Friday, May 6, 2011

Your Canon Review 2010-11 NBA Preview in Review

With all the postseason awards given out, and the NBA playoffs in full swing, I figure now is as good a time as any to look back at the picks I made in the Canon Review NBA Preview done in October. After one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory, the NBA Playoffs have been one exciting thrill after another. With the Grizzlies' upset of the Spurs, the Heat coming into their own against the Celtics, and top-notch individual performances from Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Zach Randolph, the 2011 NBA Playoffs have so far been one of the most memorable in NBA history. Meanwhile, during the regular season, Blake Griffin became an overnight sensation, the Celtics and Magic made trades that ended up hurting them in the long run, Derrick Rose led the Bulls to their best record since the Michael Jordan era, and All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were traded in mid-season. So, did I see any of this coming, or not? Well, let's find out by looking back at my preseason picks.

Eastern Conference (Conference Rank in parentheses)

Atlantic Division:

Predictions:                                Current Record:
1. Boston Celtics (3)             1. Boston Celtics (3)- 56-26
2. New York Knicks (7)        2. New York Knicks (6)- 42-40
3. New Jersey Nets (11)       3. Philadelphia 76ers (7)- 41-41
4. Philadelphia 76ers (12)     4. New Jersey Nets (12)-24-58
5. Toronto Raptors (15)        5. Toronto Raptors (14)- 22-60

At the All-Star break, the Celtics looked like the beasts of the East. However, ever since GM Danny Ainge traded C Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder, the Celtics' play has dovetailed, especially PG Rajon Rondo. Now the Celtics are facing a 2-0 deficit to the Miami Heat in the playoffs. After adding C Amare Stoudemire in the offseason, the Knicks traded for another superstar in SF Carmelo Anthony. The end result was a first-round elimination to the Boston Celtics, but considering where the Knicks were the last few seasons, that's a step in the right direction. If the Knicks can get one more piece to team up with Carmelo and Amare, then New York could join the league's elite. 76ers coach Doug Collins came in and led his overachieving team to the playoffs this year.  The Sixers have a promising young core of players led by PG Jrue Holliday and SF Andre Igoudala, although they could use another scorer. The Nets traded for PG Deron Williams just after the All-Star break, and should be a little better next season with a full season from Williams. How much better could depend on the development of C Brook Lopez. The Raptors have a lot of young players, which helps explain their 22-60 record. While the Raptors are young, it's hard to see a team led by C Andrea Bargnani and SG Demar DeRozen carrying a team into contention, at least not without a little help.

Central Division:

1. Chicago Bulls (4)            1. Chicago Bulls (1)- 62-20
2. Milwaukee Bucks (6)      2. Indiana Pacers (8)- 37-45
3. Indiana Pacers (8)            3. Milwaukee Bucks (9)- 35-47
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (13) 4. Detroit Pistons (11)- 30-52
5. Detroit Pistons (14)       5. Cleveland Cavaliers (15)- 19-63

The Bulls were expected to be a good team this year, although very few people felt that the Bulls had a 60 win season in them this year, especially considering that C Joakim Noah and PF Carlos Boozer both missed large stretches of the season with injuries. Credit NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and MVP PG Derrick Rose for the Bulls meteoric rise. The Pacers had an up-and-down season and fired coach Jim O'Brien in midseason, but interim coach Frank Vogel led the Pacers to a 20-18 record during his stint, and the Pacers snuck into the playoffs. The Bucks were hoping to build on last season's success, but instead they saw the acquisitions of SF Corey Maggette and  PF Drew Gooden blow up in their faces and young PG Brandon Jennings take a step backwards after a strong rookie year. The Pistons made more news by feuding with coach John Kuester than anything they did on the basketball court, and look to be in rebuild mode. The Cavs lost LeBron James and at one point lost 26 games in a row. On the plus side, the team played hard under coach Byron Scott, and Cleveland did not finish with the worst record in the league.

Southeast Division:

1. Miami Heat (1)              1. Miami Heat (2)- 58-24
2. Orlando Magic (2)         2. Orlando Magic (4)-  52-30
3. Atlanta Hawks (5)          3. Atlanta Hawks (5)- 44-38
4. Washington Wizards (9) 4. Charlotte Bobcats (10)- 34-48
5. Charlotte Bobcats (10) 5. Washington Wizards (13)- 23-59

The Heat's big three of James, SG Dwyane Wade and PF Chris Bosh had a few bumps in the road, but at the end of the season, Miami won 58 games and are now poised to make a run at the NBA Championship. The Magic made some major trades in midseason to acquire PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Jason Richardson, and SF Hedo Turkoglu, and while the Magic won 52 games, they were upset by the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks, meanwhile, played rather poorly after the All-Star break, but were able to pull it together once the playoffs started and are now tied at 1 game apiece with the top seeded Bulls. The Bobcats played better once Paul Silas took over as coach, but it still wasn't enough to snatch a playoff spot, especially since PF Gerald Wallace was traded to Portland after the All-Star break. The Wizards have an intriguing young team led by PG John Wall, SG Jordan Crawford, and C Javale McGee, but the young Wizards probably have a ways to go before becoming a legitimate playoff contender.

Western Conference:
Southwest Division:

1. Dallas Mavericks (3)      1. San Antonio Spurs (1)- 61-21
2. San Antonio Spurs (6)     2. Dallas Mavericks (3)- 57-25
3. Houston Rockets (7)     3. New Orleans Hornets (7)- 46-36
4. New Orleans Hornets (8) 4. Memphis Grizzlies (8)- 46-36
5. Memphis Grizzlies (12)    5. Houston Rockets (9)- 43-39

I must admit that I was surprised that the Spurs finished with the Western Conference's best record, as the team exceeded expectation by winning 61 games. Then again, I was also surprised that the Spurs fell to the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, making their regular season accomplishments moot. The Mavericks once again won over 55 games behind the play of PF Dirk Nowitzki, but, in a change from recent years, the Mavericks have also had postseason success, defeating the Trailblazers in the first round and winning the first two games against the Lakers in L.A. in the second round. PG Chris Paul carried the Hornets to a playoff spot this year, and played very well against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, serving notice to all the NBA that he is still amongst the elite players in the league. Memphis survived an injury to SF Rudy Gay, a fight between SGs O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen, and other problems to finish as the eighth seed in the deep Western Conference. Then they shocked the Spurs behind the play of PF Zach Randolph and C Marc Gasol, and are currently knotted up with Oklahoma City at one game apiece in their second round series. If the Rockets were in the Eastern Conference, they would have finished with the sixth best record. Instead, the Rockets are the best team out of the playoffs, despite the strong play of C Luis Scola and PG Kyle Lowry throughout the season.

Northwest Division:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (1) 1. Ok. City Thunder (4)- 55-27
2. Utah Jazz (4)                        2. Denver Nuggets (5)- 50-32
3. Denver Nuggets (5)      3. Portland Trailblazers (6)- 48-34
4. Portland Trailblazers (10)       4. Utah Jazz (11)- 39-43
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (15) 5. Minnesota T'wolves (15)- 17-65

Perhaps I was a bit high on Oklahoma City at the beginning of the year, but hey, they did win 55 games and are favored to go to the conference finals. With C Kendrick Perkins teaming with Serge Ibaka to form an intimidating front line to compliment All-Stars SF Kevin Durant and PG Russell Westbrook, the Thunder will be a force to reckoned with for years to come. The Nuggets traded their best player in SF Carmelo Anthony, but instead of folding, the Nuggets rallied, and coach George Karl led them to a fifth seed in the West. Yes, they did fall to Oklahoma City in the first round, but Denver proved that there is life after 'Melo. The Trailblazers surprised me this year, as they survived a lot of injuries and made the playoffs. A large reason for that is the play of PF LaMarcus Aldridge, who stepped up his game and became an All-Star caliber player. The Jazz were a team in transition this year, as long-time coach Jerry Sloan resigned, then the team traded All-Star point guard Deron Williams. As such, the Jazz finished the season 8-20, and must rebuild around C Al Jefferson, PF Paul Milsap, and PG Devin Harris. The Timberwolves had the Most Improved Player in the league in PF Kevin Love, who also led the league in rebounding. Yet they still finished with the worst record in the NBA, which should tell you all you need to know about Love's teammates.

Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Lakers (2)    1. Los Angeles Lakers (2)- 57-25
2. Phoenix Suns (9)                  2. Phoenix Suns (10)- 40-42
3. Los Angeles Clippers (11) 3. G'State Warriors (12)- 36-46
4. Sacramento Kings (13)   4. L.A. Clippers (13)- 32-50
5. Golden State Warriors (14) 5. Sacramento Kings (14)- 24-58

It was a typical successful season for the Lakers out in the Pacific division. However, the Mavericks have the Lakers in a 2-0 hole in the playoffs, so if the Lakers want to win a third title in coach Phil Jackson's final season, then Kobe Bryant and co. must step it up. The Suns got a great season out of PG Steve Nash, but this year his supporting cast wasn't quite up to the task and the Suns missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Warriors provided their fans with a lot of scoring, led by guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. However, if the Warriors want to be a playoff team next year, they've got to improve on defense. The Clippers have the NBA rookie of the year in PF Blake Griffin, and he and SG Eric Gordon give the Clips two great building blocks. Look for the Clippers to be the most improved team next year, if there is a season. Sacramento not only saw their team lose a lot of games, they also almost saw their Kings leave town. While the Kings will play in Sacramento next season, things probably won't be much better next year, as the owners are broke and the team is still too young to contend. But you could do worse than having a young core led by PG Tyreke Evans, PF/C DeMarcus Cousins, and SG Marcus Thornton.

Preseason Picks: 

1. Kevin Durant, F, Thunder (27.7 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game)
2. LeBron James, F, Heat (26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game)
3. Kobe Bryant, G, Lakers (25.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 apg)
Dark Horse: Dwight Howard, C, Magic (22.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.4 blocks per game)

1. Derrick Rose, G, Bulls (25.0 ppg, 7.7 apg)
2. Howard
3. James
4. Bryant

At the beginning of the season, it was thought that Rose would be a very good player, but still a year away from becoming a superstar. However, Rose stepped up his game, became the best point guard in the league and at 22, became the NBA's youngest MVP. Howard set a new career high in scoring and led a questionable Magic roster to a 52 win season, which is why he finished second. James had a great season, but the fact is that Rose and Howard meant more to their team's success than LeBron. Kobe was his typically solid self, while Durant finished fifth in the MVP voting after leading the NBA in scoring and leading  the Thunder to their best record since 1998.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Preseason Picks:
1. Howard, C, Magic
2. James, F, Heat
3. Joakim Noah, C, Bulls (48 games played, 10.4 rpg)
Dark Horse: John Wall, G, Wizards (1.8 spg)

1. Howard
2. Kevin Garnett, F, Boston Celtics (8.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg)
3. Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks (9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg)
4. Tony Allen, G, Memphis Grizzlies (1.8 spg)

I picked Howard at the beginning of the season largely because he had won the previous two awards and is still in the prime of his career. While I was right, I'm not going to take too much credit for it since most people that follow the NBA also made that pick. Garnett was once again the backbone to the Celtics' strong defense, while Chandler gave the Mavericks a much-needed quality low post defender and has helped that team immensely on the defensive end. Allen may not be the most consistent player on offense, but he also could-be the best on-ball defensive guard in the NBA today, as he showed in the Spurs series. James finished ninth in the balloting, although he didn't stand out on the defensive end as he did two years ago with the Cavs. Noah missed 34 games due to injury, but when he was in there, he was a menace to opposing offenses all across the league. As for Wall, well, I thought his quick hands would lead to more steals, but oh well. I think he might develop into an elite defender in the future, but I was a little quick on the gun this year.

Rookie of the Year
Preseason Picks:
1. Blake Griffin, F, Clippers (22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg)
2. John Wall, G, Wizards (16.4 ppg, 8.3 apg)
3. DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Kings (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg)
Dark Horse: Tiago Splitter, C, Spurs (4.6 ppg. 3.4 rpg)

1. Griffin
2. Wall
3. Cousins
4. Landry Fields, G/F, New York Knicks (9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

Griffin's had a lock on the Rookie of the Year Award ever since the second week of the season, so it was no surprise that he was a unanimous selection for the award. As for the others, Wall and Cousins had up-and-down seasons, but both showed flashes of brilliance. As long as Cousins keeps his head on straight, both should become stars in the league. Fields was a revelation for the Knicks, and should be a solid role player for the Knicks for years to come. As for Splitter, well I was wrong, as G Gary Neal proved to be the best rookie on the Spurs this year.

NBA Finals Prediction: Heat over Lakers in 6
Well, it's kind of late to change things now, so I'll stick with the pick. The Heat have played as good a game as they have all season in their first two games with the Celtics, so I'm still pretty confident in that pick. As for the Lakers, to be honest, I can't see them coming back against the Mavericks after dropping the first two in L.A. But I'm sticking with the pick until the bitter end.

Overall, I don't think I did too badly this year. Out of 16 playoff teams, I only missed three (76ers, Grizzlies, Trailblazers) and I did get two of the three major awards right. Yes, I did underrate the Bulls and Spurs, but I think I did all right. Well, thanks for reading the Canon Review NBA Preview in Review. Remember, if you have an idea for a future review, or thoughts about this post, than share those ideas either by leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail at

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