Well, it's that time again. Basketball. Pretty good sport, if I do say so myself.
Around this time of year, everybody and their grandmother (and that's only kind of a joke) decides that they want to make predictions about what's going to happen this season, and I am no exception to that rule.
Without further ado, here are my official predictions for the 2013-14 NBA season, followed by some notes.
And now ... Notes!
* The first 4 seeds are pretty set in stone, in my opinion, although the order may vary. If Derrick Rose continues what he's done this preseason, the Bulls could easily make a push for the #1 seed, especially if Miami rests its starters near the end of the season - however, if it's close, I think Erik Spoelstra is going to value the home court advantage and won't let up as easily as in years past.
* The rest of the East, meanwhile, is pretty nuts. The Knicks will make the playoffs, but after that, you could make a case for 5 teams for those last 3 spots (Detroit, Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and Toronto). I decided to go with those first 3 teams, and here's why:
I think Detroit has the talent to make some noise, but I'm not sure how the pieces fit together. In the regular season, they should be able to handle business with the bad teams, steal some games from some good teams, and then get run out of the gym on nights where Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings go full YOLO mode. Washington adding Gortat sealed the deal for me - he's competent, and really, that's all they need to go with the combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal. If Andrew Bynum is healthy, Cleveland can finish higher than 8, but probably not higher than 6. The bench concerns me, but I like their star potential (Kyrie Irving + Bynum) more than Atlanta or Toronto.
Atlanta is interesting. Paul Millsap + Al Horford + Jeff Teague + Kyle Korver = Good. DeMarre Carroll + John Jenkins + Dennis Schroder + Injured Louis Williams + Gustavo Ayon + Elton Brand + Mike Scott = ?????????? They could make the playoffs, they could blow it up midseason. I have no idea. Toronto ... Their starting 5 is going to be a lot of fun, even though none of them can really shoot. When the best guy on your bench is Landry Fields or Tyler Hansbrough, I don't think I can put you in the playoffs. Sorry, Drake.
Meanwhile, out West ...
* Houston vs. San Antonio for the division crown is going to be interesting. It could really go either way, but I think Dwight is healthy and the Spurs will probably need to rest Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili more than Pop is going to want to.
* You could make a reasonable argument (and by reasonable meaning I wouldn't laugh at you, even if they all don't hold the same weight) for six teams to make the NBA Finals out of this conference. Six. You could argue for four in the East, but probably only really talk yourself in to three of them (Miami, Chicago and Indiana).
* Much like in the East, the bottom of the conference is also too close to call. I feel good about my first six seeds, as mentioned above. After that? I kind of just started guessing.
Is there a scenario where Monta Ellis figures it out, Dirk does Dirk things the rest of a surprisingly decent supporting cast makes the playoffs? Sure. But I'm not so sure it's the likely scenario. Same for Denver. They're going to win at home, you know that, but do we know enough about how they'll do with a new coach and without Iguadala? Not to mention they're relying heavily on JaVale McGee. And in New Orleans, you could probably talk me in to Eric Gordon finally getting healthy, Tyreke Evans totally buying in and Anthony Davis going nuts, but I just think they're one year away. All their pieces are still really young.
Assuming full health in Minnesota, this team should be a lot of fun, but I don't think they can finish above 7. If the injury bug bites (again), they're in trouble. I'm optimistic regardless. And for the #8 seed, I went with Portland, although while writing these notes I almost flipped them and New Orleans. If they didn't steal Robin Lopez, I probably wouldn't have them here, but they did, so I do. He's competent, and sometimes, that's all you need. McCollum will provide a spark off the bench once he gets healthy, and Mo Williams and Dorell Wright will be solid veterans off the bench.
* The tankoff between Phoenix and Philadelphia is going to be as exciting as the playoff race by the end of the year ... And then neither will win the lottery because OH MY GOD THE NBA IS RIGGED (am I doing this right?)
Last note: This season is going to be one of the best we've had in a long time, and possibly the best we will see for a long time as the CBA begins to really take effect. There are some really great teams in the league this year, and even the ones that aren't great have managed to give me reasons for excitement (looking at you, New Orleans). Enjoy it.