Another NBA season is nearly upon us, and here are some flotsam and jetsam (and bloated thoughts) to celebrate.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers, 56-26. Only a fool would bet against LeBron and his new/old gang of friends to take the top seed in this pathetic conference. I’m not convinced that having two sidekicks that have never played a single playoff game in their career as top dog on their respective teams will equate to a title in their first year together, but LeBron and scrap has usually been enough for a deep playoff run. They will be a joy to watch, however, and as a Spurs fan I would relish another chance to embarrass LeBron in June.
2. Chicago Bulls, 51-31. There’s a lot of hype for the Bulls heading into this season. I’m not sure I’m buying it. I’d like for the Bulls to be a contender and think the NBA is a better place when Chicago fields a competitive team, I’m just not convinced that Derrick Rose’s knees will hold up. Even if they do, there’s a big chance he won’t be the athletic freak he was before it all went wrong for him. That said, their big man rotation of Gasol, Noah and Gibson will be a joy to watch, and any Thibs coached team will compete hard on both ends.
3. Toronto Raptors, 50-32. T-Dot with the 50 win season! They’ve basically brought the old gang back for one more go around, with Lou Williams the only notable addition. Look for Jonas Valunciunas to take the next step.
4. Washington Wizards, 48-34. Like the Bulls, I’m not quite buying the hype surrounding this team. I think they’ll be good enough to hover around the 50 win mark in a weak conference, but that’s really about it. Has Paul Pierce got anything left in the tank? Will Nene avoid getting injured yet again?
5. Charlotte Hornets, 46-36. The buzz is back! The Bobcats are dead! Two enjoyable facts. I liked the addition of Lance Stephenson, and think he adds a toughness factor that they were missing previously. Apparently Kidd-Gilchrist’s J is improved. Will lottery pick Noah Vonleh get minutes to produce or do they dangle his name as a trade chip before the break? I think these guys might surprise some people.
6. Detroit Pistons, 44-38. This relatively high win total is based entirely on the fact that a Van Gundy is manning the sidelines, and the assumption that either Josh Smith or Brandon Jennings are traded at some point. Look for Andre Drummond to have a monster year.
7. Miami Heat, 43-39. I’m not sure where to put these guys. They could win somewhere between 36 to 50 games and I probably wouldn’t be surprised. I wussed out and split the difference. A lot depends on the health and minutes management of Dwyane Wade. As there are no Finals appearances on the cards for him in the forseeable future, you could assume that Wade will play significant minutes and produce at a higher level than we’ve seen in the past couple of years. I’ll be interested to see how Chris Bosh performs as a number one option again. The one thing this team knows how to do is finish games, even sans LeBron, so I expect that will earn them a few wins that they may have otherwise not gained.
8. Atlanta Hawks, 41-41. If Al Horford is healthy, this win total presumably goes up.