Absurd NBA Preseason Predictions That Proved True
One thing that's predictable about life is that it's never predicable. It takes twists and turns you would have never expected—and that's part of what makes it worth living.
The NBA is the same way. Some of the wacky bounces around the league this year defy imagination—and have made for a compelling season.
What makes the surprises all the more mind boggling is that a handful of people did indeed foresee this most unlikely of futures. It's time to recognize those soothsayers whose brains we thought were scrambled at the time of their prognostications.
Your predictions were still lunacy. The future, however, proved just as crazy as you are.
The Lakers' Struggles
Granted, saying the Lakers struggled is an understatement on the order of saying the Titanic took on a little water. But with the newsstands and Internet replete with predictions of a Lakers-Thunder Western Conference Semifinals rematch, Imaz's prediction stands out.
Since Jan. 25, the Lakers are 17-6 and currently hold the hold the West's eighth and final playoff berth. Imaz had them finishing with the sixth seed and losing in the first round. So the jury's still out on our resident Nostradamus.
In the same article, Imaz also predicted that former Lakers coach Mike Brown would be on the hot seat. Sure enough, the seat was so hot it incinerated Brown's Lakers career.
In an eerie twist of fate, it appears Imaz's Lakers prognostication was his last article for Bleacher Report. Perhaps after predicting such heresy as the Lakers struggling, Imaz had to go into hiding.
You can come out, pal. You were right.
The Warriors' Success
Give credit where credit's due. Not only did SB Nation's Atma Brother ONE predict the Golden State Warriors would make the playoffs, he also posted the headlines of previous season predictions, making it clear his outfit had always predicted the worst for the ballers by the Bay, and that his article was breaking from the pack.
Atma went out on a limb with his pick—and nailed it.
But even Atma would have changed his mind had he known Andrew Bogut, about whom he waxed rhapsodic, would have played only 17 games, and would be much less dominant than he ever was.
And what about Brandon Rush, a solid defender who averaged 26 minutes per game at shooting guard in 2011-2012? He went down for the year in the second game of the season.
Yet here the Warriors stand, the sixth seed and, despite losing 11-of-14 before winning their last two games, still looking strong as a playoff entrant.
Though the defense has been questionable of late, the Warriors are still 16th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, up from tied for 26th last season. And that's without Rush, one of the team's better defenders.
I'll be honest with you. Before Damian Lillard, the only thing I knew about Weber State is they killed my NCAA tournament brackets in 1995 (Michigan State) and 1999 (North Carolina).
So I was more than skeptical when Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey made Lillard the sixth-overall pick in this year's NBA Draft. No Wildcat had ever been selected in the first round, let alone sixth.
Well, Lillard is turning out to be Weber State's biggest upset of all. And Kurt Helin of probasketballtalk.com called it.
In his last 10 games, the Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard is averaging 23 points and 6.3 rebounds in 38.7 minutes. At this rate, he will inevitably join the league's 20 PPG club—a rarefied society whose members usually number from 10 to 20 players per season. When he makes it, he'll be just the 12th 20 PPG player this season.
The oddest thing is, watching Lillard win four consecutive Rookie Of the Month awards, you'd swear he's been putting up numbers like these for years. Pick-and-rolls, long-range shots, even dunks—the kid does it all like a seasoned pro.
It's safe to say Lillard's gone from the Big Sky to the sky's the limit. The best possible currency to prove he's the real deal: Lillard's first shoe commercial for Adidas.
Much credit to Lillard. And considerable props to Helin.
Bynum's Season-Long Absence
I remember well the Orlando Magic's signing of Grant Hill way back in 2000. Few thought much of the fact that when he inked his deal, Hill was still on crutches stemming from an ankle injury sustained with the Detroit Pistons. Yet that injury would not only sideline Hill for most of his Orlando career, but also even seriously threaten his life.
I thought about Hill when the Philadelphia 76ers essentially pushed in all their chips on Bynum, dealing away face of the franchise Andre Iguodala, rebound-loving Nikola Vucevic, promising rookie Moe Harkless and a first-rounder.
There is no question Bynum's 2011-12 season was extraordinary. Nevertheless, I wouldn't have made the trade. I had a bad feeling, given the 130 of the possible 394 regular-season games Bynum missed over the previous five seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But it would be awfully self-aggrandizing to give myself credit. Plus I never said it in print.
So let's give credit to Andrew Sweat of Yahoo! Sports for saying before the trade that the Lakers should let Bynum go, in large part because of his injury history.
Bynum's knees are not only arthritic, they're also not healing after all this time and all the medical attention they've received. So if the Sixers, as I believe they should, let Bynum go, the trade will go down as one of the most horrific in NBA history.
But it was no sweat for Sweat to call it before it happened. Nice work, buddy.
Vucevic's Rebounding Prowess
Who would have thunk the most dominant pivot would arguably be another player from the scenario?
No one. But at least this guy came close, correctly predicting in a one-sentence meme former Philadelphia 76er Nikola Vucevic's breakout year.
Bynum hasn't played a second of basketball. Statistically, this is Howard's worst year since his second season in the league, though in his last four games—including a 39-point obliteration of his former Orlando Magic—he seems to be closer to his old self.
In that last game, Howard shut down his newfound rival, Vucevic, who scored just six points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Vucevic has been fading in recent weeks.
For the season, though, both Howard and Vucevic have the same per-36-minute rebounding rate of 12.6. Bear in mind this is just Vucevic's second year in the NBA.
It wouldn't be going out on a limb if you said today this might be the NBA equivalent of A Star Is Born. But saying it seven months ago—that was something.
Congratulations, unknown artist. You're a better meme than I am.
OK, the San Antonio Spurs made it to the Western Conference Finals last year.
But admit it: Didn't you think, like the rest of us, that that was the Spurs' last stand? That they would finally begin the inevitable demise we'd all been predicting for years now? Or that they'd blow the team up and begin their long-expected rebuilding process?
My friends, the rumors of the Spurs' death are greatly exaggerated.
With a win, San Antonio (49-16 at publication time) would match their record for all last year (50-16) with 12 more games to play. More amazingly, they have the West's best record. And if you say you picked anybody but the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Lakers to be in that position, you're flat-out lying.
Unless you're Darryl Howerton of nba.com. He picked the Spurs to not only be 58-24 on the season, but to also defeat the Lakers and Thunder in the playoffs.
True to Mr. Howerton's vision, this team of Dorian Grays and intriguing up-and-comers like Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter has blown through the league. The ageless Tim Duncan is having one of the finest seasons of his career. The little dynasty that could just keeps jinglin' and janglin' on.
Don't know how you did it, Howerton, but bravo.