NBA: 25 Bold, Post All-Star Break Predictions for the League
This NBA season has been full of excitement and surprises, and we're in for plenty more.
The trade deadline is rapidly approaching. Playoffs are around the corner. Individual awards will be handed out in a few months. And the big elephant in the room (upcoming collective bargaining negotiations) is getting louder and louder.
With all that in mind, I've set out to predict what will happen before it happens. So, without further ado, here are 25 bold post All-Star break predictions (organized by chronology, not by importance).
25: Carmelo Anthony Does Not Get Traded This Season
The Nuggets have been asking for an awful lot for Carmelo Anthony. The teams that are rumored to be interested are hesitant to cash in their entire futures for one player who hasn't proved himself in the playoffs.
Plus, any team that is not the New York Knicks is extra wary because there is no guarantee Melo would sign an extension anywhere outside the Big Apple.
With all the chatter that has surrounded Anthony this season, I just feel like a deal would have already gone down, if it was going to go down.
24: Brandon Roy Comes Back and Helps Portland Snag the Fifth Seed
This might be the boldest prediction of the entire slideshow. Brandon Roy's history of injuries has reached a point where it's now beyond troubling.
If he can come back from his latest surgeries (both knees), it will be no small miracle. But if that miracle happens, Portland could be in really good shape.
Utah is falling apart, and Denver may be too. With a healthy Roy playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, they could take advantage of their division foes' woes.
23: Grizzlies Trade O.J. Mayo and Make the Playoffs
The Grizzlies went 8-2 over the course of O.J. Mayo's 10-game suspension. If his Grizzlies days weren't doomed before, they sure are now.
After Mayo is traded, Memphis will be able to turn all their focus to things happening on the court. They'll continue to play solid, and make the playoffs.
They're currently in ninth in the West, but the seventh and eighth ranked teams (Utah and Denver) are on the verge of implosion.
22: Steve Nash Returns to Dallas
Wishful thinking? Pipe dream? Well, this article does have the word bold in the title.
This deal probably makes a little too much sense to actually go down, but here's hoping...
21: Rodrigue Beaubois Emerges As a Star...for Phoenix
If the Mavericks trade for Nash, they'll have to give up French phenom Rodrigue Beaubois. The kid would be fantastic in Phoenix's system.
As a rookie, he averaged over 20 points per 36 minutes. He could develop into a legitimate superstar very quickly, and could have the Suns back in the playoff hunt in a couple years.
20: Every Eastern Conference Playoff Team Has a Winning Record
For the last few years, an Eastern Conference team playing well below .500 basketball could still hope to get into the playoffs. Heck, a team 10 games below .500 could still manage the sixth or seventh seed.
This year, that isn't going to be the case. There are currently two teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture with losing records, and those two teams are surging.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers both look poised to finish their seasons with winning records.
This is all a part of the continuing West-to-East power shift in the NBA.
19: Utah Jazz Miss the Playoffs
The Jazz are already in a slide. They're 4-6 in their last 10 games, and they've dropped to seventh place in the West. They're just a game-and-a-half ahead of Memphis, and 3.5 games ahead of Phoenix (the ninth and 10th place teams).
The loss of Jerry Sloan will only accelerate their downward spiral. Then, throw in the possibility of losing Deron Williams or the rumors that will be surrounding him even if he doesn't get moved. This is a team in turmoil.
They're going to miss the playoffs, and begin a rebuilding in the offseason.
Hopefully, that rebuilding starts with Jimmer Fredette.
18: Blake Griffin Wins Rookie of the Year
This one's not exactly bold, but I'm going to predict all the award winners in this article. That includes the all-but-decided Rookie of the Year race.
Griffin is producing well beyond his years. He's been selected as a Western Conference All-Star in his first season, and he deserves it. He's averaging 22.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.
17: Gregg Popovich Wins Coach of the Year
I'll admit it, I was one of the many people who wrote off the San Antonio Spurs before this season started. I thought they were too old and too boring. I thought San Antonio's formula had run its course.
Well, at least I was right about one thing. Gregg Popovich has shown this year that he is capable of adapting. The Spurs have pretty much scrapped the methodical approach to the game and their new run-and-gun style has led them to the league's best record.
They're on pace to win well over 60 games this year and Popovich deserves a lot of credit.
I look at him as one of the few NBA coaches whose players actually listen to him. In today's NBA, that alone deserves some recognition.
16: Dorell Wright Wins Most Improved Player
There are some good options for this award. LaMarcus Aldridge, Raymond Felton, Kevin Love and others have drastically improved their production this year.
But I don't think anyone has stepped up quite as much as Dorell Wright. From last season to this one, his points are up from 7.1 to 16.4, his rebounds are up from 3.3 to 5.7 and his assists are up from 1.3 to 3.2 per game.
His biggest competitor for this award is Kevin Love. Although Love's numbers are way up, too, it's clear he could have put up big numbers last year as well (Kurt Rambis just never played him for some reason).
15: Jason Terry Wins Sixth Man of the Year
The Mavericks were in a little bit of a funk following injuries to Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler. They're out of that funk now, and Jason Terry is a big part of their resurgence. He's been on fire the last couple weeks.
Jamal Crawford is probably his chief competition for this award, and his numbers are slightly lower than Terry's. Plus, the Mavericks will almost definitely finish the year with a better record than the Hawks.
14: Dwight Howard Wins Defensive Player of the Year
I wanted to put Andrew Bogut in this slide, but I just don't think he'll get the votes. The Bucks don't look like they're ever going to pull themselves out of their funk, and their poor play will cost Bogut serious consideration for this award.
Howard will continue to dominate the paint on the defensive end of the floor for Orlando for the rest of the year.
13: LeBron James Wins the MVP
The Heat may not finish the regular season with the Eastern Conference's best record. They may end up with the third or fourth best regular season record in the league.
But even with Dwyane Wade by his side, no one carries a team quite like LeBron James does. He leads Miami in scoring and assists, and is second to Chris Bosh in rebounding.
He's third in the league in scoring at 26.1 points per game, 13th in rebounding at 7.3 boards a game, and 28th in assists at 7.3 dimes per game. He's first in the league in combined points, rebounds and assists at 40.8 (Kevin Love is second with 39.3).
Typically, how valuable a player is to his team is a huge factor in deciding who wins this award. The top contenders always come from the top teams in the standings.
The Heat would still be a good team without LeBron, but there's no way they'd be championship contenders.
Right now, he's the more important to his team than any other player is to his. By the end of the year, it will be even more clear.
12: Lakers Lose in the Second Round of the Playoffs
The Lakers have always looked significantly better come playoff time. But this regular season, they look more discombobulated then ever. They just lost to the Bobcats by 20 tonight, and they're 5-5 in their last 10 games.
There are several teams in the league that look like they have more hunger than Los Angeles right now. One of those squads is the Dallas Mavericks.
If the standings stay the way they are through the end of the year, these two teams would be on track for a second-round showdown.
The Mavericks look like a much better team right now, and they're only going to get better. Peja's warming up, and Caron Butler and Rodrigue Beaubois could be back in time for the playoffs.
11: Dallas Wins the West
The reunion of Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash will put Dallas over the top. Right now, their biggest challenger in the West is San Antonio. After they acquire Nash, not even the Spurs will be able to take down the Mavericks in a seven-game series.
They'll get the one and two seeds for the West and meet in the conference finals. The ensuing showdown will be intense, long and exciting.
Ultimately, Dallas will prevail.
10: Miami Wins the East
The best team in the Eastern Conference right now is the Boston Celtics. I think two things will contribute to their downfall.
Boston's veteran stars will start to break down physically, and Miami will get themselves together around the same time.
Plus, I feel like we're destined to see a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals.
9: Dallas Wins the 2006 Finals Rematch
Only this time, Dallas will pull off the upset.
The hype surrounding the Heat heading into the Finals will be palpable. The Mavericks will feed off the media frenzy surrounding Miami. They'll embrace the role of the underdogs.
Mark Cuban will remind them over and over that they've been there before, only to be robbed by officials' whistles.
This time, the Mavericks won't let the refs decide their fate. Even if the men in stripes do send Dwyane Wade or LeBron James to the line 20 times a game, Dallas' defense will be strong enough to prevail.
That's the difference between this Dallas team and the 2006 one. This version of the Mavericks is built around great defense. And as we all know, defense wins championships.
8: Dirk Nowitzki Wins Finals MVP
Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler and Jason Terry will all have a lot to do with Dallas's NBA championship, but no one will be as important to this run as Dirk Nowitzki.
He'll dominate Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony, LeBron James and whoever else Miami throws at him. This is the year of Dallas. This is the year of the Dirk!
7: Cleveland Selects Perry Jones With the No. 1 Overall Pick
The last time the Cleveland Cavaliers had the number one overall pick was 2003. They got lucky when they won the lotto that year, and they selected LeBron James.
It looks like Cleveland's luck has run out, but they will have the most ping pong balls in the tumbler. If they win the NBA lottery again, they won't worry about any positions. They'll simply take the best player available.
It looks like Perry Jones may have the potential to be a star. Even if he doesn't reach that end, he's already an upgrade over much of that roster.
6: Jimmer Goes to the Jazz
Jerry Sloan left the Utah Jazz, and star point guard Deron Williams may be next.
If that happens, Utah will continue to slide down the standings, and may even miss the playoffs. The further they fall, the closer they get to the point where many mock drafts have Jimmer going.
I can't think of a more perfect NBA team for Jimmer to land on. He would instantly be a fan favorite and he has the talent to warrant the attention he's getting.
More on Jimmer
5: The Owners and the Players Come Together
Nobody really wants a lockout. Both sides will be arguing for essentially one thing: money. Both sides know that losing games over these negotiations will cost them lots of what they're after.
Following the postseason, everyone in the league will come together and come up with an agreement that will at least partially satisfy everyone.
The big winners will be us. The NBA will not have a work stoppage next year and we'll enjoy the 2011-12 season as if it was never in doubt.
4: NBA Says Goodbye to the Age Limit
The age limit rule hasn't really hurt the NBA, but they may rethink it anyway.
The owners are going to demand a lot in the upcoming negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. To get the things they really want, they may have to make a few concessions.
The players don't care for the rule, and if they lose as much money as the owners want them to, they may push to have it struck.
Not that the NBA cares about, but this rule has hurt the college game. The one-and-done players make it hard for programs to build long-term chemistry. Plus, many of them fail out of school during the second semester of their freshmen years.
3: The Jazz Trade Deron Williams After the Season
A few days ago, I mentioned several potential trades involving Deron Williams.
The Jazz have been nothing but flats and sharps lately, and they may look to rebuild very soon. That will of course start with the exodus of Williams.
Utah can get a combination of young talent and draft picks in return for their star.
If they decide to try to keep Williams, they may end up in the same position the Nuggets currently find themselves in.
Here are the trade ideas I mentioned...
2: New York Loses in the First Round but Makes a Huge Trade in the Offseason
Earlier in the slideshow, I said Melo would not get traded this season. I didn't say anything about this offseason.
Carmelo Anthony no longer wants his future to be tied to Denver's. His heart is already in New York, and this offseason, his "talents" will head there too.
I've already outlined a fairly insane deal that would actually land Melo and Deron Williams on the Knicks in one three-team trade.
1: Ty Lawson Era Begins in Denver
Carmelo Anthony has been the face of the Denver Nuggets since the day he was drafted. He may not be traded during this season, but he'll be gone before the next.
After Melo leaves, Denver will probably look to move several other big names and big contracts. Chauncey Billups could be the first one to go after Melo.
Once he's gone, Ty Lawson will step into and shine in the starting point guard role.
Anyone who has watched a decent amount of Nuggets basketball this year knows that Lawson can be an electrifying player.
The closest comparison to Lawson is Chris Paul. Once Denver officially hands him the reins, I expect him to carry the Nuggets the way Paul has carried the Hornets for years.