Thursday, October 21, 2010

NBA 2010-2011 Predictions

Now that my fantasy team has been chosen, it's time to share my incredibly astute predictions for what's going to happen this year. Let's get right into it, shall we?

Rookie of the Year: John Wall. I'm not entirely sold on Wall; I think he's going to have trouble finishing against NBA talent, his jumper is still far from reliable, and defensively, he's going to be a sieve on a team that doesn't need another one of those, especially if he's paired for long with Gilbert Arenas. But there are more important things, especially to people who vote for awards, than actually helping your team win, especially when your team has been as DOA as the Wiz. Wall will play big minutes, score big points, and have big highlights; he's basically going to have the Allen Iverson rookie of the year campaign. And if we're lucky, this will be the worst year of his career. (Runner-up: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacremento, who will actually be a better player, but will struggle for minutes and have an insanity moment during the year that will cost him a lot of votes.)

MVP: Kevin Durant. Assuming health, this is a lock. The Miami Three are going to counter each other, and the only way that one of them would win and overcome the PR problem is to go for 70 wins for an injury-riddled club. Chris Paul won't win enough, Kobe Bryant won't play enough, and Dirk Nowitzki isn't sexy enough. Amar'e Stoudemire will be lucky to make the playoffs, and no Celtic will emerge from the team. So it leaves Durant and second-tier candidates like Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard... and the Association is a points league. KD in a walk, and it won't be his last. Besides, he's the only top gun in the Association that everybody still likes.

First Team All NBA: Durant, Howard, Bryant, Nowitzki and Chris Paul.

Second Team: Roy, Deron Williams, Pau Gasol, Stoudemire and Al Jefferson.

Third Team: Steve Nash, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Danny Granger and Marc Gasol.

Sixth Man: JJ Reddick. Orlando is still going to be good this year, and Reddick made his name in last year's playoffs, when such things happen. With Matt Barnes gone, Vince Carter prone to injury, and the Association's voters looking to do anything but reward Miami Vice, look for the voters to go for the Dookie.

Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan. This is usually a kiss of death award; by the time you win it, you can pretty much put the house up on the market, because you are about 18 to 24 months away from getting run. The Association is not kind to genuises; it's more like coaxing effort from thoroughbreds, rather than a traditional my way or the highway experience. Utah, of course, is not like that, because the organization doesn't bring in talent that won't play in this single team market, and they are coached by one of the very best to ever walk the sideline. Sloan's offense gets good looks for limited players, keeps a team that's not dripping with athleticism scoring easy hoops, and it would all work so much better if they only had a guy to guard Kobe Bryant. The whole last ten years would have been very, very different. Anyway, the Jazz will win 50+ games this year yet again, and Sloan will make enough noise about getting too old for this, so they'll finally give him the nod.

Defensive Player of the Year: Howard. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve it; the man is a beast on that end of the floor, and utterly essential to the Magic's scheme. But the telling thing, really, is that short of injury or some disastrous drop in numbers, Dwight's winning this thing for another five to ten years. There just isn't anyone like him, and whether it's fair or not, blocked shots and boards just has more of a feel of dominant defense than lockdown positioning or steals. And it's going to take an awful lot of nerd work to convince anyone differently.

Playoffs: In the East, it'll be Miami, Orlando, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Milwaukee and Charlotte. But you can be safe to only care about the top four in that list. The top four win in the first round, with Miami taking out Chicago in the second round, and Orlando disposing of Boston in the second. Your conference champion? Miami. But it will be a war.

In the West, it'll be the Lakers, San Antonio, Utah, Oklahoma City, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans and (shocker!) Memphis. In the first round, the Lakers, Jazz, Thunder and Hornets (shocking the Spurs) go through. In the second round, it's the Lakers and Thunder, with the Lake Show going to the finals.

Finals: Lakers over the Heat in six in Phil Jackson's swan song. And yes, he's leaving after this one, because Coach Philip doesn't like to play unless he's got the best hand, and after this year, he won't have it.

And the real story... Nuclear Winter, aka a potentially league-destroying lockout and/or strike, is on the horizon. The Association has some tremendous advantages going forward. Alone among the American major sports, it has global appeal and the world's best athletes, with nearly every continent now represented. It translates well to HD, 3-D, mobile and online. Merch sells well, the game appeals to a broad cross-section of women and kids along with guys, there's no worries about the players not being able to walk or chew gum in their 50s, and there's rampant geek love in the advanced statistical analysis of the game. The Heat have the chance to be a truly polarizing / captivating team, and to shake things up from the pure Boston / LA mix; if Chicago also ascends, there's an awful lot of big media markets to push the ratings up a bit. I feel a lot better about the long-term popularity of the gam than, say, baseball.

But the attendance is not good in this economy, and dozens of franchises start each year with no realistic chance at a championship, despite the presence of a salary cap. Real gambling and nerd gambling (fantasy) doesn't really work for more than a niche audience of degenerates. There's still a strong smell of racism in the hatred of the league, and there probably always will be. And if the league presses the button and eats a significant portion of the year, in a time where people are losing their homes, hating the banks, freaking out over immigrants and more?

Well, there's an awful lot of potential for a bloodbath here.

Personally, I don't think it's going to happen. All Father Stern doesn't want to go out like that, and the NBA players union has been his speed bag for decades now. Many of these guys live paycheck to paycheck despite the sums involved, and there's an every man for himself ethic, especially among the stars, that's going to seriously wreck any chance of solidarity.

But the danger is still there, because like MLB in the 90s, this isn't about the owners versus the players. It's about the large market owners versus the small market owners versus the players. And when that happens, that's when leagues lose years.

Anyway, let's enjoy hoop while we can. It's going to be an amazing year.


Anonymous said...

No LeBron on any all NBA teams? Come on.

DMtShooter said...

Would you believe that he's alienated everyone so much that he's going to be locked out?

No, me neither.

Good catch; I whiffed. Put James on first team, move Dirk to 2nd, bump Al to third and throw Gasol The Lesser to the curb.

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