So you read through my Eastern and Western previews and you still continue to come back? Maybe it is like the Matrix sequels where it was horrible but you have to continue on because you have come to a certain point and feel you have invested this much effort why not keep going. In any event you are here and it leave us at the Grand Poobah of it all, the Playoffs.
While I am sure Carmelo will find a new home in either New York or New Jersey before the season even begins and Chris Paul will move before the trading deadline, I don’t believe it will affect the the final outcome, but maybe slightly tweet the playoff seeding depending on how soon they make it to their respective teams. I do realize CP3 has 2 full years left on his deal, but I don’t think New Orleans will make the same mistake as the Cavs and will look to deal sooner than later to get some more value out of their wandering star before he holds a tv special to announce his new destination.
That brings us to the seeding in each division, followed by the Conference matchups and the ultimate NBA Finals matchup. Along the way I also tossed in two darkhorse candidates who could upset the whole food chain and make a splash in a very big way.
Judging by how I pick in the March Madness office pools each year, if you plan to bet go against every pick I am about to make, trust me, my wallet knows!
Orlando will take the top seed in the Southeast, but if you remember my preview they will make an early exit based on the effort they put into their regular season and the diminished fuel left in some of their aging players tanks. Dwight Howard is by far the most physically dominating player in the game and if during the season the Magic exchange some old legs for some youth then we could see him carry the “North Beach” team all the way to the red carpet of the Finals. Boston will do what they do during the season and play hard while giving equal opportunity to their old men to rest while exposing their budding stars to showcase their talents. While Chi-town is ranked a high 4 seed it will be deceiving, the winning percentage will sharply drop after Miami and be tight seeds 4-7 tight and the difference between winning the division and their seventh seed will be mere games. Most of the Central seeding will be just games above .500%, while Cleveland could actually squeak in with a just sub .500% win-loss record. Indiana could finish a bit higher if they smooth out their cohesion earlier in the season, but a late run might be what the team needs to take it all the way to the title. Looking solely at playoff teams the Central Division will send out the most seeds, but their weight with strength and winning power will also make this the weakest division amongst the trio. Miami seeds up to second because in the reformatted seeding one non-division winner can actually seed in higher if their record is better then one or two division winners. While Miami should win games it is going to be interesting to see how players handle limited ball time while they are still in the growing stages of their career.
Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs*
Portland Trail Blazers
Oklahoma City Thunder
Is it any surprise the Lakers lead the pack again? The West has been getting progressively older and it seems the power is swinging to the Ease in recent years and even more so if two of the Conferences biggest stars (Carmelo and CP3) pack up and head east for new homes. The team with the most chance to swing could possibly be the Spurs or the Mavs. While the Spurs could just slip far enough in their division to still say in the playoffs, this year, it could be the Mavs who knock themselves right out of relevancy. The Jazz are on the verge of sending another player away in a potential deal for Anthony to go to NJ, but even if it falls through this bargaining only says that Andrei Kirilenko’s days are limited in Utah. If the Jazz can hang on to A.K.’s talents long enough for the new players to adjust to Utah’s system the transition may not be all that effective to the team, regardless they are a playoff quality team, how high is the only adjustment. Memphis will be the biggest wild card in the West with such young talent they could really surprise everyone and become a powerhouse and change the balance of power.
Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers
Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz
Orlando Magic/Portland Trail Blazers
The Eastern Conference may be a surprise, but Indiana is a force that is really just waiting to blossom with the leadership of Danny Granger. Rookie Paul George and sophomore Darren Collision and third year center Roy Hibbert could break the monotony of the Eastern lower seeds and play at a high and exciting pace. Unfortunately the experience of the Celtics will be overwhelming to a young team, not to mention such a strong focus on defense. The Celtics would be happy to finish off the East without having to face the destructive force of Howard and Orlando giving them som renewed energy going into the Finals.
The West is a slightly different story with the Lakers easily taking out whomever the West can present to them. The difference between the Lakers and the rest of the West is very little contest, at least for now. Utah can swing either way as I said before depending on how they handle their personnel matters. Unless they swing a miracle and acquire ‘Melo and CP3 don’t look for any team to be able to upset LA.
The darkhorses are two candidates that could swing their iron fists and upset the balance of their division. I said earlier that I though Orlando would exit early, but what do I actually know, these guys are strong and Superman is no joke. As for Portland, if Greg Oden can stay healthy they could really be strong, not that I think he is a difference maker, but without him the team still won 50 games, add him to the mix and you could have a difference maker.
Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers
Isn’t this the way every post season should be? Boston is looking to take banner #18 and LA is looking to equal the most storied franchise in the NBA… even though five of their banners are not even theirs.
Boston took their off season to reevaluate what went wrong in game 7 of the Finals and decided to add depth behing center to protect the still injured Kendrick Perkins by adding Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq to give them even more insurance then even State Farm could provide. Whether Boston could have won or should have won is not even worth debating because it will not change the final score, what they need to do is forget about last year once camp opens and just focus on the Finals this year. Greatest rivalry in sports, no contest. Look for Rajon Rondo to establish the transition of leadership in Boston by winning the NBA Finals MVP. Sorry Kobe, you will have to wait to match Jordan’s ring count… but you will get it before you retire.