Is it an honor to go last? I hope that’s what Sheridan was thinking when he assigned my the final edition of our senior staff writers’ 10 Season Predictions.
The funny thing is that I am enough of a senior citizen to have had each of our esteemed prognosticating vets (Sheridan, Mark Heisler, Jan Hubbard, Chris Bernucca, Peter May) cover me with a notebook and tape recorder in their hands.
And now I am an ink-stained wretch just like them. Woo-hoo.
So without further ado, here are my 10 predictions for the upcoming NBA season. For links to the predictions from the other five
dinosaurs columnists, scroll down to the bottom of this column and click away.
1. Even without Jay-Z, Brooklyn will be the coolest place to play in the East
With the arrival of KG and Paul Pierce, Brooklyn finally became relevant. With the pieces now in place to really compete, the four-year build up is ready for prime time. They have youngish stars with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche will lighten the minutes for Garnett and Pierce, and the new vets will bring winning attitude, toughness, and durability. Add Jason Kidd to the mix and this is now the must-watch team in the East. Many fans suffer from Heat fatigue anyway, and the Pacers are the best team that no one pays much attention to.
2. NY and LA will be owned by the Little Brother this year
The only story in Lakerland is “when is Kobe coming back.” Not what are their chances, how many games will they win or any other successful team questions. In New York, substitute Amar’e for Kobe and the discussion is similar — even though the Knicks will win more games than the Lakers. But this year it is about the Clippers and the Nets. Both teams have made big coaching changes. The Nets have upgraded their roster. Most of all, both teams have the charisma and the momentum to make their moves up the food chain. They are on the upswing. On the other hand the Lakers are “rebuilding” and the Knicks have their own health issues to deal with. They have more personnel questions than ever with JR Smith, Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace, and Kenyon Martin. That’s not much excitement to start the season with.
3. Phoenix will trade Marcin Gortat and be very, very bad for a while
The Suns have continued on their rebuilding plan by bringing in new coach Jeff Hornacek and drafting center Alex Len. The Suns made a huge commitment to Len when they drafted him with the 5th pick ahead of Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore. That means he needs to play, a lot. With the return of Channing Frye, that makes Marcin Gortat both expendable and desirable. He has good trade value and will be moved. The real issue though is how far the Suns has fallen in the eyes of players in the league. For the last 20 years Phoenix has been the preferred destination for free agents. The combination of the lifestyle, the new arena, and Jerry Colangelo put Phoenix on every player’s wish list. Now the arena is old and worn, and management doesn’t measure up. The Suns aren’t a team that should need to build through the draft. They have lost the mojo that makes it a desirable place to play. I hope Horny can bring it back. At least the weather is still nice.
4. Neither Miami or San Antonio will win it this year
Neither of the two Finals combatants from last year will play for the title this year. Miami is looking at three teams that are hungrier than them: Chicago, Indiana, and Brooklyn. LeBron James is still the best in the league but Dwayne Wade has been fragile. His game depends on explosiveness and really suffers when he is off. That is unlike Paul Pierce and KG, who have modified their games to account for age. Chris Bosh has been exposed in the post and I think that they were fortunate to win it last year. The Spurs are a year older and are on the slippery slope of age catching up with them.
5. Jeremy Lin will show everyone how smart he is
Linsanity is about this Harvard point guard bringing his high IQ to the game and lighting it up. With Dwight Howard added to James Harden and the rest of the Houston Rockets, Jeremy Lin has the perfect set up for a thinker at the point. His big opportunity is Howard. The physical talents have always been on display, the basketball smarts have been a question. Lin could be the ideal point guard, as Dwight should prosper with someone to do his thinking for him. It could be the return of something akin to Steve Nash and Amar’e. With James Harden on the wing, Lin should be drooling at his options. If the other players can just keep the defense honest, Jeremy will have choices galore.
6. “Humble” Chicago is the team to watch out for
I think that Chicago will be the team to beat this year. Derrick Rose has been humbled by his knee injury and has a lot to prove. He is driven this year to get back on top.