By Jeremy Marks-Peltz
My predictions for a shortened 66-game season....teams with numbers listed first are playoff teams, with that number as their seed.
(4) New York 44-22. Getting closer to looking like a true contender, with a full season of Carmelo and Tyson Chandler's rim protecting ability. And I'm going against common sense and predicting a resurrection for Baron Davis, who is at his best when playing in front of sellout, engaged crowds.
(5) Boston 40-26. Even if they get off to their typical hot start, this feels like the end of the road for the Beantown Big 3. Good news is cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard, if he lasts through free agency.
Philadelphia 32-34. The Sixers are scrappy and well coached, but vastly overachieved last year. Even with breakout potential for Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday, I don't see them matching last year's playoff berth.
New Jersey 23-43. No Brook Lopez for two months means no Dwight Howard. Both mean a high lottery pick for the Nets.
Toronto 18-48. Did anyone know that Andrea Bargnani averaged more than 21 points per game last year? Or that DeMar DeRozan is projected to eclipse 20 points per game this season?
(2) Chicago 48-18. Derrick Rose could top his MVP campaign, which is scary. Still don't think the Bulls did enough decorating around Rose. Rip Hamilton is a nice option at the No. 2, but he is not the bona fide No. 2 option this team needs.
(3) Indiana 45-21. Danny Granger. David West. Tyler Hansbrough. Darren Collison. George Hill. Paul George. Roy Hibbert in a contract year. A team full of solid, high IQ, overachieving players. I love love love this team.
(8) Detroit 34-32. My surprise playoff team. Lawrence Frank can stop the schisms and in-fighting that has destroyed this team recently. And Brandon Knight by himself can elevate a deep club to an above .500 record.
Milwaukee 29-37. Scott Skiles always overstays his welcome. Seems like Milwaukee is the latest example of that.
Cleveland 20-46. That's climbing their way to 20 wins if Kyrie Irving exhibits Rookie of the Year-ish talent.
(1) Miami 52-14. The regular season doesn't matter in terms of the court of public opinion. But it does to those inside the American Airlines Arena walls. The Heat paced themselves last year and preached "process." Not so this year.
(6) Atlanta 38-28. There's too much talent on this team to not coast their way to a playoff berth. And not enough talent to get out of the first round most years.
(7) Orlando 35-29. This is contingent on Dwight Howard remaining with the team through February at least. And then the Jameer Nelson's of the world, and whatever the Magic fetch in return propelling them to a playoff spot, even in D-12's absence.
Charlotte 22-44. Kemba Walker's presence at least makes it feasible the Bobcats won't be terminally boring every night.
Washington 19-47. You gotta feel for John Wall. His electrifying presence is complimented by an avalanche of me-first, fundamentally flawed basketball players.
(1) Oklahoma City 50-16. The Russell Westbrook/Kevin Durant dynamic still concerns me, as does Scott Brooks' late-game coaching. But there really isn't another Western team that I can see better than the Thunder.
(5) Denver 44-22. The Nuggets could threaten anyone in the conference if they had a go-to scorer. Perhaps the deepest team in the NBA, which is extremely important in a quick-fire 66 game season.
(8) Minnesota 35-31. Oh, what the hell! K-Love, Derrick Williams, Rubio, Beasley, Randolph, JJ Barea with a good coach (Rick Adelman). Tell me this roster isn't super talented? At the very least, they rival the Heat and Clippers as the most exciting team in the NBA.
Portland 32-34. For a fringe playoff team year in and year out, I think getting hit with the double-whammy of Brandon Roy's retirement and Greg Oden's typical injury is too much to overcome.
Utah 26-40. What was the point of driving Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams away again?
(2) Memphis 47-19. I'm not sure about the long-term stability of a Zach Randolph led team, but with the premium put on depth and athleticism this year, a lockout season can't set itself up any better for the Grizzlies.
(3) Dallas 47-19. They are still contenders, but I really don't like the Mavs offseason blueprint. Get rid of your one enforcer at the rim (Tyson Chandler), your unsung hero (JJ Barea) and replace them with Lamar Odom and Vince Carter so the Mavericks can become soft again?
(6) San Antonio 42-24. They won't go foot on the accelerator again after it cost the Spurs last year as a No. 1 season.
Houston 30-36. The Rockets could have been a playoff team with one, or both of the Gasol's. As of now, they are a disjointed team without a real strong suit.
New Orleans 29-37. I am a believer in the Eric Gordon could average at least 25 points per game department. But does he have enough around him?
(4) LA Clippers 45-21. This is not just an overreaction to Chris Paul. Having the likes of Chauncey Billups, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe to Lob City makes the Clips a tough second round out.
(7) LA Lakers 36-30. You need depth to win a lot of games this season, the Lakers have zero. They also have an aging superstar, an emotionally fragile Pau Gasol, a physically fragile Andrew Bynum and ??? Unless they get Dwight Howard, tell me why the Lakers are going to be real good this year?
Phoenix 27-39. It's a tribute to the never aging Steve Nash that I have the Suns win total this high.
Sacramento 21-45. The Kings could actually be a decent team if they secured a legitamate PG and moved Tyreke Evans to the 2, but that doesn't seem like it will happen anytime soon. Unless you think Jimmer is that PG?
Golden State 19-47. I have a great idea. Let's take a team full of offensive players who don't defend, put them with a first-year 100 percent defensive minded coach who has never been on an NBA staff before (Mark Jackson), and let's see what happens!
East 1st Round
1 Miami over 8 Detroit in 4
2 Chicago over 7 Orlando in 6
3 Indiana over 6 Atlanta in 6
4 New York over 5 Boston in 5
1 Miami over 4 New York in 6
3 Indiana over 2 Chicago in 7
1 Miami over 3 Indiana in 5
West 1st Round
1 Oklahoma City over 8 Minnesota in 5
2 Memphis over 7 Lakers in 6
6 San Antonio over 3 Dallas in 6
4 Clippers over 5 Denver in 7
West 2nd Round
1 Oklahoma City over 4 Clippers in 7
2 Memphis over 6 San Antonio in 6
1 Oklahoma City over 2 Memphis in 6
Miami over Oklahoma City in 6
MVP: LeBron James, Heat
Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel, Pacers
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Knight, Pistons
Sixth Man of the Year: Gary Neal, Spurs
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