SOSB'S 2012 NBA CRYSTALLBALLISMS: WHO WILL FINISH WHERE, AND WHY (AND WHY LEBRON WILL FAIL YET AGAIN)



And now, I will gaze into the future or whatever…


EASTERN CONFERENCE







1) MIAMI            

The addition of Shane Battier means less 40 minute nights for Wade and James. Barring major injury, this team has a chance to win the east by a comfortable margin.

2) CHICAGO    

 I see a minor step back for the Bulls. This team looked positively brutal offensively in the first two games, and I don’t see Rip Hamilton as a significant upgrade at the 2.

3) NEW YORK  

They’ve done a decent job finding spare parts, but they have no payroll flex and are one injury away from major calamity. And my god, that back court…

4) INDIANA      

Everyone’s favorite east upstart is young, athletic and deep. In other words, they are perfectly built for this seasons’ hectic schedule.

5) ATLANTA  

Kind of treading water here. Good enough to win, not good enough to seriously contend. Might be time to deal Josh Smith and re-focus around Johnson, Horford and Teague.

6) BOSTON    

 “Just get to the playoffs and take it from there” has been the modus operandi for the last two years here, and it’s especially true now. Unless Danny Ainge pulls a rabbit out of his hat, they’ll be a goner in round one.

7) PHILLY

Enough young talent to be good but lacking the star they need to be great.

8) ORLANDO  

Seriously, who could possibly predict where they’ll end up? I figured 8th was the safest bet, just because I imagine thy’ll make the playoffs with or without Howard.

9) MILWAUKEE

 The definition of an average team with little upside.

10) DETROIT        

 Lawrence Frank might actually sneak this team full of shooters into the playoffs. Maybe.

11) CHARLOTTE

Sounds funny to say about a 24 win team, but they’ll surprise some people with effort and steal some games they shouldnt have any business winning.

12) NEW JERSEY

 Williams and a bunch of stiffs could win 20 games, which is exactly what they have right now. Obviously, this total goes up if they fnd a way to snag Dwight.

13) WASHINGTON

 I am tempted to rank them dead last after hearing they made Andray Blatche the team captain. How fucking stupid can you be?

14) TORONTO

 Maybe the least potential of any NBA roster. On the bright side, nowhere to go but up!

15) CLEVELAND

 Gonna be another brutal season here. At least Kyrie Irving gives them some hope.

WESTERN CONFERENCE


1) OKLAHOMA CITY

This looks like easy sailing for the thunder, at least in the regular season. This team is built to go all the way if the Westbrook/Durant dynamic has been figured out.

2) SAN ANTONIO

Hey, they just keep winning, at least in the regular season. One day they’ll be too old, but it hasn’t happened yet.

3) CLIPPERS      

Man, it feels so weird writing that. Like I said in my Clipper Preview, I see the Clippers as having a chance to break their record for wins in a season (47), even in this shortened season.  Matter of fact, I think I’d bet on it.

4) DALLAS    

 Too early to freak out, especially since the dynamic of the team has been dramatically altered. They’ll be just fine, even if they dont look championship-worthy.

5) LAKERS  

The national panic over the Lakers’ 0-2 start is amusing, if nothing else. Once Bynum gets back, they’ll be just fine. Not good enough to compete for a title or anything, but a pretty good little Basketball team nonetheless. What more can you expect from a team being running by a trustafarian imbecile?

6) DENVER                

Hey, this is still a deep team with plenty of talent an depth, even without the three Chinese leaguers. years from now, the ‘Melo trade will stand as a blueprint on how to rob an over-eager team blind.

7) MEMPHIS          

 The injuries to Henry and Arthur kills the bench depth, and there is still some doubt as to whether they are better off without Gay in the lineup, silly as it sounds. Still, nobody wants to play this bruising team in the postseason.

8) PORTLAND        

The bottom 4 seeds in the West are just brutal. I mean, you could switch them all around and nobody would argue. Portland could easily finish as high as 5th if the LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t stricken by polio or a bus or something.

9) GOLDEN STATE

I swear, this is a playoff team. I really, really like what they have here. Problem is I just can’t put them above any of the first 8. Still, I think this team is good enough to win 40 games if they don’t fall prey to a fluke injury like last years’ shark attack that felled David Lee.

10) HOUSTON    

If they fail to make the playoffs it won’t be because Daryl Morey didn’t take his best shot at improving the team. When it comes to big moves, the Rockets have turned into a perennial bridesmaid.

11) PHOENIX

  Poor Steve Nash, still stuck on a team going nowhere. If the Suns have any mercy or intelligence, they’ll deal him at the deadline and get the rebuilding project underway.

12) SACRAMENTO

Another team to watch. Not sure about the chemistry or the leadership, but there is a dynamic mix of scorers and a roster that can push the pace. Of course, I’m about as down on Tyreke Evans as you can possibly be, so I’m just not sure how good they can be with him there.

13)  UTAH          

Weird team, these Jazz. The talent is there on paper but there seems to be a
disconnect. No leadership, no strong personalities, just a inexperienced coach and a bunch of good little players.

14) NEW ORLEANS  

 Man, the west is insanely brutal this year. Even the worst teams are total pushovers, as evidenced by the Hornets’ opening-night road win over the Suns. These guys have a solid (if unspectacular) lineup and a coach who clearly knows what he’s doing. Even better, they’ve got a future, which something they wouldn’t have if the Laker deal had gone through.

15)  MINNESOTA    

 These bums don’t have me fooled. Not one bit. Yeah, they’ve got some players now but not one of them is someone I’d go to war with. Just a bunch of empty-stat, me-first knuckleheads. If you watched the last minute of the OKC game last night. you learned all you need to know about why they won’t win games. This is exactly the kind of screwed up roster you end up with when the guy running your team has no fucking idea what he’s doing.

Seriously, do not be bamboozled into thinking this team is any good.

———————————

AS FOR THE PLAYOFFS…


This year looks fairly easy to predict. Everyone assumes we’ll see Miami and Chicago meet again in the East Finals and really, who am I to argue? There is definitely a large gap between those two and the rest of the East, and I can’t see any of those other teams being good enough to upset them unless Indiana makes some blockbuster trade or the Knicks get some crazy team (crazier than them, to boot!) to donate them a back court. If I had to pick a sleeper, like had to, I might be crazy enough to go with the Hawks. If they get the right deal for Josh Smith and Jeff Teague ends up being a real player after showing flashes in last years’ playoffs, this could actually turn into a scary team.

Otherwise, the sanest conclusion to arrive at is Miami returning to the finals. Chicago might be good enough to get close again, but they didn’t really fix what was broken last year so it’s hard to imagine they’ll do any better this time around.

In the West, I’d say the Thunder are a mortal lock for the Conference finals, but the race for slot #2 is wide-open. Will the Lakers do something, anything to get themselves to be taken seriously after the disastrous off-season? Can the Mavericks get back to the Finals after re-shaping the roster? Are the Clippers going to go from bums to title contenders this fast in a league where such a thing almost never happens? Can the Spurs get favorable matchups in the postseason and will their way into one last run? Can the Grizzlies continue their meteoric rise? What about super-deep teams like Denver and Portland? Can’t count them out, either.

Yeah, we say this every year, but I swear the west is an absolute beast this year. It’s safe to say that any of those seven teams could find their way into the Conference Finals, and really, when have we ever been able to say that?

With that said, I think this is OKC’s year. Winning championships in the NBA is almost always about the gradual rise from good team to contender to just a hair short, then finally to champion. I’m guessing that the lessons learned in last years’ loss to Dallas will serve as the blueprint this time around, and that the talent and cohesion of the Thunder, and Kevin Durant’s undeniable arrival as the most talented player in the sport, will lead them to the promised land.

So yeah, to be crystal clear, I’m picking Oklahoma City over Miami in the finals. Feel free to call me an idiot or a genius in June.

Oh, and before I go, a quick word on LeBron and the Heat, who are being piked by seemingly everyone to win it all this year.

 I for one cannot fathom why anyone thinks that when the guy has continually failed everytime it mattered most. I mean, if your theory is that Miami is so good they will simply blow everyone’s doors off that’s one thing, but why do people keep acting like the title is his birthright when he keeps coming up short?

Here’s a neat stat I just figured out. Dallas outscored Miami by a grand total of 14 points in last years finals. Do you know how many they outscored them by in the 4th quarters of those games?

15.

Now granted, Dallas won the title on the strength of a veteran team that won every series by dominating in the clutch, but this is just the latest in a series of failures for this guy. This is now four years running  that his team has essentially been the favorite to win the title and yet he still doesnt have one. What happened against Boston? Wacky theories aside, we’ll likely never know why he looked (and played) like he’d been bodysnatched before game five. Of course it’s a little easier to discern what happened last year, when he was outscored by Jason Terry in the finals. I mean, say what you want about a guy who goes 6-24 in game seven of the finals (and still finds a way to win the damn thing), but what about when the supposed best player in the league is a non-factor in the last 3 games of the NBA Finals? How do you defend a guy who averages 18 points a game in the biggest series of his life after averaging 27 for the whole season and 26 in the first three rounds of the playoffs? Shooting percentage down, turnovers up, you name it. Not to be a dick, but some guys just don’t have what it takes to lead their teams to the promised land. Shit, sometimes guys have to fail miserably at it before they can learn how. Dirk Nowtizki is living proof.

So yeah, I’m not going for it. Matter of fact, at this point I think it’s safe to assume he’s going to find a way to lose until he proves otherwise instead of acting like his coronation is some sort of inevitability. Y This isnt Football or Baseball where the team can cover for you, this is Basketball. This guy has to come up big or they will likely keep falling short.


For now, I’m counting on the status quo. “Fool me once, shame on you” and all that Jazz.


-John Hathwell

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