By Brandon Pemberton
Follow Me on Twitter @BrandonOnSports
Well after a long ugly lockout, the NBA is back kicking off the season on Christmas Day with five games on the docket. I will give a quick breakdown of each division in each conference, predicting each teams record for the 66 game season, the rookie of the year, MVP, and Finals teams and winners. I’m really looking forward to this 66 game season. Enjoy!
*- by a team notes the team will make the playoffs
*Boston Celtics 44-22
*New York Knicks 40-26
*Philadelphia 76ers 35-31
Toronto Raptors 25-41
New Jersey Nets 24-42
Outlook: The Boston Celtics are going to give it one more run with there nucleus of Rajon Rondo and the aging Big 3. They should win the division, but be challenged by the Knicks, who have added center Tyson Chandler to the mix. Watchout for rookie first round draft pick Iman Shumpert, who’s a explosive athlete and can defend the 1-3. The Sixers made the playoffs last season, and are banking on heavy improvement from Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner in order to take the next step. The Raptors have a new Coach in Dwayne Casey and showed improvement in the two preseason games defensively, but they will be a lottery team. The Nets have Deron Williams, but center Brook Lopez has a broken foot and will miss 2-3 months. Expect them to struggle greatly now that a possible Dwight Howard trade is down the drain with the Lopez injury.
*Chicago Bulls 49-17
*Indiana Pacers 32-34
Milwaukee Bucks 26-40
Detroit Pistons 24-42
Cleveland Cavaliers 19-47
Outlook: The Bulls return pretty much the same roster from last season’s team, with the addition of SG Rip Hamilton. Hamilton gives the Bulls a much needed threat from the outside and is a instant upgrade from Keith Bogans. The Pacers made the playoffs as a 8th seed last season and they will most likely be in the 7th-8th spot again this year. Looking forward to seeing the improvement of Tyler Hansborough and Paul George’s game as well. The Bucks, Pistons, and Cavs are all bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference and will be lottery teams. The Cavs 1st overall pick, Kyrie Irving did look good in his two preseason games and has a bright future ahead of him in this league.
*Miami Heat 51-15
*Orlando Magic 45-21
*Atlanta Hawks 42-24
Charlotte Bobcats 27-39
Washington Wizards 23-43
Outlook: The Heat are clearly the class of this division and anything less then a NBA title will be considered failure. They have a healthy Udonis Haslem to begin the season, while adding another key glue player in Shane Battier. Also watch out for rookie PG Norris Cole from Cleveland State. The Orlando Magic have made it through training camp with their franchise player, Dwight Howard still a member of the team. With Howard they are obviously a good team, possibly good enough to make it to the finals. They traded Brandon Bass to the Celtics and received Glen Davis in return. I really don’t understand the trade and it’s not that big of a deal in my eyes.
The Hawks are still the same team minus Jamal Crawford, who provided legit scoring off of the bench and often closed out games for them. They have added veterans Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, and Willie Green to try to fill the void left by Crawford’s leaving via free agency. The Bobcats had two first round draft picks in Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo and will look to develop them this season with Paul Silas as head coach. The Wizards are a young team in it’s second year with John Wall and head coach Flip Saunders and clearly aren’t ready for the big time. They are a few years away.
*- by a team means will be a playoff team.
*Oklahoma City Thunder 49-17
*Portland Trailblazers 39-27
Minnesota T-Wolves 31-35
Utah Jazz 29-37
Denver Nuggets 27-39
Outlook: The Thunder bring back a very good young nucleus of players led by who I believe will win the the NBA MVP, Kevin Durant. Having Kendrick Perkins on the frontline, along with the emerging Serge Ibaka will give the Thunder a formidable front line defensively and makes them legit NBA title contenders. Hopefully Russell Westbrook isn’t still smelling his self, and realizes that this is Durant’s team and he is Robin, not Batman.
The Blazers had a breakout season from LaMarcus Aldridge and even though they lost franchise player Brandon Roy for most of last season and now to a early retirement, they still won 48 games and made the playoffs as a three seed. Jamal Crawford replaces the retired Roy and will provide scoring punch as the team’s sixth man. Greg Oden is recovering from another season ending knee injury and has yet to prove that he can last a season in this league.
Look for the Timberwolves to make great improvement this year under Rick Adelman and Kevin Love. Ricky Rubio has finally came over from Europe, Derrick Williams was drafted #2 overall, and they have added tough veteran players in J.J. Berea and Brad Miller. The Jazz are in sort of maze after the trade of Deron Williams, but I look forward to the development of Derrick Favors who is only 20 years old and seeing 1st round draft pick Alec Burks play as well. The Nuggets obviously traded away Carmelo Anthony last season and still made the playoffs as a 5th seed, but look for them to take a step back this season. J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Wilson Chandler are all stuck in China playing and won’t be released from their contracts.
*L.A. Lakers 44-22
*L.A. Clippers 42-24
Golden State Warriors 30-36
Phoenix Suns 26-40
Sacramento Kings 23-43
Outlook: Lakers were thrashed by the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs last season and needed a face lift coming into this season. They thought that they did when the deal for Chris Paul was made, but David Stern and the owners vetoed the trade. Lamar Odom was a part of that trade had to moved to Dallas eventually and they Lakers have taken a step back instead of forward. Kobe Bryant is a year older at 33 and has logged major minutes in this league, being as though he’s been playing since he was 18. Brook Lopez’s foot injury could possibly open the door to the Lakers trading for Dwight Howard, but we will see. Until then the Lakers are mediocre at the PG spot and at SF and will be exposed defensively on a nightly basis. They still have enough talent to win the division though.
Chris Paul has landed in L.A. with the Clippers and the NBA is buzzing about the Clippers possibly being a legit contender. The addition of Paul, Caron Butler, and Chauncey Billups, most definitely makes them a playoff team. The development of Blake Griffin should be easier with Paul in the fold and DeAndre Jordan should average an extra 4-6 points per game just off of lobs. They still lack depth and size off of the bench, so hold off on giving them the NBA title right away. The Warriors hired Mark Jackson as their head coach and in the two preseason games, you can already see the influence on the team from a defensive standpoint and offensively. The Suns are at a crossroads as a franchise and it might be best for them to trade Nash for cap space and draft picks. The Kings are a complete mess if you ask me, they plan on starting Evans, Fredette, and Thornton together. This team is far from ever being the contender is was in the early 2000’s.
*Dallas Mavericks 46-20
*Memphis Grizzlies 40-26
*San Antonio Spurs 38-28
*Houston Rockets 34-32
New Orleans Hornets 30-36
Outlook: The Dallas Mavericks come into this season as the defending NBA Champs, but they have lost a key part to that title run in center Tyson Chandler. They added Lamar Odom in a trade, giving them a key player whether he’s a starter or coming off of the bench. They pretty much return everyone from last year’s team beside the previously mentioned Chandler and J.J. Berea. They will still be a competitive, but I don’t think they have another title run in them. This team is a year older and will miss the inside presence and toughness Chandler brought to the team.
The Spurs are a year older and were knocked out of the playoffs last season by the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. It’s time to blow this team up. Tim Duncan is 35 , Ginobili is 34, and Tony Parker is a old 29 years old. The Memphis Grizzlies made it to the second round of the playoffs and were one game from the conference finals. All of this without Rudy Gay in the lineup. Tony Allen and Sam Young fit in well, being glue guys and defensive stoppers. They lost Shane Battier, but Gay is back and Sam Young is in year two. I expect another playoff run from Memphis barring any major injuries.
The Rockers hired Kevin McHale as the head coach and in the two preseason games I watched, I liked what I saw from this team. Yao Ming was forced to retired due to multiple foot injuries and this team is rebuilding. They have a logjam at the PG position with Kyle Lowry as the starter and Goran Dragic and Jonny Flynn battling for minutes as the backup. I could see one of these two being traded, possibly to the Lakers.
The Hornets traded Chris Paul eventually to the Clippers and received a medley of players and a first round draft pick that could end up being a lottery pick. Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al-Farouq Aminu are all new Hornets and give head coach some pieces to work with. If he can stay healthy, Gordon can be an explosive scorer and a potential All Star. Chris Kaman’s 13 million comes off of the books and Aminu is a 2nd year player with the potential to be a nice player.
Eastern Conference Finals: Heat over Bulls in 7 games
Western Conference Finals: Thunder over Lakers in 6 games
NBA Finals: Heat over Thunder in 7 games
Rookie of the year: Kyrie Irving PG Cavaliers
Coach of the Year: Rick Adelman T-Wolves
Defensive player of the year: Dwight Howard
Sixth man of the year: Thaddeus Young
Most improved player: Derrick Favors
Most valuable player: Kevin Durant