NBA Blog Previews

The 30 Teams in 30 Days series of NBA season previews by NBA Bloggers is winding down.  Five of the six conferences are completed, with only the Pacific remaining.  I'll be contributing my very own Clippers preview tomorrow, Oct. 27.

The trend of 'irrational exuberance' has continued unabated.  For the first 25 teams previewed, a grand total of three NBA bloggers predicted that his/her team would finish below .500, and one of those was a 40-42 prediction for the Celtics, possibly good enough for a playoff berth.  

So, first of all, let's salute the honesty and realism of:

  • Henry Abbott of TrueHoop.com, for recognizing that despite a lot of young talent, the Blazers have little hope of winning even 30 games; and

  • Chase Kuech of Impending Firestorm for setting a semi-realistic (if still improbable) goal of 30 wins and continued player development for the Atlanta Hawks.

That leaves bloggers for teams like Charlotte (26 wins last year), New York (23), Toronto (27), and Seattle (35) predicting playoffs this season.  

How to explain all of this optimism?  Well, obviously, everyone is only predicting their own team's finish, not everyone else's.  It should go without saying, though I'll say it anyway, that for one team to make the playoffs, another team has to miss the playoffs.  But it's October, and right now every team is tied for first.  

And whereas there is not a LOT of turnover from year-to-year in the team's that make the playoffs, both the Cavs and the Clippers ended long playoff droughts last season, and both won their first round series.  Most of the bloggers out there just tend to think that their team is this year's Clippers, and why not?  It could happen.

It is interesting also that there seem to be two types of NBA divisions.  Divisions are either very good, where almost every team really does have a chance to make the playoffs (and every team came close last year) - divisions like the Central, Southwest and Pacific (less the Warriors).  Or very bad, where a second place division finish seems entirely possible, because after New Jersey, what else is there in the Atlantic?  In the case of the Northwest, every team can aspire to winning the division (except Portland), because every other team is really mediocre.

Of course, second place in the division got Utah and Philadelphia exactly nothing last season, but second place in the division is only one away from first place.  So there's hope, right?  There's always hope.

But there are still only 8 playoff spots in each conference, and most of the teams who made the playoffs last season are going to make it this season.  So here's who it's going to be.

East

  1. Detroit
  2. Miami
  3. Chicago
  4. New Jersey
  5. Cleveland
  6. Washington
  7. Orlando
  8. Milwaukee
Orlando replaces Indiana in the post-season.  I'm not crazy about Washington, and think they could fall out.  But they probably have enough offense to secure a place in the playoffs in the still weak East.  And whereas Toronto, Charlotte and Boston all figure to be better than they were, there's little reason to think they will be that much better.  Milwaukee was the last playoff team last season, but with Bogut a year older and the addition of Villanueva, you can't really argue that they're moving backwards.  Indiana on the other hand just has problems.  The Stephen Jackson situation is going to be an on-going distraction until he is gone, and of course when he's gone, they lose a very good player.  

Detroit still wins the Central, despite Ben's defection (they were 23 games better than Chicago last year - even the most ardent Ben fan can't seriously think he means 12 more wins for Chicago AND 12 more losses for Detroit, right?)  I am giving Chicago the third seed in the new seeding format, ahead of Atlantic Division champ New Jersey.

West

  1. Phoenix
  2. San Antonio
  3. Dallas
  4. Utah
  5. Clippers
  6. Houston
  7. New Orleans
  8. Lakers
OK, so maybe there is reason for optimism.  As you can see, I'm including three new playoff teams in the West, with Utah, Houston and New Orleans/OK City advancing, while Denver, Memphis and Sacramento stay home.  Of course, these aren't really stretches.  Utah finished all of 3 games behind Denver last year, with Carlos Boozer missing most of the season, and Andrei Kirilenko missing 13 games too.  With Boozer, Kirilenko and Okur, Utah has one of the best front lines in the NBA.  In fact, towards the end of last season, they were starting Matt Harpring at the 3 and AK47 at the 2 - so basically they were playing Deron Williams with 4 HUGE guys and just pounding people.  I like it.  Houston likewise had massive injury problems that you might have heard about.  If TMac and Yao can stay healthy and play together, they make a combination potentially as effective as Shaq and DWade - and all they did was win an NBA title.  And Houston's supporting cast, though weak, is better than Miami's with the additions of Battier and Bonzi.  As for the Hornets, they had 38 wins last year, and figure to be significantly better this season with a more mature Chris Paul and many strong additions including Peja.  

As it was last year, the battle between 5 and 6 will be vital.  Last season the prize (a first round match up with Denver) went to the 6th place team.  This season, the NBA fixed that problem, and at least the prize goes to the 5th place team.  But, whoever slots in there will probably have homecourt advantage against the Northwest champ (Northworst chump), while the 6th place team will go on the road against the likes of San Antonio or Dallas or Phoenix.  Not so good.  

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