Monday, October 13, 2008

And Now For Some Fun: Predictions for the Upcoming 2008-2009 NBA Season

The best time of the year begins at the end of April (annually coinciding almost to the day on my wife's birthday): the NBA Playoffs. The second best happens at the end of October (just before Halloween): the beginning of the NBA season. That time is upon us, and in the midst of a bitterly divisive election, a burgeoning economic crisis, the reality of war, the prevalance of poverty, suffering and sickness, the daily grind of making ends meet -- sometimes the best balm, albeit temporary, is the welcome joy that attends unabashed, communal superfluity.

Like basketball.

America's greatest love at the moment is football, professional and college alike. America's pasttime is baseball, and the Major League playoffs are alive and peaking at this point. Even basketball fans seem to abide by an understood creed called the "Only College Basketball Is Worth Watching, If At All, Because The Pros Are Selfish Jerks Who Don't Play Team Ball" Rule.

Well, I am, along with Bill Simmons, my wife and immediate family, and about 16 other people in America, an unashamed and full-fledged NBA fan. I love the NBA and always have. I will save my arguments for its superiority over against college ball for another day. Suffice it to say, Late October through mid-June is, in my house, one thing and one thing only: basketball season.

I'm not just a general fan; I have a team. Their esteemed name is the San Antonio Spurs. I am biased beyond belief, but it is hard not to be when your team is the envy of every other major professional sports organization in the nation. Four titles in nine years, looking to make that five in ten this season, once and for all establishing the Duncan Era as one of the great dynasties of NBA history.

Which leads me to the upcoming 2008-2009 season. Opening night is Tuesday, October 28th (although the Spurs' first game is the following night), and I thought I would give my predictions for the season. Sports predictions are akin to best-of lists: worthless expositories of unknowable, unprovable, utterly personal qualifications of the best, worst, and in between. And I love it!

So here we go. Feel free to offer your (assumedly less detailed) predictions ih the comments. Go Spurs Go!

Western Conference
1. Los Angeles Lakers (58-24)
2. New Orleans Hornets (56-26)
3. Houston Rockets (54-28)
4. Utah Jazz (50-32)
5. San Antonio Spurs (52-30)
6. Portland Trailblazers (48-34)
7. Phoenix Suns (46-36)
8. Dallas Mavericks (44-38)

9. Denver Nuggets (42-40)
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (34-48)
11. Golden State Warriors (32-50)
12. Los Angeles Clippers (32-50)
13. Memphis Grizzlies (30-52)
14. Sacramento Kings (26-56)
15. OKC Clay Bennett’s Loot (20-62)

Eastern Conference
1. Boston Celtics (60-22)
2. Detroit Pistons (56-26)
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (52-30)
4. Orlando Magic (48-34)
5. Philadelphia 76ers (50-32)
6. Toronto Raptors (48-34)
7. Washington Wizards (40-32)
8. Miami Heat (40-32)

9. New York Knicks (38-44)
10. Chicago Bulls (34-48)
11. Milwaukee Bucks (34-48)
12. Atlanta Hawks (32-50)
13. Indiana Pacers (30-52)
14. Charlotte Bobcats (22-60)
15. New Jersey Nets (20-62)

Western Conference First Round
Los Angeles Lakers (1) over Dallas Mavericks (8) in 5 games
New Orleans Hornets (2) over Phoenix Suns (7) in 6 games
Houston Rockets (3) over Portland Trailblazers (6) in 6 games
San Antonio Spurs (5) over Utah Jazz (4) in 6 games

Eastern Conference First Round
Boston Celtics (1) over Miami Heat (8) in 6 games
Detroit Pistons (2) over Washington Wizards (7) in 5 games
Cleveland Cavaliers (3) over Toronto Raptors (6) in 7 games
Philadelphia 76ers (5) over Orlando Magic (4) in 5 games

Western Conference Semifinals
San Antonio Spurs (5) over Los Angeles Lakers (1) in 7 games
Houston Rockets (3) over New Orleans Hornets (2) in 7 games

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Boston Celtics (1) over Philadelphia 76ers (5) in 7 games
Cleveland Cavaliers (3) over Detroit Pistons (2) in 6 games

Western Conference Finals
San Antonio Spurs (5) over Houston Rockets (3) in 6 games

Eastern Conference Finals
Cleveland Cavaliers (3) over Boston Celtics (1) in 7 games

NBA Finals
San Antonio Spurs (5) over Cleveland Cavaliers (3) in 6 games

- - - - - - -

Anticipatory notes in explanation:
  • Yes, I picked the Spurs; yes, they are my team; yes, I actually think this is supremely likely.
  • Yes, I picked the Cavs over the Celtics; yes, I realize this would make for a supremely boring Finals re-match; yes, I actually think this is likely.
  • Yes, I don't name the new Oklahoma City team; scroll to about a third of the way down and read the question from Jack from Seattle, then Bill Simmons' response. My terminology will be similar.
  • Yes, the records aren't reflected in the numbering; those orders are not by record but by playoff seeding, which is strange and nuanced and not worth detailing here for anyone who doesn't know already.
  • Yes, I'm not taking the Lakers seriously enough; this summer's Finals simply did not inspire confidence in their future: Phil Jackson's aging aloofness; Lamar Odom's disappearance in big moments; the team's "chemistry" falling apart the deeper they went in the playoffs; Pau Gasol's growing claim on the title Mr. McWeakerson; and, of course, the incorrigible selfishness of one Kobe Bryant. Now, by adding a young player who, a year ago, had great potential, currently coming off more than eight months of injury rehabilitation, playing the same spot as the beloved trade steal from last year who gained immediate and lasting chemistry with Kobe ... yeah, I'm not sold on their pending dynasty.
  • Yes, I don't take the Suns or Mavs seriously; each are on the downslope. The only X factors are Amare and Dirk, respectively; those two guys are monsters who can change any game. However, they are also known to friends and enemies alike as choke artists. I'll keep hedging my bets on the other guys.
  • Yes, I have the Heat and Knicks at spots 8 and 9 in the East; compared to the unparalleled weakness of the rest of the East, I think it highly likely that a healthy Wade, reinvigorated Marion, new star rookie, and new young coach will carry the Heat to the playoffs; and that Mr. Mike D'Antoni is fully capable of empowering a young team full of talent (however much created by one Isiah Thomas) to winning games. Maybe I'll be dead wrong, but have you seen the other team in the East?
  • Yes, I think the Warrios and Clippers will be vying for the Better With/out Baron Award, ending in a tie. That is possibly my favorite prediction.
  • Yes, all of my wins and losses are mathematically correct; I may or may not have used a complicated, made-up spreadsheet to figure it out. For comparisons, see (Professor) John Hollinger's unprecedented-for-their-level-of-detail, team-by-team predictions.
  • Yes, again, I did choose the Spurs; reasons, you ask? I've got 10: 1) Tim Duncan, hungry and healthy and angry from losing; 2) Tony Parker, coming off an odd year, ready to improve, and likely with a quality backup; 3) Manu Ginobili, while injured through December, will finally have the rest needed to get back to 100%, and a 100% Manu is one of the top five best players in the league; 4) the whole team, fired up from losing in another potential repeat year to a team they should've beat; 5) a host of young, athletic guards ready to shoot and defend their way to dependable backup spots (e.g., George Hill, Roger Mason, Salim Stoudemire, Malik Hairston, Devin Green, Desmon Farmar); 6) a respectable group of young bigs ready for tutelage from Tim Duncan and Kurt Thomas (e.g., Ian Mahinmi, James Gist, Anthony Tolliver, Darryl Watkins); 7) Bruce Bowen's ongoing apprenticeship of Ime Udoka; 8) it's an odd year, stupid!; 9) experience in a conference of athletically inexperienced or experienced unclutch teams; and 10) hands down the best coach in the league, Mr. Gregg Popovich. In Pop we trust.
  • (One more reason? Here you go: Over the past six seasons, if you were to pick the Spurs each year, you would have been on the money 50% of the time. Pretty nice odds, right? Well, each even year in which they lost, it was flukish: 2004 was the Derek Fisher Miracle; 2006 was the Dirk And One; 2008 was the Ginobili Injury. In each year the Spurs were not only the superior team, but would likely have gone on to beat the next opponent (certainly the Pistons and Heat, possibly the Celtics). All that to say, if I were a betting man, my money would not be in great jeopardy with these odds.)


  1. ok here we go...

    Western Conference

    1 Los Angeles Lakers (64-18)
    2 Houston Rockets (58-24)
    3 New Orleans Hornets (57-25)
    4 Portland Trailblazers (54-28)
    5 Utah Jazz (53-29)
    6 San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
    7 Phoenix Suns (48-34)
    8 Los Angeles Clippers (42-40)

    9 Dallas Mavericks (40-42)
    10 Golden State Warriors (38-44)
    11 Denver Nuggets (35-47)
    12 Minnesota Timberwolves (31-51)
    13 Memphis Grizzlies (30-52)
    14 Sacramento Kings (28-54)
    15 OKC Thunder (21-62)

    Eastern Conference

    1 Boston Celtics (62-20)
    2 Orlando Magic (58-24)
    3 Cleveland Cavaliers (56-26)
    4 Philadelphia 76ers (54-28)
    5 Detroit Pistons (50-32)
    6 Toronto Raptors (49-33)
    7 Miami Heat (40-42)
    8 Indiana Pacers (38-44)

    9 Washington Wizards (35-47)
    10 Atlanta Hawks (35-47)
    11 New York Knicks (34-48)
    12 Chicago Bulls (32-50)
    13 New Jersey Nets (30-52)
    14 Milwaukee Bucks (28-54)
    15 Charlotte Bobcats (22-58)

    W 1st
    Los Angeles Lakers over Los Angeles Clippers in 5
    Houston Rockets over Phoenix Suns in 6
    San Antonio Spurs over New Orleans Hornets in 7
    Portland Trailblazers over Utah Jazz in 6

    E 1st
    Boston Celtics over Indiana Pacers in 5
    Orlando Magic over Miami Heat in 5
    Cleveland Cavaliers over Toronto Raptors in 5
    Philadelphia 76ers over Detroit Pistons in 6

    W semi finals
    Los Angeles Lakers over Portland Trailblazers in 6
    Houston Rockets over San Antonio Spurs in 7

    E semi Finals
    Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers in 6
    Orlando Magic over Cleveland Cavaliers in 7

    W finals
    Los Angeles Lakers over Houston Rockets in 7

    E Finals
    Boston Celtics over over Orlando Magic in 7

    NBA Finals
    Boston Celtics over Los Angeles Lakers in 7

    First to cover the Laker's chemistry issues: if there is a method best suited to work out chemistry and a coach to do it, Phil is the guy for the job

    Second if Houston can win 55 games with out Yao or Artest they're going to win a lot of games. (period)

    Third Utah won a junk load of home games last year and had a pretty average road record, and played horrible post defense all of that in a tougher western cof. adds up to a worse record.

    Fourth if a Eric Gordon can play good eough to take the starting position for SG with the Clippers it makes a starting line up and bench that looks like this...

    PG Baron Davis Jason Heart
    SG Eric Gordon Cuttino Mobley
    SF Al Thorton Ricky Davis
    PF Marcus Cambey Tim Thomas
    C Chris Kaman DeAndre Jordan

    other than heart thats a pretty deep back court and one freaking solid front court, I like this team a lot, this is my dark horse team for the year, and if they can stay healthy in the play offs, yeah they could go deep they're athletic and are going to put up some dang good defense.

    Fifth as you can see my dark horse in the east is the pacers heres why: 3 point shooting 3 point shooting 3 point shooting. her I'll give you the stats:

    TJ Ford .294
    (not so good but remember TJ is going to be kicking it out a lot)
    Mike Dunleavy .424
    Danny Granger .404
    Troy Murphy .398
    Jeff Foster .000

    Jarret Jack .342
    Brandon Rush .354 (this is my projection)
    Shawne Williams .314
    Josh McRoberts .000
    Roy Hibbert .000

    Now I think Josh McRoberts is one of the most underrated players in the NBA and can really be a force down low. If Hibbert can play good enough to draw some honest defense its really going to boast second unit, maybe even first unit shooting. This is going to be a fun team to watch.

    Lastly I want to talk about my boys the Blazers

    When I looked over their season I actually picked them to start off at a 5-11 record. So heres why I think they can pull off the record I gave them: Its only going to take Oden the first month of the season to start getting his top game one why you ask? Because Oden will play the following big men in the first 9 games of the season:

    Andrew Bynum
    Pau Gasol
    Tim Duncan
    Dwight Howard
    Yao Ming
    Al Jefferson

    Now if I left out more than 2 of the NBA's best big men on this list please let me know. Heres my point, Oden is going to get dominated the first half of november and he is going to learn quick what not do on D with the big elites, but in contrast the second half of november is a walk through and we all know that momentum is going to be the blazer's biggest ally.

    Yeah i know Webster is out for a while but i think it will be a big help in the end. Rudy will get more play time and so will Bayles both of whom are going to be big in the coming dynasty years.

    Ok and if you think for a second that Brandon Roy is going to step back from his all star like progression, you are wrong. The blazers are going to have three people in the all star game Roy Aldridge and Rudy, yeah thats right i think Rudy is going to be that good that fast! (and not because of scoring) just take this link for some eye candy

    I just don't see this blazers team losing more than 8-10 home games this year, I know that sounds crazy, but tell that to rip city baby.

    So when it starts raining portland rain over the corners of the nation just hold to these words: please don't use an umbrella!

    (If you're not from portland you not likely to get this last comment)

    oh and Brad...
    assumedly less detailed?

    Did Lord of The Rings director Peter Jackson remove an arrant car driving by in a shire scene in the DVD version or was Viggo Mortensen a quaker along side Harrison Ford well before being a King

    and at least know who my father is you pig eating son of a ...ok I'm done

    have a good one man

  2. ps i meant to add that my records for each team where picked at a +/ - 5 kind of a prediction but i gave each team in most cases the highest record i think they are capable of, it does not reflect an actual outcome possible

  3. Brad,

    I think you picked the Pistons a little bit too high. The highest I'd give them is a 4. I agree with a Pacers 8 seed. Toronto's going to be good. Very good, in my estimation.

    I like a Lakers-Cavs final. Mo Williams is going to be a good addition to the Cavs, and I think they can beat out the Celtics with a late trade. As far as the Lakers go, I'm going to have to agree with Simmons that they are the deepest, weak at pg depending on Farmar. Their competition is the Hornets, who I like also, but i just don't see it happening until they get a little better.