Friday, December 23, 2011

stevo's 2011 2012 nba predictions

Finally, after the most ridiculous lockout this side of the NFL, the NBA returns on Sunday!!! It truly is a Chrismukkah miracle!!!

I might not be the smartest dude walking the planet ... but one guy called the Mavericks winning the O'Brien Trophy before the playoffs started last year, and that would be this guy. So when I say my predictions sometimes are on the mark? They're sometimes on the mark.

Here are my picks for the (shortened) 2011-2012 NBA season, which promises to be wacky, wild, and (hopefully) insanely entertaining. And here's to hoping that this is the last NBA-less season here in Kansas City. Hornets / Kings / Bobcats / Insert Your Team Here? We have a lovely downtown arena, anchored by a lovely entertainment and shopping district, desperately in need of an anchor tenant. I know I'm ready to fork over a couple thousand dollars to become a fan of your team ...

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

1. New York Knicks.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 35-31.
Stevo Projected Record: 40-26.
Biggest Addition(s): signed C Tyson Chandler, signed PG Baron Davis, full season of SG Carmelo Anthony.
Biggest Subtraction(s): poop canned GM Donnie Walsh for some insane reason.
Reason for Projection: this is the best Knicks team since at least 2000, when the Knicks lost in the Eastern Finals to Indiana. I pick them to win the Atlantic (instead of more talented Boston) simply because playing 66 games in 115 days is going to be extremely tough on the veteran teams (like Boston), and easier to handle for young, up-and-coming squads (like the Knicks).

Plus, as someone who grew up a Knicks fan, the idea of meaningful hoops being played at the Gahden in May again? Has me drooling with anticipation and excitement. I can't wait to hear the organ two-beating as the best fans in the League scream "DE FENSE!" in game six against Miami, with the Knicks up 3-2 and clinging to a 90-89 lead with two to play. (Uuh, ignore that last statement, I didn't mean to inadvertently give away a playoff projection this early ...)

2. Philadelphia 76ers.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 37-29.
Stevo Projected Record: 37-29.
Biggest Addition(s): none.
Biggest Subtraction(s): none, unless you count Jason Kapono, and not even Jason Kapono counts himself.
Reason for Projection: age. Specifically, the 76ers are a young team built around a core of 20-somethings; the Celtics are built around the Big Three and Rondo. The C's will be a tougher out come May, but the 76ers will be a tougher beat up until then.

3. Boston Celtics.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 43-23.
Stevo Projected Record: 35-31.
Biggest Addition(s): PF Brandon Bass, G Keyon Dooling.
Biggest Subtraction(s): F/C Jeff Green (for now), Glen Davis, Delonte West.
Reason for Projection: If you think Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen can play 66 games in 115 days, raise your hand. Danny Ainge, buddy, please, put your hand down, it ain't happening. This team reminds me a lot of the 2009-2010 team that treaded water in the regular season, then turned it on to reach the Finals. Would not shock me at all if Boston and their similar counterpart out west (the Spurs) employ a similar strategory for this season.

4. New Jersey Nets.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 28-38.
Stevo Projected Record: 25-41.
Biggest Addition(s): SG Deshawn Stevenson, resigned F/C Kris Humphries, full season of PG Deron Williams.
Biggest Subtraction(s): none, unless you count Sasha Vujacic's girlfriend. And I do -- she's smoking hot.
Reason for Projection: this is a really crappy team outside of Deron Williams. They're betting everything on Dwight Howard coming when they move from the swamps of North Jersey to the ... uuh ... railyards of Brooklyn next year. If I were a gambling man, I would not bet on that outcome occurring. This poor franchise has really never recovered from The Merger, when they had to sell off Dr. J to pay the territorial bribe to the Knicks, and that was 35 years ago. They deserve better.

5. Toronto Raptors.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 19-47.
Stevo Projected Record: 10-56.
Biggest Addition(s): C Jonas Valanciunas (draft pick).
Biggest Subtraction(s): none.
Reason for Projection: Christ, this might be the worst team in the League. It's them or Nathan Scott's Charlotte Bobcats. What's that? Nathan Scott retired? Sweet Jesus, it's gonna be a race to the top of the ping-pong ball pile!!!

Southeast Division:

1. Miami Heat.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 52-14.
Stevo Projected Record: 50-16.
Biggest Addition(s): PF Shane Battier, resigned PG Mario Chalmers, F Eddy Curry (hey, it is "biggest" additions).
Biggest Subtraction(s): PG Mike Bibby.
Reason for Projection: Love, love, love! the Battier signing. He's exactly what this team needed. This Heat team might not be as dominant in the regular season as last year's was, but it's built better for success in May and June than last year's was. And last year's Heat team was five quarters away from the O'Brien Trophy.

2. Atlanta Hawks.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 33-33.
Stevo Projected Record: 35-31.
Biggest Addition(s): SF Tracy McGrady.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Jamal Crawford.
Reason for Projection: two fold. (1) The Magic have to trade Dwight Howard, they have to, at some point this season, which vaults Atlanta a little ahead of them because of that. And (2) no team in the League needs to blow its foundation up and start over more than the Hawks ... and no team in the League is more piss poorly run than the Hawks (save for maybe the Raptors or Bobcats). Which means Atlanta will double down on its flawed foundation, probably trade for a veteran at the deadline, and get rolled in round one yet again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

3. Orlando Magic.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 40-26.
Stevo Projected Record: 32-34.
Biggest Addition(s): C Glen Davis, resigned SG Jason Richardson.
Biggest Subtraction(s): PF Brandon Bass, SG Gilbert Arenas.
Reason for Projection: Dwight Howard will be gone by the deadline. If he's not, GM Otis Smith is even more retarded than I already assume him to be, and I think Smith needs to wear a padded helmet in public at all times for his own safety.

4. Washington Bullets. (No "Wizards" crap on this site!)
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 22-44.
Stevo Projected Record: 28-38.
Biggest Addition(s): G Jan Vesely (draft).
Biggest Subtraction(s): G Josh Howard.
Reason for Projection: give this team two years, and they'll be appointment television on the League Pass. They need one more rock solid draft pick to pair with Vesely (who I love) and PG John Wall. You add a Jared Sullinger to this team next June? Look out.

5. Charlotte Bobcats.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 13-53.
Stevo Projected Record: 8-58.
Biggest Addition(s): SF Corey Maggette, PG Kemba Walker (draft) PF Bismack Biyombo (draft)
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Stephen Jackson, PG Nathan Scott (retired).
Reason for Projection: come on, you can't lose a talented white guy like Nathan Scott and recover from that. In all seriousness, this is an awful, awful basketball team. I'm not a Walker fan, don't get the love for Biyombo, and as much as I love Corey Maggette (in the interest of full disclosure, he's one of, if not my favorite, players in the League) ... if Corey Maggette is the best player on your roster, you're not contending for anything other than the most ping-pong balls in the machine on Lottery night.

Central Division:

1. Chicago Bulls.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 48-18.
Stevo Projected Record: 52-14.
Biggest Addition(s): SF Richard Hamilton.
Biggest Subtraction(s): F/C Kurt Thomas.
Reason for Projection: did you know the Bulls had the East's best record last year? I know, I know -- nobody but the Heat matter, right? This is the East's most talented, deepest team. They're better coached than the Heat. And they have more cap room (plus a full MLE) to make an impact trade at the deadline. So why is Miami the overwhelming favorite to reach the Finals? What am I missing here?

2. Indiana Pacers.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 36-30.
Stevo Projected Record: 40-26.
Biggest Addition(s): PF David West, SG/SF George Hill.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Mike Dunleavy, F Josh McRoberts, SG Brandon Rush.
Reason for Projection: other than the Clippers, did ANY team have a better offseason than Indiana? They stole West, fleeced the Spurs for Hill, and are still nearly $15 million UNDER the cap for the free agent free-for-all next summer (that should include Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, and could include Chris Paul if he opts out of his deal). Ooh. Look out for this team.

3. Milwaukee BuKCs.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 34-32.
Stevo Projected Record: 37-29.
Biggest Addition(s): SG Stephen Jackson, SG Mike Dunleavy, resigned F Luc Mbah'a'Moute.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Corey Maggette, SF John Salmons, PG Keyon Dooling.
Reason for Projection: another offseason overhaul for my favorite team ... and this time, I like the results. If Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings can each play 50 games and avoid the ridiculous injuries they had last year, coupled with Jackson's immediate upgrade on offense, this is a serious darkhorse in the East, just like they were two years ago.

(As of now, I'm looking at two dates for the annual trip up to watch the BuKCs: January 27-29 (host the Lakers), or February 10-12 (host the Magic). If anyone wants in, let me know. The thought of booing Kobe in person for two straight hours is almost as enticing to me as downing an authentic Milwaukeean bloody mary at Cafe Centraal again ...)

4. Detroit Pistons.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 22-44.
Stevo Projected Record: 30-46.
Biggest Addition(s): resigned G Rodney Stuckey, resigned F Tayshawn Prince, drafted G Brandon Knight, hired Lawrence Frank as head coach.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SF Richard Hamilton, SG Tracy McGrady.
Reason for Projection: I love Lawrence Frank. Tremendous hire. Not one other move this franchise made this offseason made much sense, but Frank alone is worth 5 wins on the bench, especially in a shortened season.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 18-48.
Stevo Projected Record: 17-49.
Biggest Addition(s): PG Kyrie Irving (draft), SF Tristan Thompson (draft).
Biggest Subtraction(s): PG Baron Davis (emphasis on "biggest"), SG JJ Hickson.
Reason for Projection: I honestly hope Cleveland goes 0-66. I hate their owner with a passion. Dan Gilbert can rot in hell for all I care, and I'd love to toss him in there and throw away the key. Sadly, there's a decent emerging nucleus here, and the Cavs figure to be competitive far more often than not this season. Let's hope for some injuries and bad luck, to put 0-66 into play. Or at least 3-63.

Eastern Playoff Seeds:
1. Chicago Bulls (52-14, Central Division Champion)
2. Miami Heat (50-16, Southeast Division Champion)
3. New York Knicks (40-26, Atlantic Division Champion)
4. Indiana Pacers (40-26, best remaining record)
5. Milwaukee Bucks (37-29, best remaining record)
6. Philadelphia 76ers (37-29, best remaining record)
7. Boston Celtics (35-31, best remaining record)
8. Atlanta Hawks (35-31, best remaining record)
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9. Orlando Magic (32-34, no postseason options)
10. Detroit Pistons (30-36, no postseason options)
11. Washington Bullets (28-38, no postseason options)
12. New Jersey Nets (25-41, no postseason options)
13. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-49, no postseason options)
14. Toronto Raptors (10-56, no postseason options)
15. Charlotte Bobcats (8-58, no postseason options)

Western Conference:

Northwest Division:

1. "Kevin Durant's Team".
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 45-21.
Stevo Projected Record: 48-18.
Biggest Addition(s): full season of C Kendrick Perkins.
Biggest Subtraction(s): none.
Reason for Projection: when you reach the conference finals at least a year ahead of schedule, there's no reason to make any panic moves. Good job by the "Durant's" for holding still. I'd expect a veteran pickup at the deadline, and at least a trip to the second round. Anything short of that, and this season is an epic failure.

2. Denver Nuggets.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 43-23.
Stevo Projected Record: 45-21.
Biggest Addition(s): resigned F Nene, PG Andre Miller, SG Rudy Fernandez, full season of PF Danilo Gallinari.
Biggest Subtraction(s): PF Kenyon Martin, SG Wilson Chandler, SF JR Smith.
Reason for Projection: no team is better built for 66 games in 115 days than the Nuggets. They easily go ten deep. This team reminds me a ton of the 1999 Knicks, whose strategory after the lockout was build the deepest team possible and see what happens. All that team did was reach the Finals. Would not shock me at all to see the Nuggets playing in the Western Finals for the second time in three years.

3. Portland Trail Blazers.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 38-28.
Stevo Projected Record: 28-38.
Biggest Addition(s): SG Jamal Crawford, SG Nolan Smith (draft), full season of C Marcus Camby.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Brandon Roy.
Reason for Projection: on paper, this team has potential. And they're certainly well coached -- Nate McMillan should be on any owner's short list of the best coaches he or she could hire. But I'm not feeling it. Someone in the West is going to underachieve. I think this is one of two teams that shockingly misses the playoffs.

4. Utah (mr. william grigsby voice) Jazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 28-38.
Stevo Projected Record: 28-38.
Biggest Addition(s): C Enes Kantor (draft), G Josh Howard, SG Alec Burks (draft).
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Andrei Kirilenko.
Reason for Projection: the Jazz are two years away from returning to the upper echelon of the West. Derrick Favors is going to be a beast. I loved the pick of Burks, the local kid from Raytown. If you're looking for a long-shot bet to steal a playoff berth, I'd be looking squarely at this squad.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 29-37.
Stevo Projected Record: 28-38.
Biggest Addition(s): hired Rick Adelman as head coach, PF Derrick Williams (draft), PG Ricky Rubio, PG JJ Barea, C Brad Miller.
Biggest Subtraction(s): none.
Reason for Projection: I expect the Wolves to be competitive and in the mix for the eight seed into early April. Considering this team hasn't reached the playoffs since 2006, that's a solid step in the right direction.

Southwest Division:

1. Dallas Mavericks.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 39-27.
Stevo Projected Record: 41-25.
Biggest Addition(s): PF Lamar Odom, SF Vince Carter, SG Delonte West.
Biggest Subtraction(s): C Tyson Chandler, PG JJ Barea, SF Caron Butler.
Reason for Projection: this pick is based solely and completely on the belief that the Mavs will make a move at the deadline, and edge out Memphis and San Antonio. Every team in the Southwest Division has realistic playoff hopes. Should be fun to see play out.

2. Memphis Grizzlies.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 37-29.
Stevo Projected Record: 40-26.
Biggest Addition(s): resigned PF Marc Gasol, SG Josh Selby (draft), full season of SF Rudy Gay.
Biggest Subtraction(s): PF Shane Battier.
Reason for Projection: a rock solid young team, a rising power, fun to watch ... God bless it, why didn't the KC Sports Commission try to steal these guys three years ago?

3. San Antonio Spurs.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 42-24.
Stevo Projected Record: 38-28.
Biggest Addition(s): PF Kawhi Leonard (draft).
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG George Hill.
Reason for Projection: they aren't the Spurs of five years ago, but they're still more than capable of being the last team standing come late June. Age and the compressed schedule will hurt this team, just like Boston.

4. New Orleans Hornets.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 22-44.
Stevo Projected Record: 30-36.
Biggest Addition(s): SG Eric Gordon, C Chris Kaman, resigned PG Carl Landry.
Biggest Subtraction(s): PG Chris Paul, PF David West.
Reason for Projection: this is still a really talented team, despite losing its two best players in Paul and West. Toss in the fact that they employ one of the 4 or 5 best coaches in the League in Monty Williams, and this is a fringe playoff contender.

5. Houston Rockets.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 32-34.
Stevo Projected Record: 28-38.
Biggest Addition(s): none. No, adding one of the "Dumb F*ck Duo" Morris twins does not count as an "addition".
Biggest Subtraction(s): C Yao Ming, head coach Rick Adelman.
Reason for Projection: no team got screwed more this offseason than Houston. I expect that to show up in on-court play this winter.

Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Clippers.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 41-25.
Stevo Projected Record: 44-22.
Biggest Addition(s): PF Caron Butler, PG Chris Paul, PG Chauncey Billups, resigned SF DeAndre Jordan.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SG Eric Gordon, C Chris Kaman.
Reason for Prediction: this is based solely, completely, and entirely on the Clippers organization realizing they employ the worst head coach in professional hoops, and firing Vinny Del Negro by early February. If Del Negro coaches all 66 games, the Clippers will be lucky to break even. There's enough talent here for a conference finals run, but only if the moron coaching it is shown the curb, and the sooner the better.

2. Los Angeles Lakers.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 40-26.
Stevo Projected Record: 36-30.
Biggest Addition(s): PF Josh McRoberts, hired Mike Brown as head coach.
Biggest Subtraction(s): head coach Phil Jackson (retired), PF Lamar Odom, SG Shannon Brown.
Reason for Prediction: I believe Dwight Howard will be a Laker by the deadline. Even if he's not, there's enough talent here to at least secure a playoff berth.

3. Sacramento Kings.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 25-41.
Stevo Projected Record: 34-32.
Biggest Addition(s): SG Jimmer Fredette (draft), SF JJ Hickson, PG Isaiah Thomas (draft), SF John Salmons.
Biggest Subtraction(s): PG Beno Udrih, SF Marquis Daniels.
Reason for Prediction: THIS is my shock playoff team in the West. I LOVE the makeup of this team. I especially loved the draft pick of Thomas, who I could not take my eyes off of the last couple years, as he led Washington to two over-achieving tournament runs. (The best game of last year's tourney, by far, was UNC / Washington, which UNC won at the buzzer). Thomas, Fredette, Salmons, Tyreke Evans, Demarcus Cousins, there's a solid nucleus here. Hey Maloof Brothers? If you want to move your franchise back to the city you abandoned 27 years ago, I am perfectly cool with that.

4. Golden State Warriors.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 26-40.
Stevo Projected Record: 25-41.
Biggest Addition(s): SG Klay Thompson (draft), SG Brandon Rush, hired Jerry West as executive.
Biggest Subtraction(s): none that matter.
Reason for Prediction: give Jerry West three years, and he'll clean up the crap this franchise has become. One playoff berth in 18 years. That's atrocious.

5. Phoenix Suns.
Hollinger ESPN Insider Projected Record: 24-42.
Stevo Projected Record: 21-45.
Biggest Addition(s): resigned SG Grant Hill, SG Shannon Brown. No, the other half of the "Dumb F*ck Duo" does not count as an addition either.
Biggest Subtraction(s): SF Vince Carter, PG Aaron Brooks.
Reason for Prediction: this team was really in the Western Finals three years ago? Really? Steve Nash deserves better than this as his career winds down.

Western Playoff Seeds:
1. "Kevin Durant's Team" (48-18, Northwest Division Champion)
2. Los Angeles Clippers (44-22, Pacific Division Champion)
3. Dallas Mavericks (41-25, Southwest Division Champion)
4. Denver Nuggets (45-21, best remaining record)
5. Memphis Grizzlies (40-26, best remaining record)
6. San Antonio Spurs (38-28, best remaining record)
7. Los Angeles Lakers (36-30, best remaining record)
8. Sacramento Kings (34-32, best remaining record)
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9. New Orleans Hornets (30-36, no postseason options)
10. Portland Trail Blazers (28-38, no postseason options)
11. Houston Rockets (28-38, no postseason options)
12. Utah Jazz (28-38, no postseason options)
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-38, no postseason options)
14. Golden State Warriors (25-41, no postseason options)
15. Phoenix Suns (21-45, no postseason options)

The Playoff Bracket

First Round:

1 Bulls over 8 Hawks in 4.
2 Heat over 7 Celtics in 7.
3 Knicks over 6 76ers in 5.
5 Bucks over 4 Pacers in 6.

1 "Durant's" over 8 Kings in 4.
7 Lakers over 2 Clippers in 6.
3 Mavericks over 6 Spurs in 7.
5 Grizzlies over 4 Nuggets in 6.

Second Round:

1 Bulls over 5 BuKCs in 5.
3 Knicks over 2 Heat in 6.

1 "Durant's" over 7 Lakers in 5.
5 Grizzlies over 3 Mavericks in 6.

Conference Finals:

1 Bulls over 3 Knicks in 7.
1 "Durant's" over 5 Grizzlies in 7.

NBA Finals:

1 Bulls over 1 "Durant's" in 6.

NBA Champion:

Chicago Bulls. Now excuse me while I light myself on fire over that vomit-inducing prospect ...

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