2008-2009 NBA Season And Playoff Predictions

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2008-2009 NBA Season And Playoff Predictions

FINAL STANDINGS

Eastern Conference

Atlantic

1. Boston Celtics       58-24
2. Philadelphia 76ers  54-28

3. Toronto Raptors    39-43
4. New York Knicks    27-55

5. New Jersey Nets    21-61

 

 

Central

 

1. Detroit Pistons      60-22
2. Cleveland Cavs     46-36
3. Indiana Pacers      41-41

4. Milwaukee Bucks   31-51
5. Chicago Bulls        28-54

 

 

Southeast

 

1. Orlando Magic       57-25
2. Atlanta Hawks       43-39

3. Washington Wiz     34-48 
4. Charlotte Bobcats  32-50

5. Miami Heat            21-61

 

 

Western Conference

 

 

Northwest

 

1. Utah Jazz            59-23
2. Portland Blazers    45-37

3. Denver Nuggets    43-39

4. Minnesota Wolves 25-57

5. Seattle Sonics      18-64

 

 

Pacific

 
1. L.A. Lakers          61-21

2. Phoenix Suns       51-31

3. L.A. Clippers        46-36

4. G.S. Warriors       30-52

5. Sacramento Kings 25-57

 

 

Southwest

 

1. N.O. Hornets       58-24 
2. Houston Rockets  55-27
3. Dallas Mavericks   48-34
4. S. Antonio Spurs  46-36

5. Memphis Grizzlies  25-57

 

* Red indicates playoff team

 

PLAYOFF SEEDING

Eastern Conference

1. Detroit Pistons      60-22

2. Boston Celtics       58-24

3. Orlando Magic       57-25

4. Philadelphia 76ers  54-28

5. Cleveland Cavs      46-36

6. Atlanta Hawks       43-39

7. Indiana Pacers      41-41

8. Toronto Raptors    39-43

 

Western Conference

 

1. L.A. Lakers           61-21

2. Utah Jazz             59-23

3. N.O. Hornets         58-24

4. Houston Rockets    55-27

5. Phoenix Suns         51-31

6. Dallas Mavericks     48-34

7. S.A. Spurs            46-36

8. L.A. Clippers          46-36

 

 

First Round

 

Pistons over Raptors 4-2

Celtics over Pacers   4-0

Magic over Hawks    4-2

76ers over Cavs       4-2

 

Lakers over Clippers 4-2

Jazz over Spurs       4-3

Hornets over Mavs   4-1

Suns over Rockets   4-2

 

Semifinals

 

Pistons over 76ers    4-2

Celtics over Magic    4-1

 

Suns over Lakers     4-2

Jazz over Hornets    4-3

 

Conference Finals

 

Pistons over Celtics 4-3

 

Jazz over Suns       4-2

 

Finals

 

Pistons over Jazz   4-3

 

 

AWARDS

 

Season MVP:  Dwight Howard

MVP Runners-up:  Amare Stoudemire, Deron Williams, LeBron James

 

Rookie of the Year:  O.J. Mayo

Rookie Runners-up: Greg Oden, Michael Beasley, Russell Westbrook

 

Defensive Player of the Year:  Ron Artest

Defensive Player Runners-up:  Marcus Camby, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard

 

Sixth-Man:  Rodney Stuckey

Sixth-Man Runners-up:  J.R. Smith, Luis Scola, Louis Williams

 

Most Improved Player:  Danny Granger

Most Improved Runners-up:  Rodney Stuckey, Thaddeous Young, Al Thornton

 

 

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS (and Answers)

 

Question #1:  If Manu Ginobili misses, or isn’t 100 percent, for at least 20-25 games, can the Spurs still make the playoffs? 

Answer:  The Spurs wins totals the past three seasons have gone down from 63 to 58 to 56, respectively.  Now with Manu out and both the Clippers and Blazers improved, the Spurs have their work cut out for them.  Four of their starters are old (Bowen 37, Finley 35, Oberto 33 and Duncan 32) and the bench has never been thinner.  On a good note, Finley is reportedly in the best shape of his life after spending the summer working out with Tim Grover.  And the addition of Roger Mason Jr. was maybe the biggest free agent acquisition the Spurs have made in years (Corey Maggette was what they needed though).  Tony Parker needs to become an All-Star this season if this team is to make the playoffs--he can do it.  Either way, consider this season their last hurrah before the dismantling begins.

Question #2:  Does LeBron James have enough of a supporting cast to lead his team back to the Finals? 

Answer:  The Pythagorean Win formula indicates this team should have only won 40 games last season, which means they overachieved at 45 wins.  They’ve added Mo Williams, who will help take some of the scoring burden off of LeBron, but that’s not enough to push this team over the hump.  I expect nice things from rookie J.J. Hickson but late-round picks in modern-era drafts are rarely difference-makers.  Still, the Cavs have some guys who can really shoot and, with a key expiring contract (Wally Szczerbiak), the chips needed to make a key trade down the line for an interior player (Shawn Marion?).  Right now, I see this squad as a team in limbo.  They can make a smart move or two and become title contenders, or, they can do “not enough,” again, which would only push LeBron that much closer to bolting Cleveland.  I’m banking on the latter.

Question #3:  After adding Ron Artest to what was already one of the toughest defensive units in the league, is this the year the Houston Rockets live up to expectations?

Answer:  I don’t know if there’s a more talented and deeper NBA roster on paper.  This team has everything it needs to win 60+ regular season games and reach the Finals.  The big question mark, as we all know, is whether Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady can stay healthy.  Over the past three seasons, Ming has missed an average of 29 games per; McGrady has missed 21 per (Artest 26 per--suspensions and nonsense mostly).  Yet during that span, the Rockets have averaged 47 wins per season.  Can you imagine what this team would do if it stayed healthy?  Unfortunately for them, that’s a pipe dream.  If McGrady’s current knee injury is any indicator, fans in Houston can bank on once again being disappointed.  Note:  Don’t be surprised if McGrady or Artest are traded this season.

Question #4:  Many people feel the Pistons are going to take a step back this season.  However, you’re picking them to win it all.  What gives?

Answer:  Joe Dumars has the basketball IQ, management savvy and, perhaps most importantly, a vision for what his team needs to be in order to contend for the title.  With the infusion of Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell, what we’re seeing is Dumars realizing that if his team is going to take that next step, it can’t solely rely on its starters.  So what he’s doing—what the Spurs aren’t doing but should be doing—is blending young talent and energy into its core group of veterans.  What this is going to do is reduce the burden on the starters of having to play near-40 minutes per night.  Also, in the case of Stuckey, the Pistons are adding an element they’ve sorely lacked—dynamics.  Unlike Hamilton, who needs screens, and Billups, who shoots as a last resort, and Prince, who scores only when the opportunity is there, Stuckey can take the rock and make things happen.  In four starts last season, the 6-foot-5 guard put up the following averages:  28 minutes, 14 points, 3.5 assists, 1.3 turnovers on 46% FG and 83% FT.  New coach Michael Curry has already announced Stuckey will get at least 30 minutes per this season, and Johnson will start at forward.  Curry has what it takes to rejuvenate Rasheed Wallace, who didn’t seem to care for Flip Saunders.  Expect big things.

Question #5:  Can either the Lakers or Celtics return to the Finals?

Answer:  Yes, they both can but it’s unlikely--only six teams in the past 20 years were able to appear in back-to-back Finals.  I don't know that either team is of that caliber (Duncan's Spurs, Jordan's Bulls, Shaq's Lakers, etc.).  The truth is the Lakers exceeded expectations last year.  Aside from Bynum’s injury, everything went right.  Reserves Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic and Ronnie Turiaf came out of nowhere to form the best bench in the league.  Kobe stayed healthy for 82 games, and Lamar Odom played in 77 games after missing 26 in 2006.  The result: The Lakers made an impressive 15-win improvement from the previous season.  While I think they’ll be strong, I just can’t see them having the same kind of luck.  Expectations are high now, there’s talk about starting Odom at point, we don’t know how Gasol and Bynum will play together—much can go wrong.

As for the Celtics, the same concept applies.  Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen showed up, and the next thing we knew James Posey was a great player and Doc Rivers was a good coach all of a sudden.  The Celtics not only met but exceeded all expectations last season.  Rajon Rondo was a pleasant surprise, and the Big Three managed to stay healthy enough (only 21 games missed, combined).  This year, the Celtics are going to face stiffer competition in the East with teams like Detroit, Orlando, and Philadelphia deeper and stronger.  I expect one of the Big Three to miss considerable time this year.  Someone on the bench needs to step up to fill Posey’s shoes.  I think they’ll be good, just not as good as last season, which is enough for another team to knock them off.

TEAMS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE (SLEEPERS)

76ers:  Yeah, I know they’re not that much of a sleeper pick, but I’m incredibly high on this team.  I think they can win the championship.  They have a steady and clutch point (Andre Miller), a dynamic scorer (Andrew Iguodala), an elite power forward (Brand), a defensive center (Dalembert), a wildcard talent with enormous potential (Thaddeous Young), and a bench comprised of scorers who can shoot (Louis Williams, Willie Green, Kareem Rush) and rebounders who can defend (Reggie Evans, Donyell Marshall, Theo Ratliff).  All the ingredients are here.

Pacers:  They were seventh in the league in scoring last year.  Factor in the following variables:  the maturation of Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy (broke out big time last season); the addition of quality distributors in TJ Ford and Jarrett Jack; the drafting of talented wing Brandon Rush and 7-foot-2 defensive center Roy Hibbert (when was the last time a Georgetown big failed to become a serviceable NBAer?); the subtraction of malcontents Jermaine O’Neal and Jamaal Tinsley (soon).  This is a great shooting team that could surprise.

Clippers:  Baron Davis has been to the playoffs in six of his nine seasons; Marcus Camby eight of his twelve.  Factor in the injury histories at play here, and it’s pretty much safe to say that if these guys stay healthy, their team is practically a lock to make the playoffs.  Expect more progress from Chris Kaman, who was great last year, and will now have a much easier time with Camby alongside him.  Add 6-foot-10 Tim Thomas, 6-foot-9 Brian Skinner and 7-foot rookie DeAndre Jordan to the mix, and what you have is group of extremely mobile big men.  On the wings, they have good shooters in Al Thornton, Ricky Davis, Cuttino Mobley and rookie Eric Gordon.  This team will employ the run-and-gun all day.  When they’re hitting their shots, they’re going to be able to beat any team.

UNDERACHIEVERS

Raptors:  The people who try to sell you on Jose Calderon being John Stockton are the ones who have the fourth-year Spaniard on their fantasy teams (you’ll hear all about the great assist-to-turnover ratio, I’m sure).  The truth is he’s somewhere between being an elite reserve and a consistently solid, but unspectacular, starter.  Now he’ll have total control of a team that’s coming off a 41-win season, with the only addition being the incredibly overrated and grossly injury-prone Jermaine O’Neal.  For this team to take that next step, both O’Neal and Chris Bosh have to stay healthy (Bosh has missed an average of 14 games per season over the last three).  I wouldn’t put my money on a team that needs serious contributions from at least two of the following names:  Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Roko Ukic, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries or Hassan Adams.  Oh yeah, Sam Mitchell is still their coach.

Nuggets:  This team came close to really becoming a contender the past few seasons but, unfortunately, something always went wrong (mainly injuries).  Now, after averaging 46+ wins per season over the course of the last five years, it appears the Nuggets are prepping themselves for a mid-season sell-off.  First, they traded Marcus Camby away, for peanuts, to a team in their conference they knew would be improved enough to compete with them for the final playoff spot.  Then they let free agent Eduardo Najera, a fan favorite, walk away without even making him an offer.  Allen Iverson is in a walk year, Carmelo Anthony has disappointed the city by carrying himself like a thug, and perennial stretcher-riders Kenyon Martin and Nene Hilario are slated to start with no serviceable backups behind them.  Make no mistake, this a classic scenario in which ownership puts out a product that’s “good enough” to sell tickets, and bad enough where fans won’t totally be pissed when the rebuilding starts halfway through the year.

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