(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
I know my four faithful readers out there have been holding their breath and their bets in anticipation of my NBA predictions column. Well, the wait is over. Exhale, and take the kid’s college fund to Vegas, because I’m about to skip the next seven months and let you know how the season will go down.
Last year I arranged my picks into a mix-tape breakdown of what I thought would happen. Absolutely none of my selections came true. The closest I got was in picking the All-NBA team.
I predicted that the first team would be Shaq, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, and Tracy McGrady. I got the first three right, but McGrady and Garnett were replaced with MVP Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
I picked the Pacers to win it all, but that was before the beer/brawl gate at the Palace ruined their season.
This season I’ve decided to change it up a little bit. I’m going to give you how each division will finish the season, with each conference’s champion, plus the overall champ. I’ll also let you know how the first team and Rookie of the Year will pan out.
Once you’ve hit the jackpot in June thanks to these predictions, I’ll be looking for my 10-percent vig. Is that even a word?
Since everyone insists that the balance of power has once again shifted to the East – how can that be possible when the reigning NBA champ and MVP reside in the West, and six out of the last seven champs have come from the West – we’ll start with how the former Leastern Conference will shape up in order of first to worst. Part two featuring the Western Conference will be featured in Wednesday’s Sun-Times.
Miami Heat – After coming a Dwayne Wade injury away from the Finals, the Heat retooled with Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and James Posey. The Big Fella will keep the new guys in line. The only question is, how many games until Pat Riley makes himself head coach again?
Washington Wizards – The Wiz are young, athletic, and hungry. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison could be the second best tandem in the East, but can Wizards conjure up enough defense to make waves in the playoffs?
Atlanta Hawks – Joe Johnson immediately makes this team more dangerous, especially when you team him up with young guns Josh Childress and Josh Smith. Rookie Marvin Williams will be a starter by January.
Orlando Magic – Magic would have been higher if not for another Grant Hill injury. Dwight Howard is the league’s new man-child, but will Steve Francis ever put his team first?
Charlotte Bobcats – Not much improvement for an over-achieving second year franchise. UNC rooks Sean May and Raymond Felton are players, but are they ready to bring it every night for a losing club?
Indiana Pacers – Once again I’m hedging my bets on a team with Ron Artest. If Ron-Ron learned anything from last year, and someone can step into Reggie Miller’s shoes and hit some big shots, they should unseat Detroit at the top of the division.
Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron. LeBron. LeBron. Larry Hughes will add much needed scoring and ball handling, as well as great perimeter defense. If new coach Mike Brown can coax some D from the young Cavs, the rest of the league will be on notice. Did I mention LeBron?
Detroit Pistons – After years of keeping Minnesota mediocre, Flip Saunders gets to take over for the undearly departed Larry Brown. Flip doesn’t have the same presence as LB, so look for maniac Rasheed Wallace to lead the league in scowls, technicals and ejections.
Milwaukee Bucks – T.J. Ford is healthy, Andrew Bogut will be better than expected, Bobby Simmons is finally free of the Clippers and Michael Redd is one of the best shooters in the game. But what about a bench?
Chicago Bulls – Ben Gordon is a scoring machine and Kirk Hinrich may be one of the best pure points in the game. But the loss of Eddy Curry will hurt more than most realize. Bigs are hard to come by in this league.
New Jersey Nets – Richard Jefferson is back, Vince Carter averaged 27 points after being rescued from Toronto, and Jason Kidd is a triple-double threat when he wakes up in the morning. May be the second-best team in the conference.
Philadelphia 76ers – Allen Iverson loves new coach Maurice Cheeks. He even was singing about the joys of practice (practice?!) in the off season. If Chris Webber’s gimpy knees hold-up and Andre Igoudala keeps up the D, they could make a run at the division crown.
New York Knicks – Rated this high because the bottom three in the division could go either way. The real question is how long before Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas butt heads over the team of shoot-first perimeter players Thomas has put together.
Boston Celtics – Former Razorback recruit Al Jefferson was a nice surprise for Doc Rivers and the Celtics last year, but they still have the insane Ricky Davis and a petulant Paul Pierce to ruin chemistry.
Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh is one of the best young bigs in the game, but he can’t bring the ball up, shoot the 3, draw up plays, draft players and trade the cancerous Jalen Rose.
Eastern Conference Champion: Miami Heat.