The NBA season tips off on Tuesday night with a high-octane, run and gun showdown between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. It’s about time. I’ve kept myself distracted from the pain of last season’s abrupt collapse by the Dallas Mavericks by watching a little bit of playoff baseball, playing fantasy football, and enrolling in seminary. I can’t wait for the Mavs opener against San Antonio on Thursday night. I’m predicting big things for Dirk and the rest of the team this year.
Let me preface my predictions with a few items of note. First off, I am completely biased. I’ve been a Mavericks fan since the days of James Donaldson, Derek Harper, Rolondo Blackman, Brad Davis, and the rest of the team in 1986-87. I was one of the 2,000 in attendance during the mid-nineties fiasco seasons, when they were lucky to win 15 games. I wear my team spirit on my sleeve, and I make no apologies for it.
Secondly, since I am a Mavericks homer, I know much more about the Western conference, and the Southwest Division in particular, than the East. I couldn’t tell you more than about 15 players from the East, but I could probably tell you the starting lineup for most of the teams in the West. That being said, my predictions for the Eastern teams will not be researched nearly as well as the West.
With that out of the way, here is my forecast for the Eastern Conference:
1-Chicago Bulls (Central Div Winner)
2-Miami Heat (Southeast Div Winner)
3-New Jersey Nets (Atlantic Div Winner)
7-New York Knicks
And the West:
1-Dallas Mavericks (Southwest Div Winner)
2-LA Clippers (Pacific Div Winner)
3-Utah Jazz (Northwest Div Winner)
5-San Antonio Spurs
7-Golden State Warriors
East Champs-Chichago Bulls
West Champs-Dallas Mavericks
NBA Champs-Dallas Mavericks
You may notice a few bold predictions. First off, the Hornets ahead of the Spurs? Yes. The combination of Chris Paul rising another level and some key additions in the off-season make them a much better team than last year. I also think Tim Duncan’s production will go down this year, causing the Spurs to have a tough season. Also, the Warriors in, Lakers out. Golden State should have been much better last year than they were. They have really good young talent on their roster, and Don Nelson is a coaching genius (in the regular season), which will translate into a trip to the playoffs.
The reason I think Dallas will be the best this year is simple. They have the top 7 players from last year back, and have improved their roster with slots 8-12. Devin George and Gregg Buckner will be serviceable 7-10 minute guys, and Anthony Johnson will give Devin Harris the needed pressure to improve his game to get more playing time. Not to mention, Austin Croshere is an upgrade over Keith Van Horn.
The one thing that can throw everything off is injuries. If any team suffers a key injury to a star player (Pau Gaso of the Grizzliesl, for example) that will dramatically affect their success.
I’ll come back to my predictions and make any updates to this at the All-Star break.