2010-2011 NBA Season Preview: Record Projections, Bold Predictions and More

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 25, 2010

2010-2011 NBA Season Preview: Record Projections, Bold Predictions and More

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    There's an over-used cliche that aptly describes the supposed plight suffered by owners and players alike in their current labor war:  "You never know what you got until it's gone."

    Fresh off the most exciting offseason in NBA history, it is safe to say that anticipation for an NBA season has not been this high since Michael Jordan's last comeback with the Wizards in 2001. 

    The world hates LeBron and Miami Thrice while deifying Kevin Durant as the anti-LeBron.

    The Celtics are motivated to avenge their Game 7 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers while the Lakers attempt to win Phil Jackson his fourth three-peat. 

    Carmelo Anthony is pushing for a trade while Denver is doing everything short of offering Carmelo's wife (LaLa Vasquez) her own television network. 

    And yet all of these stories have a dark cloud hanging over them.  A cloud that says, "in one year, we might not be here."

    A year from now we could be inundated with daily stories from ESPN as they firmly plant Rachel Nichols' ginger ass outside the league offices like it's Brett Favre's favorite Mississippi high school. 

    A year from now terms like "CBA", "BRI" and "hard cap" are going to be more important than LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. 

    Well, I for one am appreciating the game while it's still here.  With that said, here is my 2010-11 NBA Season Preview. 

Eastern Conference

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Here is my preview of the Eastern Conference:

1. Miami Heat

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  47-35

    Key Additions:  LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

    Key Subtractions:  Michael Beasley (traded to Minnesota), Jermaine O'Neal (signed with Boston)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  65-17 (+18 over '09-'10) (1st in Eastern Conference & Southeast Division)

    Bold Prediction:  On Dec. 2, in his first game back in Cleveland since taking his "talents to South Beach", LeBron James will score 70+ points.   

    My Thoughts:  Anyone who thinks Miami Thrice isn't going to dominate the regular season is a total buffoon only motivated by their hatred of how the team's conception went down.  Miami is built for regular season dominance.  On any night the team can have one of three players take over and will the team to victory. (A luxury all three sorely lacked on their respective teams last season.)

    But, most importantly, LeBron, Wade and Bosh all have a fire under their ass caused by the hatred they've endured since teaming up.  Some wonder if the three will fold under the enormous weight of carrying the NBA on its back.  I wonder whether the entire league will crumble at the Heat's feet.

    (Ha, that rhymed.)

2. Orlando Magic

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  59-23

    Key Additions:  Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon

    Key Subtractions:  Matt Barnes (signed with Lakers)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  55-27 (minus-4 over '09-'10) (second in Eastern Conference and second in Southeast Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Dwight Howard wins the NBA MVP. 

    My Thoughts:  Some analysts are projecting the Magic as potential saviors away from Heat dominance.  And, on paper, it makes total sense.  Dwight Howard (my pick for MVP due to an offensive maturation) creates such a matchup advantage that the deep and playoff-tested Magic could send Miami Thrice packing meanwhile sending the entire city of Cleveland into a celebratory drunken stupor. 

    The problem here is two-fold:  One, that would involve Orlando getting past the Boston Celtics, a team who has their number and has Shaquille O'Neal whose hatred for Dwight Howard is so deep it might actually cause him to give a damn. 

    Two, when in the purple hell have we ever seen Dwight Howard dominate a series?  I realize I'm picking him for MVP this year, but that's mainly based on the fact I feel his work with Hakeem this offseason will pay huge dividends in the regular season.  I'm much more skeptical about his playoff acumen. 

    Other analysts are predicting a downward spiral, led by Vince "It's the last year of my contract, so I'm just gonna jack up shots to make my stats look better so I can get a new deal" Carter.  The problem with that theory would be implying that Vince Carter cares about anything.  Some nimrod GM is going to give him three-years/$30 million regardless.  Vince knows this.

    What both sides of the Magic argument aren't seeing is the obvious:  They're the exact same team as last year, only a year older.  Or, in the words of Jay-Z, "same s---, different toilet."

3. Boston Celtics

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    Charley Gallay/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  50-32

    Key Additions:  Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Delonte West, Avery Bradley (because I love him)

    Key Subtractions:  Tony Allen (signed with Memphis), Kendrick Perkins (because I think he's going to be out the entire season)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  51-31 (+1 over '09-10) (3rd in Eastern Conference & 1st in Atlantic Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Kevin Garnett makes the Eastern Conference All-Star team while averaging over 20 PPG and 9 RPG.   

    My Thoughts:  What do you call an extremely old team whose three main offseason additions have a combined 38 seasons of NBA experience and are spearheaded by an over-the-hill center?  Well, normally, you would call them the Dallas Mavericks. 

    But this year, you call them exponentially better than the team that came within inches of an NBA championship. 

    Couple that with the motivation that comes from the aforementioned defeat at the hands of the rival Lakers and Boston looked to be an easy favorite to repeat as Eastern Conference champions.

    Then LeBron took his talents to South Beach and things changed.  Everyone focused on the spectacle and fantasized about 70 win seasons. 

    In the meantime the veteran Celtics took their lunch pails and went to work with only one thing on their minds—an NBA championship. 

    I honestly am just looking forward to seeing the teams battle. 

4. Chicago Bulls

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  41-41

    Key Additions:  Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer

    Key Subtractions:  Kirk Hinrich (traded to Washington), Hakim Warrick (signed with Phoenix)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  49-33 (+8 over '09-'10) (4th in Eastern Conference & 1st in Central Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Derrick Rose finishes in the top four of the final MVP voting.  

    My Thoughts:  Carlos Boozers is an adequate consolation prize, but there is no denying that the Bulls were among the losers of the NBA off-season. 

    When early reports surfaced that Dwyane Wade was leaning toward signing with his hometown Bulls, fans envisioned their own "Big Three" with Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh and D-Wade. 

    After falling short on their "Big Three" dreams, Bulls fans began settling into being content as an upper crust Eastern Conference team.  Then Carmelo happened.  Until it didn't. 

    So after another tease the Bulls are left with a burgeoning superstar, a semi-star, a defensive stalwart and a plethora of vital role players.  Not a bad place to be following an offseason of "disappointment."

5. Atlanta Hawks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  53-29

    Key Additions:  Jordan Crawford

    Key Subtractions:  None.  (Childress doesn't count.)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  46-36 (-7 over 09-10) (5th in Eastern Conference, 3rd in Southeast Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Following another Hawks playoff ouster and poor performance by Joe Johnson, I propose a column titled "120 Million Reasons Why Joe Johnson Is Not Worth $120 Million" and am quickly shot down by my editors.   

    My Thoughts:  Is there anything likable about this team whatsoever? 

    Their management gave a choking dog, faux-star, who publicly criticized Hawks fans, the biggest contract of an offseason that included three of the top seven players in the NBA, of which Hawks "superstar" guard Joe Johnson is not.  

    The team is largely comprised of the same players who phoned in an entire playoff series, resulting in the firing of the only competent Hawks coach of the past 20 years. 

    Absolutely nothing likable here whatsoever. 

6. New York Knicks

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  29-53

    Key Additions:  Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov (...as long as he doesn't suck)

    Key Subtractions:  David Lee (signed-and-traded to Golden State), Chris Duhon (signed with Magic)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  44-38 (+15 over '09-'10) (6th in Eastern Conference, 2nd in Atlantic Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Amar'e Stoudemire leads the NBA in scoring.   

    My Thoughts:  Of the teams I'm most excited to watch play this offseason, the suddenly-competent Knicks rank third, behind only the Heat and Thunder. 

    Every offseason acquisition fits perfectly in coach Mike D'Antoni's system.  Seeing Raymond Felton and Amar'e Stoudemire run in the open court this season is going to be a thing of beauty. 

    And, even though Stoudemire is not worth $100 million, he's in the process of doing the one thing Knicks fans needed more than anything—a return to relevancy. 

    With both Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul privately opining to play in New York, future pastures could be even greener following this season. 

    The 2010-11 begins that journey. 

7. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  46-36

    Key Additions:  Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden

    Key Subtractions:  Luke Ridnour (signed with Minnesota)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  42-40 (-4 over '09-'10) (7th in Eastern Conference, 2nd in Central Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Scott Skiles either quits or is fired by the All-Star break.   

    My Thoughts:  This comes down to the fact I still don't think Brandon Jennings is that good.  Granted, I recognize he is talented.  But I don't see signs of a winning point guard anywhere in his DNA. 

    When ranking things I want most in an NBA point guard, the label "volume shooter" ranks about No. 842 on the list between No. 841. "Blind in one eye" and No. 843.  "Likes to eat Vaseline on Ustream."

    In other words, Jennings' propensity to "shoot through" his constant shooting woes doesn't magnetize me to his playing style. 

    And, knowing Bucks coach Scott Skiles, he feels the exact same way.  If you're not familiar with the work of coach Skiles, he's not exactly what you would call the best communicator.  Combine that with Jennings' "selective hearing" problem, and you have the recipe for a horrible relationship. 

    If the team's star and its coach don't get along, teams fail.  It's that simple. 

8. Indiana Pacers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  32-50

    Key Additions:  Darren Collison, Paul George (who, as anyone who regularly reads my work knows, is my 2010 rookie man crush)

    Key Subtractions:  Troy Murphy (traded to Nets), Earl Watson (signed with Utah)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  40-42 (plus-eight over '09-'10) (eighth in Eastern Conference, third in Central Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Darren Collison wins the NBA's Most Improved Player award.   

    My Thoughts:  The No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, also known as the "No, you take it.  We're cool in the lottery" award gets bestowed on the Pacers, a team that made a bunch of sneaky-good off-season moves. 

    Adding Darren Collison, the former Hornet who filled in more than aptly in the absence of Chris Paul last season, gives the Pacers a solid point guard they sorely lacked last season. 

    Paul George breaks the team's policy of drafting safe prospects, instead of a "boom-or-bust" type player like George.  There is no doubt in my mind that Paul George will either be scoring 20 PPG or out of the league in four years.  The middle ground is non-existent with a prospect like this, but based on all the tape I've watched of the guy, he's going to be a star at the NBA level.  He has elite leaping ability, a sweet stroke from behind the arc and good size for his position.

    If Collison adds stability and George adds spark to a team already equipped with Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert, they should roll to the No. 8 seed in a weak conference.  

9. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  44-38

    Key Additions:  Kwame Brown (...only because of the irony), Matt Carroll (token white guy!)

    Key Subtractions: Raymond Felton (signed with Knicks), Tyson Chandler (traded to Mavs)


    2010-11 Record Projection:  35-47 (minus-nine over '09-'10) (ninth in Eastern Conference, fourth in Southeast Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Larry Brown-to-Team X rumors start before November 15, 2010.  Wait...that's not bold.  That's just, um, obvious.  Uhh...Stephen Jackson goes the entire season without a technical.  Bold!

    My Thoughts:  I mean, I really have none.  The team spent its offseason lowering ownership's luxury tax bill and attempting to facilitate other teams' attempts to better themselves while doing nothing to get better. 

    For someone who criticized management's unwillingness to spend at the end of his Chicago tenure, MJ is looking awfully Krausean with his off-season moves. 

    Just saying. 

10. Washington Wizards

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  26-56

    Key Additions:  John Wall, Gilbert Arenas (yes, he counts), Kirk Hinrich, Kevin Seraphin

    Key Subtractions:  Randy Foye (signed with Clippers), Mike Miller (signed with Miami)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  34-48 (plus-eight over '09-'10) (11th in Eastern Conference, fifth in Southeast Division)

    Bold Prediction:  The Wizards and Gilbert Arenas come to terms on a buyout of his contract by New Years Day.   

    My Thoughts:  Everyone seems to be focused on John Wall's maturity on-the-court.  I'm not worried about that whatsoever.  I have already seen enough of the kid play to know he's going to be a top-10 NBA player within three years. 

    Where I am focused on is Wall's maturity off-the-court and why in the turquoise hell Gilbert Arenas is allowed within 500 feet of Wall is just baffling to me.  The Wizards should have bought out Arenas the day they won the lottery. 

    Management seems convinced that some bumbling GM will be seduced by Gilbert's talent and be willing to take on his massive contract.  (That sound you hear are the fellow readers feverishly going to Youtube to play the famous "KHAAAAAAAN" quote from "Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan.")

    One problem:  Arenas has played exactly 47 games in the past three seasons and hasn't looked anywhere his former self in any of them. 

    Ownership needs to cut a check so the team can cut its losses while it still has time. 

11. Philadelphia 76ers

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  27-55

    Key Additions:  Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes

    Key Subtractions:  Samuel Dalembert (traded to Sacramento)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  30-52 (plus-three over '09-'10) (11th in Eastern Conference, third in Atlantic Division)

    Bold Prediction:  I was going to make a "paramedics rush to Sixers bench to check the pulse of coach Doug Collins who turns out to just be napping" joke, but considering Collins' recent health concerns, that just seems inappropriate.   

    My Thoughts:  So how many different ways do you want me to say I was wrong about Evan Turner?  Let's try French:  Je me trompais sur Evan Turner.  Not good enough?  Okay, let's try Italian:  Mi sbagliavo su Evan Turner.  Still not good enough?  Fine.  One last try:  Mimi nilikuwa na makosa kuhusu Evan Turner.

    We good now?  I knew Swahili would solve it. 

    All horrible jokes involving Google Translate aside, I was dead wrong on Turner.  As most of you know, I ranked him No. 1 on my prospect rankings before the NBA Draft, citing my "never pass on a sure thing" theory.  While normally foolproof, the theory does require that the player actually be a sure thing, something Turner has proven himself to be anything but. 

    By all accounts, the No. 2 overall pick seems to have regressed to his freshman year at Ohio State form, meaning arguing with coaches, teammates and being an overall headcase. 

    It could just be a bad preseason, but with many other rookies shining on the preseason stage, it's hard to look past Turner's ineptitude. 

    Unless he turns it around, Sixers fans could be in for another long season. 

12. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    J.D. Pooley/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  61-21

    Key Additions:  Umm...Ramon Sessions?

    Key Subtractions:  LeBron James (signed-and-traded to Miami), Shaquille O'Neal (signed with Boston), Zydrunas Ilgauskis (signed with Miami)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  28-54 (minus-33 over '09-'10) (12th in Eastern Conference, fourth in Central Division)

    Bold Prediction:  Cavs "magically" land the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.   

    My Thoughts:  I'm really sorry Cleveland. 

13. Detroit Pistons

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  27-55

    Key Additions:  Tracy McGrady, Greg Monroe

    Key Subtractions:  None

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  27-55 (plus/minus-0 over '09-'10) (13th in Eastern Conference, fifthth in Central Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Bleacher Report gets national coverage when Joe Dumars calls one of its writers an a**hole, Elgin Baylor style, in a press conference.   

    My Thoughts:  How does Joe Dumars have an NBA General Manager job when Kevin Pritchard doesn't?  Seriously, how the f--- does Joe Dumars have an NBA General Manager job, period? 

    Beginning with the Allen Iverson-for-Chauncey Billups trade, Dumars has systematically destroyed the Pistons that had just made five straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances.

    Just for reference, here are the Pistons transactions since Nov. 4, 2008 (the Billups trade):

    Dec. 9, 2008:  Signed Antonio McDyess for veteran's minimum (good move)

    Jun. 23, 2009:  Traded Amir Johnson for Fabricio Oberto (horrible move)

    Jul. 2, 2009:  Signed Ben Gordon to five-year/$55 million deal.  (horrible move)

    Jul. 2, 2009:  Signed Charlie Villanueva to five-year/$40 million deal.  (mind-numbingly stupid move)

    Jul. 9, 2009:  Hired John Kuester as team's new head coach (if we're judging by record compared to predecessor, horrible move)

    Jul. 13, 2009:  Traded Arron Afflalo, Walter Sharpe and cash for second-round pick (horrible move)

    Jul. 20, 2009:  Signed Chris Wilcox to two-year/$6 million deal (okay move)

    Aug. 12, 2009: Signed Ben Wallace to one-year/$1.3 million deal (good move)

    Aug. 4, 2010:  Signed Ben Wallace to two-year/$3.8 million deal (okay move)

    Aug. 16, 2010:  Signed Tracy McGrady to one-year/$1.3 million deal (good move)

     

    I think that speaks for itself. 

14. New Jersey Nets

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  12-70

    Key Additions:  Troy Murphy, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar

    Key Subtractions:  Courtney Lee (traded to Houston)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  24-58 (plus-12 over '09-'10) (14th in Eastern Conference, fourth in Atlantic Division)

    Bold Prediction:   This is the year we realize that Brook Lopez is who he is (a 20-9 guy with above-average defense and an awesome personality) and nothing else.   

    My Thoughts:  Loads of young talent with a coach who is great at squeezing every ounce of potential out of players in his first year before players eventually want to squeeze every ounce of life out of him. 

    Under Avery Johnson, Nets players are going to learn discipline, defensive awareness and how to take a man who sounds like he just sucked up the world's supply of helium seriously.  

    Derrick Favors should shine defensively in his rookie season, but Johnson's coaching staff is known to be limited offensively so Favors' offensive development could be hampered early-on. 

    As for the rest of the overpaid (minus Brook Lopez) talent on the roster, their cycle of mediocrity will continue. 

    Doubling a win total is an accomplishment even for teams that only won 12 games in the previous season. 

15. Toronto Raptors

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  40-42

    Key Additions:  Leandro Barbosa, Ed Davis, Linas Kleiza

    Key Subtractions:  Chris Bosh (signed-and-traded to Miami, Hedo Turkoglu (traded to Phoenix)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  19-63 (minus-21 over '09-'10) (15th in Eastern Conference, fifth in Atlantic Division)

    Bold Prediction:   DeMar Derozan has a breakout season, becomes an All-Star the next, and flees Toronto after his rookie contract ends. 

    (Sorry, Toronto.  I had to after all the vitriolic e-mails I got from you last season.)

    My Thoughts: On the bright side, at least they still have an NBA team and Canadians are awesome. 

Western Conference

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    Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    Here is my preview of the Western Conference:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  50-32

    Key Additions:  Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Morris Peterson

    Key Subtractions:  None.

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  58-24 (plus-eight over '09-'10) (first in Eastern Conference, first in Northwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Russell Westbrook makes an All-NBA team. 

    My Thoughts:  Everything about this team is screaming "break-out regular season, only to fall short in the playoffs."

    Talent-wise, OKC is filled to the brim with young talent that is only going to get better under the wing of a top-five coach in Scott Brooks. 

    Chemistry-wise, the Thunder looks to actually be as close-knit as LeBron James' Cavaliers teams of the past two years appeared to be. 

    And Kevin Durant is simply breathtaking.  Watching his pure dominance and emergence as a leader during the World Championships only further supplanted Durant among the NBA's elite and made him an early favorite for NBA MVP.  Add that to his willingness to embrace a possible rivalry with LeBron James, and Durant is seemingly every bit the superstar young fans hear their fathers reminisce about while degrading the non-competitiveness of today's game. 

    Let's hope Durant's competitiveness is more inspirational to today's youth than the cop-out route LeBron took. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  57-25

    Key Additions:  Steve Blake, Matt Barnes

    Key Subtractions:  Jordan Farmar (signed with Nets)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  55-27 (minus-two over '09-'10) (second in Western Conference, first in Pacific Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Kobe Bryant plays in less than 70 games this season. 

    My Thoughts:  The two-time defending NBA champions aren't getting any younger, and if you have seen Kobe Bryant play this preseason, any healthier either. 

    I have a feeling Bryant's insistence on playing (poorly, by the way) in the preseason instead of sitting out and resting his multitude of injuries is going to backfire, resulting in an extended period with Bryant out of the Lakers lineup when it matters.

    Pau Gasol is more than capable of manning the fort while the face of the franchise is healing, so there is no problem there.

    Where the Lakers true problem lies is the fact that Derek Fisher is done as an NBA starting point guard.  Watching him play this preseason reminds me of my dog Spunky.  She's 16-years-old and on her last legs.  She's deaf and semi-blind.  She's so uncoordinated that she slips and falls on a daily basis.  But my mom loves her, so we can't put her to sleep until it is absolutely necessary.

    Phil, put Fisher out his misery. 

3. Utah Jazz

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  53-29

    Key Additions:  Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward (white guy!), Raja Bell

    Key Subtractions:  Carlos Boozer (signed with Chicago), Kyle Korver (white guy!) (signed with Chicago)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  53-29 (plus/minus-0 over '09-'10) (third in Western Conference, second in Northwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Gordon Hayward (a guy who will play less than 15 MPG) sells more jerseys than 23-15 man Al Jefferson. 

    My Thoughts:  So let me get this straight.  The Jazz lose their second best player to free agency and proceed to acquire a better player at the same position for sack of magic beans, yet analysts think the team is going to be worse this season? 

    I don't get it. 

    With Al Jefferson two years off reconstructive knee surgery, Deron Williams ready to continue the growth he showed last season and Jerry Sloan once again leading the charge, any less than last season's 53 wins would be a disappointment. 

4. Dallas Mavericks

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  55-27

    Key Additions:  Tyson Chandler

    Key Subtractions:  Erick Dampier (traded to Charlotte)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  52-30 (minus-three over '09-'10) (fourth in Western Conference, first in Southwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Jason Kidd's corpse is subtly replaced by Rodrigue Beaubois during crunch time as the season progresses. 

    My Thoughts:  They're old, they spent exorbitant amounts of money on mediocre big men and have the best owner in professional sports.  Absolutely nothing new or surprising here to talk about. 

5. Houston Rockets

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  42-40

    Key Additions:  Yao Ming (he counts), Courtney Lee, Patrick Patterson, Brad Miller

    Key Subtractions:  Trevor Ariza (traded to New Orleans)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  51-31 (plus-nine over '09-'10) (sixth in Western Conference, second in Southwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Yao Ming plays in 70-plus games this season. 

    My Thoughts:  Everybody knows that the Rockets' entire season hopes rest on the 30 percent chance that Yao Ming stays healthy throughout the entire season. 

    By strictly limiting Yao to a maximum of 24 minutes per night, the staff's desperation to keep Yao healthy is evident.  I cannot think of a time where a team limited a player's minutes without any wiggle room for an entire season. 

    And, with Yao saying he will retire if his foot does not fully heal, who can blame the team for taking extreme measures.

    Besides the surface purpose of keeping Yao healthy, their minute-limiting policy also tells you how deeply management believes this Rockets team has all the tools to be Western Conference championship contender if Yao is healthy. 

    As always, it's a wait-and-hold-your-breath game. 

6. Denver Nuggets

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  53-29

    Key Additions:  Al Harrington

    Key Subtractions:  Linas Kleiza (signed with Raptors)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  50-32 (minus-three over '09-'10) (sixth in Western Conference, in Atlantic Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Carmelo Anthony plays all 82 games in a Denver Nuggets uniform and signs an extension during the season. 

    My Thoughts:  My theory:  Carmelo Anthony is going to come out of the gate on-fire this season, fueled both by his own desire to leave Denver as well as the criticism he has received for voicing his displeasure. 

    Because of this, Denver is also going to start out the season ablaze.  And, after a long sit-down talk with George Karl, Chauncey Billups and Nuggets brass, 'Melo decides to re-up during the team's hot streak. 

    Then the Nuggets fall back into what they really are (a team full of headcases completely unable to sustain any strain of consistency) and fall out of true contention by the end of the season. 

    'Melo regrets signing his extension and spends all next off-season (assuming we have one) asking for a trade.

7. San Antonio Spurs

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  50-32

    Key Additions:  Tiago Splitter, James Anderson

    Key Subtractions:  None.

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  47-35 (minus-3 over '09-'10) (7th in Western Conference, 3rd in Southwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Spurs start off poorly, leaving analysts to wonder "Is this the year the Spurs are finally done" only for the team to catch fire after the All-Star break for yet another playoff berth.

    Wait, that happens every year?  Oh, sorry. 

    My Thoughts:  I am interested to see if Splitter's game translates to the NBA level.  I think that this is the last year of the Duncan-era the Spurs make the playoffs.  I hope Gregg Popovich grows another beard. 

    The end. 

8. Los Angeles Clippers

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  29-53

    Key Additions:  Blake Griffin, Al-Farouq Aminu, Randy Foye, Eric Bledsoe

    Key Subtractions:  Steve Blake (signed with Lakers), Drew Gooden (signed with Milwaukee), Travis Outlaw (signed with Nets), Steve "Mr. Crunch Time" Novak (signed with Dallas)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  46-36 (plus-17 over '09-'10) (eighth in Western Conference, second in Pacific Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Clippers to the playoffs not bold enough?  Fine.  Blake Griffin has the best rookie season since LeBron James (averaging 20-10-2+blocks) while playing in 75-plus games.   

    My Thoughts:  I bought into Clippers preseason conjecture last season and suckered myself into picking them as the No. 7 seed in the West. 

    Needless to say that didn't work out so well for me. 

    But, just like every Clippers fan out there, I am convinced that this is the year

    My Clippers faith is exactly like my faith in "Entourage."  For the past four seasons, I've sat waiting for the series to capture the potential greatness I saw in the first season.  And by the end of every season, I would feel like the entire cast fed me an entire bowl of crap stew for the entire season. 

    Yet every year I kept coming back convinced they would finally deliver.  Then, this season it happened.  Vince became a coke-head who dates pornstar Sasha Grey.  Bob Saget and John Stamos re-unite making me wonder what ever happened to Jodie Sweetin.  Start to finish just a great season. 

    Well, for the Clippers, this season it is happening

9. Portland Trailblazers

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  50-32

    Key Additions:  Wesley Matthews, Greg Oden

    Key Subtractions:  Martell Webster (traded to Minnesota)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  44-38 (minus-six over '09-'10) (ninth in Western Conference, fourth in Northwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:  My purchase of rehirekevinpritchard.com will prove very profitable by February.   

    My Thoughts:  An organization is only as strong as its foundation, and the foundation of the Blazers is in shambles. 

    After unceremoniously firing long-time and well-respected GM Kevin Pritchard, Portland splurged on Wesley Matthews (really, Wesley Matthews?) and stood pat for the rest of the offseason. 

    Injuries are a huge concern because Portland lacks depth to cover for the injuries.  Last season they miraculously survived (in one hell of a coaching job by Nate McMillan) to make the playoffs.

    If the injury bug catches them again this season, I see now way they survive a second season of plugging in washed up veterans. 

10. Phoenix Suns

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  54-28

    Key Additions:  Josh Childress, Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick

    Key Subtractions:  Louis Amundson (signed with Golden State), Amare Stoudemire (signed-and-traded to Knicks), Leandro Barbosa (traded to Toronto)

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  43-39 (minus-11 over '09-'10) (10th in Western Conference, third in Pacific Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Hedo Turkoglu returns to his Orlando form. And the team scores the most points in the NBA while also giving up the most.   

    My Thoughts:  Reasons the Suns won't make the playoffs:  No defensive stopper, no individual explosive scorer, 45 small forwards, the Western Conference, Hedo Turkoglu karma, Steve Kerr karma, Robert Sarver karma.

    Reasons the Suns will make the playoffs—Steve Nash.

    They'll be fun to watch, but there's no way this Suns team makes the playoffs. 

11. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  40-42

    Key Additions:  Xavier Henry, Tony Allen

    Key Subtractions:  Ronnie Brewer

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  38-44 (minus-two over '09-'10) (11th in Western Conference, fourth in Southwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   No less than five misdemeanor charges for this team during the season. 

    My Thoughts:  On paper, the Grizzlies look ready to ascend to upper crust of the Western Conference.  With talent on every position on the floor, great bench depth, and a surprising 40-42 finish last season, you would think more analysts would be picking them as a sleeper playoff team.

    Then you remember that Zach Randolph is a supposed drug kingpin, Mike Conley isn't an NBA point guard, and the team lacks a crunch-time scorer.  It's also a team built by Chris Wallace.  A Chris Wallace-built team just can't make the playoffs. 

    Karma for the Gasol pilfering hasn't hit Memphis yet, but I have a feeling it's coming this season. 

12. New Orleans Hornets

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  37-45

    Key Additions:  Trevor Ariza

    Key Subtractions:  Darren Collison, Morris Peterson

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  32-50 (minus-five over '09-'10) (12th in Western Conference, fifth in Southwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Chris Paul is not wearing a Hornets uniform at the end of the 2010-11 season. 

    My Thoughts:  My theory:  Chris Paul takes one look at his teammates, realizes he was wholly just in asking for a trade during the off-season, and quietly asks for a trade early-on. 

    The team tells Paul to wait it out, see if the team gets better, and, if not, they will try to accommodate his wishes.  Things don't get better.

    After shopping Paul quietly around the league, the Hornets find a suitor in the Houston Rockets.

    Trade goes something like this:

    Houston gets Paul

    New Orleans gets Aaron Brooks, Shane Battier (expiring), Jared Jeffries (expiring), the Knicks 2012 pick, and cash.

    Who says no to that deal if Paul really wants out? 

    And, if he does get out, well, it's not going to get better any time soon in New Orleans. 

13. Golden State Warriors

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  26-56

    Key Additions:  David Lee, Louis Amundson

    Key Subtractions:  Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, Corey Maggette

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  30-52 (plus-four over '09-'10) (13th in Western Conference, fourth in Pacific Division)

    Bold Prediction:   Stephen Curry averages more than 23 PPG and 8 APG. 

    My Thoughts:  Call me a curmudgeon, but I'm a stickler for not giving nonathletic, horrible defender, product of the system guys $80 million.  Considering David Lee is an all-around good guy, an above-average rebounder and scorer, I would give him half of that willingly.

    Overpayments to overrated players aside, the Warriors are going to be about as fun as watching J-Woww on TNA Wrestling on a nightly basis. 

    In fact, if I wasn't a poor college student working for minimum wage at a convenience store, I would buy NBA Season Ticket and watch them every night. 

    And with both Don Nelson and Chris Cohan out of the picture, greener pastures are certainly ahead for the Warriors.  I just don't think it quite translates to winning this season. 

14. Sacramento Kings

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  25-57

    Key Additions:  DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert

    Key Subtractions:  Spencer Hawes

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  29-53 (plus-four over '09-'10) (14th in Western Conference, fifth in Pacific Division)

    Bold Prediction:   The NBA announces the Kings franchise's intentions to move to Seattle (or Kansas City) by the end of the season. 

    My Thoughts:  The Kings are another team that had a fantastic offseason.  Instead of strapping themselves down with an expensive free agent, the team traded for center Samuel Dalembert and his expiring contract to allow future cap flexibility. 

    In addition, the Kings took another plunge into the "questionable character" pool and drafted former Kentucky star DeMarcus Cousins with the No. 5 pick in June's draft.  Many wonder whether Kings management is quickly compiling a roster of knuckleheads that will eventually morph into a Jailblazers 2.0-type team. 

    I personally don't see any reason to worry.  It's not like the Kings owners are heavily involved in the Las Vegas nightlife and can provide perks for the players that no other owners can.

    Oh, they are? My bad.

    But, until the personality flaws rear their ugly head, the Kings came away with two of the four most talented players in the last two drafts without having a pick in the top three in either draft.  And that's a great place to build your future. 

15. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    2009-2010 Record:  15-67

    Key Additions:  Michael Beasley and 17 other small forwards.

    Key Subtractions:  Al Jefferson, Ramon Sessions

     

    2010-11 Record Projection:  13-69 (minus-two over '09-'10) (15th in Western Conference, fifth in Northwest Division)

    Bold Prediction:   The magic beans David Kahn traded Al Jefferson turn out to grow three brain cells which Kahn inserts into his mind, leaving him with, well, three brain cells.  

    My Thoughts:  What can you really say about a team with no direction, no star player, a bad coach, a historically inept GM?  I feel horrible for my 2008 Draft man crush Kevin Love, but there is no light at the end of this tunnel. 

Regular Season Awards

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    Pool/Getty Images

    MVP:  Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic (second: Kevin Durant, third: LeBron James, fourth: Derrick Rose, fifth: Amare Stoudemire)

    Defensive Player of the Year:  Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics (second: Dwight Howard, third: LeBron James, fourth: Kevin Garnett, fifth: John Wall)

    Rookie of the Year:  Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers (second: John Wall, third: DeMarcus Cousins, fourth: Paul George, fifth: Jordan Crawford)

    Sixth Man of the Year:  Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs (too difficult to guess one to five here)

    Coach of the Year:  Mike D'Antoni, Knicks (second: Vinny Del Negro, third: Jim O'Brien, fourth: Scott Brooks, fifth: Rick Adelman)

    Most Improved Player:  Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors

Eastern Conference Playoff Results

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    First Round

    Miami Heat (1) over Indiana Pacers (8) in four games.

    Chicago Bulls (4) over Atlanta Hawks (5) in five games.

    Boston Celtics (3) over New York Knicks (6) in six games.

    Orlando Magic (2) over Milwaukee Bucks (7) in six games.

     

    Second Round:

    Miami Heat (1) over Chicago Bulls (4) in five games

    Boston Celtics (3) over Orlando Magic (2) in seven games. 

     

    Conference Championship:

    Miami Heat (1) over Boston Celtics in seven games. 

Western Conference Playoff Results

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    First Round

    Oklahoma City Thunder (1) over Los Angeles Clippers (8) in five games.

    Houston Rockets (5) over Dallas Mavericks (4) in seven games.

    Utah Jazz (3) over Denver Nuggets (6) in five games

    Los Angeles Lakers (2) over San Antonio Spurs (7) in six games.

     

    Conference Semi-Finals:

    Houston Rockets (5) over Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games.

    Los Angeles Lakers (2) over Utah Jazz in six games.

     

    Conference Finals:

    Los Angeles Lakers (2) over Houston Rockets (5) in five games. 

NBA Finals Results

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Game 1:  Heat over Lakers

    Game 2:  Lakers over Heat

    Game 3:  Lakers over Heat

    Game 4:  Heat over Lakers

    Game 5:  Lakers over Heat

    Game 6:  Heat over Lakers

    Game 7:  Heat over Lakers

     

    NBA Champions:  Miami Heat

    Finals MVP:  LeBron James.

     

    The lesson is, as always, the good guys never win.