Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your Canon Review 2010-11 NBA Preview

Tonight marks the beginning of a new NBA season. After a wild offseason which saw LeBron James turn on an entire state to join the Miami Heat, and All-Stars such as Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, and Carlos Boozer change teams, the proverbial deck has been shuffled quite a bit this season. New powers like the Heat and Bulls will emerge, old powers like the Cavaliers will fade off into mediocrity, and with the threat of a labor stoppage looming over next year, who knows what the future will hold for the NBA. I do know one thing, this NBA season promises to be one of the most exciting season in recent memory. So, without further adieu, here are my predictions for the upcoming season.

Eastern Conference (Conference Rank in parentheses)

Atlantic Division:

1. Boston Celtics (3)
2. New York Knicks (7)
3. New Jersey Nets (11)
4. Philadelphia 76ers (12)
5. Toronto Raptors (15)

The Celtics are among the favorites to win the title this year, and with the additions of C Shaquille O'Neal, C/F Jermaine O'Neal and G Delonte West to an already deep bench, the Celtics may have the deepest team in the game. The Knicks may not have had the offseason they wanted, but with new additions like PF Amare Stoudemire and PG Raymond Felton playing under coach Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks will be more exciting to watch this year at the very least. Look for the Knicks to play a lot of high scoring games and ultimately win enough of them to make the playoffs. The Nets will be better than last year under new coach Avery Johnson, and C Brook Lopez and PG Devin Harris are two potential All-Stars. But their supporting cast, while better than last year's bunch, isn't quite good enough to make them a playoff team. The 76ers have SF Andre Igoudala leading a bunch of players who are either too young (PG Jrue Holliday, C Maurice Speights) or over the hill (PF Elton Brand). Plus, I was not impressed with the Sixers' decision to hire retread Doug Collins as head coach, and second overall pick Evan Turner has thus far looked far short of the star the 76ers hoped he would be this year. Toronto lost PF Chris Bosh in the offseason, and the only thing the Raptors will contend for this year is the first overall pick in next year's draft.

Central Division:

1. Chicago Bulls (4)
2. Milwaukee Bucks (6)
3. Indiana Pacers (8)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (13)
5. Detroit Pistons (14)

The Bulls will have to start the season with new acquisition PF Carlos Boozer, but with PG Derrick Rose and C Joakim Noah, Chicago should be able to hold the fort until Boozer is ready to return. With defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeou as the new coach, expect the Bulls to be one of the toughest teams to score upon. I'm not impressed with Milwaukee's offseason acquisitions of PF Drew Gooden and SF Corey Maggette, as neither player seems to fit coach Scott Skiles's defensive style of play. But with PG Brandon Jennings continuing to improve and C Andrew Bogut back, many teams will have good reason to 'fear the deer' this year. The Pacers finally acquired a legit point guard in Darren Collison, and scoring machine SF Danny Granger is healthy once again this season. The young Pacers should improve enough to snatch the final spot in the playoffs, although a lot of that is also due to the other teams being quite uninspiring. The Cavaliers move forward without superstar LeBron James, and it would be silly to expect PG Mo Williams and PF J.J. Hickson to pick up the slack LeBron left behind. Sorry Cleveland, but the Cavs will once again drop to mediocrity. The Pistons still have some remnants of their 2003-04 title team in SF Tayshaun Prince, C Ben Wallace, and SG Richard Hamilton. However, this is a team that desperately needs to rebuild, and if GM Joe Dumars can get a good offer for Prince or Hamilton (or better yet, PF Charlie Villanueva and SG Ben Gordon), then I would suggest he takes the offer, because the Pistons are going nowhere fast this season.

Southeast Division:

1. Miami Heat (1)
2. Orlando Magic (2)
3. Atlanta Hawks (5)
4. Washington Wizards (9)
5. Charlotte Bobcats (10)

The Heat begin the season as the team with the biggest targets on their backs, as SF LeBron James and PF Chris Bosh have joined SG Dwyane Wade to give Miami a powerful trio. Yes, there are questions about the Heat's ability to defend the post, but the new Big Three should carry Miami to a number one seed anyhow. The Magic's big time center, Dwight Howard, seems to have rededicated himself in the offseason, and his supporting cast is still solid enough to make the Magic one of the best teams in the NBA. The Hawks may have made a mistake by signing Joe Johnson to a $124 million dollar contract. But the move did allow the Hawks to bring back the entire core of a 53 win team in 2009-10. Also, the Hawks have added rookie guard Jordan Crawford to the mix, and if he and second-year PG Jeff Teague develop the way the Hawks expect them to, then the Hawks could have one of the best backcourts in the game. The Wizards are quite guard heavy, with rookie PG John Wall and newly acquired G Kirk Hinrich joining up with the returning Gilbert Arenas. If C Javale McGee and/or PF Andray Blatche can provide a consistent low-post threat, then the Wizards may surprise some people. The Bobcats are lead by SF Gerald Wallace and SG Steven Jackson, but they don't seem to have enough pieces around them to return to the playoffs this season.

Western Conference:

Southwest Division:

1. Dallas Mavericks (3)
2. San Antonio Spurs (6)
3. Houston Rockets (7)
4. New Orleans Hornets (8)
5. Memphis Grizzlies (12)

The Mavericks will once again win 50 games behind PF Dirk Nowitzki and a solid supporting cast, and once again the Mavs will disappoint in the playoffs. The Spurs may be a little past their prime, but PF Tim Duncan and company aren't quite done yet, and if PF/C DeJuan Blair and C Tiago Splitter can provide Duncan quality frontcourt help, then the Spurs may be a contender for the title once again. I'll be honest, I have no idea what to make of the Rockets. Yes, they have quality players in PG Aaron Brooks and SG Kevin Martin, and C Yao Ming is back once again. But this team doesn't really have a superstar, just a lot of solid players. That should be enough to make the postseason, but anything after that is icing on the cake. The Hornets' entire season depends of PG Chris Paul being happy and healthy. If he's neither, the Hornets could sink fast, and despite the best efforts of PF David West and SG Marcus Thornton, the Hornets look to be a borderline playoff team this year. The Grizzlies surprised last year, but is it really wise to count on PF Zach Randolph to repeat his stellar performance last year, when his career history strongly suggests against it? The Grizzlies have other solid players in SF Rudy Gay and SG O.J. Mayo, but this team will go as far as Randolph can take them, which in the deep Western Conference, isn't that far. If only Memphis were in the East, then they would be a playoff team for sure.

Northwest Division:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (1)
2. Utah Jazz (4)
3. Denver Nuggets (5)
4. Portland Trailblazers (10)
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (15)

The Thunder possess perhaps the best player in the game in SF Kevin Durant, a top-notch PG in Russell Westbrook, and a solid supporting cast around them. Look for Durant and company to make the jump this year and the Thunder to join the NBA elite. The Jazz lost Boozer, but gained C Al Jefferson, a similar player who is a few years younger. With Jefferson joining star PG Deron Williams, the Jazz are a star swingman away from becoming an elite team. Perhaps rookie SF Gordon Hayward can become that player. Some people are down on the Nuggets, but with SF Carmelo Anthony still in tow (for now) and playing for a new contract, the Nuggets should be a tough team yet again. The Trailblazers' front office is a mess, they have quite a few unhappy players on the roster, and their season depends on injury-prone players such as SG Brandon Roy and Cs Marcus Camby and Greg Oden staying healthy. The Blazers could win anywhere from 35 to 55 games, but I'm predicting it will be closer to the former. I don't think the Timberwolves know what they're doing, but with PF Kevin Love and SF Michael Beasley, the Wolves may have some potential if Beasley has his head on straight.

Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Lakers (2)
2. Phoenix Suns (9)
3. Los Angeles Clippers (11)
4. Sacramento Kings (13)
5. Golden State Warriors (14)

The back-to-back defending champs, the Lakers are just as strong as ever. However, look for the Lakers to conserve their energy during their regular season and concede the top seed to the Thunder. The Suns still have PG Steve Nash, but they are a little thin up front after losing Stoudemire. Despite the Suns' 19 small forwards, the Suns don't have the size to compete this year. The Clippers will get a huge boost from the debut of 2009 number one pick PF Blake Griffin, and with a backcourt of PG Baron Davis and SG Eric Gordon, the Clippers may make a run at the postseason. However, they still are the Clippers, so we'll see. The Kings have last year's rookie of the year, SG Tyreke Evans, and first rounder PF DeMarcus Cousins could give the Kings back to back winners of the award. But the Kings are a year away from being a playoff contender. The Warriors added PF David Lee to a core that already includes SG Monta Ellis and PG Stephen Curry. They'll score a lot, but the Warriors will have a hard time stopping teams. At least they will be exciting to watch.

1. Kevin Durant, F, Thunder
2. LeBron James, F, Heat
3. Kobe Bryant, G, Lakers
Dark Horse: Dwight Howard, C, Magic

Durant led the league in scoring last year, and just finished carrying Team USA on his back at the FIBA World Championships. With the Thunder poised to make a huge leap this year, look for Durant to carry the team to the best record in the West and his first of many MVP awards to come. James is the back-to-back winner of the MVP award, but with James joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this year, LeBron will lose some votes to his teammates. Bryant still may be the best player in the league even at 32. Look for Braynt to have his usual excellent season. Howard has stepped up his training in the offseason and has put in work with Hall of Fame C Hakeem Olajuwon. If Howard can adapt some of Olajuwon's lessons into his own game, he may become the best player in the NBA.

Defensive Player of the Year:
1. Howard, C, Magic
2. James, F, Heat
3. Joakim Noah, C, Bulls
Dark Horse: John Wall, G, Wizards

Howard is the back-to-back winner of the award already, and should continue to reek havoc all over the court once again this year. James is a quality defender and may look to make more of a contribution on the defensive end now that he has teammates that can take care of business on the offensive side of the ball. Noah is a high energy player who plays every opponent tough and will block his share of shots. As for Wall, he might be the quickest player in the NBA right now, and his quick hands will result in a lot of steals and frustrating nights for his opponents.

Rookie of the Year
1. Blake Griffin, F, Clippers
2. John Wall, G, Wizards
3. DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Kings
Dark Horse: Tiago Splitter, C, Spurs

Griffin, the 2009 first pick in the draft, missed the entire season last year due to a knee injury. So far, it looks like Griffin hasn't lost a step after the injury, and Griffin may put up a 20 and 10 season in his rookie year. Wall was this year's number one pick, and should improve the Wizards immediately. If Wall doesn't turn the ball over too much and is consistent with his shot, he could be an All-Star as soon as this season. Cousins slipped to the number 5 slot due to attitude concerns, but there's no doubting his talent. As long as he's in the right frame of mind, Cousins will be a force in this league from day one. There was a time where Splitter was considered one of the top prospects in basketball and now that he's making his debut, the Spurs' new big man will have a chance to show why.

NBA Finals Prediction: Heat over Lakers in 6

There are three legit contenders to the title in the East: The Celtics, Heat, and Magic. The Celtics made it all the way to game 7 of the Finals last year, and have all the pieces to not only return, but win the finals this time. I do have concerns about the team's age and PG Rajon Rondo's poor shooting. The Magic will probably win 55-60 games this year and nobody on the Heat can slow down Dwight Howard. But I'm not really convinced that SG Vince Carter is the right player to take the Magic over the top, and PF Rashad Lewis slowed down some last year. The Heat may have lost to the Celtics tonight, and they are a bit thin behind the big three. But LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are three of the top ten players in the game, and for at least this year, the Heat's investment in them will pay off. In the West, the Lakers are the clear favorites, and despite challenges from the Thunder, Jazz, and Spurs, look for Los Angeles to ultimately return to the Finals, only to fall short to the Miami Heat in the end.

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts or predictions about the upcoming NBA season, or you have some issues with my predictions, then feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, then share those ideas either by leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail at

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