Feb 27, 2008

Who is going to be the next NBA Champion?

Now that I've just brought my little sister to bed, we're talking hoops:

With all that trade jazz going on in the NBA just before Trade deadline last week, there are a couple of winners and the same number of losers of all that trading madness.

Winner amongst winners clearly are the Lakers whose acquisition of Pau Gasol in exchange for an overpaid eternal talent and trade bait has made them one of the top contenders for a title.

I would rate Cleveland coming in for second place. If they get their team chemistry right, they worth a bet for the Eastern Conf Finals. They added veterans and a veritable sharpshooter to their roster, making them much better than they were before. Only, they fell short of acquiring a quality point guard. However, LeBron should be used to taking care of that.

The Bulls cleared salary cap space and playing time for their youngsters, and prepared for some bigger trade action in the summer. Which was the right thing for them, going nowhere with there negative record. If they're lucky, they can still make it to the playoffs this season.

The Spurs did the right move to counter the Suns' monster trade for Shaq. This will put the Spurs in a comfortable situation for the playoffs, while the Suns traded their quickness on the floor for just that: a possible playoffs series against the Spurs. For being able to beat the Spurs, they needed to add height in the lowpost. Actually , those two teams would make for quite an entertaining playoff series. But anything else, I think the Suns paid a price much too high. However, personally I wasn't convinced they'd make it this year either.

The Mavericks brought Jason Kidd back home in exchange for a fast guard that was not really the point guard Kidd is. They will miss Devin Harris' speed, though. Everything else than a title this season would make this trade look like a bad one for the Mavericks. New Jersey did what it was supposed to do.

Another great deal was done by the Hawks who acquired PG Mike Bibby for some little-used bench players and veterans. Should get them into the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Sonics, Heat, Nets, Grizzlies, Kings just did about the same thing: cut salaries and veterans to rebuild for the future.
The Hornets did a nice move, adding Bonzi Wells and Mike James for point guard Bobby Jackson. That certainly gives them considerable depth on the bench. Still, I perceive them as being overrated on the moment.
There were other minor moves, but you can read about all that in detail anywhere else.

So let's get to the interesting part: gaming.

This is the current standing in the East:
    1. Boston record: 43-12
    2. Detroit 42-15
    3. Orlando 37-22
    4. Toronto 31-24
    5. Cleveland 32-25
    6. Washington 27-30
    7. New Jersey 25-32
    8. Philadelphia 25-32
    9. Atlanta 22-32
    10. Chicago 22-34
    11. Milwaukee 22-35
    12. Indiana 22-35
the rest doesn't really stand a chance in the playoff race.

And here for the West:
  1. Lakers 40-17
  2. Spurs 38-17
  3. Phoenix 39-18
  4. New Orleans 37-18
  5. Dallas 38-19
  6. Houston 37-20
  7. Utah 36-21
  8. Golden State 34-22
  9. Denver 33-23
  10. Portland 29-28
Again, for the rest the playoff spots out of reach.

Now here is my guess for the end of the season.
First, the East.
  1. Detroit something like 62-20
  2. Boston ~ 60-22
  3. Orlando 52-30
  4. Cleveland 51-31, close but they don't get Orlando
  5. Toronto 49-33
  6. Washington 42-40, when Butler and Agent Zero return, you'll have to watch out!
  7. Atlanta 38-44
  8. New Jersey 36-46
close for the Bulls (35-47) and Philly (35-47).

And the West. Really interesting, since it is so close. But the Lakers did the right move to combat for championship, the Spurs and Suns invested for the playoffs.
  1. Lakers 60-22
  2. Spurs 58-24
  3. Dallas 57-25
  4. Phoenix 57-25
  5. Utah 54-28 who will have a good finish.
  6. New Orleans 53-29, currently overrated, too inconsistent.
  7. Golden State 52-30
  8. Denver 50-32
Houston falls out of the spots because of Yao Ming's severe injury, finishing only ninth (49-33), Portland already can't keep up the pace.

This would make for interesting playoffs, in the East

Detroit - New Jersey
Boston - Atlanta
Orlando - Washington
Cleveland - Toronto

Now guess who would be the surprise team... The combined star power of Jamison, Butler, and Arenas will be just too much for Orlando and Dwight Howard. On the other hand, if Orlando is in good shape, they can make it to the finals. Anyway, in the end Detroit will win the Eastern conference finals (against Boston, my guess).

Lakers - Denver
Spurs - Golden State
Dallas - New Orleans
Phoenix - Utah

There will sure be an early upset. The Lakers and Phoenix are safe bets, however. The Spurs might be just to old and lame if the Warriors cath fire. They then would face the Mavericks and could further enhance the Mavs' Golden State trauma... If the Spurs are going to face Dallas, though, this would perhaps decide over the championship. It will either be the defending champs (San Antonio) or the Mavs gone wild.
Phoenix just did the wrong moves for the series against the Lakers, making them perhaps the unluckiest team of the era. Either way, it's going to be the Lakers or the Mavs (or the Spurs are not dead yet?).

The Finals:

The champion is going to be from the West, unless it's the Lakers contending. In this case everything can happen.

I myself actually don't believe it to happen this way. Then again, no one ever knows, and I might as well be right. If you have an opinion, post it.

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