What an awesome first week of NBA basketball?! The 2 most (at least it seemed so) blatant "tankers" in recent memory have yet to lose a game, unless the Suns lose tonight against the Thunder. Philli has even beat the 2 favorites to win the eastern conference to go to an unimaginable 3-0. I love sports because they are so hard to predict. It's not just about talent. Of course talent matters; the Miami Heat could sleep walk against the Miami Hurricanes women's team and still probably win by 50 to 100. But once you get to the professional level, sometimes people forget, "ALL these guys can play". It is so hard to make it to the highest level; once they do, talent is no longer the biggest issue. It still matters, but it's much more about chemistry, confidence, will, off-season work ethic, luck, momentum, and match-ups. These things are much harder to predict. With that being said, here's my likely-to-be-wrong predictions for this year -- team by team starting with the Eastern Conference (West to come later).
Before I state my prediction, I'll give a range for each team on what I think a bad year could result in (or their worst case scenario due to bad luck, injuries, tanking, bad chemistry, etc), and what a good year could result in (or their best case scenario where everything goes right). Although this will be in low and high win totals, because 2014's draft will be so loaded, I think the lower win total or "bad" scenario may actually be what's "good" for the non-contending 20 or so teams this year. Mediocrity is not the place to be in the NBA.
Celtics: I feel like their season depends on 2 questions: when does Rondo come back and how does Brad Stevens translate to the NBA? Not sure on Rondo, but I personally think Stevens is worth 5 to 10 wins as a coach. So the Celtics may be looking at more wins than Danny Ainge is hoping for.
Bad: 20 wins, Good: 40 wins, My prediction: 32-50.
Nets: I loved the way they looked in their game against the Heat the other night. But I also think they'll have a few nights that Paul and Kevin will have to take off, which may lower their win total just a bit.
Bad: 47 wins, Good: 60 wins, My prediction: 56-26
Knicks: Along with the Nuggets, they look like the easy choice for regression team this year.
Bad: 40 wins, Good 52 wins, My prediction: 44-38
76ers: I am tempted to change my mind with their 3-0 start and the way Turner, Young, Hawes, and MCW look; but the GM won't stand for this much longer. Plus MCW/Turner have been inconsistent since college, and Hawes always gets burned out after like 20 games.
Bad: 15 wins, Good: 35 wins (this used to be 25 before the season began), My prediction: 19-63
Raptors: I think they're trading Rudy Gay and may join the tankers towards the end.
Bad: 20 wins, Good: 38 wins, My prediction: 26-56
Bulls: Rose does not look too good right now, but I think he'll get it back. Plus he, Coach Thibs, and the Bulls are so competitive and seem least likely among the contenders to take nights off. That's why I'm picking them to have the best overall regular season record. Their 1-2 start doesn't help my case much.
Bad: 45 wins (with a possible Rose re-injury), Good: 62 wins, My prediction: 60-22
Cavs: A very hard team to predict because of injury-prone players and guys on the borderline of "big leap" or "bust" years. Should be fun to watch though.
Bad: 29 wins, Good: 44 wins, My prediction: 40-42
Pistons: I love the Josh Smith-Monroe-Drummond frontcourt, and I hope KCP has a good rookie season. The pistons could be back in the playoffs.
Bad: 35 wins, Good: 45 wins, My prediction: 42-40
Pacers: Their bench actually doesn't look as improved to me as everyone says, but maybe it's just because Granger hasn't come back yet. Paul George looks almost like an MVP candidate to start the season though. We'll see if he keeps it up all year.
Bad: 46 wins, Good: 59 wins, My prediction: 57-25
Bucks: A roster full of mediocre NBA players who should all be like your sixth or seventh man. Again, mediocrity is not a good place in the NBA. . . But the Bucks love it.
Bad: 26 wins, Good: 38 wins, My prediction: 30-52
Hawks: Most people don't like the Hawks this year, but I like Horford so much I'm picking them to still make the playoffs. Sorry Atlanta, no Lottery this year.
Bad: 27 wins, Good: 41 wins, My prediction: 38-44
Bobcats: Nobody "wants to be like" Michael Jordan, the Owner.
Bad: 24 wins, Good: 35 wins, My prediction: 28-54
Heat: I don't think they have the stamina, or the desire, for another 20+ game win streak, but I still think they'll have one of the best records this year. I just hope they don't three-peat.
Bad: 54 wins, Good: 65 wins, My prediction: 59-23
Magic: I like this team a lot for the future if they can pick up a few more good pieces through trades and/or next year's draft. But I don't think this is their year.
Bad: 20 wins, Good: 32 wins, My prediction: 28-54
Wizzards: A lot of people are picking them for a final playoff position, including Washington management as evidenced by that silly trade for Gortat this week. But I just don't think Beal and Wall are quite there yet, nor is the help around them. I see them falling short to the Hawks in the end.
Bad: 28 wins, Good: 45, My prediction: 36-46
Here's my quick East playoff predictions:
Bulls beat Hawks 4-0
Heat beat Cavs 4-1
Pacers beat Pistons 4-2
Nets beat Knicks 4-1
Nets upset Bulls 4-2
Heat beat Pacers 4-3
Nets upset Heat 4-3
I don't feel great about the Nets pick, but I am just praying someone knocks off the Heat. And right now, the Heat do look vulnerable and the Nets feel like the best candidate. Who knows though? So many things could change in the next 7 months. It's sports. It's unpredictable.