Let’s take a momentary break from fake basketball to focus a bit on Razzball’s real basketball predictions for the 2011 season. I’m of two minds about making preseason predictions about the league on a grand scale. If I’m wrong, I’ve voluntarily published my wrongness for anyone to see. That’s not good for my self-esteem. Then again, if I’m way off, it means the season was full of surprises and it was well worth the time I spent invested in it. Here are our predictions for basketball’s post-season awards and who’s getting a new banner in their stadium. Adam’s picks in RED. Jason’s picks in BLUE.
Eastern Conference Playoffs – 1. Miami, 2. Chicago, 3. New York, 4. Philadelphia, 5. Boston, 6. Indiana, 7. Orlando, 8. Atlanta – Same crew as last season, different order. What? You thought John Wall and his merry band of goofballs had a chance? Though I do think Milwaukee will be in a dog fight until the end.
Eastern Conference Playoffs – 1. Miami, 2. Chicago, 3. New York, 4. Boston, 5. Indiana, 6. Philadelphia, 7. Orlando, 8. Atlanta – I’ll be awfully surprised if the Miami and Chicago aren’t atop the conference; they seem noticeably better than anyone else. As has been pointed out all over the internet, this schedule doesn’t favor Boston, which ought to be enough for New York to slide by them for the division (though I’d pick the Celtics to beat them in a playoff series if the Heat and Bulls decide to skip the playoffs). Indiana proved in the first round last season that they’re a team on the rise, I like them in this shortened season. If Howard stays in Orlando all season, they’ll finish better than this, but I don’t think that will happen.
Western Conference Playoffs – 1. Oklahoma City, 2. L.A. Clippers, 3. Dallas, 4. L.A. Lakers, 5. San Antonio, 6. Denver, 7. Memphis, 8. Portland – Much like the Heat last year, ranking this Clippers team second could be way too high or way too low. Anyone that says they know how this team will gel and hold up is full of beans. I know this: Chris Paul has made a career of dragging overrated players and dead carcasses into the playoffs. Imagine what he can do with this roster. Still, the gelling and the youth favors the Thunder. They’re largely the same team they were last season, they’re gelled, their great and they’ll all be one season better, while the usual suspects are all one (big) year slower.
Western Conference Playoffs – 1. Oklahoma City, 2. L.A. Lakers, 3. San Antonio, 4. Denver, 5. Dallas, 6. L.A. Clippers, 7. Memphis, 8. Portland – After Oklahoma City, I expect most of these teams to finish very closely bunched together. The compact schedule ought to favor young, deep teams, but a lot of the top talent is on older teams. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. I believe the Lakers’ demise has been greatly exaggerated and expect their roster to improve by the middle of the season. I am not as sold on the Clippers as many seem to be. Perhaps I’ve just seen too much of Vinny Del Negro’s “coaching” to trust them. San Antonio is being overlooked because they got bumped early last year, but I believe they’re still a top team.
Eastern Conference Champion – Miami Heat – Haslem is healthy, Eddy Curry has taken some of the spotlight off the Big Three (by standing in front of the spotlight and blocking it with his mass), Bosh got ripped, Norris Cole and Dexter Pittman are developing and Shane Battier’s head wrinkles are the only significant changes the NBA Finalists have made to the roster. The team was strong last season, they’re stronger this season.
Eastern Conference Champion – Miami Heat – They were the best team in the conference last season and I don’t see Rip Hamilton changing that. Here’s to hoping that I’m wrong.
Western Conference Champion – Oklahoma City Thunder – The Lakers ripped away their bench, the Mavericks are either old or fat or both (Vince Carter), and the Clippers are coached by Vinny Del Negro (do not underestimate this. Coaches must either be the smartest men in the building or get out of the way. VDN isn’t and won’t).
Western Conference Champion – Oklahoma City Thunder – Unless the Lakers swindle their way into Dwight Howard without giving up Gasol, I think the Thunder have to be considered the favorites out west.
NBA Finals Champion – Miami Heat – I’m also predicting they win at home and a nearly ¾-filled stadium is there to see it!
NBA Finals Champion – Miami Heat – It’s boring to pick what is probably the consensus Finals’ match-up, but it would be very entertaining basketball, should it come to this. It’s a question of when, not if this Miami team will win a championship. I think the answer is June, 2012.
Most Valuable Player – Kevin Durant – Lebron is the best player on Earth, but Durant is awesome too, and his narrative will have more pull.
Rookie of the Year – Brandon Knight – The most obvious answer is Kyrie Irving. The most popular answer is Derrick Williams, but I’m going with Knight because: 1) Williams fell into a crowded situation on a mess of a franchise and I don’t think he’ll have enough opportunity to shine, 2) Irving is on an equally messy franchise and will be asked to carry a team – it’s no easy task and no guarantee, especially if the pieces don’t fit. 3) Knight on the other hand is on a less messy franchise with ample room to produce, but without the weight of having to be a team leader. He’ll play PG, but also run the two alongside Bynum or Stuckey.
Rookie of the Year – Kyrie Irving – ROY is largely about opportunity, and Irving will be given that in large doses.
Most Improved Player – Jrue Holiday – The award recipe goes like this: take one (1) third-year player, mix in marked improvement from the year before that went largely unnoticed, sprinkle in a dash of team winning percentage, whip until stiff peaks occur and voila, you’ve got yourself Danny Granger, Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday.
Most Improved Player – Evan Turner – I think he’ll step up his production, though he could just as easily sit in Collins’ doghouse all season. Doug is like that.
Defensive Player of the Year – Dwight Howard – To paraphrase “The Social Network,” ‘if anyone else were the year’s best defender, they’d have won Defensive Player of the Year.’ I will say that if I had to pick someone other than Dwight, I’d pick Joakim Noah.
Go ahead and drop your predictions in the comments so that we don’t have to go down on record as being fools all by ourselves.