The 2007-2008 NBA season was one of the greatest we have ever seen. With the Lakers and the Celtics re-establishing themselves as two of the greatest franchises in the NBA. Not to mention the up and coming teams with emerging superstars such as the Hornets with Chris Paul, the Atlanta Hawks with Josh Smith, and the Portland Trailblazers with Brandon Roy. With many surprises and upsets this past season like the Miami Heat finishing dead last in the East, or Chicago not making the play-offs, and the Orlando Magic winning their division, it is never too early to start thinking about NEXT season.
Only a week after the NBA draft, I'm putting together one of the most extensive prediction articles on the web, and I will be doing the same from here on out for the NFL and MLB.
First of all, I'm going to give my surprises for the season. Last season I predicted the Atlanta Hawks to make the play-offs, and the year before I picked the Toronto Raptors. This season, the picks are a bit easier to make, but there are many more teams who are on the verge of making the play-offs. I like the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Clippers to make the play-offs in the West. In the East, the only new play-off team I can see is going to be the Chicago Bulls.
Portland is going to dominate. Brandon Roy is one of the best young players in the league, and he is surrounded by a ton of young talent, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Channing Frye, Martell Webstel, and Travis Outlaw, not to mention the addition of one of the best European players Rudy Fernandez. I see the Trailblazers easily making the play-offs, and the way I see it, they will come out of the regular season with the 6 seed.
Many people believe that the Los Angeles Lakers are the best team in L.A. and this year that was clearly the case. But this upcoming season? Don't count on it... The Clippers are going to easily be the best team in California, with the addition of Baron Davis, to play along side Elton Brand the Clippers are going to be scary good. I also believe that Al Thornton is going to have the best sophomore season out of any of the rookies from the 07 class and with the return of Shaun Livingston and the what should be reported as a felony of a steal in DeAndre Jordan in the 2nd round this year, The Clipps are loaded with young talent and I see them finishing the season with the 4 seed in the West.
In the East, not much is going to change. Except for the Bulls making it back to the play-offs, and not just "making" it back, I see the Bulls being one of the top 3 teams in the East this year. With the drafting of Derrick Rose with the #1 overall pick in the draft, the Bulls solidified their point guard position for the next 15 years. Rose is a playmaker, something that Kirk Hinrich could not be. As good of a player as Hinrich is, he can not create the same type of scoring opportunities that Rose can for himself, and for his teammates. Rose is a dynamic true point guard and if he plays to his potential, could make a Chris Paul type impact on the Bulls. The most important thing to look at with this pick is the competition in the Eastern Conference, for instance, just look at the point guards in the East. I don't think anyone will disagree with me that Gilbert Arenas is the best, but what about the next tier of point guards... Dwayne Wade? he can't be called a true point guard, at this point the 2nd best point guard in the East is Mike Bibby although a case can be made for Chauncey Billups. But if you look at the West... The top guards in the league are all from the West, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Jason Kidd, Baron Davis, and Allen Iverson. Some people may say that Michael Beasley has more talent, and would have been a better pick, and I agree about the talent... But from a needs standpoint, Derick Rose becomes the 4th best point guard in his conference without even playing a game, and he also inherits one of the most talented teams in the East. Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Larry Hughes, and Andres Nocioni. Although the Bulls do not have a dominant big man, Joakim Noah should be able to keep most of the top centers in the East. I like the Bulls to finish 2nd in the East this year, and at this point possibly being a favorite for the Eastern Conference Title.
As we stand now here are my predictions by conference.
1. New Orleans Hornets
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Utah Jazz
4. Los Angeles Clippers
5. Los Angeles Lakers
6. Portland Trailblazers
7. Phoenix Suns
8. Dallas Mavericks
1. Boston Celtics
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Orlando Magic
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Atlanta Hawks
6. Washington Wizards
7. Detroit Pistons
8. Toronto Raptors
1. New Orleans- Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA, hands down. Peja is still one of the best shooters in the league and David West is emerging as one of the top scorers in the Western Conference. New Orleans will only continue to get better as long as they have CP3.
2. San Antonio- They've still got Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Michael Finley, and Greg Popovich. Guaranteed 50 wins every season they have a healthy big 3.
3. Utah- 2nd best guard in the West Deron Williams has a better supporting cast than Chris Paul, with Carlos Boozer, and AK-47, the only thing holding back the Jazz is their depth, but they made some moves in the right direction by acquiring Kyle Korver last season.
4. LAC- The Clipps just signed Baron Davis, they still have Elton Brand and when he's healthy, is the best big man in the West. If they re-sign Corey Maggette, and Shaun Livingston can stay healthy they have one of the most talented teams in the West. Not to mention Al Thornton and German citizen Chris Kaman make the Clippers frontline the best in the West.
5. LAL- Coming off of a trip to the finals without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers could be in for a re-peat. The only problem I see is the role players surrounding Kobe... Farmaar, Radmonivic, and Vujacic aren't the type of players that I believe can get Kobe to an NBA title. The Lakers will still be good, and I believe all 6 teams will be within 6 or 7 games of each other.
6. Portland- Brandon aka ROY is an incredible scorer, with a healthy Greg Oden to play along side LaMarcus Aldridge the Blazers will have a frontline that can only be rivaled by the Clippers. With the addition of Rudy Fernandez and if the trade for Jerryd Bayless goes through, I strongly believe that Bayless is the most talented guard in the draft, and he will turn the Blazers back into the Blazers of the 90's
7. Phoenix- They're getting old... really old. Shaq and Nash are still great players, and Amare is still going to be a force, but I can't see Shaq lasting an entire season and the play-offs, and I still the the Suns would have been better off keeping Shawn Marion.
8. Dallas- Barely making it into the play-offs, and holding off the Rockets. I strongly believe that either Dallas or Houston, whichever team does not make the play-offs, will be the best team in NBA history to not make the play-offs. I think that a full year with Jason Kidd will make the Mavericks a better team this year, than the team that finished the season last year. Dirk is still an MVP caliber player, Josh Howard is emerging as an all-star in the shadow of Dirk, and with Brandon Bass playing as well as he did in the play-offs, I think Dallas will barely have enough to hold off Houston and Denver.
The Rest of the West...
Unfortunately for Denver, Houston, and Golden State... The future does not look very bright. With the Hornets, Jazz, Clippers, and Blazers young talent, these teams are too old to make an impact in the upcoming years. T-Mac is constantly getting hurt, so is Yao Ming, not to mention Rafer Alston was also hurt going into the play-offs last year.
For Denver, dealing Carmelo Anthony must be done, because Iverson can't possibly be traded although it would be the smarter thing to do. Anthony will never win a championship at the NBA level, simply because of his attitude. He's a prolific scorer, but I don't see Denver getting enough players around him to compete in the West. With Iverson near the end of his playing days, and Melo having to share the ball, the Nuggets will still probably win 40+ games, but they still aren't in position to compete for a championship.
Golden State losing Baron Davis sets back a very talented team for a few seasons. Monta Ellis will have to fill the spot left by Davis' departure, but they will not be able to make the play-offs with the roster they have now. Out of the 3 "Best of the Rest" teams, they have the best chance of making the play-offs in the next few seasons.
A team that I really believe is going to make some noise in 2010 is the Memphis Grizzlies. O.J. Mayo is the next Kobe, there is no doubt about it. Putting him on the floor with Rudy Gay, and Mike Conley Jr. I really believe that the Grizzlies are in prime position to make a huge run in 2010, but the talent alone will not be enough to get them to the play-offs this season.
Minnesota is also 1 year away from making an impact. With Al Jefferson becoming a center-piece for this franchise, the trade for Kevin Love makes perfect sense. Love is the smartest player in the draft, and if he is in the right line-up, he can make a bigger impact for the T-Wolves than Mayo would have. Bringing in Mike Miller also gives this very young team some veteran leadership and a quality scorer to give some stability to this line-up. Like Memphis, Minnesota is 1 year away from making a run.
My last team that I like in the West is Oklahoma City Supersonics. Yes that's right... Oklahoma City, formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics. Kevin Durant can score from any spot on the floor, and Jeff Green will continue to develop as one of the better young players in the league. Although the Sonics will probably finish close to the cellar this season, a lottery pick next year could bring in Brandon Jennings? It's possible, and I think that's the direction the Sonics will go if they do miss out on the play-offs this season.
The rest of the Western Conference teams are in trouble.... Unfortunately for the Kings, there is only 1 team left in the West that I have not mentioned... That is the Sacramento Kings. They have some talent, with Ron Artest, Kevin Martin, and Brad Miller. I just don't see enough talent to make a serious run. They are in the same position as the Boston Celtics without KG or the New York Knicks. The talent is there, but the Kings do not have a face for their franchise. Martin is a great player, but the supporting cast is not good enough to get the Kings to the play-offs for a few years. If they can unload Artest or find a way to get a few more draft picks in 2010 and 2011, they could be on the verge of the play-offs, but where they are now... I just don't see much hope. The only good news for the Kings is the Maloof brothers, and I'm sure they will not let their team be in the cellar of the West for too long.
1. Boston- They still have the "Big 3" and no one will stop them in the East. Rajon Rondo was impressive in the NBA finals, and he will be able to run the team again to another play-off berth as the #1 seed.
2. Chicago- The Bulls were good last year, just not good enough. The Ben Wallace trade may not have looked great at the time, but now? It looks like the greatest trade in NBA history. You bring in Larry Hughes, and Drew Gooden, to a team that already has Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, and Joakim Noah. But then the final piece comes in, bringing with him Michael Jordan like expectations, Derrick Rose. Watch out for the Bulls
3. Orlando- No one can stop Dwight Howard, no one... he is a more athletic Shaq, when he gets the ball it's almost guaranteed 2 points and a foul. He is the most dominant player in the East, and will put up MVP numbers this season. The supporting cast is lacking though, although bringing in Rashard Lewis was a great move. I think with Howard, and Lewis, not to mention an improving Jameer Nelson, the Magic can make a deep play-off run this year.
4. Cleveland- LeBron James is the best player in the NBA
5. Atlanta- I've already said enough about the Hawks, but just to re-iterate it... They have Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, and looking for a big sophomore year Acie Law IV.
6. Washington- Mr. $111,000,000 man aka Agent Zero (or Gilbert Arenas as some call him) is back and healthy with Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. I also think that Javale McGee was a great pick for the Wizards as it gives them more depth down low. The East has gotten a lot better, because if I had seen this Wizards team a year ago, I would have put them in the top 3.
7. Detroit- The Pistons are reaching the end of their run as the dominant team in the East, and unfortunately it end with the firing of Flip Saunders... a terrible move by the Pistons. Although they still have Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Antonio McDy
The (word that rhymes with East) of the East.
The East is confusing... There are so many teams, so close in talent, that it's hard to get a decent prediction. I did call the Hawks last because it was easy to see the pieces getting put together for the past few seasons. For the other teams in the NBA, that is how you run a team. You do not try to become something you're not, you just find players that you can build around, and sure enough the Hawks are now a power in the East. Yes I said it, a power. How can they not be? Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia, and Al Horford? They have the best backcourt in the East, and Horford and Williams are not even close to reaching their potential. So that brings me to the question... Which teams are in position to become the next Atlanta Hawks?
Well here's the answer.
I like the Charlotte Bobcats, bringing in D.J. Augustin was the best pick in the draft. Not to mention the hiring of Larry Brown gives this young team one of the best coaches in the business. I still think that Gerald Wallace is one of the most talented players in the conference, not just from the Fantasy NBA perspective, he can flat out play. With a healthy Emeka Okafor, and Jason Richardson, the Bobcats are very close to becoming a play-off team. Augustin is given all the tools he will need to turn the Bobcats into a contender, and I don't see them making the play-offs this season, don't be surprised if it happens. One more note, I also think that bringing in D.J. will help out Adam Morrisson tremendously, and he will not be under the pressure of having to score 20+ a night, because he's just not THAT good of a player.
Another team I like in the East is New Jersey. Unloading Kidd was smart, as was getting rid of Richard Jefferson. The Nets knew that the line-up they had could not contend for a title, so they are trying to get younger and possibly bring in LeBron James in 2010. Drafting Brook Lopez gives them a talented big man who is going to take a lot of the pressure off Vince Carter every night. I also believe that bringing in Yi Jianlian was a great move, Yi is 6-11 and can shoot, picture Yi as the Chinese Dirk Nowitzki. Yi is also a better fit in New Jersey than in Milwaukee because of the Chinese population in New Jersey and the surrounding areas. With Lopez and Yi, the Nets front-court becomes one of the youngest and most talented in the East, not to mention Carter is still the most explosive player in their conference. Another good move by the Nets was bringing in Devin Harris. Not used very much in Dallas, he is a very talented young point guard who plays great on the ball D and will be able to match up with Billups, Arenas, and Wade.
The other teams in the East, Philadelphia, Miami, New York, Milwaukee, and Indiana still have some hope.
The 76'ers are still a play-off caliber team if they keep Andre Iguodala. I just don't think there is enough depth on that team to keep them in the play-offs. Dalembert is one of the best defensive centers in the conference, and Andre Miller is a solid point guard, but the bench is not strong enough to keep Philly in the hunt this season. If they can make a move next season to get some more young talent around Iguodala then they will be a lock in the play-offs. Thaddeus Young is on the verge of being an impact player, but unless they can bring in 1 more key player, the 76'ers are just a few games out of the play-offs.
Miami just drafted the best player in the draft, Michael Beasley, not to mention they still have Shawn Marion, and with a healthy Dwyane Wade the Heat are talented enough to make a run in the East, I just don't see them going anywhere without a true point guard. if they can make a deal to get Marion out for a few younger players, I could see the Heat being one of the top teams in the East again, but as of right now, this team can't compete with the top of the league. Expect big things in Beasley's sophomore season though.
The Bucks brought in Richard Jefferson from the Nets on draft day, and the trade helps them out just as much as it helps the Nets. Bringing in RJ and allowing him to play alongside Michael Redd gives the Bucks plenty of scoring while Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva give them a solid front-court. The only thing keeping the Bucks out this year is the same problem the Heat have, they desperately need a point guard, and until they get one, the rest of the East is just too good.
The Pacers are in trouble, but Larry Bird knows it, which is why he made two huge trades on draft day which brought in Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert. Unloading Jermaine O'Neal to bring in T.J. Ford is a great move, and putting T.J. in the same line-up as Rush, Danny Granger, and Roy Hibbert, makes Indiana a very talented young team. Unfortunately for the Pacers, is that bringing in these players is very risky, and they still do not have many players who can contribute off of the bench. Pacers fans should be happy knowing their team is in good hands though, because Larry Bird saved the team by getting rid of O'Neal.
And last but not least... well last and least, the New York Knicks...
Nate Robinson is not the future... neither is Renaldo Balkman... or Eddy Curry... or Stephon Marbury, if you get where I'm going with this. The Knicks are a few years away from the play-offs, however, they aren't in as bad of shape as some people may think. Danilo Gallinari was a great pick for them because he is someone most Knicks fans have never heard of or seen. Balkman, and Robinson, played college ball, so Spike Lee knew about them. With Gallinari, the Knicks bring in the most talented European player I think I have ever seen, simply because he is not the prototype European player. He isn't Dirk, of Pau Gasol, he's not a 6-11 player with a jumper like Andrea Bargnani. He is the European comparison to LeBron James, a 6'8 guy with point guard skills but can score at will. Now I know there is no way that Gallinari is anywhere close to LeBron in skill, but their style is similar, and I really believe that if the Knicks can get rid of Marbury and focus on keeping their core with Gallinari, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, and Quentin Richardson, they might have some success in a few years. But like a said... might... and in a few years, and the Knicks may not be willing to wait that long.
So here's how the NBA play-offs are going to turn out
The Hornets beat the Spurs in the West Finals
The Magic beat the Celtics in the East Finals
The Hornets beat the Magic in 7 games to win the NBA Finals
Be sure to look for my NFL Season Preview coming out later this week. Thanks any for reading, and if my Bowl Predictions were any indication, this should cause a great deal of debating.
Let me know what you think, any comments are greatly appreciated.