Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 26, 2009 at 11:20 pm ET.
2009/10 NBA PREVIEW
Scoring Champion: Dwyane Wade-Heat
Coah of the Year: Mike Dunleavy- Clippers
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin-Clippers
Most Improved Player: Greg Oden-Trailblazers
6th Man: Rasheed Wallace-Celtics
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard-Magic
NBA MVP: LeBron James- Cavaliers
Miami Heat 49-33
The Heat are team that can make some noise if everything bounced their way, as Dwyane Wade rebounded quite nicely off an injury plagued season, and again established himself as one of the best players in the NBA. If Michael Beasley can mature a bit, and Jermaine O'Neal find his game they could be a solid contender for at least the division title.
Cleveland Cavaliers over Boston Celtics
Los Angeles Lakers over San Antonio Spurs
Cleveland Cavaliers over Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs 61-21
The Spurs could be the spoiler in the West, as the acquisition of Richard Jefferson could rejuvenate their championship hopes, especially if Manu Ginobilli is able to rebound off an injury plagued season. However, the key will be health and rest come the postseason, as long series before facing the Lakers will make them a long shot to win.
Indiana Pacers 35-47
The Pacers are in that zone, which is most frustrating for fans, not bad enough to be in line to land a star player in the draft, and far from being a playoff contender. On some nights they can compete with the big boys, as they beat the Lakers, Cavaliers, Celtics and Magic during the season last year.
New Jersey Nets 17-65
Devin Harris if he could stay healthy and Brook Lopez give the Nets tow solid players, but there is little else in New Jersey, as the team's future remains up in the air, with continued delays in their Brooklyn pipedream. The team also has a sale pending to Russian investors, as they play what will likely be their final season in the meadowlands with the move to Newark at least in the short term looking like the best news they have had in a while.
Cleveland Cavaliers 68-14
Cleveland this is it. LeBron can leave at the end of the year, weather he does or not it won't matter, what is important is that the Cavaliers have the whole world at their fingertips and they will never again have a better opportunity to win a NBA Title. Shaquille O'Neal completes the package and anything less would be a disappointment, as LeBron continues to build his legend.
Philadelphia 76ers 45-37
Hooray for the Red, White and Blue!!! After a decade in black the 76ers are star spangled again, with the classic look of the Dr. J days. Don't expect the success of those days, as there is too much talent elsewhere in the East. However, led by Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young, and Coach Eddie Jordan, the 76ers should be a playoff team.
Washington Wizards 41-41
If, is the headline in Washington for the Wizards. If Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antwan Jamison can all stay healthy the Wizards should be a strong playoff contender. Coach Flip Saunders has a history of success, and should be a good addition for the Wizards hoping to rebound from a nightmare 2008/09 season.
New York Knicks 26-56
Twas the season before Christmas and all through the Garden not a playoff spot was in sight but some how the future seemed bright. All the Knick players and the Knick fans had visions of LeBron, Dwyane and Bosh dancing in their head. Weather or not this season is a success will depend on who they are able to sign, as Santa Claus will arrive in July with at least one All-Star in his sack.
Chicago Bulls 52-30
The Bulls are a team on the rise in the East; expect more good things from Derrick Rose, who is bound to become one of the premiere Point Guards in the NBA. Luol Deng who is coming off an injury and Brad Miller should help them with depth, as they will emerge as the best of the second line teams in the Conference just behind the top dogs.
Boston Celtics 63-19
As long as Kevin Garnett stays healthy the Celtics should bounce back and rise to be a top contender in the East. They are the unquestioned lone powerhouse in the Atlantic Division. The key for them will come in the spring when as they battle for the ring. The Celtics could be the biggest obstacle for the Cavs they certainly have the depth and the talent to win another NBA title.
Orlando Magic 59-23
Last season was a coming out party for the Magic, as they stunned the Cavaliers and Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals. Of course they did not provide much challenge for the Lakers, but with Dwight Howard in the middle they could again prove to be a spoiler. However, this time around things will be harder as they won't be able to catch anybody by surprise.
Milwaukee Bucks 21-61
There is not much to say about the Milwaukee Bucks, as there is not much talent on their roster. Three of their best players were dealt in the off-season, and Michael Redd could walk away at the end of the season. Don't be shocked if Redd is on the trading block as the Bucks will have a difficult time winning much more then 20 games.
Charlotte Bobcats 30-52
Just like starting over, is the theme for this year's Bobcats, as the expansion team that five years ago was born with great promise has failed to contender, and now with Emeka Okafor gone they are starting from scratch. Larry Brown is a Hall of Fame coach, but there is not enough talent to keep them from being one of the worst teams in the league.
Atlanta Hawks 50-32
The Hawks are one of those teams that if all broke right could be the dark horse in the East, taking the division away from the Magic, or they could fall on their face and miss the playoffs completely. In the end they will fall somewhere in the middle with a good chance to make some noise the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons 39-43
The days in which the Pistons ruled the Central Division are over, through age and player moves the Pistons are barely a playoff contender these days. However, as long as they have Richard Hamilton leading the way they should finish at or around .500. However, with some other teams on the rise it will not be enough to get them back into the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors 37-45
If the Raptors struggle early and dig a deep hole, they could start think about moving Chris Bosh who will be a free agent following the season. The Raptors could also make the playoffs, but with Bosh's future in the air it could be a long harsh winter north of the border.
Denver Nuggets 57-25
The Nuggets may have a tough time equaling their trip to the Western Conference Finals this season with the improvements made by the Spurs, and the continued growth of the Blazers, but they should again be one of the best teams in the West, as Chauncey Billups is a winner, and always gets the max out of the players around him, as Carmelo Anthony will continue to shine playing along side him.
Phoenix Suns 41-41
Steve Nash is starting to show his age, and the Suns are still trying to regain their form from the disastrous deals made by Steve Kerr. It's a shock he is still their GM as he turned a title contender into a playoff pretender. They could get back into the playoffs this season if they can hold off the improving Clippers, but it won't be any higher then the eight seed.
Houston Rockets 32-50
Houston, you have a problem. Yao Ming is likely out for the season, and Tracy McGrady will be out at least the first month of the season, and Ron Artest is now a Laker. T-Mac even when he returns seems to be an injury waiting to happen. Take the top two players off any team, and you have a disaster, and that is what the Rockets will be this season an unmitigated disaster.
Oklahoma City Thunder 35-47
Oklahoma could be thunderstruck this season, as the Thunder begin to show signs of turning the corner in their second season. Kevin Durant should continue to develop into one of the best forwards in the league and could be among the top scorers in the West, especially if Shaun Lvingston is able to get his career on track.
Dallas Mavericks 50-32
The addition of Shawn Marion could make the Mavericks a factor in the West again, as it gives them three reliable scoring options to go along with Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard. The only question is, who will be there to play defense? The Mavs would need a whole lot of things to bounce their way if they are to go far in the playoffs, but they should be right around 50 wins in the regular season.
Minnesota Timberwolves 25-57
Al Jefferson is the lone bright spot in what promises to be another cold winter in the Twin Cities. Kurt Rambis is the new coach and could bring in some of Phil Jackson's mojo. However, Phil never had to deal with a team with so little talent like the Wolves have as they spend another season as a non factor at the bottom of the West.
Los Angeles Lakers 64-18
The Lakers are without doubt the team to beat in the West, as they seek a second straight championship. The question is who will they face in the finals if they get there. Last season they were fortunate to face the Magic, but a match up against the Celtics or Cavs would not be good for the Lakers if they seek a second straight title. However, weather it be Lakers-Celtics, or Lakers-Cavs it sure to be a dramatic June.
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
Golden State Warriors 38-44
The drafting of Stephen Curry could give the Warriors the spark they missed when they lost when Baron Davis went down the coast. He should be able to open scoring lanes for Stephen Jackson. However, it won't be enough to get the Warriors back in the playoffs, as they are not near a complete team to go far in the West.
Sacramento Kings 19-63
When the Kings were a contender at the start of the decade, their owners the Maloof Brothers would offer their top stars trips to Las Vegas to help draw them to Sacramento. Now even Vegas can draw anyone to play in the desolate bottom of the West, as the Kings loyal fans will have very little to cheer again this year.
Utah Jazz 46-36
Stability is the hallmark of the Utah Jazz, as they have had the same coach for 20 years, and rarely make any big changes in personnel. The Jazz have almost the same exact team they had last year, and that was good only for an eight seed and a quick playoff exit courtesy of the Los Angeles Lakers. They may get a better seed this year but they won't go any further.
Memphis Grizzlies 32-50
Where have you gone Allen Iverson? Once of the league's première stars, Iverson is now in the witness protection program known as the Memphis Grizzlies. Last season Iverson was an absolute disaster in Detroit, and I don't expect things to be any better in Memphis, as he is a shell of his former self. However, with the development of O.J. Mayo the Griz can be tough on some nights.
Los Angeles Clippers 44-38
Franchise players don't come along too often, that is why when the Clippers landed the top spot in the lottery there was an instant buzz, among the few Clipper fans living in the shadow of the Lakers. Blake Griffin will have an immediate impact on the fortunes of the Lakers, making them instant contenders as he already shows signs of future MVP while getting the Clippers into the postseason.
Portland Trailblazers 55-27
The addition of Andre Miller gives the Trailbalzers a proven playmaker that should be able to help in the development of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Alridge into All-Stars. Center Greg Oden if he can stay healthy should start developing into on of the best defensive big men in the West, which could have Portland a factor in the West for many seasons to come.
New Orleans Hornets 48-34
Does anybody believe in Emeka Okafor? That is the big question for the Hornets, as they acquired the Center from Charlotte in the off-season. Everyone believes in Chris Paul and that is good enough to make the Hornets a solid playoff team again, but in the tough Western Conference with more complete teams, they will likely get lost in the shuffle come the postseason.
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Lawrence Frank- Nets
Phil Jackson-Lakers Will Retire
Paul Westphal- Kings