Sports

NBA Preview

About two months into the season, now is about as good a time as any to take a look at the NBA and make some bold predictions. The Spurs look good, and so do the Pistons, but are they destined for another showdown in the NBA finals? On the opposite side of the spectrum, can the Hawks and Raptors combine to win more than 10 games this season? And, most importantly, how will Christian’s beloved Celtics finish? Here’s a team-by-team breakdown.

Lottery-bound:

  1. Toronto Raptors: Chris Bosh, we’re sorry. Maybe someday you’ll play for an organization that can put some talent around you. Rafael Araújo may be the worst lottery pick of the past 10 years.
  2. Atlanta Hawks: Zaza Pachulia was a steal this offseason, which almost makes up for the absurd overpayment of Joe Johnson.
  3. New York Knicks: Larry Brown won’t be able to steer this team out of the lottery, even with the rapid development of rookie Channing Frye.
  4. Charlotte Bobcats: I’m not sold on their rookies this year, so this is a team that will need to make big strides in the free agent market in the next few years to be competitive.
  5. Portland Trailblazers: Zach Randolph is a complementary player, not a superstar. Same with Sebastian Telfair, Darius Miles, and everyone else on this team.
  6. Utah Jazz: Even with capable scorers Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer, until they get some depth on the bench, this team’will be stuck in the lottery for a while to come.
  7. Boston Celtics: It hurts Christian to put his team here. Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis (48 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists combined) are the best 2-3 combination of any team in the league, but other than that, no one else can score.
  8. New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets: Better than anyone could’ve e xpected, this team lives and dies by how Chris Paul plays.
  9. Houston Rockets: Without Tracy McGrady these past few weeks, it’s become clear that Yao Ming isn’t the leading man most critics thought he could be.
  10. Los Angeles Lakers: Lamar Odom can score, pass and rebound, but he won’t get the chance since he’ll be deferring to Kobe all the time.
  11. Sacramento Kings: Destined for the lottery until the Maloof brothers pull off a blockbuster trade (it’s coming, don’t worry), these guys can’t guard anyone.

Middle of the pack:

  1. Seattle Supersonics: Can you build a team around a three-point shooter, even one as good as Ray Allen? No.
  2. New Jersey Nets: Lawrence Frank’s honeymoon is over. If the Nets don’t win, he may be out of a job. And with Jason Kidd a shell of his former self, it’s hard to see how this team can possibly win.
  3. Washington Wizards: Gilbert Arenas can score, but he still hasn’t learned how to make his teammates better.
  4. Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard may be the next dominant big man in the East, but point guard Steve Francis hasn’t won anywhere he’s been. 15: Milwaukee Bucks: Number-one pick Andrew Bogut already can score, rebound, and defend with the best of them. Now it’s just a matter of surrounding him with some veteran talent. 14: Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett might be the best player in the NBA, but he has nobody around him to share the load now that Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell have moved on. 13: Philadelphia 76ers: Are there enough basketballs for both Allen Iverson and Chris Webber? Yes, but not nearly enough supporting talent for this team to contend for an NBA title anytime soon. 12: Golden State Warriors: The addition of Baron Davis will push them into the playoffs for the first time since Don Nelson was at the helm. 11: Chicago Bulls: Its not quite MJ and Scottie, but Duke products Chris Duhon and Luol Deng are playing some serious ball. Plus, big man Tyson Chandler is finally beginning to justify his high draft selection.

Playoff locks:

10: Memphis Grizzlies: Jerry West’s brigade of young stars is finally growing up. Even Pau Gasol, once the epitome of the soft European scorer, is beginning to hit the glass.
9: Denver Nuggets: Head coach George Karl even has Carmelo Anthony sharing the ball.
8: Los Angeles Clippers: The perennial laughingstock is souped up with young, athletic talent.
7: Dallas Mavericks: Critics are wrong about there being no D in Dallas. They’ve still got Dirk.
6: Cleveland Cavaliers: Right now LeBron James could carry just about any group to 50 wins, even this raggedy bunch. The only question is can such a one-dimensional group advance in the playoffs.
5: Phoenix Suns: If they can hold the fort until Amare Stoudemire returns, they will be dangerous in the playoffs. Steve Nash is not only the best point guard in the league, he may even be the best player.

Title contenders:

4: Miami Heat: If Shaq’s healthy, the combination of he and Flash may be better than that of the big man and Kobe back in LA. The only danger: Shaq probably won’t be healthy, and by himself Dwayne Wade tends to jack up too many bad shots.
3: Indiana Pacers: Artest is back, and if he doesn’t lose it again, this team is as good as any in the league.
2: Detroit Pistons: No more Larry Brown. Who cares. The Pistons have the best starting five in basketball. Maybe the best bench too.
1: San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are the class of the NBA. They’ll defend their title the same way they won it, with great defense, methodical offense, and little fanfare.

That is unless the Celtics surprise us all! Enjoy the season and remember that you heard it here first, (unless of course we’re wrong, in which case we have no memory of this issue).