Lostradamus' NBA Preview Part 2: Second Season Stuff
So many stories to follow,
so many teams that could potentially make the playoffs. Thereís so much talent in
the NBA today that the quality of the league has improved to what it used to be in
the 80ís, when the league was a lot smaller and there were deeper benches. All
the developing talent is allowing for talented starting 5ís that can make noise,
and while you wonít have the depth of the 80ís, you will have the talent spread
allowing for more teams to have the potential to make noise in April. The East is
no longer a cakewalk, and not just because they have 2 of the last 3 NBA champs.
They have some great rookies (Beasley, Rose), some new acquisitions (Elton Brand),
and already good teams picking up pieces (Cleveland, Toronto). By my count, only
7 teams in the league have zero chance of making the post season: Knicks, Pacers,
Wolves, Thunder(?), Kings, Warriors, and Grizz. Everyone else has at worst a
shot. These playoff races are going to come down to the last week of the regular
season, and seeding in the West wonít be settled until the last
Speaking of which, letís start with the West:
'''1 ñ LA
Lakers:''' Kobe. Pau. Bynum. Christ the Kingís own Lamar Odom off the
bench. In theory, the return of Andrew Bynum should be what the Lakers need to
get them over the edge. It was the Celtics attacking the middle at will (and the
whole giving up thing) that cost them the ring last year. Kobeís eager to prove
he can win without Shaq. Thatís at least good enough to get them the top seed,
'''2 ñ New Orleans Hornets:''' Check out this starting 5:
Perfect PG in CP3, Mo Pete and David West as guys who can score and finish, as
well as go outside, Peja as one of the best shooters of all time, and Tyson
Chandler as the great energy/defense guy who can also finish. And donít forget
the James Posey acquisition, whoís quickly becoming the Robert Horry of his
generation (Rings in Miami and Boston). They wonít be in the hunt for the 1 seed
because theyíre beating each other up in the Midwest, but theyíll come out on top
of that division.
'''3 ñ Houston Rockets:''' Part of that Midwest
division. The only reason they donít win the division is because Yao and T-Mac go
down with their inevitable injuries. The only reason theyíre this high is Ron
Artest, whoís in a contract year (best behavior, numbers, effort) on a contender
(so heís happy) playing for his favorite all time coach (Adelman, who he offered
to forfeit his salary for if the kings kept him when they were together in
'''4 ñ Portland Trailblazers:''' A four seed because
theyíll win the Northwest, but still a year or two away from championship
contention. Gotta get that playoff experience in though. Oden, Roy, and the
continued development of LaMarcus Aldridge will make this a scary team and a tough
out every night. Channing Frye coming off the bench is a plus, and two great
rookies in Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless make this a scary talented team in
'''5 ñ San Antonio Spurs:''' Champions every odd
numbered year. This is 08-09. HmmÖ With Manu out until December and time not
being gentle with them, they may be in too much of a hole to win the division.
ButÖ A fresh Manu for the home stretch and playoffs, plus Duncan and Pops as two
of the all time greats, Tony Parker as a great PG, and then thereís all that
playoff experience. Would you want these guys in the first round? Or any round,
for that matter?
'''6 ñ Utah Jazz:''' Boozer and Williams are the
new Stockton and Malone, but this is a stacked West. Theyíll make it, and might
be able to recreate last years success against Houston in the first round because
of T-Macís curse, but other than that I donít know what else they can do. Looming
on the horizon: many of these guys can opt out soon.
'''7 ñ Phoenix
Suns:''' Sunsets are usually a thing of beauty. Not the case in Phoenix, where
3 of the top 4 are all over 34. Between that and Terry Porterís philosophy change
from offense to defense, this team is in flux, and an aging Shaq and Nash wonít
play D, and Amare is not someone to build a defensive team around.
ñ Dallas Mavericks:''' They squeeze in with a new coach in Rick Carlisle, who
is an upgrade over an Avery Johnson that lost his players. But this team is still
broken from their playoff collapses in 06 and 07, and mortgaging their future for
Kidd will end up not being worth it.
'''Just Missed Out:''' Denver,
who with a stellar offense will get wins and be close, but losing Camby kills an
already horrible defensive team. Donít be surprised if they squeeze in at the 8
seed, but donít be surprised if they blow it up like it looks like theyíre
Moving on to the East:
'''1 ñ Boston Celtics:''' The
Boston Three Party wonít get 66 wins, but theyíll still be the cream of the crop
in an improved east. Although these guys are a year older, and Paul Pierce has to
back up some gaudy summer comments, expect KGís leadership and Rajon Rondoís
development to keep them at the top.
'''2 ñ Cleveland Cavaliers:'''
LeBron will continue to be a beast, and Mo Williams will helpÖbut not as much as
everybody thinks. Heís a shoot first PG, so if heís bringing the ball up he has
to learn to understand this is Bronís team. On the plus side, heís also a great
spot up shooter who will thrice when Bron drives. But heís overrated. They need
to remember to keep Z involved, and when the going gets tough just give it to Bron
and let him go. Will this be enough to keep LeBron from becoming a Brooklyn Net?
I hope not.
'''3 ñ Miami Heat:''' The Small Three of Wade, Marion,
and Beasley will help Miami win the Southeast. The biggest thing is the healthy
Wade, though. Now that he is explosive again, as he showed in the Olympics, any
team will be hard pressed to stop him and the wreckless abandon he plays with.
Throw in a healthy Sean Livingston acquisition at point and this team will make
'''4 ñ Orlando Magic:''' Dwight Howard will continue to emerge
as one of the leagueís best, and this frontline of Turkgolu, Lewis, and Howard is
one of the best in basketball. However, questions in the backcourt will keep this
'''5 ñ Detroit Pistons:''' Itís time. Sorry, Motown, but
itís over. That improbable championship was great, and the 70 win pace in 04-05
was impressive too. But itís time to blow it up and rebuild. Billups is showing
signs of age, and Wallace will be great trade bait. Dumars has also said no one
is untouchable. Blow it up and start anew. Do you really want to settle for
'''6 ñ Toronto Raptors:''' Great job acquiring Jermaine
Oíneal and clearing up that backcourt committee all in one move. Now Calderon can
shine, and Bosh and JO will be a tough frontline. Still, not enough to win the
Atlantic, or rack up enough wins to keep pace with the others.
Philadelphia 76ers:''' Iím putting Philly here, but Iím not sold on this at
all. This 7 seed will go to one of three teams: Philly, Hotlanta, or Chicago.
Chicago has Rose, a new coach, and a talented team that underachieved and ignored
their coach. Atlantaís got talent (I would hope so, with all those lotto picks)
and Bibby in a contract year, and they took the champs to the limit in the first
round last year. Iím putting Philly here because they made it last year, Andre
Miller is a very good PG, and Iggy now doesnít have to carry the team. However,
remember Brand is coming off a torn Achilles, is aging, and has always pretty much
been a 20-10 guy on bad teams. And donít forget, the Clippers tried the
Miller/Brand Combo, with a doeverything swingman in Lamar Odom way back when.
Howíd that work out? In the Lottery. Not Powerball, just the lottery. I think
an older, smarter pairing might be able to succeed in the weaker east, but donít
be surprised if they fail.
'''8 ñ Charlotte Bobcats:''' I know, I
had Chicago and Hotlanta as potential 7ís. I donít think any of those will make
it, just if they did they would have better records than Charlotte. Iím not
saying this because of the ìsaviorî Larry Brown. In fact, I think heís the wrong
guy for the job, since he has know idea how to handle young talent (Read: 2004
Olympics), and thatís exactly what this College All Star team is. However, a
healthy Okafor, May, and Morrison, coupled with solid leadership from Richardson
(I hope) and energy guy Gerald Wallace, and this team has too much potential
talent to miss the playoffs in the east. If anything, Larry Brown will be a
hindrance towards these guysí confidence. How long do you think heíll stick
around? Iíll take the under on a season and a half.
Out:''' Philly and Atlanta, for the reasons mentioned above, and the Wizards,
who will get the injury bug. Donít be surprised to have Milwaukee and underrated
New Jersey, making noise.
'''West Conference Finals:''' Lakers over
'''East Conference Finals:''' Celtics over
'''Finals:''' Lakers over