LOTTERY TEAMS (FROM WORST TO JUST MISSING PLAYOFFS)
1. Phoenix- Won’t be surprised to see Nash hurt or traded and this team desperately needs him.
2. Minnesota- Not buying the hype. They lost 14 straight and were 4-25 in their last 29 last season.
3. Charlotte- Michael Jordan might be a worse GM than Isiah Thomas. Jordan wisely hired Rich Choo to make fixes to this team, but not this year.
4. Cleveland- I like Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. Getting back Sideshow Bob helps, but the wings are terrible.
5. Golden State- Mama, there goes that man. By that man, I mean Monta Ellis, who isn’t long for the Bay Area.
6. New Orleans- Hornets lose not just CP3, but David West too. Eric Gordon will score big, but who else scares you? And without Paul, nobody will make the other pieces better.
7. New Jersey- I would have had them higher if not for Brook Lopez’s broken foot. They may finish even lower than this.
8. Toronto- They’ll play more defense this season, but not enough to matter.
9. Washington- They’ll play no defense this season (other than JaVale McGee), but they are putting together pieces to be a playoff threat in 2012. John Wall should be fantastic. I hope Jan Veseley doesn’t cheat on his girlfriend. Any chick that lays one on that thick on draft night must be a little bit crazy, right?
10. Utah- They’ll be a playoff contender, but just don’t scare me with CJ Miles and Gordon Hayward manning the wings.
11. Sacramento- I feel like I am out on a limb that could break, but aren’t the Kings one of the most talented young teams in basketball??? Evans, Cousins, Hickson, Thornton, Fredette. They should score a ton, but might just be too selfish.
12. Detroit- Too small to make the playoffs, but under new leadership, should make strides forward.
13. Atlanta- Surprised to see us here? No depth in a shortened season scares me. Plus I think they’ll play closer to the team that went 11-20 down the stretch than the one that upset the Magic and pushed the Bulls.
14. Portland- The toughest omission…by far. There are 9 solid teams in the West, and the Blazers fall in at number nine. Camby and Kurt Thomas are their centers with Oden hurt, again. Brandon Roy is gone. LaMarcus Aldridge is having heart problems. Crash is, well, crash. Felton might be out of shape. Just too many things for me to worry about.
1. Miami- Still have LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, plus are deeper and healthier this season with Battier and Haslem in the fold. They will battle with OKC and Chicago for the most wins.
2. Chicago- Had the best record in the East last season, and could again with the best 12-man roster in the NBA. Rip should be a great addition giving them one more legit offensive threat.
3. Orlando- The Magic won’t trade and shouldn’t trade Dwight Howard, and if they don’t, I think they’ll be solid. I believe they’ll swing a deal at some point during the season, not for a superstar, but for someone that could help them out.
4. Indiana- Assuming David West gets back to full health, I really like how Larry Bird has pieced together this basketball team. Their depth and young legs will do them well this year.
5. Boston- The Celtics are old and have no depth. Other than that, how are things? Boston has feasted early in seasons past, and then faded late. They started 22-5 and 23-4 the last two years before wearing out. I won’t be surprised if they finish lower because they just become content making the playoffs and being healthy.
6. Philadelphia- The Sixers really began to gel late last season, and have a young, talented nucleus, and are well coached. They are without a true star, but Doug Collins has good players who will play hard and he’ll get the most out of them.
7. New York- Best frontline in basketball. Terrific. But a condensed season with Amare and Chandler having injury histories and no depth, and no backcourt to speak of scare me to death. They’ll be more of a threat in the playoffs if everyone is upright in April.
8. Milwaukee- Scott Skiles will get his team to play hard and play defense, plus they have a deep, well-rounded roster, that will serve them well in a shortened season.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Chicago over Miami in 6
1. Oklahoma City- After the Perkins trade that made them bigger with Perk and Ibaka moving into the starting lineup, they found their stride, and rode that momentum into the WCF. With Dallas’ losses, and the Lakers cheapness they have moved into the drivers seat out West.
2. Memphis- They went 34-19 after Christmas, most of which without Rudy Gay. They figured out Tony Allen’s defense could make a difference, and it did. Now getting back Gay, their lineup improves. They lack depth up front with Darrell Arthur’s season-ending injury, but should flip OJ Mayo for a big guy and be good.
3. LA Lakers- I thought about dropping them further, but I think I’d be foolish to doubt Kobe. If he plays through his injury with success, there is no reason to think the Lakers won’t be great again. I hate the trade of Lamar Odom. I do like the additions of Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts, and Steve Blake looks ready to bounce back.
4. Dallas- The Mavs loss of Tyson Chandler will prevent them from going back-2-back…unless they make a trade, which they most definitely could. They’ve set themselves up with a ton of cap space for next year to make a run at Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, so they’ll want to be careful about messing that up. They have great depth everywhere on the roster but center and should make a run at the top record in the NBA this year during the regular season.
5. LA Clippers- How good can they be? I think the Clips will be one of the major storylines this season. What I love about them is that they have 4 point guards that will play (CP3, Mo, Billups, and Foye) and I like good passing teams. They’ll create good shots for themselves every night. The addition of Caron Butler gives them another scorer. Blake Griffin is a selfless superstar. They have at least 6 guys that could score 20 any given night.
6. Denver- Even with half their team in China, the Nuggets should be a fun, fast-paced team. Knicks fans will be cursing every night they see Danilo Gallinari on the highlights wishing they had just waited to sign Carmelo after the season if they could have kept Danillo.
7. Houston- Sammy Dalembert will be a big help to a team with a nice mix of young and veteran talent. They are surely distraught and ticked over David Stern’s decision, but still should have a nice season.
8. San Antonio- From the top to the bottom, and almost out of the playoffs. It’s possible I’ve overreacted dropping them this far, but it’s also possible that the difference between 1-8 could be very small in terms of games back, which I think it will be.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Oklahoma City over LA Lakers in 7
Oklahoma City over Chicago in 6
MVP- Kevin Durant, OKC
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
Most Improved: Danilo Gallinari, Denver
6th Man of the Year: James Harden, OKC