Predictions made by Frank Fleming on October 26, 2010 at 1:20 am ET.
2010/11 NBA PREVIEW
Scoring Champion: Kevin Durant- Thunder
Coah of the Year: Flip Saunders-Wizards
Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin-Clippers
Most Improved Player: Danilo Gallinardi-Knicks
6th Man: Jamal Crawford-Hawks
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard-Magic
NBA MVP: Kevin Durant-Thunder
Miami Heat 64-18
There is no denying that the Heat are the team to beat with the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They also have the biggest target on their back. Unless they implode or a beset by injuries they will post the best record in the NBA. The only questions are how long it takes for them to gel and when will Pat Reilly push Erik Spolestra aside to ride the spotlight himself?
Miami Heat over Orlando Magic
Los Angeles Lakers over Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers over Miami Heat
San Antonio Spurs 52-30
Age is the biggest fear for the Spurs who still have the pieces to win a NBA Championship and are capable of making a run. However, things will have to break just right for that to happen, as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both in decline. They should again battle for the Southwest Division, but they will come up just short and then when the playoffs come they will lose to a younger more athletic team.
Indiana Pacers 33-49
The Pacers have begun remaking their roster landing Darren Collison to run the team at point guard. He played well in place of Chris Paul in New Orleans, but has yet to prove he can be an every day starter on a playoff team. The Pacers are far from a playoff team and will need much more tinkering to rejoin the contenders in the East.
New Jersey Nets 36-46
Opulence, Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has it. Though he has not been able to land the big star yet, the Nets pick up Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow and Troy Murphy will make them competitive. Coming of a miserable 12-70 season any improvement is a positive. If they can somehow land Carmelo Anthony they will make the playoffs. However, without him they will have to settle for tripling last year's win total.
Cleveland Cavaliers 24-58
The King is gone and the Cavaliers are set to go from the top to the bottom of the East. One of the reasons LeBron gave for leaving was the Cavs inability to get a second star in there to bring a title. Now that lackluster supporting cast is on their own, and the Cavaliers will flirt with 60 losses.
Philadelphia 76ers 39-43
The 76ers have some good parts that if they can shift together should get them a playoff spot. However, last season they had the same parts and struggled all season. If they get off to a bad start chances are they could be sellers at the trade deadline and sink to the bottom in the East. Getting into the playoffs will be a tough task as they lack size and a reliable point guard.
Washington Wizards 43-39
Flip Saunders is a proven winner and despite last year's disaster he is the right man to get the Wizards back on track. While Gilbert Arenas' behavior remains a distraction the Wizards addition of John Wall and Kirk Heinrich give them a good guard combo around Arenas that should be able to provide matchup problems as they slip into the playoffs.
New York Knicks 45-37
The Knicks dreams of landing LeBron James were dashed, but Amare Stoudamire is not a bad consolation prize provided he plays more games in a Knicks jersey than sitting in an Armani Suit. Of course if they can land Carmelo Anthony the Knicks can join the elite in the East. No matter what happens they should be able to make at least a cameo in the playoffs.
Chicago Bulls 50-32
The Bulls are on the rise, but still are one player away from joining the NBA's elite. If they can somehow land Carmelo Anthony, they could become a title contender. As is they are now the team to beat in the Central Division as Derrick Rose is on the verge of becoming one of the premiere NBA Guards, while Joakim Noah is developing into one of the league's top rebounders.
Boston Celtics 56-26
1.The Leprechaun in the logo carries a cane, that is quite appropriate when you consider the age of the Celtics roster. However, sleep on them and think they are over the hill and the next thing you know they can be back in the finals. If they can stay healthy and get hot at the right time they can return to the finals, but runs like last season don't happen often, none the less they should win the Atlantic Division easily.
Orlando Magic 60-22
Things have never been brighter for the Sunshine State in the NBA. The Heat have the headlines, but the Magic may have the potion that will derail Miami Thrice. Dwight Howard is the best defensive player in the league and has beaten the King in the playoffs. They also have some strong offensive players, with balanced scoring.
Milwaukee Bucks 48-34
The Bucks have a good core, but need a go to guy to rise above the back half of playoff teams in the East. They should battle the Bulls for the top spot in the East, but if they are to show any significant improvement they will need Andrew Bogut to step up from injuries and inconsistent play to become the number one pick the Bucks selected five years ago.
Charlotte Bobcats 27-55
Last year the Bobcats sipped the playoff milk for the first time ever. However, the loss of Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler will be a tremendous setback. Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace are solid players, but can't do it on their own. Look for them to be on the verge of starting over by the end of the season, as they will take a big step backward.
Atlanta Hawks 54-28
The Hawks are quietly one of the top teams in the East, but sharing a division with the Heat and Magic will be tough. Mike Bibby remains one of the top playmakers in the game, and Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith give them a solid core that will make them the East's sleeper team that if things break right can have them in the Conference Finals.
Detroit Pistons 29-53
The Pistons signed Tracy McGrady in the off-season hoping he can regain the form that made him a scoring champion and an All-Star. However, he remained hobbled in the preseason. Without any significant improvement the Pistons are once again targeted for 50 losses and a second straight year without the playoffs.
Toronto Raptors 21-61
1.Contraction, David Stern has mentioned that the NBA could get rid of teams when the new CBA is negotiated. The Raptors may be the leading candidate as many players don't want to play North of the Border, as the loss of Chris Bosh has sent the Raptors back to square one as they resemble an expansion team. This will be the biggest topic as the Raptors lose 60 games.
Denver Nuggets 35-47
The Nuggets have no choice, they must trade Carmelo Anthony. He is a Free Agent and he will not re-sign in Denver, no matter what the Nuggets do. Until this situation is settled the Nuggets will be a team in flux, and it's hard to imagine anyone can succeed under those circumstances. The only hope is they win a lot of games early and talk Melo into a one year run at a title, but that hardly seems likely.
Phoenix Suns 46-36
Losing just one player to an injury in the Western Conference is enough to turn a team from contender to pretender. Losing Amare Stoudamire to Free Agency will have the same effect in Phoenix. Steve Nash is not getting any younger, and the rest of the team will have a tough time making up for the loss of their leading scorer from last year.
Houston Rockets 50-32
Last year without Yao Ming the Rockets hung in the playoff chase most of the season thanks to Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin. While, Yao remains one step away from another injury as long as he is in there the better the Rockets can be. They are not a championship team, but they should make the postseason and they will make life difficult for somebody one they are there.
Oklahoma City Thunder 59-23
The Thunder Rolls a big hit for Garth Brooks a native son of Oklahoma and the future for the Western Conference in the NBA. Last year as an 8th seed the Thunder gave the Lakers all they could handle. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James need to move aside because Kevin Durant is quickly making the best player argument a three way debate as he collects his first MVP award while leading the Thunder to Conference Finals.
Dallas Mavericks 53-29
The Mavericks are a reliable playoff participant and will again battle the Spurs for the Southwest Division. A solid strong team with good scoring depth they could make a serious run if are able to translate regular season success in the playoffs. However, that has been the rub for Dallas as they can't past the first or second round letdown.
Minnesota Timberwolves 8-74
Last year it was the Nets who made a run at history, and the 76ers record for losses in a season. This year it will be the Wolves who will make that record go timber. To call them an expansion team is an insult to expansion teams. There is not a single player on this team that is worthy anything. This might just be the worst team of all-time when the season is done, they will be lucky to win 10 games.
Los Angeles Lakers 55-27
For Lakers Coach Phil Jackson good things come in threes. Twice in Chicago he won three straight NBA titles. In LA he won three in a row 2000-2002, and this year in what is likely his final ride he can do it again. For a Zen master things karma like this is too good to ignore. They may not win as many games as the last few years, but if they are healthy in June they will again reign as champions, because the playoffs is all that will matter in the end.
OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS
Golden State Warriors 30-52
Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis give the Warriors two exciting playmakers in the back court, and David Lee plays with a lot of heart, and is an underrated star up front. Too bad the Warriors don't have much else to surround them as the rest of the team is a bunch of bit players they could not crack the top 8 on the elite teams.
Sacramento Kings 25-57
Hoping to capitalize on talent the Kings selected DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth overall pick. The trouble with Cousins is as much talent as he has concerns over his attitude and attention to detail. If he plays to his full potential the Kings might have something to build around, if not it will begin to get ugly in Sac Town.
Utah Jazz 51-31
Al Jefferson was acquired in the off-season from the Timberwolves to fill the shoes of Carlos Boozer. He will not only fill the shoes he will end up being an upgrade as he will blossom in his first season on a winning team, as the coaching of Jerry Sloan will help make him a reliable NBA All-Star as the Jazz will continue to be a dark horse in the West capable of surprising a few teams.
Memphis Grizzlies 38-44
O.J. Mayor is starting to blossom into a NBA All-Star. Sadly for the Grizzlies by the time he is ready to lead a team to the playoffs; he will be playing in another city. The Grizzlies just don't have the parts of the resources to rise above the mediocre straits they are stuck in, especially in the rugged Western Conference.
Los Angeles Clippers 43-39
1.One year later and Blake Griffin is finally ready to make his impact in Los Angeles. The Clippers have some good players and a foundation to build around and will make some noise in the Western Conference. However, there are too many teams for them to leap over to reach the playoffs, they will contend and Griffin will become one of the top Forwards right away if he stays healthy.
Portland Trailblazers 54-28
The Trailblazers are on the verge of becoming an elite team. However, injuries continue to get in the way. If Greg Oden returns early enough and is able to stay healthy and contribute the Blazers could challenge for the top spot in the West. With Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Alridge they do have the pieces and could be one of the top teams for years to come.
New Orleans Hornets 48-34
Last year was a big disappointment in NOLA, as Chris Paul battled injuries as the Hornets missed the playoffs. Paul, should rebound nicely and the Hornets should be able to bounce back and get back into the postseason, as their three point snipers will shine with Paul's play making skill.
Coaches Who Will be Fired
Phil Jackson-Lakers (Retirement)