Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 29, 2008 at 12:20 am ET.
2008/09 NBA PREVIEW
Scoring Champion: LeBron James- Cavaliers
Coah of the Year: Larry Brown- Bobcats
Rookie of the Year: Derek Rose- Bulls
Most Improved Player: Sean May- Bobcats
6th Man: James Posey- Rockets
Defensive Player of the Year: Kevin Garnett- Celtics
NBA MVP: LeBron James- Cavaliers
Miami Heat 38-44
There is no way the Heat could repeat last year's disaster, as Dwyane Wade should be able to contribute this year. A full season of Shawn Marion should also help as rookies Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers should be able to make strong contributions right away. However, a return to the playoffs is a bit far fetched, especially with a rookie coach.
Boston Celtics over Cleveland Cavaliers
San Antonio Spurs over New Orleans Hornets
San Antonio Spurs over Boston Celtics
San Antonio Spurs 53-29
No team understand the concept of the NBA season being a marathon rather then a sprint more then the Spurs, who have been winning the NBA Championship every recent odd year. It's another odd year, and the Spurs are being discounted again. Early on things could be tough without Manu Ginobili, but if they can get healthy for the playoff run the Spurs could win, and they may fall back in the division, but that won't matter as they make another run.
Indiana Pacers 26-56
The Pacers may just be the most boring team in the NBA, they have some good outside shooters, but they are slow plodding team that will have trouble keeping up with the more athletic teams. The loss of Jermaine O'Neal was necessary, but they need to focus on the future as this team will have trouble not falling into the abyss as they are clearly the worst team in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey Nets 32-50
The Brooklyn Arena land deal is falling apart, their current arena is an eyesore, and indoor ski slope is rising in the parking lot, Jason Kidd is gone, Richard Jefferson is gone, and Vince Carter is sulking and jaking it, could things get any worse for the Nets? Well at least they are not the Knicks, though they will be battling the Knicks for last place all year.
Cleveland Cavaliers 56-26
With the Pistons showing signs of slipping the Cavaliers are now in that second seat in the East, and the driver's seat in the Central Division. The addition of Mo Williams should help LeBron James, and if the Cavaliers can get back to the Finals they should be a better challenge to the Western team then they were in 2007.
Philadelphia 76ers 44-38
The 76ers are an up and coming team in the East, who could make some noise with the addition of Elton Brand. However, with the Celtics and Raptors in their division, it will be tough for them to make a serious ruin at getting to the front of the pack. Look for them to be a strong team, but to be at the back end of the team's that made the playoffs while they will prove a tough first round opponent.
Washington Wizards 40-42
If Gilbert Arenas could ever stay healthy for a full 82 games the Wizards could make a run at a division title and could go deep into the playoffs, but ifs and coulds are only good on paper, and Agent Zero is always going to miss time for one injury or another. Look for the Wiz to stay on the same path, as they end up on the playoff bubble again, and end up making a quick exit in the playoffs.
New York Knicks 27-55
Rome was not built in a day, and the Knicks won't be fixed in a year. Weather or not Mark D'Antoni is the right coach or not, is not the question, Donnie Walsh is a good man to rebuild the team, but to think the Knicks will be good is a pipe dream. Patience is the key for the Knicks, as they will continue to coming up in the rears the next few years.
Chicago Bulls 45-37
Last year the Bulls were one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA. This year with a new coach and Derek Rose expect a complete 180 as the Bulls should be able to get back in the playoffs. Look for Rose to make an instant impact, winning the Rookie of the Year as the Bulls young guards make them one of the most exciting teams in the East.
Boston Celtics 59-23
Uneasy is the head that wears the crown, and for the Celtics, that is the test they face this year. Other then the loss of James Posey, the Celtics are the same team as last year. However, if Glen Davis continues to develop the hole will be hardly noticeable. Look for the Celtics to cruise through the Eastern Conference, as nobody has really improved enough to challenge them, as for the NBA Finals that is where the Celtics true test will be.
Orlando Magic 53-29
The development of Dwight Howard into a NBA star continues as the Magic join the NBA elite. He likely needs a second star to get any further, but the Magic should be able to walk to a Division Championship. If things break right they could even go deep into the playoffs, but that is where they will get exposed as they will be no match for the Cavs or Celtics.
Milwaukee Bucks 35-47
In 2005 Alex Smith and Andrew Bogut became a unique pair of first round draft picks out of Utah. Smith is a bust in the NFL, and Bogut appears to be heading to the same fate. This will be a big year for the Bucks center, as the addition of Richard Jefferson should help. However, turning on the off ramp when approaching bustvile is not easy, and unless something clicks, it won't happen.
Charlotte Bobcats 43-39
The Bobcats are this year's Atlanta Hawks as they have some good solid talent that if it stays healthy and gel, will slip into the playoffs with Larry Brown now on the bench. Look for the Bobcats to hold off the Wizards at the end of the year and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. However, in the playoffs they won't be able to challenge the Celtics like the Hawks did.
Atlanta Hawks 30-52
Poor Atlanta, they make a nice run, slip into the playoffs and give the Celtics all they could handle sending the series to seven games. Then instead of being able to build off, they lose Josh Childress to a European team. The Hawks won't fall to the bottom of the East, but they won't come any where close to making the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons 47-35
The window is nearly shut in Detroit as the Pistons are no longer the force they were in the Eastern Conference. With a new coach the style could also change as the Pistons age could preclude them from the rugged defensive style that had them at the top of the Eastern Conference for the last five years. Look for them to struggle at time as they end up in the middle of the playoffs, and make quick playoff exit.
Toronto Raptors 50-32
The Raptors are clearly a team on the rise, Chris Bosh is one of the finest young stars in the NBA, as the addition of Jermaine O'Neal gives them a solid man in the middle. Look for O'Neal to be revitalized by a new start in Toronto, as the Raptors make a run at 50 wins. If only the Celtics were not in the way they could win a division title, though a trip into the second round is quite possible this year.
Denver Nuggets 45-37
Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony give the Nuggets a great 1-2 punch, but their defense is lacking. Look for the Nuggets to be in many high scoring games, which may help them slip into the playoffs, but come the postseason they won't go very far, as against teams like the Lakers they will provide little challenge when the chips are down.
Phoenix Suns 44-38
The sun dose indeed set in the West, and the Suns chance of winning a NBA title with this core group has gone away. They will miss Mark D'Antoni as coach, as Steve Nash will have trouble keeping up with younger guards like Chris Paul. However, the move that hurt the most was getting Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq is now a negative and will drag the team down as his skills continue to erode.
Houston Rockets 57-25
The Rockets know how to win in the regular season, but in the playoffs they have fallen short continually. They have the roster that is capable of winning a NBA Championship, but until they can win a first round series, it will be hard to really trust them. The addition of Ron Artest should help them become a more complete team, and they will compete for the top spot in the West, but they need to walk before the can run.
Oklahoma City Thunder 36-46
Kevin Durant the reigning Rookie of the Year should have another strong year, as the team will be rejuvenated in a new location. No longer a lame duck team the fans of OKC should help the Thunder win five more games alone, and the developing Durant should do the rest, as no matter how ugly their uniforms are the Thunder should make some noise.
Dallas Mavericks 46-36
The Mavericks just two years ago were at the top of the league as they won 67 games. However, they fizzled in the first round have been falling ever since. Look for them to continue to fade as they will have a tough time making the playoffs this year. Look for Jason Kidd to continue to disappoint as the Mavericks are at the back end of the Western Playoff teams making a quick exit.
Minnesota Timberwolves 30-52
The Timberwolves are hoping that first round pick Kevin Love could bring some good vibrations back to Minnesota. Love, the nephew of Beach Boy Mike Love, should help, but the Timberwolves need allot more then a rookie who left UCLA after his freshman year. For Love, the cold Minnesota winters won't be much fun either as the Wolves will again, come up in the rear.
Los Angeles Lakers 60-22
What made Kobe Bryant a MVP last year and helped the Lakers reach the NBA Finals, was that the Lakers star learned how to be a team player, and learned some humility, and become an overall more mature person. It's hard to imagine him back tracking so the Lakers, will be capable of repeating in the West and maybe even adding another banner. However, the key will be the health of Pao Gasol and Alex Bynum.
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
Golden State Warriors 38-44
The loss of Baron Davis will hurt, and the 30-game suspension of Monta Ellis will make playoffs an unrealistic proposition in the Western Conference for the Warriors. Look for the Warriors to be strong at the end of the season, but an early hole will be impossible for them to dig out of as they will never make a challenge.
Sacramento Kings 27-55
Viva Las Vegas, the Maloof Brothers have dreams of taking the Kings to Las Vegas some day as the magic that once filled Arco Arena is gone. The Kings are not a very good team, and for a rebuilding team the city of Sacramento could be one of the loneliest spots in the NBA, as the Kings will be among those looking at the draft come June to get some good news.
Utah Jazz 55-27
The Jazz should continue to be the kings of the Northwest Division, as they have the type of talent that could make some noise in the West. However, compared to the teams in the Southwest Division and the Lakers they don't match up well. Look for them to follow the same path they have the past few years as they are Division champs but facing a tough team in the first round, and this time around they won't slip by.
Memphis Grizzlies 17-65
This team is awful. No sugar coating it the Grizzlies, could make a run at 70 losses. O.J. Mayo has some potential, but he struggled as a freshman at USC, he has no chance of making a difference as a Rookie in the NBA, and knowing the Grizzlies, he will likely be traded before he becomes a difference maker in the NBA as the Griz are the worst in the biz.
Los Angeles Clippers 34-48
Baron Davis replaces Elton Brand and the Clippers are a different team this year then they were last year or three years ago when they had some playoff success. However, change is not always a good thing, sometimes change could be very bad, and this is not good change as the Clippers are back to be a laughing stock and the sideshow at the Staples Center.
Portland Trailblazers 47-35
Last year without Greg Oden the Trailblazers made great strides, finishing at 41-41. This year with Oden in the lineup expect great things as they are now the lone team in the Pacific Northwest. Oden should be in the Rookie of the Year running as LaMarcus Alridge has a breakout season taking them into the playoffs.
New Orleans Hornets 58-24
Last year the Hornets joined the NBA's elite as they came with in one game of the Conference Finals, as Chris Paul put up MVP numbers, this year they could even be better, as the addition of James Posey gives the Hornets an experienced winner, and helps them develop a championship style defense. Look for the Hornets to again be at the top of the Western Conference as they look to take the next step.
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Mike Dunleavy- Clippers
Lawrence Frank- Nets
Marc Ivaroni- Grizzlies
Eddie Jordan- Wizards
George Karl- Nuggets
Jim O'Brien -Pacers
Reggie Theus- Kings
Mike Woodson- Hawks