It’s prediction time, and as I have always liked to say: Predictions are like armpits: Everyone has them, and all of them stink. Take it from a guy who picked Spurs in 7 last season.
Yes, that one missed – but find me a guy who predicted that Gregg Popovich would have an extreme bout of cranial flatulence with the championship within his grasp at the end of Game 6, and then I’ll drop the armpit line. I still can’t get over the size of those brain farts. Even Dwight Howard was impressed.
This week we are rolling out a series of columns from our senior columnists.
Everybody is making 1o predictions, and the idea is to be serious but also to have some fun. At the end of the season, we’ll take a look back and see who was especially sage-like.
For now, let’s get this thing kicked off properly with my top prediction of the 2013-14 season:
1. Pau Gasol will get traded
When you are a rebuilding team, as the Lakers are, and when you are a rebuilding tam that does not have many future No. 1 draft picks (the Lakers owe their second-round pick in 2014 to Milwaukee, their 2015 first-round pick to Phoenix and their 2015 and 2017 second-rounders to Orlando), you have to go out and get new ones. Look at what Boston did: When the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets, they got back three first-rounders plus the right to swap places in an additional first round. Nobody on LA has more trade value than Gasol, who is in the final year of his contract and can be the difference-maker for a championship team. My thought is that the Chicago Bulls will go after him the hardest, because they need him to match up with Indiana (and Miami) and they have the assets to get a deal done (though a third under-the-cap team – like Philly – would be needed to be a facilitator). Chicago has the rights to a future Charlotte Bobcats pick (protected 1-10 in 2014, 1-8 in 2015 and unprotected in 2016).
2. The 76ers will be the worst NBA team of all time
They will need to win 10 games to avoid matching the worst 82-game record in NBA history, set by their predecessors in 1972-73. And they do not have a lot to work with outside of Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner (especially when Hawes is the better shooter). Do you know who James Anderson is? He is one of the projected starters for this motley crew. Do you know who Andrew Wiggins is? (You should.) He is the top prize in the ballyhooed draft class of 2014, and Philadelphia will want to lose as much as possible to increase its chances of winning the draft lottery (even though no NBA team with the worst record has won the lottery since Orlando in 2004. For more on bad teams’ chances of winning the Wiggins sweepstakes, check out this column, complete with charts and graphs, by columnist Shlomo Sprung).
3. The Pacers will be atop the East for most of the regular season
No team improved as much in the offseason than the Pacers. (And yes, Nets fans, that includes you. KG, PP and Jet were all nice players – once. But did you see them fall apart last season?) The additions of Luis Scola and Chris Copeland were huge for a team that had zero bench strength last season, yet still took Miami to Game 7 of the conference finals. And when you add Scola’s low-post repertoire to the multi-faceted games of Roy Hibbert and David West, this team can beat you down low better than anyone in the Association. Plus they have Danny Granger back, which makes Lance Stephenson less of a make-or-break commodity. Get out your calendar and circle these dates: Dec. 10; Dec. 18; March 26; and Apr. 11 — those nights bring us Pacers-Heat games. (And if you are a gambler and truly believe in the Pacers, you should check this out.)
4. Adam Silver will be a popular commissioner
The NBA does not do popular commissioners, and the fans in Brooklyn let Silver have it at the start of the second round at the NBA draft. But that was just for fun. Silver is a protegé of David Stern; Silver’s father was actually Stern’s mentor when Easy Dave was a young, aspiring attorney. But he does not carry himself with the type of grumpy “I’m smarter than you” demeanor that Stern relished showing off. Whereas Stern came off as a dictator, Silver comes off more as a head of state – much more diplomatic. And while Stern liked to remind everyone who is boss (he used to terrify young NBA staffers by grilling them in the elevator on their knowledge of the game), Silver is much more cheerful and easygoing. He is patient, not impatient, and wise without coming off as a wise guy. He has already made one long overdue change – going back to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the NBA Finals – and it says here his next change will be allowing teams to put advertisements on their game jerseys in such a way as to not overwhelm the team name and logo. In other words, small ads. Trust me, this is going to be like a preview of post-Castro Cuba.
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