I know this is late to be doing my predictions. I usually do them a bit earlier every year, but I had some last minute travel plans this month and just returned late Sunday. But I love doing them and then seeing how close I get each year. Feel free to disagree. Most are in line with conventional wisdom, with a few each year that depart from that, like Houston, Detroit, and maybe Minnesota. Anyway here they are with a few added comments…
First up are the Eastern Conference previews
1) Boston 63-19 - The Celtics’ adrenaline is up. Can they sustain it? The answer is yes, but… I expect the team to add to the roster again this season. Tyronn Lue is the obvious choice, but some teams may offer up good players by the half way point, and Danny will be watching.
2) Philadelphia 41-41 – Eddie Jordan has the same problem that DiLeo did – incorporating Elton Brand. But Jordan can offer his version of the Princeton offense as a remedy. The team is capable of better outside shooting than it has shown. Without an established point guard, Iguodala and Brand can be facilitators in the Princeton O. Jordan, not known for defense, must establish more team discipline than DiLeo did.
3) Toronto 35-47 – re-made roster. very skilled team. Let up on them and they will hurt you. Team reflects Chris Bosh. Strong wing and outside play without much inside. Bosh has bulked up to help out more in the post. Hedo helps. Bargnani continues to improve. DeRozen is a player to watch. Calderone is healthy and Jarrett Jack is a solid back up. Rasho is better than you think in this system. Lacking in toughness and defense, especially inside.
4) New York 31-51 – D’Antoni continues to coach a temporary line-up. With Curry still a mess,
David Lee will play center again. As expected the D’Antoni Knicks were 2nd in pace, terrible defensively, and 2nd only to Orlando in three point shooting as a part of their offense (32%). Unexpectedly, they were 21st in fast break points (behind the Celtics), and 8th best in ‘points in the paint’ (ahead of the Celtics). Go figure. Talented Wilson Chandler needs to be reigned in on shooting. Gallinari will be a good player with time.
5) New Jersey 26-56 – Devin Harris and Brook Lopez make a good axis to build from. Who replaces Vince Carter’s numbers? Courtney Lee and Yi Jianlian will get every opportunity to produce. Good cast of support players. Lawrence Frank’s job is on the line. Terrence Williams will impact this team this season.
The other two divisions are after the jump...
1) Cleveland 58-24 – Like Boston, the Cavs improve with Parker, Moon, and Shaq. Offensively Shaq and LeBron attacking the rim is a scary thought. Defensively, Shaq can be had. The additions have, yet again, improved the level of role players around James. Have they finally reached the threshold to put them over the top? If not, it is time to scrap the role player thing and find a bona fide prime-of-career all star to play along side of LeBron.
2) Chicago 41-41 – they gained Boston’s respect. Can they build on it? Tyrus Thomas wants to go restricted next season. Rose and Noah will continue to get better. They must find a way to get a healthy Luol Deng involved more. Hinrich and Salmons will help make up for the loss of Ben Gordon. Talented club, but missing a true post presence. Johnson and Gibson solid draft choices.
3) Milwaukee 35-47 – Skiles will get the most from this club. Brandon Jennings will make you forget Sessions and is a future star. A healthy Bogut and Redd make this team dangerous. Some think Redd will be shopped before the year is out. Delfino is a Skiles type player and Warrick is a nice addition. OK. You know this is coming…they will be scrappy.
4) Detroit 36-46 – I don’t hold out the hope that some do about Dumars use of his freed up money. Even though I can root for three UConn alumni in Hamilton, Villanueva, and Gordon, I see this team having problems. Kwame Brown (or Ben Wallace) as your starting center is a warning sign. Chris Wilcox is a talented under achiever (i.e.- lazy). Villanueva needs to have a break out year, or Stuckey and Prince both need to have great years to change things.
5) Indiana 30-52 – T.J. Ford is finally supposed to take over, but I bet that Watson gets his share of minutes, as he always seems to do. Granger is a stud on a bad team. Murphy, and Dunleavy when he is healthy, flourish in this system. Hibbert will improve, but not enough to make a difference. Brandon Rush is solid and improving. Dahntay Jones replaces Marquis Daniels with less talent. Tyler Hansbrough will have to prove himself. We can use the term ‘scrappy’ again here.
1) Orlando 60-22 – The Magic didn’t sign every available free agent. It just seemed that way. They are bent on winning a title as evidenced by matching for Marcin Gortat at a large expense. Hedo’s gone. Vince is in. Carter will be able to create his own shot in 4th quarter situations, something Turkuglu couldn’t. Brandon Bass, and Matt Barnes are solid pick ups. Pietrus surprised me in the playoffs with his clutch shooting and solid play. Poodles or pit bulls? Some see them as worse with Carter. I see them as more dangerous in 4th quarters.
2) Atlanta 48-34 – This is a very interesting situation. The time for talk is over. Joe Johnson would not go for an extension. Woodson gets no respect and this is the season he must earn his new contract. I see his future largely tied to Josh Smith’s ability to fit into the team concept. The Hawks also are committed to making that next jump and it won’t be easy. Getting Crawford and Joe Smith helps this team. Jeff Teague has talent. Will he play? This could be a 50 win team.
3) Washington 41-41 – everyone’s favorite ‘move up’ team. Flip Saunders will have a lot of talent to work with and a ‘mini big three’ in Arenas, Jamison, and Butler. Lots of good supporting players here and Haywood is healthy, too. Jamison’s out for a few weeks, and Blatchely will start in his place. Miller, Foye, McGuire, McGee, Oberto, James, Young make a talented bench.
4) Miami 38-44 – I became a believer in Dwyane Wade last season. Huge player. Unfortunately, the Heat only added Quentin Richardson. There is talent here but keeping Jermaine O’Neal healthy is a problem. Micheal Beasley should improve and Haslem is solid, but he shouldn’t have to play center. The three teams picked ahead of them all added pieces.
5) Charlotte 33-49 – hard to mark down this team after Larry Brown got them to finally play to their abilities. But Tyson Chandler in for Okafor and Raja Bell out with injury makes it hard to give them more wins. Felton is in a contract year and Augustin is a player. Gerald Henderson should play well for them. Well coached, solid starting five, little depth.
I should add that the win and loss total for both conferences total up correctly for the season =1230 of each.