Here's how I see the NBA's top 30 teams and the NBA postseason award winners for the 2009-10 season:
1. Orlando Magic (59-23)
With the Magic in my top spot, this also means that also picking them to win the NBA Championship in June. The Magic are the only team in the league to be ranked in the top six in scoring and defense. Dwight Howard deserves to be the Defensive Player of the Year Award winner.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21)
Cleveland might have the most wins, but I just think the Magic are a notch above them when I look at the full body of work for both teams. I have Cleveland at number two because they and the Magic are the only two teams to be in the top ten in scoring and points against.
3. Utah Jazz (53-29)
I’m seriously picking this team to win the Western Conference Championship. Not very many people are picking them because of other teams like the Lakers and Mavericks. But Jerry Sloan is a genius, Carlos Boozer is a great defensive player, the Jazz are great at home, they have a great offense. I think Boozer, Williams, and Mehmet Okur could surprise some in the playoffs.
4. San Antonio Spurs (50-32)
Because of their late surge (despite last night’s loss to Dallas) I think the Spurs have a great chance of beating the Mavericks in their first round series. They can play a lot better on defense and Tim Duncan could give Dirk Nowitzki a lot of trouble.
5. Phoenix Suns (54-28)
I’m picking this team (along with Utah) to go to the Western Conference Finals. In all team sports, I like teams who can score A LOT, and the Suns are that team in the NBA. Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Jason Richardson are all playing well and if they can all stay consistent, they can win more than one round in the playoffs.
6. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)
The Lakers might have the number one seed in the West, but I just don’t think they can repeat as World Champions. Too many teams are better than them offensively, too many are also better defensively. They are very slow on the perimeter, which is great news for the fast-paced teams in the West like Phoenix and their first round opponents, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kobe, Pau, and Bynum might be great and all, but there are just more teams in the West that seem to have more of a spark.
7. Atlanta Hawks (53-29)
The Hawks (to no surprise) might only win one round in the playoffs. They can definitely beat the Bucks in possibly five or six games, but I just don’t see them beating the Magic in the second round. Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith might not have enough against Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, and Rashard Lewis.
8. Denver Nuggets (53-29)
Because of their lack of strong defense, I don’t think the Nuggets have enough to beat the Jazz in the first round. They only rank 20th in the “points against average” category, which isn’t very exciting. Boozer, Okur, and Williams might be too much for the Jazz in the end, but it will be a fun series to watch. Both teams are great at home so the Nuggets’ series with the Jazz could go to seven games.
9. Boston Celtics (50-32)
Ever since winning the World Champions in 2008, the Celtics have not gotten back to championship form. Whether it be injuries or just inconsistency on the court, this team is still a very good one, but not one that I can see winning a championship this year. They could get past Miami in the first round, but will more than likely fall to Cleveland in the Conference Semifinals.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32)
I like this team’s story behind them. They were the laughing stock of the Western Conference over the past few years but now they are a legit playoff team. Kevin Durant gets my vote for MVP but by a slim margin and is definitely going to get on the Lakers’ nerves in their upcoming series. This team is going to get better over the next few years, but for now, I just don’t think they can beat the Lakers in a seven game series. L.A. is just a little better on both sides of the ball.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (50-32)
Portland has a great defense and could give the Suns trouble in the playoffs, but because of the knee injury to Brandon Roy, I don’t see them winning a series against an offensive-fire power team like the Suns. They might not need to score much to get ahead of the Suns, but with Brandon Roy being banged up, it’s hard for me to believe that the Blazers can slow down and possibly eliminate the Suns.
12. Dallas Mavericks (55-27)
Dallas is not as good as their record indicates. They have 55 wins, which is most they’ve had since their 67-win season a few years ago. But the Mavericks have only scored an average of 2.7 more points than their opponents, which ranks only 12th in the NBA. They could see a tougher Spurs team in their series against them. They can definitely eliminate them for a second season in a row, but it will definitely be a tough task.
13. Miami Heat (47-35)
Miami would definitely be in the top ten if they could learn how to score. I think this team relies too much on Dwyane Wade in the scoring department. Wade has scored has scored 2,045 total points in the regular season, and the guy who has scored the second most (Michael Beasley) has only scored 1,156. This team could give Boston a run for their money in their series if they score more than 95 per game, but that's a big if. I just don’t see them getting past the first round.
14. Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
Probably one of the most surprising stories in the NBA. Scott Skiles should be at least in the running for the Coach of the Year Award. Brandon Jennings is the best rookie in the Eastern Conference. As far as playoff hopes, this team has a small chance at getting past Atlanta in the first round, but it’s not likely.
15. Charlotte Bobcats (44-38)
Even though this team can play defense better than any other team in the NBA, they still might not have absolutely no chance at beating the Magic in the first round of the playoffs. Larry Brown should be in the running for Coach of the Year.
16. Houston Rockets (42-40)
Not much exciting news going on in Houston. It’s disappointing to hear that as of about a week ago, Yao Ming is only about 30% healthy with his foot injury. Not a good sign. Big ups to Aaron Brooks though, for having a great year.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (40-42)
If it weren’t for Dwight Howard, Zach Randolph should win Defensive Player of the Year. A few months ago, I had high hopes for this team. They seemed almost like a top five team in the conference at one point and then they just dramatically declined over the past couple of months. No playoffs in Memphis=no surprise.
18. Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Let’s be honest: this team has absolutely no chance at beating the Cavaliers in the playoffs in a series.
19. Toronto Raptors (40-42)
The Raptors are a little better than they were last year, but their lack of defense leaves them out of the playoffs once again.
20. New Orleans Hornets (37-45)
The teams 37 wins are the fewest since their terrible 18-64 team back in 2005. Not much excitement across the board, as this team didn’t rank in the top 15 in either offense or defense. If Chris Paul would never have gotten hurt, this team would’ve had at least 40 wins but still would not have had much of a deep playoff chance.
21. Indiana Pacers (32-50)
The youth movement of the team leads them to their worst record in 21 years. They haven’t had less than 32 wins since 1989 when they went 28-54.
22. Golden State Warriors (32-50)
Lack of defense leads Don Nelson’s team to a bad season once again.
23. New York Knicks (29-53)
Raise your hand if you would ever think you would have Tracy McGrady, Earl Barron, and some Italian dude starting for the Knicks this year?
24. Philadelphia 76ers (27-55)
Even though the 76ers only fished with 27 wins, I still think it’s unfair for any coach to be fired after only one year. Eddie Jordan deserves at least a second chance.
25. Sacramento Kings (25-57)
They only positive that can come out of this season is that Tyreke Evans is going to win the Rookie of the Year Award, or at least deserves to win it.
26. Washington Wizards (26-56)
It’s pretty sad when you can say that a team finishing with 26 wins in an improvement.
27. Detroit Pistons (27-55)
The last time the Pistons finished a season with less than 27 wins was back in 1994 when they went 20-62.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (29-53)
Even if Blake Griffin played this year, this team would still be bad.
29. New Jersey Nets (12-70)
The biggest accomplishment for the New Jersey Nets in the 2009-10 season: they finished with more than nine wins.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-67)
The Wolves end the season going just 2-18 in their final 20 games of the season. Lack of offense + a 20th ranked defense = not very many wins.
Carter’s FINAL NBA 2009-10 Award Races:
Most Valuable Player:
1. Kevin Durant (Thunder)
2. LeBron James (Cavaliers)
3. Dwyane Wade (Heat)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
5. Kobe Bryant (Lakers)
6. Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets)
7. Amare Stoudemire (Suns)
8. Chris Bosh (Raptors)
9. Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
10. Stephen Jackson (Bobcats)
11. David Lee (Knicks)
12. Joe Johnson (Hawks)
13. Monta Ellis (Warriors)
14. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
15. Aaron Brooks (Rockets)
Coach Of The Year:
1. Alvin Gentry (Suns)
2. Scott Brooks (Thunder)
3. Larry Brown (Bobcats)
4. Scott Skiles (Bucks)
5. Mike Brown (Cavaliers)
Defensive Player of the Year:
1. Dwight Howard (Magic)
2. Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
3. David Lee (Knicks)
4. Carlos Boozer (Jazz)
5. Marcus Camby (Blazers)
Rookie of the Year:
1. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
2. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
3. Brandon Jennings (Bucks)
4. Jonny Flynn (Timberwolves)
5. Marcus Thornton (Hornets)
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