Revised NBA Predictions: I’m not going to pull a Peter King

February 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m glad I waited until today to do these because I would’ve felt dumb keeping the Jazz in the playoffs otherwise. I knew the Jazz weren’t exactly a model of team harmony, but I didn’t realize things were that bad. Totally did not see that Deron Williams trade coming.

As many NBA insiders say, the season truly starts after the All-Star Break — at least for contenders. The balance of power has shifted a little bit, although I doubt the Melo and Williams trades will have much of an impact on this season, so now is as good a time as any to revise my original NBA predictions.

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to change my original pick for NBA Champs (Lakers over Celtics) because I do not want to look like a horse’s ass like Peter King, who actually picked the Super Bowl participants correctly in his NFL preview (except he had Pittsburgh winning, but still), only to backtrack and pick New England to win it all at the start of the playoffs. What an asshole.

So here goes, starting with the East. New pick is in Bold, original one is in Italics .

Eastern Conference

1. Miami Heat (Heat)

After a rocky 9-8 start, I came very close to posting a snarky Facebook status where I would admit that I was completely wrong about the Heat, only I would admit that they’d be lucky to be a six-seed rather than admitting that they’re a juggernaut who will kill every team on the way to an NBA championship. I would’ve looked pretty stupid, so luckily I held off on that status, and was forced to keep holding off and keep holding off because they ripped off 33 of their next 40 and are tied for first in the East.

I actually think I was most on-point with my Heat prediction from four months ago — great regular season that will struggle versus big, physical teams (0-3 vs. Boston so far) that slow the ball down in the playoffs — but time will tell.

2. Boston Celtics (Celtics)

Obviously the 1-seed will be nice for the Celts, but honestly, either of the top-2 seeds are very desirable because it means a matchup with the clusterfuck (referred to hereafter as the CF) of Philadelphia/Indiana/Charlotte/Milwaukee, teams that the Celts would destroy.

3. Chicago Bulls (Magic)

My first revision. I liked the Bulls a lot going into the season, and I still underestimated them, probably because I never expected Derrick Rose to be this good. As with the Celts, the Bulls surely would love to get Noah back and steal one of the top two seeds because the CF is more desirable than their six-seed opponent, whether it be the Hawks, Knicks or even Magic.

4. Orlando Magic (Bulls)

I like the Magic better after their wheeling and dealing earlier (likely because I’m a huge Jason Richardson fan), but I think they would’ve been better off staying patient and seeing who they could poach. I’m pretty sure the Jazz would’ve listened to Deron Williams offers. As they’re constructed, the Magic will fall short yet again.

5. Atlanta Hawks (Bucks)

First off, I am an idiot for picking the Bucks fifth. Wow. Although I did add the caveat that the Bucks are good until Skiles wears out his welcome, so maybe he already wore it out. I’m grasping straws. Anyway, the Hawks are like the Magic. Pretty good, but lacking that special piece. They’ll never get over drafting Marvin Williams over Chris Paul.

6. New York Knicks (Knicks)

Yes!! (Patting myself on the back enthusiastically) I can’t believe I nailed this one. This is what I wrote in October:

The surprise team of the East for sure. Amar’e will love playing for his old coach, and if the Knicks find a way to acquire Melo mid-season, which I think they will, then a number four seed could be in play.

Prescient, no? Don’t worry, I’m getting all the bragging out of the way now because there isn’t much more bragging to be done.

7. Indiana Pacers (Hawks)

I like the Pacers quite a bit. They’ve played pretty well recently, and their point differential (almost exactly even) suggests they’ve been a little unlucky so far.* They probably won’t make much impact in the playoffs, but if Indiana could develop their young talent, they could be a consistent playoff team.

*For example, the Jazz’s point differential is -0.3, and they’re five games over .500, compared to the Pacers being five games under.

8. Philadelphia 76ers (Wizards)

And all these football pundits say the NFL has a seeding problem? Twelve out of the 15 teams in the West will likely finish with a better record than the seven-seed in the NBA.

9. Milwaukee Bucks (Bobcats)

I completely overestimated this team. Figured they would get even better than last year’s surprising finish. Whoops.

10. Charlotte Bobcats (Pacers)

Michael Jordan is quietly almost as bad as Isiah Thomas.

11. New Jersey Nets (Nets)

I can’t remember there ever being a similar trade as the one we saw today. Since when does a contending team trade away its best player to a team that’s 23 games under .500? Very weird, even though I think it will work out for both teams unless Williams decides he doesn’t want to be in New Jersey, which, uh, could very well happen. So we’ll see.

12. Detroit Pistons (76ers)

I have not watched this team play a single second.

13. Washington Wizards (Pistons)

A 1-26 road record isn’t exactly part of the formula for success. I still think John Wall will help turn them around, but they have a long way to go. Getting Rashard Lewis off the books soon will help.

14. Toronto Raptors (Cavaliers)

I apologize to all the Raptors fans I know (zero) for putting your team below the Cavs earlier this year. That’s a grave insult, and you didn’t deserve it.

15. Cleveland Cavaliers (Raptors)

How the hell did they beat the Lakers?

Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs (Thunder)

I would be defying math and logic if I picked another team here. As usual, the Spurs were underrated at the start of this season, and as usual, they’ve played excellent basketball with virtually no hiccups all season despite their franchise big man slowly fading into the sunset. I still doubt they’ll make it to the finals, but I’m certainly not betting against them.

2. L.A. Lakers (Lakers)

Still a very dangerous team that I think is about to go on a hellacious run to close out the season. Maybe 21-3, 20-4. Yes, these predictions are based on Kobe’s dominant All-Star game performance. I think the youngsters lit a fire under his ass, not that he needed one.

3. Dallas Mavericks (Jazz)

In my opinion, the deepest team in the NBA. Also, for whatever reason, I’ve never fully appreciated Dirk Nowitzki. But holy shit, he is amazing and will probably continue being amazing into his 40s. He can shoot from anywhere, any position, any degree of fadeaway and with anyone guarding him. Dallas is going to give the Lakers a very tough run for their money in the second round but will likely fall just short.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (Mavericks)

Took them a while to hit their stride, but the Thunder are poised to roll through the second half of the season and gain home court for their first series. They might have trouble against the Spurs in the second round, but I think they match up pretty well actually and could shock some people.

5. New Orleans Hornets (Spurs)

Whoops. Kind of underrated them at the beginning of the season. I still think they’re mostly a smoke-and-mirrors team, so don’t look for them to do much in the playoffs, especially since they’re unlikely to have home court advantage (20-8 home, 13-17 road)

6. Portland Trailblazers (Trailblazers)

I’m actually picking them to get the same seed even though their season has played out completely different than I expected. If at the beginning of the season you had told me practically half the team would suffer season-ending knee injuries (most notably Brandon Roy and Greg Oden), then I probably would’ve said that I would project them to finish 11th or 12th in my All-Star break revisions. The fact that they’ve kept things together speaks to the coach’s (Nate McMillan) galvanizing attitude and players’ (namely, Batum and Wesley Mathews) depth and gumption.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (Suns)

The Grizzlies come out as the biggest benefactors of the Williams and Melo trades, as the Nugs and Jazz are likely to fall out of contention. Crazy thing is the Grizz might be able to make a bit of a dent in the Lakers’ armor and steal a couple games in that series.

8. Denver Nuggets (Clippers)

One of very few teams in the West I actually nailed (I predicted a 9 seed):

This prediction can obviously swing wildly depending on if/when they get rid of ‘Melo. Their ceiling is a 5 seed and their basement is a 13 seed. I settled in the middle.

I could still be right about that 9 seed, but I actually think the Nugs have a good chance to hang on to their playoff spot. I do think they’ll struggle a little and barely hang on, but I certainly think they’re better than Rick Reilly’s abortion of a column would have you believe.

9. Phoenix Suns (Nuggets)

Ugggggghhhh. My favorite team is going to fall just short, unfortunately. All this turmoil taking place with the teams directly above them in the standings makes Robert Sarver that much stupider for giving up on this season. What a douchebag, especially for depriving Steve Nash of a chance to contend in his twilight years.

10. Utah Jazz (Hornets)

Wow, I was way off! Had them ranked third in October. In my defense, when has Utah ever had chemistry problems? They always have a good racially harmonized mix of players led by a gritty, tough yet fair fatherly figure in Jerry Sloan. Then all of a sudden Sloan apparently almost comes to blows with his best player, and next thing you know, both guys are gone. I’ll tell you who to blame: Al Jefferson. He’s quickly becoming the next Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Or if you want an even more obscure reference, former Rams tight end Randy McMichael.

11. Houston Rockets (Rockets)

Hmm. Actually got them about right. They’ve just had extraordinarily bad luck, mostly with Yao’s feet. Houston has good management and some good players though, so they’ll bounce back relatively soon.

12. Golden State Warriors (Grizzlies)

As I said in October, this is a very exciting team. They’ve actually exceeded my expectations though because of the emergence of Dorell Wright. Who knew?? These guys could give a top seed a scare much like they did four years ago when they knocked off the Mavs; unfortunately, they won’t come close to sniffing the playoffs while a team with a worse record in the East gets brutally murdered in the first round.

13. L.A. Clippers (Kings)

I obviously overrated them by sneaking them in the playoffs, but I don’t really regret it. They’re exciting as hell, and if Baron Davis’s fat ass actually shows up in shape next season, they might be able to get off to a better start than 1-13. Unfortunately, Donald Sterling will almost certainly be their owner, so Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin will probably suffer some horrifying injury in a sailboating accident, and their careers will never be the same.

14. Sacramento Kings (Warriors)

Well, they’re certainly interesting, but apparently not interesting enough to sell any tickets in Sacramento. Let’s get them to St. Louis!

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (Timberwolves)

And to end the revised predictions, I will stroke my ego by sticking with a pick from October.

Award Revisions

NBA Champs: Lakers over Celtics (Lakers over Celtics)

Most Improved Team (besides the Heat): New York Knicks (New York Knicks)

Team Going the Wrong Way: Utah Jazz (Toronto Raptors)

MVP: Derrick Rose (Kevin Durant)

Most Improved: Dorell Wright (Russell Westbrook) – still not a bad pick, but Wright’s been really good.

Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin (Blake Griffin) – slam dunk

Comeback Player of the Year: Blake Griffin (Greg Oden) – I suppose Blake is eligible, right?



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