I’m honestly not a big fan of “predictions”. From injuries to attitudes; chemistry to colds … there are so many factors that can make or break a team’s season or a broadcaster’s prognostications. And if you’re a fan, what do you care? You’re going to go down to the ACC or tune in to your TV/Radio … and support the Raps either way.
That said, I’ve received a ton of emails from folks wanting to know what I think of ESPN, SI, etc. – and what my “picks” would be. So, reluctantly, here it goes:
It’ll be a 3-way dog-fight between the Raptors, Nets, and Celtics. Philly is a distant 5TH and the Knicks aren’t ready for primetime yet. In the end, I think the lack of overall depth will hurt the Celts. Thus, it’s a toss-up between the Raptors and Nets. But I’m not convinced that Jason Kidd’s back will hold up all year so I’m sticking with the “to be the champ, you have to beat the champ” theory.
Cleveland will miss Varejao BIG TIME. Detroit is still solid, and they could be very dangerous in the post-season. Milwaukee is better, if healthy … but not good enough for the playoffs … and Indiana’s best days are behind them. This division is there for the Bulls’ taking. Even without Kobe Bryant, Chicago may be the best team in the conference.
You still have to respect the Heat – with Shaq and a rejuvenated Ricky Davis. But how long can they go on – and keep their head above water – without D-Wade? I was ready to give the Bobcats a ton of love this year, but losing May and Morrison knocks them down a few pegs again. I’m from the show-me state when it comes to the Hawks … so until they can prove they can win – CONSISTENTLY – I can’t pick them for ANYTHING. The Wizards will only go as far as Gilbert Arenas’ knee(s) take them, and thus, the division belongs to Stan Van and his cast of merry Magic. Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis will be dangerous!
EASTERN CHAMPS: Chicago Bulls
This is the best division in basketball. The Atlantic is MUCH improved. The Central is solid too. But with Memphis likely coming back from their deadly, brutal season … the case can be made that four teams could make the playoffs from the Southwest. Dallas won’t win 67 games again but they’ll still snag 55 or more and the Rockets have finally broken-free from the Van Gundy restraints! Hopefully Yao can get up and down the floor! New Orleans is decent, but clearly the worst of the 5 … and the Spurs are the same team that won their fourth championship in 9 years last season!
If it’s not Denver or Utah, somebody did something very, very wrong! Portland can still scare a few teams because of Brandon Roy alone. But he’s not good enough to make them a division contender. Ditto for Durant in Seattle. Those two teams will fight with the T-Wolves for ‘worst in the division’ … and my bet may be on Minny after they picked up the distraction known as Antoine Walker. Utah won’t catch anybody by surprise anymore and the Nuggets may be better than advertised if K-Mart can stay healthy following yet another surgery.
Even if Kobe Bryant sticks it out with the Lakers, they’re not the division champs. Post-season potential? Maybe. But they’re not winning this division. I’m expecting the Warriors to take a bit of a step back (hey, they got rid of my boy Troy Murphy!) and the Kings are going to get crowned more often than not. The Clippers appear to be the Clippers again … unless Elton Brand can come back early and save this team following a major, major injury. Phoenix should run and hide with this thing.
WESTERN CHAMPS: San Antonio Spurs
NBA CHAMPIONS: San Antonio Spurs