Maybe it is last minute and there are certainly plenty of longer previews out there, so like my 7th grade science fair project, the research is solid, but the presentation could have been more in-depth. So without further ado and minus the tri-fold, here are my NBA predictions for the 2008-2009 NBA season.
Greg Oden will not be the Rookie of the Year. It's hard enough to make the transition from 30+ games to 70+, but add in a year off do to injury and it'll be too much for the big man to overcome. His chances seem even slimmer when you consider the "bounties" teams are putting on his head. The easy choice for ROY is Michael Beasley who most agree will average high teens and eight. Kevin Love and Derrick Rose are the two other favorites, but can Love's back hold up and will the demands of playing PG be too much for Rose? I'll take Eric Gordon (to avoid taking the obvious choice Beasley).
5 of the top 25 salaries could be on the move. Allen Iverson and Vince Carter are both likely candidates to be on the move. Shawn Marion and Mike Bibby could also be on the move if either of their teams don't live up to expectations. Finally, if the Knicks are serious about getting LeBron they need to move Zach Randolph. Bonus possibility: Lamar Odom.
Now onto the playoff predictions...
* = Playoff Team
*1. Boston Celtics - Don't question hunger, question Doc, Danny, and their ability to stay healthy.
*2. Philadelphia 76ers - Brand takes Shareef's mantle for PF amassing big numbers that don't matter. The newest incarnation of the late 80's Cavs, this team will not make the jump with their current roster.
3. Toronto Raptors - Biggest problem for the Raps: the season is 82 games long. A lot of people are high on them, but their roster is young and largely unproven. Putting them 3rd is assuming a healthy team, but injuries will cost them at least one seed in the playoffs.
4. New York Knicks - A dark horse for a playoff spot, their position will be determined based on their goal. If they want to make the playoffs they can, if they want to make a play for the King, they're likely to trade Randolph and Lee and will be home for the playoffs again.
5. New Jersey Nets - Cautious Optimism. The team has a lot of quality young pieces, but if they're to do anything this season, it will require Vince Carter to step up as the elder statesman and become a leader. My head nearly exploded typing that, so look for Vince to move and surprise the team will play better when it happens.
*1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Acquiring Mo Williams will prove invaluable, as well as keeping Delonte West. Be prepared for another round of LeBron v. Kobe debates, as the King wins his first MVP.
*2. Detroit Pistons - Even if GM Joe Dumars decides to make changes they should be good enough to make the playoffs. If he doesn't believe they're a championship contender, look for one of the mainstays to possibly be on the move (most likely Sheed). Get to know Rodney Stuckey.
3. Chicago Bulls - One of the league's smallest teams, can they make the playoffs with a rookie head coach and point guard? Drew Gooden is a captain, and something about that fact makes me think they aren't going to qualify.
4. Milwaukee Bucks - Luke Ridnour and Michael Redd in the backcourt doesn't scare anyone. What position will Joe Alexander be playing?
5. Indiana Pacers - They've gotten rid of the bad apples, but what have the replaced them with? Not very good basketball players.
*1. Orlando Magic - Best team that people regularly overlook. Dwight Howard is a dominant force, but he has another level. If he dedicates himself and works hard, he'll work himself into the elite class of the league. Look for Mickael Pietrus and... JJ Redick to be big contributors and the Magic will be the first division winner in the east to clinch.
*2. Atlanta Hawks - A young team with a lot of potential, but Josh Smith, fresh off his new contract, has returned to being a malcontent. If the team chooses Smith over Coach Woodson, the team may toil and find themselves on the outside looking in. They should be able to overcome the loss of Josh Childress, but a shorter bench could prove problematic in the long run.
*3. Charlotte Bobcats - The players' can't quit on two consecutive coaches, especially given that Larry Brown in a HOFer. If they get any play out of the power forward position, they round into a nice team.
4. Miami Heat - They'll see the most improvement in the win column of any team, but DWade can't carry a team for 82 games (like he did in the Olympics). In a contract year, it'll be inriguing to watch which Shawn Marion shows up, and will he and Beasley fight at some point this season?
5. Washington Wizards - No Hibachi, no Haywood. Caron Butler's going to hurt, because he'll be carrying the team (Antawn will be standing in the corner ready to shoot). Even when Agent 0 comes back, will his knee hold?
For the eighth spot from most probable to least...
*1. Utah Jazz - The early clinchers of the western conference, they'll end up with a higher seed than their record would dictate.
*2. Portland Trail Blazers - The most overrated team that hasn't made the playoffs. People are sewing up banners for their rafters, but at this team they're a bunch of young talented players that haven't put it together for an entire season. Growing pains will continue, but come playoff time, no one wants to draw this team.
3. Denver Nuggets - AI will probably be on the move, but don't discount the possibility that Carmello may try to force his way out. With so many teams in the west getting better, they are one of the few distinctly getting worse.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves - With the Trail Blazers becoming over exposed, the T-Wolves and Nets could become the two favorite "hidden" gems that basketball players love to watch, even if they are interesting. Watching Kevin Love pass is worth the price of a nosebleed seat, at least.
5. Not Seattle Sonics - Kevin Durant is as good as advertised, but the team's still wrecked from the cost cutting measures of a year ago.
*1. Los Angeles Lakers - The class of the west, the Phil Jackson gushing will reach epic proportions with his ability to get Gasol and Bynum to play together. At the end of the year, they will be depending on the same bench guys to come through in the playoffs, and there's no reason to think they will step up this year. Jordan Farmar has become one of the most entertaining young players to watch and can Trevor Ariza stay healthy?
*2. Phoenix Suns - Perhaps the most hollow playoff berth any team will receive. They're good enough to make the cut, but not good enough to compete with the big dogs. The exception will be if Amare, Raja Bell, Alando Tucker and Leandro Barbosa step up and allow Nash, Shaq, and Grant Hill to be overpaid role players, they can wreak havoc in a playoff series.
*3. Los Angeles Clippers - Baron Davis, Marcus Camby and Eric Gordon lead a re-tooled Clipper squad. Although they have added Ricky Davis, this team has the energy and ability to cause trouble for a lot of teams.
4. Golden State Warriors - Coach Nelson's swansong will end up short of the playoffs once again. After trading the team's heart, Jason Richardson, the team has slowly eroded to a very average team. With no Monta Ellis for most of the first half and an apparently dissatisfied Al Harrington, Nellie's final year will be marked with more drama than wins.
5. Sacramento Kings - They spent a lot of money, but not very wisely.
*1. Houston Rockets - They're one of the deepest teams and Ron Artest adds a toughness their other stars lack. They will be back and forth with the Hornets all season, but their depth and ability to play different styles will prove to be the difference in the standings.
*2. New Orleans Hornets - The team may not win as many games as last season, but the addition of James Posey makes them an even tougher out in the playoffs.
*3. San Antonio Spurs - The better of the two aging Texas teams, this year will signify the end of the road for the Suprs Big Three and championship hopes. It's doubtful they would've won this year, but Manu's Olympic performance may have robbed the team of any legitimate shot at a final ring.
4. Dallas Mavericks - This ranking is based on Mark Cuban not blowing this team up, but depending on the start, it's a real possibility. They're stuck in an awkward phase with a lot of older salary and some young talented players that just don't mesh.
5. Memphis Grizzlies - Rudy Gay will have more highlights than they have wins, but not as many big time dunks as the team has point guards.
Finals Prediction: Cavs over Rockets