The NBA hasn't been what anyone expected this year. The New Orleans Hornets, led by disgruntled point guard Chris Paul, were the last unbeaten team in the league. The Miami Heat, who have been compared to Micheal Jordan's Bulls, have already lost six games and won only eight.
There have been a few things that aren't the least bit surprising, though, like the injuries to Yao Ming and Greg Oden or the strong starts by the Lakers and Spurs. With so much changing since the beginning of the season, how will it end?
1. Los Angeles Lakers (12-2): Once again, the Lakers are right atop the conference and will remain there.
2. San Antonio Spurs (12-1): The Spurs are having a ridiculously good start to the season, and they will continue to play well until the end.
3. Utah Jazz (10-5): The Jazz did a fantastic job to replace Boozer, Korver and Brewer, and they have come out victorious in four consecutive games this season that were dubbed impossible to win by everyone in the crowd.
4. New Orleans Hornets (12-2): The Hornets have surprised the league by getting off to a strong start after the CP3 trade talk, and they will continue to surprise, getting safely into the playoffs.
5. Oklahoma City (10-4): The Thunder haven't started in the fantastic way most were expecting, but they have won impressive games in Utah and Boston, both without KD.
6. Denver Nuggets (8-6): They've started off very averagely, but they have a young, talented team and know they need to deliver in order to keep Carmelo next year.
7. Dallas Mavericks (8-4): Dallas has one of the most talented teams in the world on paper, but they need to develop some chemistry if they want to get to the top of the league.
8. Phoenix Suns (7-7): An aging team gears up for one last playoff run, this time, without Amare Stoudemire.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (8-6): Injuries to Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and more key players will lead to a let down year in Rip City, probably leading to some impulsive roster re-arrangement.
10. Houston Rockets (3-10): The Rockets will go on a great late-year run, but it will be too little too late after their terrible start.
11. Golden State Warriors (7-7): The Warriors have been pretty good so far, but they need more talent to get back to the playoffs.
12. Sacramento Kings (4-9)
13. Memphis Grizzlies (5-9)
14. Los Angeles Clippers (2-13)
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-11)
1. Boston Celtics (10-4): Despite injuries to key players like Rondo, Boston is still the Beast of the East.
2. Orlando Magic (9-4): They've been questionable so far, but they'll get on track to get to the top of the East.
3. Atlanta Hawks (8-6): They've gone on a bad run since being one of the last teams to lose a game, but they'll start winning games again and get to the top of the East.
4. Miami Heat (8-6): The last thing the Heat are going to do after their disappointing start is cruise to the Finals.
5. Chicago Bulls (7-4): Chicago is off to an average start, but they're good enough to round out the top half of the playoff bracket.
6. Milwaukee Bucks (5-8): They haven't been very good so far, but this talented team will get safely into the playoffs after they start to win some games.
7. Detroit Pistons (5-8): This team was expected to make great strides this year, and they will despite their not-too-good start.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (5-7): They've proven they can still win, and they will be able to round out the surprisingly weak Eastern conference.
9. New York Knicks (6-8): Stoudemire has led the Knicks to their best start in a while, but they won't have quite enough to make it to the postseason.
10. Charlotte Bobcats (5-8): The Bobcats won't be able to make the playoffs twice in a row for the first time quite yet.
11. Indiana Pacers (6-6): They've been surprisingly good so far, but they won't be able to finish in a crowded bottom half of the East.
12. Washington Wizards (4-8): John Wall has been just what he was expected to be so far, and soon he'll start to win games single-handedly for the Wiz. But, alas, it won't be enough.
13. Toronto Raptors (5-9)
14. Philadelphia 76ers (3-10)
15. New Jersey Nets (4-9)
1. Lakers over 8. Suns, 4-1
2. Spurs over 7. Mavericks, 4-3
6. Nuggets over 3. Jazz, 4-2
4. Hornets over 5. Thunder, 4-3
West MVP of Round One: Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
1. Celtics over 8. Cavaliers, 4-2
2. Magic over 7. Pistons, 4-0
6. Bucks over 3. Hawks, 4-2
4. Heat over 5. Bulls, 4-3
East MVP of Round One: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
6. Nuggets over 1. Lakers, 4-3
2. Spurs over 4. Hornets, 4-3
West MVP of Round Two: Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets
1. Celtics over 6. Bucks, 4-2
4. Heat over 2. Magic, 4-2
East MVP of Round Two: Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat
6. Nuggets over 2. Spurs, 4-3
MVP of West Finals: Nene, Denver Nuggets
1. Celtics over 4. Heat, 4-3
MVP of East Finals: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
This will be a great final. The Nuggets need to win it to keep Anthony next year, which is definitely a priority. The Celtics want to win a championship before the Big Three, the two O'Neals and other key players get too old.
Here's how I think it will go down:
Game 1: Celtics win in Boston
Game 2: Celtics win in Boston
Game 3: Nuggets win in Denver
Game 4: Celtics win in Denver
Game 5: Nuggets win in Boston
Game 6: Nuggets win in Denver
Game 7: Celtics win in Boston
The Celtics win a thrilling back-and-forth series to seemingly ruin the Nuggets' chances of keeping Melo. But, Anthony realizes he has a better chance of winning in Denver than New York or New Jersey.
The Celtics get their championship and the Nuggets keep their chances of winning one. Everybody wins.
Finals MVP: Ray Allen, Boston Celtics