depth to the Lakers roster. The Lakers made great moves in the off-season by bringing in Steve Blake and Matt Barnes. This team is serious about winning it all again, and I would not be surprised at all if they do.

2. Phoenix Suns
    Steve Nash is still one of the best point guards in the NBA, and is a for sure Hall of Famer. The Suns will struggle this year. It will be the first time in awhile that Phoenix has had a down year. But the loss of Amare Stoudemire will really hurt them. They have not yet filled the gap left by him. Due to this, scoring will be a problem. And loosing Leonardo Barbosa is not good as he was one of the best scorers on the team. The Suns obviously have faith in Hedo Turkoglu to score, but I don't see it. The Suns still can make the playoffs, but it will not be easy.

3. Sacramento Kings
    The Kings are building for the future, and so far, so good. Tyreke Evans is a great player whose potential is off the charts. In the draft this off-season, DeMarcus Cousins was drafted by Sacramento with the 5th overall pick. Cousins and Evans should be an outstanding combo someday. The rest of the Kings are still a work in progress. For now, they will play this season out and get what they can.

4. Los Angeles Clippers 
    Blake Griffin is finally ready to play and fully healthy. He has played great in the preseason and looks prepared for this regular season. He may even be able to lead the Clippers to the playoffs. If Eric Gordon, Chris Kamen, and Baron Davis, as well as Blake Griffen, all play first class basketball, the Clippers have a shot. This division is wide open behind the Lakers. And we will see if the Clippers are serious about making the playoffs.

5. Golden State Warriors
    The Warriors will not be a good team this year, but they are getting there. They need more talent. Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis are good players, but experience will really help them. David Lee picked Golden State out of all teams for his next destination. But he is really the only good forward on the team. Bottom line, Golden State still has a long way to go.


Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder
Defensive Player of Year: Dwight Howard, C, Magic
Rookie Of Year: Wesley Johnson, PG, Timberwolves
6th Man Of Year: Manu Ginobli, SG, Spurs
Most Improved Player: Lamar Odom, PF, Lakers
Coach Of Year: Gregg Popovich, Spurs


Eastern Conference (number indicates playoff seed)

1-Heat over 8-Knicks 4-1
5-Hawks over 4-Bulls 4-3
3-Celtics over 6-Bucks 4-1
2-Magic over 7-76ers 4-0

1-Heat over 5-Hawks 4-2
2-Magic over 3-Celtics 4-3

1-Heat over 2-Magic 4-2

Western Conference (number indicates playoff seed)

1-Lakers over 8-Jazz 4-1
4-Trail Blazers over 5-Mavericks 4-3
3-Thunder over 6-Rockets 4-1
2-Spurs over 7-Suns 4-0

1-Lakers over 4-Trail Blazers 4-2
2-Spurs over 3-Thunder 4-3

1-Lakers over 2-Spurs 4-0


1-Lakers over 1-Heat 4-2

Finals MVP: Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers, 2011 NBA Champions

    So this how a 15 year old predicts that the NBA season will play out. All ending with the Lakers winning the championship for three straight years. The Los Angeles Lakers will top the Miami Heat and the Heat's big 3 in the Finals.

    The Heat are good, but I feel that the pressure too win the Finals immediately is to much, and the Lakers will be able to win. 
    When making the Eastern Playoffs, deciding who would win between the Celtics and the Magic was difficult. In the end, I feel the Magic will be determined to prove that just because they didn't add any big names, they can win. The Celtics could very well win that series though.
    In the West, when the Thunder and Spurs play I think it comes down to playoff experience. As I said in the Thunder's preview, they are a very young team. They need a little more experience to become more of a playoff contender. 
    While the Spurs are not getting much attention this year, I feel they have a very fair chance to have a great season.
    Kevin Durant is ready for a breakout year. Having one in 2011 will lead him to win his first of many future MVP awards.

    Keep an eye on where Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul are playing at the All Star Break. Both should be traded by then.

   This season will be a good one, and I am exited to see how it all plays out!

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