Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2008-09 NBA Preview

The time has come (and almost gone) for me to look into my ... well, I don't have a crystal ball, but it's time for me to throw some darts at a dartboard and make semi-educated guesses at what will happen this season.
Without further ado...

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Divsion
Boston Celtics - The defending champs look for their first back-to-back titles in 40 years.
Philadelphia 76ers - Elton Brand joins a playoff team. Are they now legit Eastern contenders? (Hey, here's a video of a nice Andre Iguodala dunk, with Charles Barkley actin' a fool as a commentator)
Toronto Raptors - Key moves include adding Jermaine O'Neal and freeing up more minutes at point guard for Jose Calderon - although it came at the cost of losing T.J. Ford. (Bosh vid)
New Jersey Nets - With Jason Kidd in Dallas and Richard Jefferson in Milwaukee, Vince Carter is the lone man remaining from the Big Three of the past few years. New York Knicks - Things might be looking up in New York ... then again, probably not. At best, they'll finish in fourth in the Atlantic - which would be an improvement.

Central Division
Detroit Pistons - Six years in the NBA, six conference finals appearances for Gumby. Is another one coming?
Cleveland Cavaliers - Some people think this team can go really far. It's hard to doubt the King.
Chicago Bulls - Coming off a majorly disappointing season, these guys could break into the playoffs after a one-year sabbatical - you wouldn't hope for any less from a team with nine lottery picks on its roster.
Milwaukee Bucks - Exit Mo Williams, Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. Enter Richard Jefferson, Luke Ridnour and draft pick Joe Alexander. It will be interesting to see how the pieces fit together on this team.
Indiana Pacers - At least one writer calls Danny Granger the most underrated player in the game.

Southeast Division
Orlando Magic - Superman, Hedo and 'Shard want to improve on last year when they advanced to the second round - it won't be easy though.
Washington Wizards - They'll have to survive a good chunk of the season without Gilbert Arenas once again.
Atlanta Hawks - I almost put them behind Miami, but decided last season's playoff experience and a talented starting lineup put them over the top.
Miami Heat - Looking for big production from Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem and rookie Michael Beasley. They don't have much else.
Charlotte Bobcats - This division might be the toughest to predict because all the teams have legitimate hope for the playoffs on some level, but you don't see a single one of them as a Finals contender. It wouldn't be a shock to see the 'Cats have a decent year, at least by their standards; they've never won more than 33 games in a single season ... Uh, how about a J-Rich dunk with more crazy announcers?

Western Conference
Southwest Division
New Orleans Hornets - One game away from the conference finals last season, they look to go even further this year.

Houston Rockets - Add Artest to Yao, T-Mac and a solid complement of players, and you should have a good team. However, Ron-Ron is combustible and Yao and T-Mac are fragile.
San Antonio Spurs - Some people would like to see the end of their run, but they're still a contender for now. They need to stay afloat 'til Ginobili returns from injury, but don't count them out yet.
Dallas Mavericks - Things have really unraveled for them in the playoffs since '06, but they still have enough talent to return to the postseason.
Memphis Grizzlies - Simply building for the future with some unfortunately named youngsters - Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo.

Northwest Division
Utah Jazz -Gunning for a third straight division title.
Portland Trail Blazers - A young team on the rise. Will they make the playoffs for the first time since 2003?
Denver Nuggets - They literally gave away Marcus Camby in a cost-cutting move. Could A.I. be next?
Minnesota Timberwolves - See Memphis Grizzlies, but a little bit better.
Oklahoma City Thunder - I promise this ranking is not based on bitterness over the move from Seattle.

Pacific Division
LA Lakers - It's kind of scary to add a healthy Andrew Bynum to a Finals team and to have the luxury of bringing Lamar Odom off the bench.
Phoenix Suns - Similar to Dallas, it appears the window for winning a championship has closed, but they are still capable of a good season - by most teams' standards, anyway.
LA Clippers - Al Thornton should be a rising star and Baron Davis and Marcus Camby help cover for the exodus of long-time Clips Elton Brand and Corey Maggette.
Golden State Warriors - Along with LAC, this team had some of the highest volume of transactions in the past offseason, losing star Baron Davis, but nabbing Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf and Marcus Williams, drafting Anthony Randolph, and resigning Ellis, Biedrins and Azubuike.
Sacramento Kings - Hey, they have Kevin Martin, right?

First Round

West: (1) Lakers vs. (8) Trail Blazers
(2) Hornets vs. (7) Mavericks
(3) Rockets vs. (6) Suns
(4) Jazz vs. (5) Spurs

East: (1) Celtics vs. (8) Hawks
(2) Pistons vs. (7) Wizards
3) Cavaliers vs. (6) Raptors
4) Magic vs. (5) 76ers

Conference Semifinals
West: (1) Lakers vs. (5) Spurs
(2) Hornets vs. (3) Rockets

East: (1) Celtics vs. (4) Magic
2) Pistons vs. (3) Cavs

Western Conference Finals: (1) Lakers vs. (2) Hornets
Eastern Conference Finals: (1) Celtics vs. (3) Cavs

NBA Finals: Lakers defeat Celtics
So there you go; I'm predicting a Finals rematch, only with the other team winning it this time.

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