Tuesday, October 31, 2006

NBA Preview

(Note: x=playoff berth, y=division title, w=home court conference, z=home court throughout)


Atlantic Division

y-New Jersey Nets 48-34

Boston Celtics 32-50

New York Knickerbockers 30-52

Toronto Raptors 28-54

Philadelphia 76ers 25-57

New Jersey’s core of perimeter dynamos—Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, and Jason Kidd—are still enough to win this horrific division. Against the elite of the East, however, the Nets just don’t have the size or interior toughness to compete. Boston is a one-man show, with Paul Pierce surrounded by an ever-changing cast of youngsters. Also, trading what became the rights to Randy Foye for Sebastian Telfair is going to be a mistake, although not a huge one since I can’t see Foye becoming anything beyond solid. New York will be better simply because Isaiah Thomas will stick to a rotation and allow players to develop into roles. Better for New York, however, is still not good. Toronto will score a ton, but will be unable to stop anyone, just like last year. Finally, Philadelphia is doomed to a long year, as I think AI finally decides he’s had enough of killing himself for a lost cause and misses significant time, leaving the season up to a one-legged Chris Webber and Kyle Korver. Have fun with that, Philly.

Southeast Division

y-Miami Heat 51-31

x-Washington Wizards 46-36

x-Orlando Magic 39-43

Atlanta Hawks 28-54

Charlotte Bobcats 28-54

Miami will follow Shaq’s lead as the team will do just enough in the regular season to put themselves into a favorable playoff position (and who can argue with the strategy, since Shaq has been pulling this act since he won his first title). Washington will be improved only because I see Gilbert Arenas having a monster year, elevating himself into sacred Top 5 status. Orlando will have an up-and-down year going with so many youngsters, but should make the playoffs since those youngsters (Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic, and Jameer Nelson) have tons of talent. Atlanta will again regret not drafting a point guard, especially when no one can get laid on road trips because Sheldon Williams’s ugly ass keeps scaring all the girls away. Charlotte will continue to slowly grow towards playoff contention, but are still too inexperienced to make a real push.

Central Division

w-Cleveland Cavaliers 57-25

x-Detroit Pistons 53-29

x-Chicago Bulls 50-32

x-Indiana Pacers 41-41

Milwaukee Bucks 31-51

Cleveland will dominate the regular season behind the somehow-still-improving LeBron James, a healthier Larry Hughes, and any kind of production from Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones. Detroit will fall back a little, but even if they had kept the gang together they weren’t going to match last season’s win total. Chicago will be the most annoying team to watch again, only this year they’ll be even more effective on D with the addition of Ben Wallace. Indiana has decided to reconfigure on the fly, and are a few years away from being back among the elite. I like a lot of Milwaukee’s players individually, but just don’t think they fit together at all. Also, Terry Stotts is their coach.


Midwest Division

z-San Antonio 62-20

x-Dallas Mavericks 59-23

x-New Orleans Hornets 43-39

Houston Rockets 41-41

Memphis Grizzlies 39-43

San Antonio will always be around the 60-win range when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli are healthy. Dallas will continue to hum along, but won’t be quite as good as last year due to Desgana Diop returning to earth a bit. New Orleans makes the playoffs solely on the play of Chris Paul, and Houston misses the playoffs solely due to the health of Tracy McGrady. Memphis just can’t win without Paul Gasol, but at least Rudy Gay may finally make that franchise exciting.

Northwest Division

y-Denver Nuggets 43-39

Minnesota Timberwolves 41-41

Utah Jazz 37-45

Seattle Supersonics 35-47

Portland Trailblazers 16-66

Denver wins the division because of Carmelo Anthony and the continuity the team has enjoyed. Kevin Garnett is inarguably the better player between KG and Anthony, and Garnett’s supporting cast is arguably better, but Minnesota’s roster is just so mish-mashed together I just can’t see that team finding its stride until March, when it will be too late. Utah is more talented and better coached than both Denver and Minnesota but will continue to suffer as long as their front line of Andrei Kerilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur is constantly rotating injuries. Seattle is Toronto times 100: amazing offense, historically bad defense. Portland is too young with too many similar pieces. Plus, they failed to move Darius Miles or Zach Randolph, which should have been priorities one and two, regardless of the value received in return.

Pacific Division

y-Phoenix Suns 58-24

x-LA Clippers 49-33

x-LA Lakers 44-38

x-Sacramento Kings 43-39

Golden State Warriors 38-44

Phoenix should win the whole damn thing if Amare Stoudamire is healthy. The Clippers should have three to four years of solid teams who lose in the second round like the Hawks or Bucks of the 1980s. The Lakers have the league’s best coach (irrefutably) and the league’s best player (debatable, but feasible); therefore, they make the playoffs. Sacramento has a rough transition from finesse offensive juggernaut to gritty defensive pests, but Ron Artest and Mike Bibby make it work. Don Nelson needs an actual offseason to turn Golden State around, but the team will show signs of life.


First Round

Cleveland over Orlando (4-0)

Detroit over Chicago (4-3)

Washington over New Jersey (4-3)

Miami over Indiana (4-3)

San Antonio over New Orleans (4-1)

Dallas over LA Clippers (4-2)

LA Lakers over Denver (4-2)

Phoenix over Sacramento (4-2)

A few upsets, but only in a seeding sense. Washington has the best player on the floor versus a Nets team that runs Eddie Jordan’s offense and the Lakers are much better than the Nuggets (and besides, we all know Kobe likes to get down in Colorado).

Second Round

Cleveland over Detroit (4-3)

Miami over Washington (4-1)

San Antonio over Dallas (4-3)

Phoenix over LA Lakers (4-2)

Cleveland and Detroit continue to build a fierce rivalry while San Antonio and Dallas continue theirs.

Conference Finals

Miami over Cleveland (4-3)

Phoenix over San Antonio (4-3)

Miami and Dewayne Wade out duel LeBron James and the Cavs in a series that the NBA will build off of for the next ten years. Phoenix finally gets over the hump by simply outrunning an aging, tired Tim Duncan.


Phoenix over Miami (4-0)

Phoenix is energized by their first trip to the Finals (I know they went in the 70s and 90s, but I mean this Phoenix team’s first trip) while the Heat—save for Dewayne Wade—are gassed after their grueling series versus Cleveland. Phoenix simply runs the Heat out of the gym.


MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Ben Wallace, Chicago

SIXTH MAN: Bonzi Wells, Houston

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Rudy Gay, Memphis

MOST IMPROVED: Darko Milicic, Orlando

COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Brown, Cleveland

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